Black Lives Matter

North American Drama Therapy Association Position Statement
May 2015

Black Lives Matter. Like many around the world, we at the North American Drama Therapy Association share the profound grief, anger, and pain as we grapple with the loss of Mya Hall, 27; Freddie Gray, 25; Trayvon Martin, 17; Rumain Brisbon, 34; Tamir Rice, 12; Yvette Smith, 47; Akai Gurley, 28; Kajieme Powell, 25; Ezell Ford, 25; Oscar Grant, 22, Dante Parker, 36; Michael Brown, 18; John Crawford III, 22; Tyree Woodson, 38; Eric Garner, 43; Victor White, 22; Yvette Smith, 47; McKenzie Cochran, 25; Jordan Baker, 26; Andy Lopez, 13; Miriam Carey, 34; Jonathan Ferrell, 24; Carlos Alcis, 43; Larry Eugene Jackson, Jr., 32; Deion Fludd, 17; Kimani Gray, 16; Johnnie Kamahi Warren, 43; Malissa Williams, 30; Timothy Russell, 43; Reynaldo Cuevas, 20 and countless others. Their deaths have brought international attention to the daily inequities experienced within communities of color at the hands of the police and civilians who are rarely held responsible for their actions.

We, at the NADTA, do not see these deaths as isolated events but an epidemic that affects the safety and well-being of society, our members, and those with whom we work.  We recognize that what we are experiencing is the systemic failure of our society to address our own history and legacy of colonization and slavery that continues to rationalize the domination of one racial or ethnic group over other group(s) and to maintain psychological and material advantages through the ongoing dehumanization and criminalization of people of color in every social sphere that we choose to acknowledge from our systems of healthcare, education, justice, human services, banking, and housing.  Social acceptance of the myth of a colorblindness, institutionalized racism, and a pervasive fear of the “other” are at the root of these acts of brutality (Mayor, 2012; Sajnani, 2012).

We also recognize that we are an organizational expression of society and therefore implicated in the struggle for social justice and equality. Therefore, we see this statement as a critical part of our commitment to upholding high standards of ethical practice. In the words of art therapist Dan Hockoy (2007), “There is no possibility to end psychological suffering until we work on the social disparities that result in ‘intrapsychic trauma,’ and, no matter how much political activism and community service we do, there is no possibility for social justice  until we come to terms with the forces of marginalization within our own psyches” (p.37).  Racism, implicit bias, and race-based privilege disrupt the mental health and psychological functioning of both victims and perpetrators of racial injustice and this contributes to the maintenance of racist systems and interactions (APA, 2015).

We understand the inclination to respond to this position statement with an assertion that all lives matter and, of course, they do. However, as George Yancy and Judith Butler noted in their recent article in the New York Times (Jan. 12, 2015),

If we jump too quickly to the universal formulation, ‘all lives matter’, then we miss the fact that black people have not yet been included in the idea of ‘all lives.’ That said, it is true that all lives matter…but to make that universal formulation concrete, to make that into a living formulation, one that truly extends to all people, we have to foreground those lives that are not mattering now, to mark that exclusion, and militate against it. Achieving that universal, ‘all lives matter,’ is a struggle, and that is part of what we are seeing on the streets…Only through such an ever-growing cross-racial struggle against racism can we begin to achieve a sense of all the lives that really do matter.

The current climate of violence most directly and negatively impacts people of color and it affects all of us. We condemn police brutality and the US and Canadian systems of racialized, mass incarceration. To our members who have expressed feeling invisible, forgotten, or silenced we are deeply grieved. We stand with our members who have experienced the trauma of racism and intersecting oppressions. We call on our community as a whole to bring your experience, critical thinking, research, and artful approaches to creating spaces where we can extend our understanding of the impact of racism and other forms of social injustice on health and well-being.

Towards this end, the NADTA has been and will continue to engage in a number of initiatives. These include the development of guidelines concerning cultural response/ability in ethical practice. Your input on these guidelines is critical so please click here to read them and provide your comments. These guidelines will be discussed at our next annual conference which is focused on how drama therapists draw on an understanding of dramatic reality, embodiment, improvisation, role, play, narrative, witnessing, and performance amongst other processes to promote empathy, diversity and social justice (Oct. 15-18, 2015).  Please consider participating in the online activities and conversations coordinated by the conference pre-education committee. You also are welcome to share your reflections in a blog post on the official NADTA blog, Dramascope (via email submission to thedramascope@nadta.org) or submit an article or a clinical commentary to Drama Therapy Review, the peer-reviewed journal of the NADTA. Issue 2.1 is a special issue entitled: Borderlands: Diversity and Social Justice in Drama Therapy and the deadline is August 1st, 2015. The NADTA Diversity Committee will also host community conference calls for members to share their reflections on matters of interest pertaining to diversity, mental health, and the practice of drama therapy. The first call will be focused on the impact of racism on mental health and will take place on Monday, June 1st, from 8-9pm EST. Please click here to sign up for this call and to receive call-in details.

We are also aware of the trailblazing work done by colleagues in related fields who have documented the psychological causes and consequences of racism, transphobia, homophobia, ageism, ableism, sexism, sizeism, poverty and other forms of interpersonal and institutionalized bias on mental health and invite you to make use of these resources and to contribute others by contacting Jessica Bleuer, Diversity Chair, at diversity@nadta.org.

We close with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, in his influential book Why We Can’t Wait, wrote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly” (1963, p. 87).

In Solidarity,

NADTA Board of Directors
Nadya Trytan
Jason Butler
Jeremy Segall
Whitney Sullivan
Susan Ward
Jason Frydman
Jennifer Wilson
Karimah Dillard
Kim Cohn
Jessica Bleuer
Alisha Henson
Josiah Stickels
Laura Wood
Angela Wiley

NADTA Advisory Committee (Black Lives Matter)
Nisha Sajnani
Carmen White
Britton Williams
Amber N. Smith

NADTA Diversity Committee
Jessica Bleuer
Carmen White
Diana E Jordan
Daniela Bustamante
Jami Osborne
Shyam Anandampalli
Idalid Diaz

References

American Psychological Association (2015). Guidelines on multicultural education, training, research, practice, and organizational change for psychologists. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/policy/multicultural-guidelines.aspx

Hockoy, D. (2007).  Art therapy as a tool for social change: A conceptual model. In F. Kaplan (Ed.), Art therapy and social action (pp. 21-39). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

King, M.L. (1963). Why we can’t wait. Boston: Beacon Press

Mayor, C. (2012). Playing with race: A theoretical framework and approach for creative arts therapists. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 39 (3), 214-219.

Sajnani, N. (2012). Response/ability: Towards a critical race feminist paradigm for the creative arts therapies. The Arts in Psychotherapy. 39 (3), 186-191.

Yancy, G. & Butler, J. (January 12, 2015). What’s wrong with all lives matter? Retrieved from http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/12/whats-wrong-with-all-lives-matter/

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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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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