Drama Therapy Key Principles

The Drama Therapy Key Principles listed below are basic definitions and do not include the many complicated elements associated with each principle. I highly recommend exploring in greater details the key principles that are of interest, as there are many great websites, books, and research material available.

  • Developmental Transformation (DvT): DvT includes improvisational and embodied interaction over exploration, role repertoire or story. It focuses on one’s abilities to use themselves and their capacity to communicate in subtle ways. This takes place through their own bodily movement, speech, sounds, gaze, and personality. DvT may be practiced between two individuals, a group, a family, or a larger community.
  • Drama Exercises: Drama-based exercises allow individuals and groups to communicate with and understand one another in new ways. Drama provides many benefits in helping develop one’s physical, emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Select benefits include using and creating one’s self-confidence, imagination, empathy, cooperation, concentration, communication, being playful, emotional outlet, physical fitness, and memory skills.
  • Improvisation: This technique – often called improv, – is a form of live theatre in which the plot, characters and dialogue of an exercise, scene or story are made up in the moment. The practice of improv. is applicable to life, as people make decisions every day without always knowing the outcome. This approach is a key element to drama therapy.
  • Masks: Mask wearing, and the creation process, has been used frequently throughout history. In drama therapy, this process is often used as a projective tool of an outer source, providing safety with an opportunity for self-exploration and reflection.
  • Performance: The performance process allows participants to learn about emotions and relationships by bringing to life a variety of characters, both like and unlike themselves. As a result, new insights are often gained into how other people behave, how emotions come and go, and what motivates one’s self and others. The experience of working together to create a theatre ensemble enhances social skills, self-discipline, and self-confidence.
  • Playback Theatre: An original form of improvisational theatre created by Jonathan Fox in which audience members tell stories from their lives and watch them enacted on the spot. Learn more.
  • Psychodrama: A role play method, created by Jacob Moreno, in which a participant’s life history is replayed to explore past, present, and future in order to experience catharsis, gain new understanding of self, and relearn behavior.
  • Puppetry: The skill or activity of using puppets in performances, which is often combined with improvisation.
  • Ritual: Having rituals in each session is very beneficial, as they provide a sense of stability in the check-in and closure process. Although drama therapy exercises may change throughout sessions, having an established format provides security while also enhancing the use of one’s imagination and exploration process.
  • Role Play/Role Method: The acting out or performance of a particular role, either consciously (as a technique in psychotherapy or training) or unconsciously, in accordance with the perceived expectations of society with regard to a person’s behavior in a particular context.
  • Sociodrama: A role play method, created by Jacob Moreno, in which group members choose an issue they wish to explore together through fictional characters and improvisation.
  • Story: The conveying of events in words, and images, often by improvisation and/or embellishment.
  • Theatre of the Oppressed/Image Theatre: This technique was established by Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Boal in the 1960s, initially in Brazil and later in Europe. Boal was influenced by the work of the educator and theorist Paulo Freire. Boal’s techniques use theatre as means of promoting social and political change. In the Theatre of the Oppressed, the audience becomes active, such that as “spect-actors” they explore, show, analyze and transform the reality in which they are living.

The Drama Therapy Pie

The Drama Therapy Pie, by Sally Bailey, MFA, MSW, RDT/BCT. To learn more about Sally Bailey, visit Drama Therapy Central.
  • Drama Games
  • Improvisation
  • Role Play/Role Method
  • Developmental Transformation
  • Sociodrama
  • Psychodrama
  • Therapeutic Spiral
  • Playback Theatre
  • Theatre of the Oppressed
  • Performance
  • Puppets
  • Masks
  • Ritual