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Drama and Expressive Arts Therapy


What is Drama Therapy?

Drama therapy is the intentional use of drama and/or theater processes to achieve therapeutic goals.


Drama therapy is active and experiential. This approach can provide the context for participants to tell their stories, set goals and solve problems, express feelings, or achieve catharsis. Through drama, the depth and breadth of inner experience can be actively explored and interpersonal relationship skills can be enhanced. Participants can expand their repertoire of dramatic roles to find that their own life roles have been strengthened.


What Do Drama Therapists Do?


A drama therapist first assesses a client's needs and then considers approaches that might best meet those needs. Drama therapy can take many forms depending on individual and group needs, skill and ability levels, interests, and therapeutic goals. Processes and techniques may include improvisation, theater games, storytelling, and enactment. Many drama therapists make use of text, performance, or ritual to enrich the therapeutic and creative process. The theoretical foundation of drama therapy lies in drama, theater, psychology, psychotherapy, anthropology, play, and interactive and creative processes.


Who Are Registered Drama Therapists? 


A Registered Drama Therapist (RDT) is a Master’s level credential requiring coursework in psychology and drama therapy, experience in theater, and supervised internship and work experience. RDTs are board certified in the practice of drama therapy and follow the NADTA Code of Ethics.


The educational requirements for the RDT involve: A Master's or Doctoral degree in Drama Therapy from a program accredited by the National Association for Drama Therapy. OR  A Master's or Doctoral degree in theater or a mental health profession with additional in-depth training in drama therapy through NADTA's alternative training program. Board-certified registered drama therapists (RDT/BCT) train and supervise students in this alternative training program. Click here for more information about education to become a drama therapist.


Where Do Drama Therapists Practice?


Mental Health Facilities, Schools, Hospitals, Private Practice Settings, Substance Abuse Treatment Centers, Adult Day Care Centers, Correctional Facilities, Community Centers, After-school Programs, Shelters, Group Homes, Nursing Homes, Corporations, Theaters, Housing Projects, Medical Schools, Training Organizations.


Participants benefiting from drama therapy span the life spectrum. Client populations may include persons recovering from addiction, dysfunctional families, developmentally disabled persons, abuse survivors, prison inmates, homeless persons, people with AIDS, older adults, behavioral health consumers, at-risk youth, and the general public.


© North American Drama Therapy Association 2016


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What is Expressive Arts Therapy?

The expressive arts combine the visual arts, movement, drama, music, writing and other creative processes to foster deep personal growth and community development. Expressive arts therapy refers to a therapeutic approach with individuals, couples, families, groups, and community-based programs that integrates a wide range of arts modalities in the service of human growth, development, and healing. 

Expressive arts therapy differs from other creative arts therapies in that its practitioners draw from many art forms and apply them to therapy in an integrated fashion. Expressive arts therapists find their grounding not in a particular art form, but rather in a theoretical orientation rooted in what all the arts have in common. The use of or combination of different arts-based modalities thus becomes itself a new modality separate and distinct from the sum of its parts. Expressive Arts Therapists call upon their own creativity and training with arts-based approaches to determine which modality or combination of modalities is needed in any given moment in time.

Who Are Registered Expressive Arts Therapists?

The general guidelines for REAT include a master’s degree, completion of training led by a Registered Expressive Arts Therapist (REAT), and 1,000 hours of supervised practice in expressive arts therapy.

International Expressive Arts Therapy Association®

For more information, see the IETA website at

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