The Job and What's Involved

Dramatherapy is a psychological therapy that uses creative methods to help people identify problems which are affecting their feelings or behaviour. It helps them to work through these problems and change for the better.

Sometimes people's problems are too difficult to talk about. Dramatherapy helps by allowing the problem to be worked through with the distance of drama - for example, by creating a story. It is a way of acting out what happens in life.

To do their work, dramatherapists may use:

  • Stories and myths.
  • Role-playing imaginary situations or those based on the client's own life.
  • Songs or poems.
  • Improvisation.
  • Masks and puppets.

Dramatherapy is used to help people build better relationships with others, to increase self-confidence, to sort out psychological problems, to increase creativity, to deal with depression, and sometimes to help cure a phobia (an irrational fear).

Clients (or patients) may use dramatherapy to act out scenes which allow them to express themselves and try out things they have difficulty expressing in normal circumstances.

A wide range of people with problems and worries can be helped this way, both children and adults. It can help troubled, bullied or abused children, people with learning difficulties or mental health problems, and people with behavioural problems, worries over disability, or long-term sickness.

Dramatherapists may also work with other professionals such as psychologists and psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, teachers and therapists from different disciplines such as art and music.

Hours and the working area depend on the client group a therapist is working with.

Dramatherapists may work Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, with some flexible hours. However, some clients may need sessions at the weekend or in the evening. There are good opportunities for part-time work.

They may work in hospitals, prisons, schools, centres for people with mental health problems or learning difficulties, and probation service centres. The working environment is usually well-lit, ventilated, clean and warm, and may contain cushions, small objects, toys, props and costumes.

Therapists may have to work at different locations and may need to travel.

Starting salaries for dramatherapists may be around £22,000. There are additional payments and allowances for therapists working in London and parts of south-east England.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most dramatherapists are employed by the National Health Service (NHS). They also work in social services departments, education authorities, day centres, hospices, special hospitals and secure units, prisons, and the whole range of voluntary sector agencies. Some are self-employed.

There are around 1,500 dramatherapists in the UK, and about half are registered with the British Association of Dramatherapists. The number is increasing as more health practitioners appreciate how specialist therapies can help a wide range of clients. There is work throughout the UK, and there are slightly more applicants than vacancies.

Education and Training

To qualify as a dramatherapist, people need an appropriate degree and must have done a postgraduate training course. They must also register with the Health Professions Council.

It is best to have experience of drama work as well as experience of working with people with problems who can be helped by therapy.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Recognised dramatherapy courses are:

1. A Postgraduate Diploma in Drama and Movement Therapy - one year (full time) from the Sesame/Central School of Speech and Drama in London. An optional additional six months' full-time study leads to a Masters degree.

2. A Postgraduate Diploma in Dramatherapy - three years (part time) from the Institute of Dramatherapy at Roehampton in London.

3. A Postgraduate MA Dramatherapy, University of Derby.

At present, recognised dramatherapy courses are not available in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Each dramatherapy course is unique, but they share common features. These include:

  • A broad range of drama and theatre skills, approaches and techniques, including performance work.
  • Different psychological principles and practices.
  • Taking part in a dramatherapy training group.
  • Supervised dramatherapy practice.
  • Related therapies - such as art, music, dance and play.
  • Continuous assessment of practical and written work.
  • Personal therapy in parallel with training.
  • Research skills and evidence-based practice.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A dramatherapist should be able to:

  • Listen to a client's needs and their difficult experiences.
  • Communicate with people from a wide range of backgrounds.
  • Concentrate for long periods.
  • Work intuitively and with imagination.
  • Enjoy drama and other performing arts.
  • Want to make a difference to other people's lives.
  • Be patient and kind.
  • Treat client information confidentially.
  • Adapt to different therapeutic approaches.
  • Help clients who are in emotional difficulty.

Your Long Term Prospects

Dramatherapists can develop their career by learning about other areas of therapy to add to their practice, developing management skills, or doing research.

Some dramatherapists become self-employed and build up their own freelance therapy, supervision and consultancy practice.

Get Further Information

British Association of Dramatherapists,
Waverley, Battledown Approach, Cheltenham GL52 6RE
Tel: 01242 235515
Website: www.badth.org.uk

Health Professions Council, Park House,
184 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BU
Tel: 020 7582 0866
Website: www.hpc-uk.org

NHS Careers, PO Box 2311, Bristol BS2 2ZX
Tel: 0845 60 60 655
Website: www.nhscareers.nhs.uk

Roehampton University, Erasmus House,
Roehampton Lane, London SW15 5PU
Tel: 020 8392 3000
Website: www.roehampton.ac.uk

Sesame/Central School of Speech and Drama,
Embassy Theatre, 64 Eton Avenue, London NW3 3HY
Tel: 020 7722 8183
Website: www.cssd.ac.uk

University of Derby, Careers Development Centre,
Kedleston Road, Derby DE22 1GB
Tel: 01332 591167
Website: www.derby.ac.uk

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