On addiction treatment and drama therapy

When working with people seeking help for addiction, the addiction is often the entry point to therapy. Underneath the addiction are sometimes years of trauma or loss that have gone unaddressed. I have worked with incredibly creative and dynamic survivors who have just never had the opportunity to fully explore their story. When we look at substances as the primary coping tool for a person in distress, we are able to reframe the narrative away from a moralistic view – and help our clients do so too.

One of the biggest strengths I see in using Drama Therapy is that it allows people to expand their understanding of themselves beyond just the roles of “Addict” or “Lost One.”  Many people come to treatment for addiction with shame, guilt, and self-hatred for hurt they have caused their loved ones. Much of the process of healing starts with tapping into a radical self-compassion. Drama therapy is perfectly suited for holding the complexity of both taking responsibility for one’s actions as an adult, while simultaneously expressing anger or loss at the trauma one experienced as a young person. 

I’ve worked with clients at a number of addiction treatment settings and levels of care. Drama therapy looks drastically different in each! What is possible and helpful in a long-term residential or dual-diagnosis treatment facility is different from a 30-day rehab or 8-day detox. In long-term residential, my relapse prevention groups integrated Playback Theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed techniques. The 30-day rehab program allowed for a structure where men and women could have drama therapy groups separately to deal with histories of trauma or abuse, and address toxic masculinity or internalized oppression.

Currently, my work using short-term interventions at a detox facility is focused on mindfulness, grounding in the body, and managing acute physical pain and anxiety. It can be exhausting going deep with new people each week and then almost immediately terminating. I’ve also had to adjust my expectations to make space for the physical illness of detox. My drama therapy groups might look like guided meditation or friendship bracelet making to an outsider – but it’s still drama therapy!  The common thread across sites is that the space we create for people to feel seen and heard is incredibly and irrevocably meaningful.

This ability to adjust my drama therapy interventions to fit the needs of each treatment level/site is something I attribute to the depth of my training at the NYU Drama Therapy Program. In our Clinical Populations course, Prof. Sara McMullian would often say that ‘the work is small.’ I thought I understood what she meant at the time, but years of working in different addiction treatment systems have deepened my understanding. At every level of care, I’ve found that my work in the room is impactful for the clients, however sometimes I forget how much power we have to impact a person/group/system with our interventions.

Just the other day, I was walking out of detox heading home, and I said goodbye to some clients by the elevator. Thanks and best wishes were exchanged. As I turned the corner, I overheard one man say to his peers with all sincerity, “She did her job today… because I didn’t leave.” My heart exploded! Sometimes our job is small, so small we don’t even realize we are making an impact. However, when we keep people in the room and in conversation with their healthiest selves, we plan the seeds to change the way they define themselves in the world. That step can be enough.

On mindfulness and drama therapy

So much of Drama Therapy is about integrating the body with the mind and spirit. The body holds trauma and emotions that our mind often works to avoid. By learning to listen to our body’s messages, we can start to process, tolerate, and cope with feelings that can be deeply uncomfortable but necessary for growth. We do this in many ways, often utilizing breath work, movement, storytelling, play or writing.

Often people think that Drama Therapy is about creating a performance or finished product to share. While it can be that, so much of the work is also process oriented. We work through fear, anxiety, pain and shame by practicing different ways of expressing ourselves. The moment is experienced fully and then let go. We process and release, making space for new roles, new narratives, and new goals in our lives.

The work is often small, much smaller than we expect. An exercise that I have been using a lot lately at the Eating Disorders Treatment Facility where I work is the “co-created one sentence story.” We go around the group circle with each person contributing a sentence to a story. Sometimes we start with a theme, but often we allow the story to unfold organically informed by the dialogue or check in before it. This game is one that children might play in summer camp, but used in a treatment setting, it can go very deep. There is a beauty in crafting a story together in the moment. The group must allow each individual to take control of the narrative and also trust that the individual will carry the group’s momentum. Each individual must also be open to letting go of the need to plan out what they are going to say. When given time, space, and depth, the exercise can delight, surprise, and connect people to their individual bodies and to the group as a whole. It is a practice in true mindfulness and creativity. We always start and end with a collective breath.

Maybe you’d like to try it sometime. It can be as silly or serious as you would like, but the shared experience of creating something together is always powerful.

On detox and thanks

Found this on my desk a couple weeks ago from a client at the #detox recovery center. So much talent in one little frame. The client was a special individual – even though he struggled to see it. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. And it continually amazes me the power of human connection and fortitude even when the body is going through hell. 🌹

#addictionrecovery #addictiontreatment #detoxtreatment #creativeartstherapy #traumarecovery #mentalhealthawareness #arttherapy #selflove #selfkindness https://ift.tt/2Pd6edt

On a podcast recommendation

This. For anyone who is confused about #dramatherapy, THIS is in fact what drama therapy can do. Reply All’s podcast episode #129 doesn’t explicitly describe drama therapy as led by a drama therapist, but the goals and outcomes described in this piece are all there.

Drama therapy utilizes the same power of dramatic play, the same narrative restorying to facilitate healing from traumatic loss, and the same transformation found from imaginary projective techniques. Of course, Autumn, the amazing women interviewed in the piece, navigates her traumatic loss alone, replacing the structure a #dramatherapist could have provided with the structure/container of a computer game.

I encourage anyone interested in #creativeartstherapy, #playtherapy, and #narrativetherapy to listen to this podcast episode! It’s powerful and beautiful. Thank you @replyall and @gimletmedia for allowing us to witness this transformational story.
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If you are looking for a drama therapist to work with in Los Angeles, please DM me. Phone consultations are always complimentary, and I’d love to see if we’d be the right fit. 📞📱:646-272-4971

#embodiedhealing #traumarecovery #traumainformed #therapy #replyallpodcast https://ift.tt/2Q3aNfE

On boundaries

I love and value this well-timed reminder 🥰🌹🌺 Holidays are about sharing as much – or as little – as you would like to share. You are enough, rough-edges and all!

#mentalhealth #selfcare #healthyboundaries #mindfulness
#Repost @namicommunicate
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Talking always helps and is highly encouraged, but only if you are up to it and in the mindset to share. Don’t let anyone pressure you into anything that you’re not able to do just yet. .
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🎨: @drawnbymary https://ift.tt/2FT1kDf