By Craig Haen, Ph.D., RDT, CGP, LCAT, FAGPA
In a recent TEDx talk (which you can watch here), Ash Beckham discusses the current tendency toward polarization in this country, despite the fact that most people are full of contradictions, and subsequently asks the audience to consider how much duality they can hold. Her talk was firmly on my mind throughout the weekend at this year’s NADTA conference. As we engaged in thoughtful and nuanced conversations about sameness and difference, the inevitable started to happen—intersections began to surface and play out. As facilitator Autumn Brown reminded us in the all-conference event (both in her planned content and in the spontaneous way she modeled how to approach and hold one of these moments), it is in these intersections where trauma can exist.
I am grateful to the many people who worked tirelessly to bring this event to fruition and to focus our attention on social justice, marginalization, and oppression. It has been a long time coming. But this is clearly just a beginning. If we want to strive for and become a socially just professional community, we are all required to consider the question: how much can we hold?
As someone who exists both comfortably and uncomfortably in the space of the NADTA conference, I was particularly attuned to people who expressed a similar sentiment. And I was reminded of a workshop Laura Cone and I had the privilege to hold a space for at the last conference in White Plains. At that event, which had the admittedly rabble-rousing title “I Hate Drama Therapy,” a small but very passionate group explored the ways in which (as one attendee so presciently put it) Drama Therapy has been an uncomfortable home. The participants in this workshop didn’t hate drama therapy; by contrast, it was a deeply important part of their professional identities. Yet, there were things about our professional community that didn’t always leave them feeling securely held.
How much can we hold? Can we hold both the people who attend the conference religiously and those who, for a variety of reasons, don’t come? Can we hold the aging founders of our field and the young lifeblood who are calling out for mentorship? Can we hold those who feel emboldened to lead a workshop or step on a stage and those who would never dream of it? Can we hold the member who speaks for vulnerability and the member who speaks for anger, and their shared incredulity about how reductive those labels are? Can we hold the leader who feels that serious research is the domain of those with a doctorate and the new professional who would like to see a system in which research is accessible to everyone? Can we hold those members who were grateful for an apology about cultural appropriation from leadership and those members who wondered what the fuss was about? Can we hold the members whose feet are firmly planted in the performance space and the members whose feet are firmly planted in the clinical one? Can we hold those who benefitted from coming to our field through one of our established higher education programs, and can we hold those who struggle to make their way to our profession through other avenues? Continue reading