Pretend you’re a sick snail! An abandoned shoe! A grumpy rainbow! Ok, hand on heart, dramatherapy isn’t like that; it isn’t some happy-clappy treatment but an alternative way of helping clients to approach their problems and difficulties.
Dramatherapy is about the very serious business of using theatre techniques as part of a therapeutic process. Using drama methods helps to stimulate creativity and imagination, facilitating personal growth and promoting mental health.
Dramatherapists have a unique blend of clinical and performance arts skills and put these to use working with a spectrum of different people, from children with autism and teenagers who self-harm, to people with histories of physical abuse and clients suffering from mental illness.
They might use a range of different mediums, such as puppetry, improvisation, play texts and storytelling, to help clients explore issues and difficulties that they might find hard to express otherwise. Dramatherapists often work alongside other professionals, particularly psychologists, social care workers and other therapists, so it’s a very people-based career.
Salary & benefits
Starting salaries for dramatherapists working for the NHS are usually between £26,000 and £35,000.
With experience this can rise to between £30,000 and £40,000, whilst those at the very top of the NHS dramatherapist ladder (e.g. working as principal arts therapists) might earn between £38,000 and £46,000.
Those working privately might charge between £35 and £60 for a one hour session, but fees will vary therapist to therapist.
Dramatherapists usually work nine-to-five, although they might be required to earlier/later or at weekends to accommodate patients. The majority of dramatherapists work on a freelance or part-time basis for a number of different employers.
In order to become a dramatherapist, you’ll need to complete a postgraduate course in dramatherapy approved by the British Association of Dramatherapists (BADth).
Entry requirements for courses will vary, but usually they’ll be looking for a first degree in drama or a psychology related subject, relevant work or volunteering experience and experience in practical drama work.
After completion of the course and registration with the Health and Care Professions Council, dramatherapists will be able to practice.
Other qualities desirable in a dramatherapist include to the ability to adapt to different clients, enthusiasm and passion for the wellbeing of others, creativity and, naturally, a top knowledge of drama and theatre.
Training & progression
After qualifying as a dramatherapist (e.g. completing an approved course and registering with the HCPC), dramatherapists might apply for membership of the BADth.
Good dramatherapists will look to continue to train and earn new techniques throughout their career. Part of this might involve seeking supervision from another dramatherapist, psychiatrist, psychologist or similar.
In the NHS, dramatherapists might look to advance to a principal art therapist role, move into research or lead a team of dramatherapists.