Dramatherapy (drama therapy) is the use of theatre techniques to facilitate personal growth and promote good mental health and wellbeing. Dramatherapy is used in a wide variety of settings, including hospitals, schools, mental health centres, prisons and the workplace. It is an expressive or creative art therapy, exists in many forms and can be applicable to individuals, couples, families, and groups.
The modern use of dramatic process and theatre as a therapeutic intervention began with Dr Jacob L. Moreno's development of Psychodrama. The field has expanded to allow many forms of theatrical interventions as therapy including role-play, theatre games, group-dynamic games, mime, puppetry, and other improvisational techniques.
Often Dramatherapy is used to help in the following ways: • Solve a problem; • Achieve a catharsis; • Delve into truths about self; • Understand the meaning of personally resonant images; • Explore and transcend unhealthy personal patterns of behaviour and interpersonal interaction.
The theoretical foundation of drama therapy lies in drama, theatre, psychology, psychotherapy, anthropology, play, as well as interactive and creative processes. In his book "Drama as Therapy: Theory, Practice and Research," Phil Jones describes the emergence of the intentional use of drama as therapy as three-fold. First a long history of drama as a healing force with ancient roots in the healing rituals and dramas of various societies. The connection between drama and the psychological healing of society, though not of the individual, was first formally acknowledged by Aristotle, who was the originator of the term 'catharsis'.
Secondly, in the early twentieth century, hospital theatre and the work of Moreno, Evreinov, and Iljine, marked a new attitude towards the relationship between therapy and theatre that provided a foundation for the emergence of Dramatherapy later in the century. Finally, influenced by experimental approaches to theatre, the advent and popularization of improvisational theatre, group dynamics, role playing and psychology in the 1960s, Dramatherapy emerged as a creative arts therapy in the 1970s.
Today, Dramatherapy is practiced around the world and there are presently academic training programs in Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Israel and the United States.