In What Way Does Drama Therapy Help Addiction?

If a key existed to unlock expression within a child who has mental health issues, autism or other concerns, help a young woman stay off drugs or support criminals in reducing recidivism risk, it would make so many lives more rich. Perhaps one key does not unlock all the mysteries of addiction or mental health issues but one set of keys can be helpful in the process: drama therapy.

How Drama Therapy Helps

Role playing and experimental theatre can be helpful for people to reveal innermost thoughts and feelings without worrying about reprisal. Incorporation of drama into psychotherapy was introduced in such a way as to support individuals in finding resolution to issues that plagued them and discovering present ways to heal past hurts. Augusto Boal in the 1960s worked to further the field of drama therapy by creating the concept of community theater, from which later emerged “theater of the oppressed.” Theater, to Boal, was a place where the audience could express issues through becoming actors who present and solve problems from real life. Drama therapy helps people in a wide range of contexts for this reason (to achieve change and learn new skills).

Drama Therapy

The North American Drama Therapy Association (NADTA), based in New York, was set up tin 1979 to oversee and maintain professional standards and protocols for drama therapy practice. NADTA describes drama therapy as a form of expression being used in hospitals, recovery programs, community mental health clinics, schools, dating and coaching settings along with elder care, private mental health practice and others. The treatment for people with addiction has shown positive results as well as facilitating positive mental growth.

Improvisation, Stories and Plays

Activities that bring people together vary but they include stories, myths, play, puppetry, masks, improvisation, role play and rituals. Role play can help people see themselves and others in a new way. Stories may be fantastical or based in reality which helps explore painful life experiences. Role plays and improvisations can encourage participants to understand negative behaviors and practice ways of reacting and being. Role play is the key to drama therapy in trying different roles to resolve issues.

Theater as Catharsis

Drama therapy allows for catharsis, defined by Merriam-Webster in the online dictionary as ‘purification or purgation of emotions primarily through art. It can help people tap into emotions in search of solutions to emotional and mental health challenges.’ It may also help to empower people who struggle with communication to express needs and feelings by forging relationships with confidence and positive mental health.


The Villa explores different ways to help individuals recognize and overcome the obstacles associated with addiction. If you are ready and open to exploring ways of being in recovery, call us. We will help guide you through meeting those personal goals for success in recovery and beyond.