Drama Therapy: An Interview with John Berkowitz

Drama therapy is the intentional and systematic use of drama and theatre processes to achieve healthy psychological growth and change. John Berkowitz is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. He explains that the general aims of a Drama therapy session include exploring ideas, issues and problems using drama-derived activities; expressing and exploring feelings, developing spontaneity and imagination and creativity, improving self-image and self-confidence, developing social and relationship skills.

John Berkowitz describes Drama therapy which involves several different forms of expression such as movement, voice work, body language and speech.

Drama therapy by John Berkowitz offers a variety of working methods that are applicable to a wide variety of clients.  It can help the process of emotional growth through the development of trust, risk taking and the experience of different ways of being. The role of John Berkowitz is to provide a safe, supportive space to enable and encourage the client/s to express her/himself in whatever way they are able. Drama therapist’s work in a variety of settings including health, education, social and prison services, as well as in private practice. The playful and active approach makes it a very suitable intervention for adults and children with learning disabilities and autism.

The methods used in John Berkowitz‘s drama therapy include spontaneous and dramatic play, drama games, mime, role-play, scripts, masks, myths, stories, metaphor and symbolism. A dramatic talent is not necessary for participation. The emphasis is not on performance but on the experience of the group or individual. The role of the Drama therapist is to develop a program with appropriate aims, objectives and structures to meet the needs and abilities of the client/s.

John Berkowitz’s Drama therapy reaches far beyond a single discipline, drawing freely from concepts of psychology, theatre/drama, psychoanalytical theory, anthropology and theories of child development.  We can go far back as ancient Greece to discover its roots where ancient forms of healing rituals and theatre performances influenced what we classify as drama therapy today.

Drama therapy in modern society began in Europe in the 19th century.  The first recorded use of the word drama therapy was by Peter Slade, who in the 1930's referred to all forms of carefully applied Drama as drama therapy.  By the 1960's in Britain, a remedial Drama Centre was set up by Sue Jennings and Gordan Wiseman to work with children and adults with a wide range of needs.  The British Association of drama therapy was formed in 1976 and provided a professional base for those who had been using Drama in therapy and education since the early 1960’s.  Drama therapists trained abroad began working in Ireland in the mid 1980's and the first training in drama therapy began in 2002 in NUI Maynooth.

Q: Do I need to be able to act to participate in drama therapy?

John: No. drama therapy helps people to use their creativity to work on issues that are important to them.  It does this by using Dramatic and Theatrical processes which are explained to the client but you do NOT have to act to make use of drama therapy.

Q: Do I have to role play in front of other people?

John: No. You will not have to do anything you do not want to do.  While drama therapy can involve the process of taking on roles - this is only done if the client wants to do this. There are many other ways in which drama therapy can work with a client.  For example through story making, using scripts, movement, sound etc.

Q: Do I have to dress up?

John: No. Again. You do not have to do anything that you do not want to do.  In Dramatherapy the methods used are chosen to suit the client and what he/she is comfortable with.   The use of costume and dressing up will only be used where appropriate and so long as the client is happy to do so.

Q: Is drama therapy always done in a group?

John: No. Dramatherapy can be done with individuals and in a group setting.

Q: Will I have to speak or perform?

John: Drama therapy is psychotherapy through the medium of drama.  Obviously, for the client to benefit communication is essential.  However, one of the advantages of drama therapy is that it offers the client a range of communication opportunities - through movement, sound, facial expression, role, and creative imagination.  The client will not be asked to do anything they do not wish to do – including performing.


To arrange for an initial consultation, please email me at berkj1517@yahoo.com  or leave a message at 646-338-5424.

content © John Berkowitz 2015

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