Year in Review

By Maggie Powell, MA

Inspired. Intrigued. 

Curious. Questioning. Challenged. 

Encouraged. Validated.

Empowered.

Connected. Grateful.

Proud.

These are just a few of the feelings I experienced over the course of my first year serving as Editor-in-Chief of Dramascope, the official blog of the North American Drama Therapy Association. It’s a role I was thrilled to accept a year ago, not just for the chance to give back to the NADTA, but because this blog filled a need I was experiencing personally. As a recent graduate, and a new professional in the field of drama therapy, I was craving a way to stay connected and to continue to learn and dialogue about important issues, theories and experiences unique to our profession, once I no longer had the luxury of regular access to an inspiring cohort and supportive professors and supervisors. I believed, and continue to believe, that social media offers our community tremendous resources and tools for discussing thoughts, ideas, and experiences, and encouraging education, collaboration, and the continued growth, development, and positive representation of our field.

In my role as Editor-in-Chief, I had the privilege of working closely with our authors, who included established theorists as well as up and coming scholars in the field of drama therapy. I’m grateful for the passion and dedication each one of them demonstrated in developing their pieces and sharing their thoughts and ideas with our community.

As well, Dramascope would not be the success it was without the blogging expertise of Managing Editor Caitie Parsons, the editing know-how of Technical Editor Danielle Levanas, and the vision, oversight, and constant support of Communications Chair Jason Frydman. I can’t begin to thank them for their patience, flexibility, efforts and dedication to this project, and couldn’t ask for a better team to work alongside.

I’m immensely proud of the depth and breadth of topics covered by Dramascope this past year. We explored theories about the use of performance in exploring trauma (Sajnani) and personal stories (S. Wood), the building and rebuilding of relationships in the playspace (Reynolds), and the transportive, and transformative power of story (Bailey). These meaty pieces gave me new perspective on our work, and the ideas and values at the core of what we do: story, relationship, healing. We dug into professional experiences, including inspiring career narratives (Kidder), formative training experiences (Pitre), and the important contributions we drama therapists can make to the workplace (Conover). These pieces painted such a vivid and colorful picture of what a drama therapy career can look like! Authors shared creative and innovative interventions, including poem houses (Savage), monster work (Ronning), and the use of metaphor to process experiences with aesthetic distance (Landis), and described their work with populations including Latino men (Ramirez), LGBTQ youth (Tomczyk) and individuals with eating disorders (L. Wood). I was inspired by these pieces, reading about the creative ways we engage with a wide variety of people. And because of that, Dramascope addressed diversity issues with candor, openness, and creativity, exploring playful and effective diversity training methods (Raucher), and serving as a platform for the publishing of the NADTA Board, Diversity Committee, and Advisory Committee (Black Lives Matter)’s statement on the Black Lives Matter movement. In these small but important ways, we demonstrated the influence our work has on our local, national, and global communities, and began to engage in some of the important and necessary foundational conversations that will keep our work grounded in principles of service, advocacy, healing, growth, and re-storying. It was an honor to have a hand in holding space for these important conversations.

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Making Poem Houses as a Drama Therapy Method of Self-Care

By Mimi Savage, RDT, PhD

I discovered poem houses, an art form created by Brigid Collins (2012) during a doctoral studies seminar on leadership. I was researching the topic of supervision when I came across a paper that described how poem houses were useful for understanding the challenges of leadership in business (Grisoni & Collins, 2012). The method of mixing or assembling found objects and poetry into a box – a collage process of layering and juxtaposing images, objects, and text – was intriguing because it suggested that an “uncovering” (p. 35) of personal information could take place, and it encouraged personal reflection via construction of an object. Grisoni and Collins (2012), who are not creative art therapists, noted that “intermediality” (p. 35) exists in this assemblage art form – a co-existence and arrangement of mixed media in one object or artifact that evolves into a new art form. The intermediality borne out of the construction of poem houses resonates with my personal aesthetics, and my academic and therapeutic orientation as a drama therapist.

As a longtime student of arts and humanities, I have often appreciated the way ordinary found objects are constructed into new forms by artists creating assemblage, such as Picasso (Guitar, 1914; Bull’s Head, 1943). Rauschenberg’s composite three-dimensional  “combines” (Leoni-Figini, 2006) such as Canyon (1959), featured seemingly disparate found objects on canvas inviting broad viewer interpretation. Combines were provocative and most likely influenced by the works of Duchamp, who presented “readymades” (Howarth, 2000), such as Fountain (1917), and Box in a Valise (1966). These pieces were meant to question the making and maker of art and elicit additional layers of meaning from  the viewer.

