Saturday, 15 October 2011

Drama Therapy and Intellectual Disability

Drama therapy is one of the few therapy forms that is beneficial for people with an intellectual
disability (ID).


Here in New Zealand, people with an ID diagnosis often miss out on receiving therapeutic
interventions. Frequently, they are told that their ‘psychological’ issues are disability related, and therefore, no funding is made available for therapeutic assistance.


If depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (e.g. sexual abuse) or anxiety is diagnosed, no suitable therapies are provided by the Mental Health Services that hold the funding. Clients that I work with, have been offered CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy), only to be told after a few sessions that due to their disability, they were unable to follow this therapy. Instead of being offered suitable ‘non-verbal’ therapies, they were sent away.


Drama therapy is a form of therapy that works on the sub-conscious layer of the thought processes. This means that changes are made and established while working in the creative therapeutic module (drama, music, art or dance). By creating a safe environment, the clients are encouraged to experience and experiment with feelings, thoughts, and issues to change their perspective and integrate new coping mechanisms.


I have listed below some of the goals drama therapy is able to achieve for people who have an ID.




  • Expression and regulation of emotions


  • Expansion of frustration tolerance


  • Diminishing impulsive behaviour


  • Improvement of reality orientation


  • Improvement of social interaction and interpersonal skills


  • The ability to set boundaries


  • Expansion of behavioural skills


  • Improvement of self esteem


  • Change and expansion of self view


  • Diminishing the fear of failure


  • Developing control mechanisms


  • Exploring new thoughts and feelings


  • Self-actualisation (development of self)


  • Development of self reflection


  • Dealing with bereavement


  • Dealing with grief


  • Dealing with change

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