Drama therapy is a broad name for many different styles of performance, all which have a therapeudic aim. Methods of drama therapy also include psychodrama and play therapy. Drama therapy focuses on expressing a personal narrative that is not exclusively verbal, but also relies on image, sound, movement, and gesture. Primarily, it is an embodied therapeudic practice.
Drama therapists rely on drama to allow clients to distance themselves from trauma. The client is encouraged to describe and work through the trauma using metaphor. It uses drama to assist people solve a problem in their lives, and acheive catharsis.
How are drama therapy and play therapy different to community arts work?
Here is a picture from one of my community arts performances. These women are community performers from a local women's shelter speaking about their vaginas in front of 2,000 people in one of my productions of The Vagina Monologues.
Read Johnson works on the premise that avoiding speaking the truth causes more trauma. Consequently, he wastes no time with his clients in speaking about their trauma. He says he 'does not even bother with hello', before asking 'what happened to you?'.
- clicking the door shut and laughing menacingly
- shutting the door and saying 'no'
- simply closing the door firmly
The client then takes on the role of victim and Read Johnson threatens them. He starts to bring up the actual abuse ie:
- do you want me to poke you?
- do you want me to poke you with something hard?
- do you want me to poke you like your Uncle did?
Wow. Read Johnson is not afraid of the trauma. He is not afraid.
This work is WILD!!
Drama Therapy with Amanda Gifford
Here is a photo of after Amanda Gifford's drama therapy workshop.
Amanda Gifford has studied with Read Johnson and shares a similar lack of fear for trauma. She just goes straight in. Her lack of fear strips away a layer of fear, enabling the trauma to surface more freely. It also does not allow the client to back away from speaking through the trauma - the excuse of 'noone wants to know anyway', or 'I don't want to upset anyone' loses its hold on the client's mind. An atmosphere of safety and openness is established.
I suggest that creating a space of openess and trust is essential for those who have been sexually abused. It provides a distinct difference to an environment of secrecy that can accopany abuse.