Artists such as these open up spaces to question meaning making and truth in creative practices, and have influenced my interest in art forms that are useful to drama therapy research and drama therapy methods. Hoffman (2005) defines postmodern psychology as an approach that questions the ability to know ultimate truth and that seeks multiple methodologies in the attempt to understand experience and meaning. This is what I think the aforementioned artists attempted with their art and is what can be accomplished by using interventions like poem houses in both therapy and clinician self-care.

Poem houses also intersect with my interest in narrative research methods of generating data and deconstructing them in order to represent new forms of story for understanding meaning. The subjectively arranged three-dimensional assembly of objects and words held and perceived in a small box – a diorama of sorts, or a miniature black box theatre – complete with a storied set reminds me of the three-dimensional narrative inquiry (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000) of exploring place, time, and relationship. All of those uniquely perceived elements exist inside and outside the box. Yes, narrative inquiry, not necessarily linked to narrative therapy, is a subjectively informed process with no absolute truths.

Like Duchamp’s Box in a Valise, visual stories compacted into the framed space of a box such as the poem house invite the viewer to think narratively. It also permits an interdisciplinary way to seek truth as it echoes or represents personal and social lenses. Thus, the poem house invites us to ask, “What is the story I perceive in this container?” “What is the meaning I gather from the inside and outside of the container as it pertains to the many dimensions of the maker, the environment, the time, and my own history?”

The storied box invites me to understand personal experience (mine and another’s), which is at the crux of narrative research. The contextualized story can be experienced and viewed in the landscape of a poem house and through the use of metaphor and symbolic imagery – a pivotal tool of narrative therapeutic approaches and narradrama (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Dewey, 1934).

Narradrama and Poem Houses

Narradrama combines the concepts of narrative therapy with drama therapy and the creative arts (Dunne, 2006). It borrows from psychology, sociology, anthropology, experimental theatre, and many forms of expressive arts in order to help a person become aware of internalized narratives.

Narradrama uses the following therapeutic steps: Continue reading

Casting Shadows: Playing in the Realm of Monsters

http://www.morguefile.com/archive/#/?q=monster

By Doug Ronning, MFT, RDT-BCT

From coast to coast, zombies have taken to the streets! In Portland, Maine, the stumbling undead suddenly appear amidst a crowd. In a flash, the music of Michael Jackson’s Thriller begins, and the undead, made up of both amateur and professional dancers, recreate the iconic music video (WMTW, 2013).  Across the country in Portland, Oregon, a food bank is the recipient of a fundraising Zombie Walk with the tagline: “We may eat brains, but we do have hearts!” (Oregon Food Bank, Inc., 2009). And it’s not just zombies. Every October, more than 2,500 interactive haunted houses spring up around the world, where local residents dress up to gleefully terrify visitors on country hayrides, in backyard mazes, on movie studio backlots, and in abandoned prisons (Olmstead, 2013).

Zombies, vampires, aliens, and other monsters are prevalent on today’s movie screens, televisions, and book shelves. This may hint at current cultural anxieties, but there is a long history of fascination with these mysterious forms across cultures. Monsters run rampant through folklore, religion, fairy tales, and mythology, and clinical practitioners have drawn inspiration from them since the onset of psychotherapy.

Many don’t understand the allure of monster movies, particularly those pictures designed to horrify and instill dread. Even more bewildering is this impulse to spend days every autumn putting on makeup and terrifying people, even when those people are paying for the privilege to be scared. In an attempt to understand the appeal of horror, film critics, cultural analysts, psychologists, and psychotherapists have examined the genre using various psychological orientations, including psychoanalytic, existential, and postmodern views. For more information, see Horror Film and Psychoanalysis: Freud’s Worst Nightmare, a collection of essays edited by Steven Jay Schneider (2004) and Horror and the Holy: Wisdom-Teachings of the Monster Tale by Kirk J. Schneider (1993).

The first half of this piece will explore a variety of these views. The latter half will explore monster archetypes through more embodied drama therapy approaches.

Beginning in the 1970’s, the popular essays of film critic Robin Wood explored classic psychoanalytic interpretations of monster movies, based in Freud’s linked conceptions of repression and the uncanny (Wood, 1986). Wood states “One might say that the true subject of the horror genre is all that our civilization oppresses and represses” (1986, p. 68). Stanley Kubrick, while discussing his film The Shining with film critic Michel Ciment (1980), offered, “In his essay on the uncanny, ‘Das Unheimliche,’ Freud said that the uncanny is the only feeling which is more powerfully experienced in art than in life. If the horror genre required any justification, I should think this alone would serve as its credentials” (para. 66).

