How Can Theater be a Catalyst for Teen Change

Among the processes and techniques employed by drama therapy can be improvisation, theater games, storytelling and enactment.
The ancient Greeks were known to use drama for catharsis. As anyone who has acted knows, theater can tap into emotions, help build self-esteem, and reduce feelings of isolation.

When a teen is unable to easily communicate with his family, peers or leaders, participating in theater productions may help him move beyond his or her feelings of isolation and aloneness. Working out his emotional issues in the characters he plays, while functioning in a group dynamic of synergistic cooperation, can be effective in helping the teen realize a sense of greater confidence and positive self-worth.

By utilizing a team of trained and licensed therapists, working closely with drama Arts professionals, drama therapy can take a teen’s emotional gains to another level. Using drama and theater processes intentionally can help one achieve therapeutic goals. These goals can include symptom relief, emotional and physical integration, improvement of social skills and relationships, and personal growth.

A study by the National Association of Drama Therapy (NADT) has shown that this modality is active and experiential. It provides a forum for teens to tell their stories, set goals, solve problems, express their feelings and achieve catharsis. Often the use of puppets and dolls in the drama therapy with children and adolescents can tap into the appeal that play-acting has for children as young as 12 years. Drama can assist teens between the ages of 12 and 18 in overcoming feelings of isolation, while affording them a means of gaining mastery over conflicts and anxieties.

The program provides struggling teens a residential setting, with both traditional and Arts education. Through these programs, combined with individual and group counseling, each student can engage with and respond to professional works of art that will help develop their “voice” and create works that reflect their views and feelings. Among the processes and techniques employed by drama therapy can be improvisation, theater games, storytelling and enactment. Text, performance or ritual can also be utilized to enhance the communication experience.

Therapy through drama is a more indirect approach that allows a teen to deal with issues from a distance, while helping to manage defenses. He or she might write a play with other characters – working through or using them to deal with personal issues. Psychodrama allows teens to enact their own stories, while trying on new roles.  With the use of psychodrama, not only can the student write and explore their actual story in the safety of a group; they can also rewrite it.

Theater in a counseling setting has proven successful in initiating greater communication among teens, as well as between teens and counseling professionals. By acting out their personal issues and dilemmas, they are able to more clearly understand their own challenges and explore new and healthy ways of initiating change.

Distributed by Client Initiatives

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