Between Drama Education and Drama Therapy: International Approaches to Successful Navigation

This article describes a workshop I presented at the 2013 congress of the International Drama/Education Association (IDEA) in Paris with Jason Butler and Clive Holmwood. Using the workshop experience as a backdrop, my colleagues and I discuss concepts within drama therapy that might serve to inform the use of emotion within education and other applied theatre spaces. The distinction between psychodrama and drama therapy is clarified and basic drama therapy concepts are explained. Contrary to the facilitators’ expectations, the workshop experience evoked several unifying questions and issues for participants: “How can we simultaneously address both ends of the emotional/expressive spectrum? How can I get my over-expressive students to settle down and participate so that I can attend to the less expressive students?” Questions of emotion regulation seemed to problematize classroom management concerns rather than galvanize discourse about boundaries between education and therapy. Through a dialogic exploration using forum theatre, the workshop participants engaged with their own relationship to the topics and explored potential solutions. The drama therapy concept of aesthetic distance was highlighted as a means to helping educational theatre practitioners navigate the potentially complex experiences when dealing with emotional involvement. This concept would allow for a clearer establishment of intrapersonal and interpersonal boundaries within the creation and exploration of theatre and drama. The article also calls for more substantial dialogues between applied drama/theatre professionals in order to more fully explore how to navigate the interstices between education and therapy.

with Butler, J. D. & Holmwood, C.

IDEA Handout

P-E-R-F-O-R-M-A-N-C-E, 2(1). 


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