Notes on Drama Education and Dramatherapy by Clive Holmwood (Emmett)

Aristotle’s notion of catharsis as a purging of emotion is, in fact, central to thinking about dramatherapy (it could be argued that this, too, is a political act). I shall examine it here from a therapy/educational perspective, whilst acknowledging the political viewpoint as a way of creating an opposition that will shed light on my research later (Holmwood 21).

There is a misconception that Dramatherapists deal exclusively with the purging of emotions. Feelings of repression and of disconnection form emotion are worked with more often than not (Holmwood 21).

The first known use of the word ‘Dramatherapy’ in the UK was a lecture delivered by Peter Slade to the Guild of Pastoral Psychology entitled Dramatherapy as an Aid to Becoming a Person (Holmwood 29).

Slade states he first thought of drama as a form of therapy ‘about 1926’, and that he began experimenting with this idea some ten years later in 1936 (Holmwood 29).

The word ‘therapy’ can have a variety of meanings and perceptions. In a medical context, therapy refers to a specific drug regime which has a physical impact on the physiological being after medication has been injected or ingested. In a psychological context, it can refer to a range of approaches that may impact upon an individual’s development and perception of self, which may then lead to insight and change (Holmwood 32).

For Masson (1997) this sets up an imbalance of power between therapist and client, and for this reason the very notion of therapy is contested. Masson, a former therapist, was one of its heaviest critics. He states that ‘the tools of the professional psychotherapist are insight and interpretation. But one person’s insight is another’s nonsense’ (Holmwood 32).

According to Jones, the early pioneers in drama and therapy, as we now understand it, were two Russians: theatre director Evrienov (1927) and psychiatrist Vladimir Iljine. They both made connections between drama and therapy at a time when Stanislavski, the leading Russian theatre director, was developing his acting system (Holmwood 33).

Iljine’s work in psychiatric hospitals consisted of therapeutic theatre, which included ‘a series of stages: theme identification, a reflection on themes, scenario design, scenario realization and reflection/feedback. The Russian theatre director Evrienov was interested in the ‘curative power’ of theatre. He described this in a chapter entitled ‘theatrotherapy’ in which he states that ‘theatre cures the actor. It also cures the audience’ This suggests a cathartic experience, or purging of the emotions, as originally described by Aristotle (Holmwood 33-34).

Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, was central to the development of psychoanalytic thinking and his work has had a specific impact on the development on Dramatherapy (Holmwood 34).

A causal search for books on Dramatherapy before the late 1980s would have yielded the reader very little. The first edited book on Dramatherapy by [Sue] Jennings, Dramatherapy Theory and Practice for Teachers and Clinicians, was first published in 1987 by Routledge (Holmwood 39).

This book post was much shorter than usual. This is because I did NOT find the book to be particularly helpful. I may end up doing one more research with one of my books that I did earlier in the year.

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