At Paradigm Malibu, our Teen Drama Therapy Program is one of our specialized programs, used to help our teens address a number of different individual, family, and social dynamics that may be a source of stress and difficulty in their lives. Our Drama Therapy Program is used in close connection with traditional Talk Therapy treatment as well as other more traditional talk-based modalities, in which therapists work with teens to help identify and discover underlying stressors, triggers, and conflicts that are present. Drama Therapy is a wonderfully creative, dynamic, and organic form of therapy that very often helps teens to access different feelings and thoughts which may not come out in more traditional conversational settings.
The Teen Drama Therapy process entails therapists most often working in a group therapy session in order to recreate and examine different relational dynamics that have emerged in treatment. These narratives are originated by the therapists and then guided by the adolescents and serve to help teens explore, discover, and recognize emotions and thoughts related to both past and current events. This form of therapy gives equal validity to the body and mind within the dramatic context and therefore, to create the greatest possible realm for different dramatic experiences to be created, therapists might employ a number of different dramatic contexts, including stories, myths, masks, and improvisation. The particular sensitivities and knowledge of the therapists, both creatively and therapeutically, allow them to know the most effective and appropriate ways to guide the work as it moves along, while making sure it stays focused while also not taking away the teens’ freedom. Along these lines, it’s important to note that Drama Therapists are trained and educated professionals. They are both artists and clinicians, drawing upon their training in theatre / drama and therapy to create methods to engage teens in effecting psychological, emotional and social changes.
Essentially, by teens engaging in a “pretend” dramatic scenario, which therefore means there is no pressure, no expected outcomes, and also no judgments present, adolescents often feel more free to explore difficult and painful life experiences, as well as current stressors and struggles in their lives, because of this unique indirect approach. This sort of distancing technique often allows adolescents to probe deeper into their emotional world than they may feel comfortable doing, in more traditional and/or direct therapeutic settings. Because of this, we find that it can be a tremendously powerful technique to use in combination with our Talk Therapy, Group Therapy, and other Experimental Therapy options. Especially with regard to follow-up from Talk Therapy sessions, Teen Drama Therapy is often an excellent option in order to provide teens with the opportunity to discover new levels of emotions connected with certain situations, and then, to observe those reactions more completely again, in the next Talk Therapy session.
The Teen Drama Therapy approach can provide the context to help teens to address a number of different aspects of their current experience, including telling their stories, identifying problems, expressing feelings, setting goals, and gaining an overall sense of relief or catharsis. Because there is the freedom that the session is only pretend, teens often feel more comfortable evaluating their existing habits, patterns, behaviors, and perspectives, as they engage to behave differently, for the sake of a role. In a simple sense, the more creative, open, unlimited the setting while engaging in play and using the imagination, the closer the teens can get to their thoughts, feelings, and relational struggles. Because it’s such an open and free space, and because the teens’ “real” struggles are put aside while the pretend ones are engaged, sometimes this allows teens to let go of their fears of themselves, what they feel, and what might change; instead, they show up open, ready, and unafraid of what might come about.