Drama therapy uses theatre techniques such as voice work, role play, puppetry and storytelling to help people solve their personal and social problems. In charge of administering this form of therapy are drama therapists; professionals who also focus on creating a safe environment for clients to explore their feelings. If you are passionate about helping other people and have an interest in drama and performances, drama therapy is a career you could enjoy.
Drama therapists work with patients suffering from learning disabilities, physical disabilities, emotional disorders and behavioural problems. They help clients achieve positive change and psychological wellbeing by:
- Forming personal relationships with clients to understand their situations
- Working in groups to create plays and other tools to be used in therapy
- Acting out situations to encourage self-awareness
- Expressing what they think about the world and different situations in society
Dramatherapists working in clinics or nursing homes can also perform the following tasks:
- Maintaining records for clients and their progress
- Taking referrals from other professional staff in the clinic
- Writing reports on the progress of clients and submitting them to employers
Dramatherapists normally work from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm. Some jobs, however, may include weekend and evening sessions. They can work in a range of settings, from healthcare facilities to school systems.
While at work, they often interact with professionals from related fields, such as teachers, social workers, psychologists and nurses.
Dramatherapists working on a freelance basis often travel between different locations.
The National Health Service uses a pay structure called Agenda for Change to set salaries for drama therapists working in the public sector. Entry level drama therapists begin at band 6 and work their way to band 8 with increases in experience. The following table highlights this information.
Band 6 (Beginning drama therapists)
£25,783 to £34,530
Band 7 (Experienced drama therapists)
£30,764 to £40,558
Band 8 (Principal drama therapists)
Up to £47,088
Therapists working in the private sector usually charge between £35 and £65 for a one-hour therapy session.
Source: National Careers Service
Education and training
To get started in drama therapy, you need to complete the following steps:
- Complete high school - - You need to have five GCSEs (A-C) and two A levels in relevant subjects such as drama, psychology or theatre studies to secure admission to an undergraduate program
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in drama, psychology or a closely related field
- Gain some practical drama experience – You need it to be considered for a graduate program
- Obtain a master’s degree in drama therapy – The degree must be approved by the British Association of Dramatherapists.
- Secure registration in the Health and Care Professionals Council.
At this point, you are ready to hunt for paid employment.
Important skills and abilities
As a drama therapist, having the following skills and abilities helps you deliver services efficiently:
- Emotional strength to cope up with clients who may be in distressing situations
- A non-judgmental attitude to be able to convince your clients to open up and speak out about their problems
- Excellent communication skills for interaction with clients
- Respect for confidentiality to keep clients’ information out of reach of unauthorised personnel
- Be of a helpful nature as the job entails serving and helping others out of their psychological problems
- Ability to relate with people from different backgrounds and different behaviours
After finding employment, it is important to work under an experienced professional, preferably a trained supervisor.
With such advanced formal qualifications, you won’t need to obtain more degrees in order to advance your career. However, you should regularly update your skills and knowledge. You can do this by:
- Attending training workshops
- Pursuing short courses
Although many drama therapists are freelancers, you can find full-time employment opportunities in:
- The National Health Service
- Local authorities,
- The Prison Service
- Health care facilities
- School systems
With vast job experience, you can become a team leader or supervisor. It is also possible to establish a consultancy business, private practice clinic or venture into teaching drama therapy in colleges.
Finally, drama therapy is not all about earning a living. If you choose this profession, you should be willing to go the extra mile to help people out with their problems.