of a Drama Therapist
Sometimes all people really need is a
nudge - a different way of falling out
of their place
of control. Crying is really hard-if you
don't do it very much
it's even harder. If your
immediate culture - prison - frowns at it,
then it's even harder than that. If you
that crying is not part
of treatment, that treatment is just a question
of learning, controlling, getting new and
better friends then crying is even harder.
Sometimes crying can only be done to the stranger, the one less involved. We
have lots of experiences where people open up to us BECAUSE we aren't
staying. We strongly recommend that you find the occasional stranger to bring
to treatment who is sensible, sensate, and sympathetic.
A recent experience -- a
friend of mine was working doing some very focused work with very "spikey"
He had gained their confidence and he has a loose, honest, and lively style.
He's certainly not a Rogerian listener, or the type of therapist
afraid to challenge for fear that he might "offend".
My job was merely to keep
up my end, watch, and come in only if there was a legitimate place to do
so. Working without the usual tools is
hard for me - one
gets dependent on them even if you don't use them. But I
had only a few of the masks and toys I usually use. This left the most powerful
one - their bodies. As my friend worked I watched an intense, long-termer
engage densely with the work. He peered into his loss, the loss of the one
who might have alleviated his lonely shame - his mother and then his family.
But the reality is that they are gone. One could see his straining to keep
the reality at bay - the tears stopped up just behind his eyes.
Close to the end, I asked him to take a walk with me, a walk where we could
begin a quick intimate dialogue. It is sometimes like jumping - Nigel Latta
calls it the road. For me it is that moment you see when it is time - the
way will come, the material will come if you don't interfere
with it. But what must be obeyed is the time to jump. I needed the clients
connected attention - it is a dialogue just for him - I agreed with him,
"everyone is gone, that is the shame, it is the truth. You are right". Then
I asked him to lean on me, put his hands on my shoulders - I needed him
have that sensation - giving up, letting go the control - not having to be
in charge forever-
Then he cried. Van der Kolk entitled his seminal chapter "The
Body Keeps The Score". Look at the extraordinary work of
the drama therapists - when you are working with clients look at the body,
hear the metaphor - too many of us cannot cry until we lean
on someone. When we incarcerate and isolate, we reduce the possibility of
shut down the alleyways that lead to feeling.
Books -- two books that have
come out -- first our friend
Nigel Latta's book "Into
the Darkness". For those
of you who work with men and kids who sexually
offend this is a terrific book. Nigel writes
so clearly about the real battle - the battle
to connect, to find a way in, to find a way
to talk with clients about their untalkeable
talk. Its irreverent, simple and NO jargon.
Nigel takes a dispassionate look, on the way,
at the SCIENCE that is so de rigueur and puts
it back in place. As the cognitive approach
plays itself out, it looks as if the primacy
of the work is perhaps on its way back.
our new book Challenging Experience - Saul
Hewish and I are grateful for all of you
who have already bought the book- and we are
working on ways to
get it to you in Australia and New Zealand.
|Books about mind and movement.
Fosha, Diana. (2000). The Transforming Power
of Affect. Basic Books, New York: NY.
Greenberg, Leslie S. (2002). Emotion- Focused
Therapy. American Psychological Association,
Pert, Candace. (2000). Your Body is your Subconscious
Mind. Sounds True, Boulder: Colorado. (A cassette
Rothchild , Babette . (2000). The Body Remembers-
The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment.
W. W. Norton and Company, New York: NY.
Schore, Allan. (1994). Affect Regulation and
the Origin of the Self. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,
Hillsdale, New Jersey.
Siegel, Daniel. (1999). The Developing Mind.
The Guilford Press, New York: NY.
|We want to
make this a web page that truly stands out because
of its material. As you well know these pages take
time, and time to assemble. But we have this wonderful
cyber web mistress .....
We are looking to make this particular
page a praxis page-- its a page
for people who are already in the
field. We are going to use the format
of a living diary of a working therapist-a
sort of warts and thoughts approach
to the living world of doing the
is a page open to anyone
who sends material to
|If you're a
working clinician, dramatherapist,
theatre for special audiences practitioner,
hunting for exercises, comparing
anxiety notes- hopefully this will
be a page for you.
|I am a social worker
from North Carolina, and I have had the
remarkable professional opportunity of
traveling with John as he works, on several
occasions in the last couple of years.
My name is Debra Tatum, and the following
are journal excerpts from those times.
John poses the question to the group.
Can a man of God rape? Immediately the
answer resounds. Yes. How can that be?
Because being a man of God doesn't mean
you've done all of it right. You have
parts of yourself. Where does that man
put the reality of what he has done? Bring
it to the light. Use God's tools. First
understand it in his head, and then his
spirituality can help him get past it.
One well groomed man smiles a lot. He
shook his baby to death. When John is
walking a picture group through the steps
of growing a healthy child, he stands
to the side, and his smile does not change.
One man speaks to John., He informs that
he has been in prison around the world.
"When I am in, I get a Bible. When
I am out, I get a gun."
Thursday-- working with 19-23
year old men mostly from big city life- the
staff want to prepare them for role play but
I suspect that its the staff that need to be
prepared for role play---they walk in in role
already-swagger, some presentation of violence
or threats etc. -- reminds me of asylum -- by
E. Goffman they are very super sensitive- going
to have to create an instant mood of respect--
the damn word is so open to misuse, it can be
a wall to keep us all out-shake hands with all
of them- connect-eye connection- remember they
are very young-
LATER--setting up for physical exercises first-
stay away from heavy warm-ups--use supple muscle
exercises- two people do a balance lift, now
three- going to five-wow they did six- they
look excited - they're connected now-use the
old exercise cos they're still skittish, what
time is it, where am I----aha they're setting
everything late on the street- they're responding
now-switch to role work about disagreements-
ask what they're thinking -
FOCUSED- use the masks to represent phases of
the cycle-- yes- they feel comfortable-can they
do victimstance--one of the guys is sleeping-
do a connection exercise--conga line blindfold
and try to get as close to the centre of the
CLOSE-be direct-- talking to them about the
splitting they did but also talking about the
focus they brought to the session- exhausted
Monday. Conference for folk
who work with adolescent sex offenders. But
it's only three hours with them. 53 people signed
up. The room's way too small. Experiential work
means you've got to have a large room, large
enough for moving in. With that many, if we
get a really strong session going they'll have
no room to escape, calm themselves down. Better
make sure that they are well warned, well warmed.
