The arts have long been a basic staple in a wide variety of mental health and addiction treatments. From painting to pottery to music therapy, artistic endeavors have long been acknowledged to have a powerful therapeutic value. One art form that has long been overlooked, however, is theater. Drama, acting and participation in theater may have just as much, if not more, therapeutic value than many other art forms for a wide variety of reasons. Here are three ways theater can help with mental health disorders.
Unlike painting or other solitary pursuits, theater is a “team” activity. Unlike sports, however, it is an activity that all types of people can participate in, yet still builds the same team dynamics that many sports do. One of the chief obstacles that many individuals struggling with mental health issues often have to overcome is a sense of isolation or of being judged for their condition. Through theater, however, they can help build strong bonds with others and create a strong sense of community.
While some people may be born with a propensity for certain conditions such as depression or bipolar disease, others develop mental health issues as a result of trauma. There is no doubt that talking about trauma can help heal wounds, but some wounds are too deep to be able to speak of easily. Theater can help individuals create characters that experience the same trauma they did, but yet are not them. It can help them both explore their trauma and distance themselves from it at the same time.
If a person breaks a bone, we can take an x-ray or scan and actually see physical evidence of the injury. The ability to actually see and visualize an injury can also help health care providers understand what steps need to be taken to heal the injury. While mental health professionals may be able to ascertain that an individual is emotionally or psychologically injured, they may have difficulties helping a patient heal from the injuries if they don’t understand the cause or the source. Theater can help psychologically and emotionally injured individuals give mental health professionals a glimpse into the nature of their injuries, which can help them better understand how to heal them.