A drama therapist combines techniques from the dramatic arts with psychotherapy to help clients achieve therapeutic goals. Drama therapy dates to the mid 20th century and several professional organizations which advance the cause of drama therapy were founded in the 1970s. People who are interested in pursuing careers as drama therapists can receive training at several colleges and universities, and may also have an opportunity to work with practicing drama therapists to practice their skills.
Many different theater arts techniques can be integrated into drama therapy sessions. These include scripted activities, improvisation, role plays, puppetry, pantomime, masks, or even work on scene design and staging. A drama therapist assesses the needs of an individual client to determine which techniques would be most appropriate, and how to apply them.
Sometimes, a drama therapist may work with a group. Group therapy is often a part of treatment programs at institutions such as hospitals, prisons, and mental health facilities. People who are not institutionalized can also benefit from group therapy, and may be recommended to such programs by their doctors and therapists. In group therapy, the drama therapist facilitates breakthroughs, helps people work through traumas, builds trust among group members, and encourages all members of the group to participate so that they can experience personal growth.
Drama therapists can also work with smaller groups, such as families or couples. Sometimes a drama therapist may be called into a location like a classroom or an office in the wake of a traumatic event to help people process the trauma. The drama therapist can help members of a group feel more comfortable again and provided focused, directed therapy which addresses the trauma that the members of the group experienced together.
It is also possible to work with a drama therapist on a one on one basis. Some patients benefit from using drama as a method of expression, and may find that they can work towards therapeutic goals more easily with the facilitation of a drama therapist. Even within drama therapy, there are many approaches to a treatment, so people who feel frustrated by the lack of progression with one therapist may want to consider approaching a different therapist to see if a new approach might be more effective. It is also important to recognize that drama therapy is not for everyone, and if a drama therapist feels that a patient might be better served by a different therapeutic approach, she or he can make recommendations for other practitioners who might be a better fit.