Use of Creative Arts in Mental Health:

A Christian Dramatherapist Perspective


As a Christian and a therapist, combining my faith with my chosen field of occupation has been a fascinating journey. Specializing in Dramatherapy, I spend a lot of my time educating organizations and individuals through workshops and talks, during which I break down fears and assumed perceptions of Dramatherapy to show that this as an effective tool, not only within the therapy forum, but within discipleship.
This often leads me to wonder what people perceive or consider when considering types of therapy.  Are we just led by known forms of ‘treatments or interventions’, through being signposted by our GP or local NHS services, rather than being aware of all avenues of care, including alternative therapy, which might be better suited to us as individuals.?
Working within mental health wellbeing for many years, I have a passion to empower others in taking ownership of their wellbeing and being open to explore alternative therapy instead of waiting until there becomes a need.  This is an approach that is at times in contrast to what is available traditionally, where there are limited treatments and short term interventions, which, combined with increasing waiting lists within statutory services, results in a narrow and reactionary client-recovery approach. Although I believe in utilizing specialist statutory services that are available within the NHS and charitable sector where necessary, I have found from my experience there is often a need for a more varied choice of therapeutic services, especially those choices which offer treatment which is proactive and spiritual. This is what I, as a facilitator, educational consultant, and therapist, like to explore in my chosen field of Dramatherapy.  I offer an alternative way of thinking, where I marry up psychological and spiritual health with a view to discipleship.

The nature of Dramatherapy

So what is Dramatherapy? Dramatherapy is a creative and therapeutic intervention, which employs theatre techniques to promote psychological, emotional, and social change. It uses stories, objects, puppetry, improvisation, drama and movement, to enable and give permission to clients to explore their experiences and to access their unconscious mind so as to enable the client to reflect upon and work through their thoughts and emotions under the gentle but experienced guidance of the therapist.
Dramatherapists offer a safe and contained environment for an individual or group to explore, address and deal with personal and social difficulties which may previously have been too difficult to talk about. The main difference and unique way in which a session is constructed means that a client is kept contained and safe throughout, allowing the individual or group to explore difficult issues in the security of the space. It provides a holding environment for clients to enjoy their own journey and discover themselves through creativity.

Benefits: Who and What?

Dramatherapy is for people with a range of emotional and mental health conditions such as: Identity issues, low confidence and self-worth, depression, psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar and borderline personality disorders.
There are endless benefits to using Dramatherapy as an intervention tool. Below are just a few:
-- Resolves emotional and psychological issues in a safe distancing manner
-- Creates a contained space for self-exploration
-- Builds self-esteem and confidence
-- Heightens self-awareness
-- Improves self-insight
-- Enhances problem-solving skills
-- Develops creativity

The aim of Dramatherapy within a Christian context

The aim and purpose of my work is to empower individuals to have a deeper understanding of self and facilitate transformation through inner healing and change using creative psychotherapy. I am passionate about enabling people to reach their potential and to be free of the barriers that stop them from living life to the full.  Often, we are not always aware of what these barriers are and this is where Dramatherapy is particularly effective, as it illuminates the obstacles in a proactive, rather than reactive, way, before exploring the methods by which the client can overcome such obstacles. 
Whenever working in a Christian setting, I facilitate the development of self and identity in Christ.  I have worked with church groups and individuals to look at the impact of their mental wellbeing on their faith. These sessions are engaging and often fun, and include time for reflection, prayer, and for God to speak into the relevant themes that have emerged though the work.  I have been so encouraged as I continue in this area of my work with new Christians and churches, seeing the insight and transformation that results. But the input does not end there: part of empowerment has involved discussing the options as they go forward, including guidance towards pastoral support, further group therapy or counselling.
As I mentioned earlier, there is currently a limited access to alternative therapies, particularly those which enable a Christian perspective. I believe that the answer lies within the church body, who can lead by example and be proactive in blazing the trail for more creative forms of therapy to disciple and promote spiritual and mental health.
If you or your church would like to know more please feel free to get in touch for more information and availability.  As a Christian Dramatherapist, I maintain strong biblical ethics and core values within my business to ensure transparency, and to maintain high standards of care in my support of each client and company.
Written by Sarah Milligan
Dramatic Insights
Registered Dramatherapist with The Health Professions Council (HPC) and a full member of British Association For Dramatherapists (BADTH).  Offering Individual and group therapy, individual and tailored workshops, training and consultations.

Sarah Milligan, 30/03/2012
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