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Drama Therapy for Addiction

There’s no wrong way to achieve lasting sobriety. In fact, even addiction treatment programs can consist of a wide breadth of different forms of treatment and therapy, from psychotherapy and traditional counseling to holistic treatments and New Age or spiritual techniques. In short, the idea is to provide a wide variety of treatment options so that individuals who are on the journey of recovery can utilize the treatments and therapies that best address their unique needs. But to some, certain treatments and therapies may seem unusual or out of place; a prime example of such an unusual form of treatment is drama therapy.

" What is Drama Therapy? "

In Miami, Florida, many people view addiction treatment programs as clinical in nature. While it’s true that there’s an inherently clinical element to addiction treatment programs, these programs can be just as holistic and human-centered as twelve-step programs and other such recovery resources.

Drama therapy is much like it sounds: It’s a form of therapy in which the patient takes a more active role by playing out scenes, emotions, and metaphors. In many ways, it’s accurate to think of drama therapy as a more cathartic form of charades. Sure, it may sound a bit odd to think of acting out scenes in front of a group of fellow patients like a high school student in drama class, but drama therapy has actually been employed to one degree or another since the 1930s when the technique was first developed.

When drama therapy was created, the intent was to find alternative ways for anxiety-ridden individuals to express their thoughts and feelings. At the time, it was very much considered a form of alternative therapy, highly experimental with questionable merit; however, over time, we came to realize that there is, in fact, value to drama therapy for a couple key reasons, which we will cover below.

Drama Therapy for Addiction

There are many circumstances that may lead a person to develop a substance abuse problem. For some, addiction is the result of being in an environment or social circumstance where substance abuse is commonplace, making the abuse of alcohol or drugs more “normal” than it would otherwise appear. Alternately, parental substance abuse has proven to be a major catalyst for addiction as the children of addicts age into adulthood. Other times, addiction is inadvertent and unintentional, which is often the case for individuals who receive long-term prescriptions for addictive substances. But one of the most common reasons why a person turns to substance abuse is as a coping tool.

Where drama therapy has the most value as a tool for addiction recovery is when it comes to liberating unexpressed emotions. Rather than subduing difficult feelings with alcohol or drug abuse, a person can use drama therapy as a way to explore the root cause of emotional issues. As well, drama therapy allows individuals to explore potentially stressful or emotional scenarios in a symbolic way. Since these scenarios can evoke strong emotions, using drama therapy allows patients to distance themselves from these traumatic events.

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Benefits of Drama Therapy

One of the main benefits of drama therapy is derived from the connotations inherent in drama. When we think about drama, we associate concepts like acting and taking on fictional roles. Therefore, drama therapy offers a sort of buffer between individuals and their emotions. Rather than simply divulging sensitive information to a group of peers, drama therapy allows people to express themselves in a more symbolic or interpretive way. Numerous studies have found that creativity can be instrumental when it comes to achieving mental health, and drama therapy afford a degree of liberation and freedom through creativity. In short, it provides a layer of safety.

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Another major benefit of drama therapy is that it can help individuals achieve a level of insight into themselves and their experiences that had previously been elusive. For instance, someone who was a victim of some type of abuse may choose to act out a scenario in which he or she pretends to be the attacker; in the scene, the individual may attempt to decipher the rationale behind the decision to victimize the individual, which helps him or her to better understand the attacker and, by extension, why the attack happened in the first place. In other words, patients are put in a position in which they are encouraged to analyze and assess others’ perspectives and motivations. In fact, they often even gain a better understanding of their own motivations and thought processes. Drama therapy allows individuals to walk a mile in others’ shoes, so to speak.

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Is Drama Therapy Right for You?

Not every form of therapy is right for everyone. Like other therapies, drama therapy is a unique form of substance abuse treatment mean to meet certain needs. Where drama therapy differs from other forms of therapy is that it’s a more experiential, active, and symbolic activity for patients overcoming addiction. Of course, a patient doesn’t necessarily need to use drama therapy to reenact past experiences; one might prefer to enact fictional scenarios, embodying made-up characters to express real thoughts and emotions. Again, this is where the symbolism of the treatment comes into play.

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When it comes down to it, drama therapy offers a level of insight into a patient’s mind, experiences, and emotions. By telling a story, embodying a character, or playing out a scene, individuals can gain additional insight into themselves, substance abuse, and recovery. As well, the use of drama as a therapeutic activity can help individuals to break free of their inner conflicts, liberating themselves from the long-term effects of past trauma.
Over the course of its use as a substance abuse treatment, drama therapy has helped with solving conflicts, allowed patients to achieve catharsis, uncover truths that had previously been buried or suppressed, understand the meaning of resonant images, and transcend patterns of negative or self-harming behavior and personal interactions. Whether you’re looking for a unique form of treatment in Miami, Florida, or if you’re dramatically inclined and would like to put those inclinations to good use, drama therapy has proven to be a great outlet for those in recovery from addiction.

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