Drama therapists work within the school system as counselors, using drama therapy as their treatment method with children and adolescents. In Casper, Wyoming, Linda Nelson, RDT used drama therapy to help high school students formulate and reach academic and personal goals. In elementary schools in Michigan and Illinois, Mary Fahrner, RDT and Linda Sheehan, RDT, a counselor and social worker, respectively, used drama therapy with elementary school children to teach social skills, to explore diversity issues, and to improve personal coping skills.
Drama therapists work as teachers in public schools as well. Mary Reid, RDT, created a peer conflict resolution program in a California middle school using drama to teach communication, empathy, and problem-solving skills. Over 100 peer mediations were successfully conducted each year of the program and detentions went down twenty percent. She also brought narrative drama therapy techniques into her counseling groups so students could address their personal life challenges by acting out turning points in their lives.
Lanell Finneran, RDT/BCT worked in the Therapeutic Classroom in Lawrence, Kansas for close to 20 years, first as the classroom therapist and then as the lead teacher. Her students are adolescents with emotional disorders, such as school phobia, depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and Asperger’s syndrome who couldn’t function in a normal public school classroom. Many had learning disabilities and/or medical conditions. In her classroom, however, students were able to work through their problems while keeping up with their academics. Lanell incorporated the arts and socio-emotional education into her lesson plans. She encouraged self-expression by example: reading Harry Potter books out loud in costume with detailed character voices and props, then encouraging students to join her in acting out scenes from the books.
Even social issues were addressed through drama. One boy in the Therapeutic Classroom was being scapegoated and tormented by the other students on bus trips to and from school. Lanell discussed the problems and potential solutions in individual therapy sessions with all the students, stressing each person’s responsibility in solving the situation. Then she set up a sociodrama in the classroom: the bus was created using chairs and each student sat in his/her assigned seat. Lanell took each student out of the bus on a “walk and talk” to verbalize what he or she was thinking and feeling, how he or she played into the problem, and at least one alternative he or she could do to make it better. Once everyone had contributed, they acted out a bus ride using the brainstormed solutions. After this intervention, problems on the bus stopped; everyone made an effort to be more flexible and understanding with each other the rest of the school year.
© Copyright Sally D. Bailey, Registered Drama Therapist. All Rights Reserved.