Drama Therapy Without Borders by Fatmah Al-Qadfan (Student at K-State!)

Drama Therapy Without Borders!!

When I stumbled upon drama therapy a few years ago, I did not stop to think how I would apply that practice in my hhome country, Kuwait. I committed whole-heartedly to a field that I knew very little about. All I had seen at that point was Twelve Angry Lebanese, a documentary by Zeina Daccache that demonstrated the effectiveness of drama therapy with inmates. I should have asked myself, “how would this drama therapy thing work in Kuwait? Will anyone pay me to do this?” But I was filled with a wild flurry of excitement at finding something entirely new to me yet so instinctive and familiar. I still remember the relief that washed over me when I finally submitting my application to Kansas State University. It was like being on the road for a long, long time and finally coming home.

A couple of months later, I received my acceptance. The flood of questions that came from my family and friends almost drowned me. Nobody understood what I wanted to do with my life and there was very little that I could say to ease their worries. I barely knew what I was getting into myself! I told people that it’s just like art therapy but we do drama instead to resolve interpersonal issues…? The rising inflection in my answers was a telltale sign of my own confusion. So I stopped trying to reassure others and I decided to take drama therapy one day at a time, allowing it to reveal itself to me, to inform and to guide me.!!The program at Kansas State University is designed to expose the student to drama therapy in one big whoosh. After a week or two of classes, I was talking about David Read Johnson, Jacob Moreno and Renée Emunah like they have been my childhood superheroes. I was placed in internships and I was taking a conflict resolution class with basic mediation. I was becoming a drama therapist! Throughout the semester, I found myself grappling with new definitions of drama therapy, understanding that it’s a personal process. Finally, I started thinking about what it would be like to work in Kuwait as a drama therapist.

Over Christmas vacation, I traveled home and led a one-day therapeutic play workshop. I was nervous and in my desperation to prove that drama therapy is real, I crammed too many games into the session. I felt the need to explain emotional intelligence, metacognition, metamood, the difference between primary and secondary emotions, favored emotional ranges and managing one’s emotions. The participants were overwhelmed but fortunately, they were also hooked. The whole concept of incorporating drama-based games into learning and talking about emotions thrilled them. There it was! Firsthand evidence that drama therapy works in Kuwait.!!This summer I introduced my groups to sociodrama and to my amazement, nothing was lost in translation. I had an incredible experience and witnessed several breakthroughs. Some techniques had to be scaled down or adapted to suit my clients’ needs, but I witnessed the same powerful reactions that are shared in my textbooks by leading drama therapists who predominantly work in North America. Going into my the second year of the program, I feel better knowing that drama therapy can change lives regardless of language, religion or nationality. I feel grounded because the path I have chosen knows no borders.

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