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How Drama Therapists Impact Their Work Environment

By Jason Conover, RDT, LCAT, CASAC

Drama therapists bring their unique set of skills to every employment opportunity, regardless of the actual job title held within the field of human services. I have been a working drama therapist in New York City for over ten years. Not one of my job titles included the words “drama” or “therapist.” However, every interaction I have had within the workplace was filtered through the lens of role theory, role method, psychodrama, and other forms of creative engagement learned in my graduate and postgraduate training as a drama therapist. I have been a direct support professional for individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, recreation supervisor, transition developer on the curriculum team for individuals with intellectual or other developmental disabilities, and certified alcohol and substance abuse counselor (CASAC) working in substance use prevention. In all of these professional roles I have infused creative arts therapy techniques and interventions to enhance and deepen the work done with clients in related fields and disciplines.

I have played many roles in my professional career, and they have all contributed to deepening and expanding my concept of what it means to be a drama therapist. I bring a sense of play to the work environment and to the work culture in which I am a member. I run weekly group supervision with the interdisciplinary treatment team in the substance use disorders outpatient clinic where I am currently employed. In group supervision, I have used Landy’s (2009) role profiles assessment tool to promote clinician wellness through the examination of role, and transference and countertransference issues among clients and clinicians. I share a small office with two other clinicians, one a social worker and the other a fellow drama therapist. There are client-made masks and other works of art on the walls, musical instruments strewn about, and other co-workers often come in to vent, take a breath, or share a laugh. The office is cramped and chaotic: a swirl of activity and a hub of creativity.

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Is There a Queer Drama Therapy?

By Patrick Tomczyk, MA

I write this blog entry on the heels of Wear a Pink T-Shirt day, a Canadian initiative that promotes anti-bullying initiatives, celebrated across the country annually on February 25th. This year the North American Drama Therapy Association (NADTA) community looks forward to a conference with the theme of Diversity and Social Justice. As a drama therapist researching homophobic bullying and working in private practice with LGBTQ adolescents and young adults, diversity and social justice concerns are very relevant to my research and practice. The nature of my work is situated within Canada: a country that has a reputation for its politeness, as its people profusely say “sorry”; a leader in LGBTQ rights as one of the first countries to legalize gay marriage; and a country that promotes international human rights. While my point of reference is the Canadian context, I do wish to raise awareness regarding some of the issues for all members within the NADTA community as there are significant similarities in themes and data surrounding bullying research from the UK, Australia, the US, and Canada. My work focuses on “homophobic bullying” (Rivers, 2011), which is an internationally used and defined term, widely accepted by NGOs and governments as: “bullying behaviours that are motivated by prejudice against a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity” (Department for Children, Schools and Families. 2007; Government of Alberta, 2015; NoBullying.com, 2015; Save the Children, 2015).

Bullying is a systemic national issue in Canada. Although our borders may be far and wide, our population is just over 35,000,000 (Statistics Canada, 2014). Consequently, news of deaths from violence or suicide, related to bullying, garner national media attention and make headlines across the country as the names continue growing on an already long list: Reena Virk from British Columbia, Jenna Bowers from Nova Scotia, Mitchell Wilson from Ontario, Jamie Hubley from Ontario, Marjorie Raymond from Quebec, Amanda Todd from British Columbia, Rehtaeh Parsons from Nova Scotia, and Todd Loik from Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, with more than 400 adolescent suicides annually, suicide is the second most common form of premature death among youths aged 15 to 24 in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2008). Bullying is often a key-contributing factor to youth suicides, and LGBTQ youth account for a significant and disproportionate number of these deaths.

Egale is Canada’s national lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT) human rights organization: advancing equality, diversity, education and justice. In 2011, Egale released the findings from the First National Climate Survey on Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia in Canadian Schools Final Report (Taylor et al., 2011). The data illustrates a real cause for concern about homophobic bullying within Canada. The national study found that 70% of all students hear derogatory comments and normalized expressions such as “that’s so gay” or “faggot” every day in school. Moreover, 10% of students report that these pejorative expressions are used directly by their teachers. Alarmingly, more than half of LGBTQ youth feel unsafe at school, compared to 3% of their heterosexual peers. Equally important, 58% of heterosexual youth report finding homophobic comments upsetting. Almost half of sexual minority students are verbally harassed about their gender expression and/or sexual orientation. Lastly, more than 1 in 5 LGBTQ students reported being physically harassed or assaulted because of their sexual orientation and 49% of trans students reported being sexually harassed at school. This data is only a snapshot of the urgency of the situation in Canada.

