Drama and Mental Health
Updated: Mar 31
Drama therapy is an established form of therapy that can be applied in a wide range of contexts. As well as being enjoyable for participants to experience, drama therapy has been proven to be effective in helping people make positive changes in their lives.
Drama is beneficial for people struggling with transition, loss, anxiety, isolation, and conflict. And, going through a course which uses drama to 'play out' some of these issues can promote positive changes in mood, insight, and empathy. Please take a few minutes to see and hear what some of people have said about their experiences in working with us.
Facts are stubborn things. Sadly, there has been a rapid growth in people in our society who suffer with mental health issues, especially young people. Before you read on, we thought you might want to read this case study. We’re using a false name for child protection reasons.
Paula has real issues with anxiety. We can't share with you here the complexities in her life that she has to manage but they are real and significant. Her attendance was poor, her confidence low and, even though her GCSEs were over a year away, she was already dreading them. She had no strategies to deal with her anxiety. It was clear that unless she found a way of dealing with her anxiety not only would she not reach her academic potential, she would also carry on having these issues into her adult life.
Paula, and many other young people like her, are crippled by their anxiety. The stresses and strains associated with the teenage years can be significant. These include doing well at school, finding friends and even finding paid work. This article from the Guardian lays out the full extent of the problem at the national level.
The teenage years are also a time of great physical and neurological change. It’s the time when one is forming a sense of identity and the beginning of that age old question, ‘Who am I?’
Paula needs to learn how to live with anxiety. We all do. Anxiety cannot be avoided. Some human beings deal with it better than others. What Paula needs are some strategies to help her to do this. Paula cannot think herself out of her situation. But what if Paula learned to act her way out of her anxiety? By learning through certain exercises, that can be developed through repetition into a good habit, she has learned how to take better control of her anxiety. Learning through drama is a great way to do this as it's much more enjoyable than a lecture from someone, however well-meaning they may be.
All drama courses that are run through Malit in the Community are carefully evaluated. We use the evaluations to (a) continually improve our practice, and (b) build up an evidence base as to how our courses have helped people with their healing. Progress is measured in a number of ways and we are proud to be partners of Elemental, a company that has created diagnostic tools to pre-assess and track beneficiaries. Details here.
We have helped a lot of young people like Paula and we have developed a programme based around drama and theatre specifically designed to help her.
So does a Malit in the Community Drama Course look like?
Commonly we take people like Paula through a programme of six sessions, spread over six weeks. We’ve created a 3-step process to help her to get to a better place.
Step 1: Pre-assessment
We meet the young people we have been assigned to work with, speak to them and gather as much information as we can about them, and their current feelings. We ask them to scale these feelings on to a questionnaire. We also ask them what they think drama/theatre is? Do they like it? Hate it? Fear it? We explain our motives for running the course, share a few of our own current and past issues around anxiety and mental health and get them to look forward to the next sessions.
Step 2: The Course
Within the sessions we get students to try some drama techniques. Each is chosen to have a positive impact on their mental health. Running through all of these sessions are triggers such as rapport-building, curiosity and above all, fun. We ratchet-up the challenge week by week so that the young people learn to become more and more adventurous and open. Each session involves learning drama exercises that can be practised and refined. During the course, each participant receives a free journal and guidance how to reflect on the exercises at home.
Step 3: The “Performance”
Our courses culminate in a performance or group discussion with an audience. The audience can comprise of family members, friends and members of staff. We especially like school leaders to be present to see the impact of the experience. We also leave each participant with a bespoke set of exercises to continue using.
Malit in the Commuity only use quality assured drama practitioners. We are passionate about what we do, thorough and hard-working.
Want to learn more about us? Have a look at our website here:
Please feel free reach out to us via email, phone or zoom.
Thank you for your time.
Anna Griffith and Megan Peet