When Jodie forwarded me the link to a news story about the use of drama therapy in a women’s prison in Lebanon, I was reminded yet again of the power of the arts in difficult times and places. Theatre has been used for thousands of years to document, describe, and reflect the most violent, arduous, and incomprehensible of human actions and emotions. In the past few decades, many trained therapists have learned to use theatre as an effective tool to help patients tap into their traumatic life experiences and productively think about, discuss, and reenact events which shape their current emotional states and behaviors.
The Geese Theatre Company is perhaps the best known group which uses drama therapy in correctional settings, and they have worked with youth and adults in prisons as well as prison staff members in countries around the globe. Though I have not seen their work personally, a certified drama therapist friend of mine who has studied their techniques uses them to great success with the court-involved youth with whom she works in North Carolina.
It should be noted that all theatre happening in and around prisons is not necessarily drama therapy. Though many people casually attribute therapeutic qualities to all artistic activity, especially when its conducted by or with disadvantaged populations, real arts therapy requires a licensed therapist who is trained to guide people through the emotional and psychological issues raised by particular artistic exercises.
My admiration extends to those practicing drama therapists who take on the many challenges faced by the incarcerated and those who work with them. May this work bring about greater healing and peace in our troubled world.