The One Time Drama Therapy Session in a Psychiatric Unit

This article describes the positive impact of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) tools used in combination with drama therapy. Designed to increase cognitive organization, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and effective communication, these tools made important psychoeducational input and enhanced the efficacy of a single session.

This article was inspired by my work as a drama therapy intern in the adult inpatient unit at Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute (LPPI) between 2016 and 2017.  A psychiatric adult in-patient unit is a crisis center where patients are usually brought in by ambulance, police, family members, or referred from the ER as a result of grave disability or potential/actual danger to self and/or others. It is a fast-paced environment, in which most patients leave as soon as they “turn the corner.” As a result, group members constantly change. It is rare to have continuity with the same group of patients beyond a few sessions, sometimes beyond even a single session.

Even in this fast-moving setting, brief drama therapy was able to make significant contributions, both in subtle and obvious ways. This paper will specifically explore my experience with the one-time drama therapy session in a psychiatric unit. Despite the severity of trauma, dysregulated states, and personality disorders among the patients I encountered, I found that healing connections could occur, even in a single session.

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The One-Time Drama Therapy Session in a Psychiatric Unit Article