Newbridge House provides an integrated, multi-disciplinary approach to eating disorder treatment and dramatherapy is a key part of this approach.
What is dramatherapy?
Dramatherapy has as its main focus the intentional use of healing aspects of drama and theatre as the therapeutic process. It is a method of working and playing that uses action methods to facilitate creativity, imagination, learning, insight and growth.
Patients who are referred to a dramatherapist do not need to have previous experience or skill in acting, theatre or drama. Dramatherapists are trained to enable patients to find the most suitable medium for them to engage in group or individual therapy to address, resolve, and/or make troubling issues more bearable.
Dramatherapy is a form of psychological therapy in which all of the performance arts are utilised within the therapeutic relationship. Dramatherapists are both artists and clinicians and draw on their trainings in theatre/drama and therapy to create methods to engage patients in effecting psychological, emotional and social changes. The therapy gives equal validity to body and mind within the dramatic context; stories, myths, puppetry, poetry, music, art making, masks and improvisation are examples of the range of artistic interventions a dramatherapist may employ. These will enable the client to explore difficult and painful life experiences through an indirect approach.
Why is dramatherapy helpful in the treatment of eating disorders?
“Some [patients] will prefer a non-verbal projective therapy, using art, drama or music.”
As dramatherapy gives validity to both body and mind and sees a person as a whole, rather than body and mind being separates, it has potential for being a potent source of healing in the field of eating disorders. By the very nature of eating disorders the body is used (and abused) as an expression of underlying disturbances, and so by engaging the body and mind within dramatherapy, one hopes to develop a stronger sense of self and a better understanding of the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are being expressed through the eating disorder.
Dramatherapy is psychodynamic and works with both conscious and unconscious material, and so can creatively work with ambivalence and resistance to change. Alongside other therapies, Dramatherapy provides patients with another way in to themselves, and way out of the eating disorder, dissimilar to other more direct and verbal modes of therapy at Newbridge. To use a metaphor, it gains entry to the self by the side-door rather than the front door used more frequently by other therapies. This “side-door” may bypass defences so that the patient may have other access points to themselves for better understanding and expression. Dramatherapy works well in conjunction with the other therapies at Newbridge.
Dramatherapy at Newbridge House
“Dramatherapy has helped me express thoughts and feelings I never would have before… it really really helped me.”
When an individual is admitted to Newbridge House and they have had some time settling in, they will meet the dramatherapist to say hello and begin their involvement in group dramatherapy sessions.
They are then invited to attend a dramatherapy group for the time they are an inpatient at Newbridge, taking in to consideration their individual needs and limitations.
What does a dramatherapy group involve?
A dramatherapist will tailor a session to the needs and preferences of any particular group, being flexible and reliable, encouraging and challenging patients when needed. A session will start with a Focus, providing space for individuals to arrive and be ready to engage. Then there will be a ‘warm up’ section in which the body, mind, imagination and sense of play will be stimulated, usually with some reference to the session’s aims and content. Then the group will move in to the ‘main event’, be that story making, role play, improvisation, poetry, movement etc – here is the heart of the session. After which the group will ‘bridge out’ and return to the here and now in which they will find ways of reflecting on what just happened, be that through verbal discussion, art, or distanced character work. Dramatherapy… it is not about performing! It is about realising and being the real you!
How do you qualify as an dramatherapist?
To qualify as a dramatherapist, it is necessary to study for a Masters Degree in Dramatherapy, part or full time, and then become registered with the Health Professions Council. During time studying, students will learn the psychological and creative skills needed for such a profession, they will undertake personal and group therapy, they will undertake a range of placements in healthcare and/or education, adding up to 100 hours of practical experience.