Must remember to get them all to introduce themselves.
I bet they're all really skilled and don't need
people talking down to them.. That's the trouble
with these patriarchal conferences--too many
white men teaching the obvious and hiding it
all behind their importance. And then people
get bored. Open Space Technology conferences.
Keep it experiential-- less talk, more active
learning. The chair is my enemy! Experiential
therapists sit in chairs when they're nervous!
the conga line. All in one line, arms on each
others shoulders, eyes closed, except for the
front person. Then walk right out of the room.
It's always a strong exercise because it's a
big group exercise, and it's also slightly anti-social--lots
of noise, breaking the rule-space of the conference.
All institutions need the sense of rule-breaking.
I need a a theme--.
Just read this book by incest victims who are
all artists or using art to work everything
through. " She Who Was Lost Is Remembered".
It's edited by Louise Wisechild. I want to help
the conferees to use their imagination to create.
There's a line from one of the women's poem
that's something like "He used me like a candy
bar". That image is sticking in my mind.
Exercise. Set up the trust circle. Blind
walk across the circle ,when you reach the other
side allow yourself to be moved. Then do it
with three, four people. Now what if we do it,
but when you go across the circle the person
who guides you-treats you like a candy bar instead.
The groups are
becoming very cohesive very quickly. But still
in their heads. How do I get them to see through
the eyes of the clients? All the exercises in
the world won't teach them how to do this work.
They have to get in touch with what it's like
to live in the very mind world/experience of
parallel lines, people in both lines. One side
tries to get the attention of the other side
who ignore them. It's instant affect. Some of
the people are getting angry, some seem to be
trying to seduce each other, some are laughing
it off as if it's not happening. That's much
closer. Now we stop-they're getting to the danger
zone- the empty place of the sexually offending
-- switch channels repeatedly until the client
and the therapist connect. Always be prepared
for the connection to change.
Make a diagonal
line. Most violent, least violent. Put yourself
where you think you fit. Let everyone organise
the line as they see it.
am Karon Donnellon and I have
been doing an internship with
John for the last 3 months.
My work has been
with juveniles in detention in Melbourne
Australia for four years. I belong
to the Sisters of Mercy of Ballarat,
Australia (translated that means I
am a Catholic nun)! There are many
moments over the last months that
have reflected the power of dramatherapy
in the lives of very pained people.
I would like to share just one.
A young man who
has been in a civil commitment institution
for 15 years has recently decided
to work in therapy. He came to the
session wanting to work but very sure
that victim empathy was not possible.
John began with
some small warm ups. Then the work
began. John sets him up with masks
and props for all the things that
are in his head preventing him from
connection with his victims.
The first of the
blocks use people from the group.
As he gets closer on the continuum
to victim empathy he switches to masks
and dolls. John asks him to silence
each of the blocks and the struggle
begins. With each block the young
man moves with uncertainty and fear.
It is obvious that something is still
hidden. John asks him to move from
the blocks to the unamed fear The
affect increases. Punishment had been
a violent part of his upbringing.
It brings pain. His stepfather did
The young man
faces an empty chair " containing"
his step father. The dialogue begins.
Then come the tears and from there
the realisation that to empathise
with his victims will mean he must
experience his own pain. There we
sit and this young man cries for the
first time in many, many years.. The
process is simple, and clear. Both
this young man and I shall remember
this for a long time.
engaging the clients in every way that you
can. Eye contact can be as potent a link to
making connection as any smile. For instance
working with some young clients in Australia-
young, skittish, anxious, angry, fearful and
depressed. We decided to make a newsletter
with these adolescents. Each client worked
alone with me.
I told them
each that I wanted to make a newsletter- something
of their own words- no special subject only
what they developed. I would simply record
what they said and clean it up for sense.
We sat together
by the door of the unit of the prison looking
out at the view to the sky, the roads and
to freedom. Without any censorship I simply
wrote down every thing that each of the clients
said , without missing out anything. Periodically
I stopped them and replayed what they said-
asked them if that was what they wanted the
world to know they meant to tell them. As
each piece grew, ads they saw their words
on the computer screen they puffed up- trusted,
believed. Remember belief is the very core
of the battle. Gradually we went from staring
out the window together but separately to
looking at each other, confirming, temporarily
This is what
one young man said:-
The Window And thinking about what you're
going to do with your future--
when I look
out the window when the sun starts to go down
or half way down and I see this beautiful
long strip of pink and I wonder what am I
if I do get
out Id like to go to Jordan for 6 months ,
and to Israel and go around all those countries
and just explore them.
Then I think
about being up there and seeing all my cousins
who I've never met cos I was born here--
I really do want to go to Jordan is to break
the cycle , using heroin and doing crime,
abusing my body abusing other people and being
locked up-- IM sick of it and then you don't
know where you stand--
long pink strip it makes you think if its
that beautiful why cant my life be that beautiful.
of being a Muslim and not. I hope that Mahomet
would see that I can change,that I respect
my culture because I talk in positive ways
more information on the cutting edge of Theatre
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