Drama therapy – an effective way to deal with most anxiety disorders

Published: July 28, 2019 2:19:03 AM

A great enabler to experiment with new ways of thinking and behaving, this therapy may use props such as puppets and other objects for non-verbal method of working.

Drama therapy, interesting skills, mental health issues, anxiety disorders, stage fright, public speaking, social awkwardnessOne of the biggest advantages of this type of therapy is that it uses theatre techniques to facilitate personal growth and promote mental health.

Vaishali Dar

Drama therapy is a new way to learn interesting skills while tackling mental health issues as it combines activities that include stories, myths, play, puppetry, masks, improvisation, role play and rituals. Quite effective across the spectrum of ages, it is known for its creative arts method to achieve therapeutic goals, improve interpersonal relationship skills and achieve personal growth. The therapy is a performance-oriented approach that involves participants working with a theme to create and perform their own plays. One can attend it alone or even in a group, the technique helps express one’s feelings and interact with others.

A great enabler to experiment with new ways of thinking and behaving, this therapy may use props such as puppets and other objects for non-verbal method of working. Puppeteer and puppet theatre director Anurupa Roy explains, “Drama therapy is an extremely specialised field where theatre, performance and dance are used for the purpose of psycho-social interventions in either a community or for individuals. The main focus is on healing. It’s key to understand—theatre for an audience in a theatre space and drama therapy—are entirely different things. The practitioners need extensive training and experience in both, and these are very different trainings. I have had the opportunity to support drama therapists in their work in conflict zones for peace building. For example, in Kashmir in 2007, in Sri Lanka in 2012 and in Manipur in 2014 and in juvenile remand homes in Delhi in 2015. These projects have taught me that arts have the incredible capacity of being adapted for healing and enabling people, for beginning difficult conversations, for finding resolutions by working with metaphors, stories and narratives.”

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One of the biggest advantages of this type of therapy is that it uses theatre techniques to facilitate personal growth and promote mental health. It is used in a variety of settings, including hospitals, schools, mental health centers, prisons, and businesses. Amanpreet Nagpal, psychologist and founder of Miracles, who conducts various motivational workshops, feels that drama therapy is a “projective therapeutic technique used to deal with variety of psychological disorders.” She adds, “It is designed and executed in a progressive manner to address the concern of the patient. Through different role plays and enactment, the person is made aware about the disturbing emotion causing the psychological condition. It involves various open and closed groups where the context is set for participants to tell their stories, set goals, solve problems, express feelings, or achieve catharsis. It is an effective and efficient therapy for most of the anxiety disorders eg. stage fright, public speaking, social awkwardness, general anxiety disorders, etc. It is difficult for clinical depressive clients but beneficial for people with borderline depression.”

The therapy is an effective tool to deal with grief as a form of psychotherapy that aims to help people cope with the physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and cognitive responses to loss. Actually it is best applied to those with mental health problems, or social and emotional difficulties, learning disabilities, those who suffer from dementia and depression. It’s a great way to have an interpersonal interaction, encourage self-awareness and explore feelings and relationships. Like we meet and interact with people in office, similarly attending a drama class, workshop or lecture makes you meet a whole lot of new people, learn new skills, explore and interact on issues that may be personal or emotional.

Samir Parikh, director and HOD, Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Healthcare, feels arts-based therapies are creative therapies which use modalities like painting, drawing, sculpting, dance, movement, stories, story-narration, expressive writing, drama, music and sound as a part of the therapy. “The creative process in arts-based therapies engages the person creatively allowing for mastery to build as a result of art creation which is a basis for building a positive sense of self and expression. Drama is one of the modality used in arts-based therapy, where through the role-play and acting medium the person engages in character identification, modeling, expression of thoughts and feelings which has multiple therapeutic benefits from building self-awareness, catharsis, empathy and conflict resolution,” he says.

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