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Parallel Story: Metaphor and the Trauma Narrative

By Heidi Landis, RDT-BCT, LCAT, TEP, CGP 

In recent years, the field of trauma therapy work has grown tremendously, allowing for the exploration and emergence of innovative treatment approaches. On the one hand, trauma theory underscores the importance of exploring the narrative for healing and integration. On the other, there has also been much discussion about the risk of re-traumatization when working directly with the trauma narrative. I do know that in order for there to be safety in working with the trauma narrative in any kind of therapeutic work, scaffolding, therapeutic rapport and containment are critical. Trauma–focused CBT, for example, focuses first on psychoeducation about trauma and the teaching of affect regulation skills before the therapist and client even begin to engage the narrative itself.

In our own field, trauma work and trauma-informed interventions have become buzz-words. Last year marked the publication of Trauma–Informed Drama Therapy (Johnson and Sajnani, 2014), outlining different methods, theories, and practices in trauma-informed drama therapy with a variety of populations and settings. I have the privilege of working at Creative Alternatives of New York (CANY), where we practice our own model of trauma-informed drama therapy. In regards to what we do, one of the questions I continually ask myself is: where is the place of the trauma narrative in an approach like ours, which works primarily in metaphor? I am also a psychodramatist, so I am familiar with working directly with the trauma story in action. But at CANY, we work in settings like schools, where clients have a drama therapy group and then head immediately to class, or shelters, where we see clients for a very limited amount of time – sometimes as little as two or three sessions. Although this is not ideal for me as a therapist, it is often out of our control. We have learned, however, that short term work  can be foundational for the client. It allows them to attain  some coping and affect regulation skills that can be a basis for work down the road, and  to deal with triggers in the beginning stages of  therapeutic work.

In my work at CANY, the question remains: can the trauma narrative be addressed directly in short term therapy, or in situations where the larger system isn’t trauma-informed? In my experience, I have come to believe that the answer is yes. The metaphor  not only contains the trauma, but also allow clients affected by trauma to safely access their narrative with less risk of re-traumatization.

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Drama Therapy With Latino Populations

Artwork by Luis Nishizawa

By Antonio Ramirez, PsyD

Multicultural counseling requires knowledge, skills, and awareness (Sue & Sue, 2008). Knowledge is the therapist’s basic familiarity with the client’s cultural background. Skills are the intervention strategies that are in line with the client’s background. Awareness is the recognition of the therapist’s background that may interfere with the therapy process, for example: the social factors of privilege and cultural countertransference (Perez-Foster, 1999).

The therapy process requires clients and therapists to look beyond the obvious; to understand the roots of the presenting issues alongside the client’s strengths. Multicultural therapy requires the therapist to understand the client’s world as much as possible in order to assist in self-understanding from within the client’s own worldview. This proposition is extremely complex, because it involves not only the people in the therapy room, but also many other people who are and have been involved in the client’s life. A useful frame for understanding this concept is Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological proposal to recognize environmental influences that place the client and the therapist in a multicultural context.

Verbal therapy is relatively limited because it assumes that clients have the ability to express their experiences in words and that the most powerful way to understand is through intellectual, logical understanding. Drama therapy expands from verbal therapy and includes other types and channels or modes of understanding like somatic, symbolic, interpersonal, and mythical paradigms, among others. This expansion requires the drama therapist to be especially aware of multicultural issues that go beyond verbal expression. Therapists receive training in multicultural issues, but their knowledge, skills, and awareness may still be limited (Sue & Sue, 2008). The fact that drama therapy is an embodied approach makes the potential for misunderstanding and injury of clients greater than verbal therapy because it can occur on several levels. A strength that drama therapists possess is their ability to use their acting backgrounds and/or skills to undertake the analysis of character. The process of embodying characters from another time, place, or culture can allow us to engage in perspective taking, to imagine the experiences of others.

A Drama Therapy Group in Mexico

To demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and awareness when applied using a multicultural frame, I will share the process of preparing and conducting a drama therapy group to explore masculinity from a pro-feminist perspective.

I ran a brief drama therapy series for men in Mexico with the theme of reflecting on their experiences with the masculine role. The workshop was delivered in two eight-hour sessions at a non-profit agency. There were 14 participants and their ages ranged from about 20 to 45. I am from Mexico, so I worked from an emic, or within the culture, approach that generated advantages and disadvantages. These will become clear as we explore the group’s progress.

In preparation for the workshop, I decided to use Emunah’s (1994) Five Phase Model. Due to the collectivistic nature of Mexican culture, people’s identities are based on the idea of interdependence, creating a sense of belonging. On the other hand, collectivism in Mexico can create a sense of vulnerability because of the potential for personal information to be shared outside of the group as gossip, or chisme. The Five Phase Model provides at least two safeguards against this vulnerability. One is the intimacy built in slow increments through the first and second phases: Dramatic Play and Scenework (Emunah, 1994). The other is the way it allows the therapist to move at the group’s pace and recognize when the group is ready to move to the next phase. Notice that this relates to the therapist’s skills, including competent understanding of the culture.

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