Drama Therapy Program

Thanks to the generous support of the REAM Foundation and the Harvey L. Miller Foundation who each funded UCAN with a total of $10,000 ($5,000 each) UCAN's Drama Therapy Program at our Therapeutic Youth Home has been an overwhelming success.

Led by Lookingglass Theatre, the Drama Therapy sessions mainly focus on partner or group activities, aiming to help our young people learn about themselves, about each other, and how to improve their social interactions and self-esteem. Drama Therapy sessions have centered on the themes of bullying and respect while introducing acting tools such as body, voice, environment, and character. An example of a recent activity was the "gibberish" exercise. In this exercise, the participants partnered up and one youth communicated something to his/her partner, using body language and a made up language. Their partner had to try to interpret what the first youth said! This exercise teaches non-verbal communications such as eye contact and body language, focuses on the importance of tone and body space, and teaches interpersonal and social skills. It's also good for a laugh!

Before beginning Drama Therapy, David*was attached to his Game Boy and had a difficult time relating to others, specifically his male peers. But it is through exercises like the "gibberish" exercise that children like David are able to build healthy relationships with other youth, sometimes for the very first time. "I've seen our kids learn that they are more creative than they think," says a UCAN staff member who participates regularly in Drama Therapy sessions. In Drama Therapy, "they have to take the improv situation that they are given and do the best they can." This helps Drama Therapy participants learn to approach real-life situations with the same healthy creativity that they learned in sessions.

Drama Therapy is good for all youth, allowing them to express emotions or feelings which they might not be able to express in traditional therapy. In particular it helps extremely shy kids and/or those with low self-esteem come out of their shells. For example, one past client suffered from major depression. In Drama Therapy, however, "she's like a totally different person," says Pamela Wilson, UCAN's Therapeutic Recreational Coordinator. "Drama Therapy allows her not only to bond with peers, but to be herself." Pam points out that many young clients who have suffered trauma also suffer from "hyper-vigilance;" their past experiences have taught them that they must always be on the alert.

"These are kids who don't often have a chance to calm down and focus," Pam says, but in Drama Therapy, "everyone gets to let their hair down, act crazy, and be challenged." It is also a good way for young people who are new to UCAN to get to know each other and the staff (who also participate in the sessions). Pam notes that "kids feel comfortable screaming like a wolf if a staff member is doing it, too," and Pam also admits that she looks forward to Drama Therapy because, as a staff member, she gets the opportunity to explore her own creative side.     

The Drama Therapy classroom is a safe space where clients allow themselves to be more vulnerable, and they also feel a sense of pride in their group's accomplishments.

*Names have been changed in order to protect our young people's identities


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