Friday, 18 November 2011

Speaking the same language

One of the most important challenges any therapist faces is communicating effectively with their client.. We work hard to understand their context, their philosophy, their world view so that our interaction is effective. This is important when people are from similar settings, sharing the same cultural context. It pays not to make any assumptions as always. Oscar Wilde commented that England and The United States of America were two countries divided by a single language.
What makes dramatherapy so effective is that it isn't tied to language or complex cultural norms.
It's about being creative, working with the clients' imagination, working with them through the way they play. Play and fun a pretty much universal. Imagination is not a cultural specific although true respect for anyone mandates respect for their culture.
We saw this today wonderfully illustarted by two Samoan ladies who do not speak a lot of English. We were greatly helped by having someone to go over what we were discussing with the group in Samoan but the actions that followed were a tonic for every one.
The story created was about a trip to Samoa on a Sunday - so off to church for a blessing and then to the picnic. One lady stood and danced a beautiful slow hula and then the other sang. Everyone in the group loved it.
In another story, a Maori lady who has severe cognitive impairment and only uses a few words of Te Reo dressed up, followed all the movements, and sat with a beaming smile.
Of course culture is enormously important and we look forward to a time when we have enough drama therapists who are fluent in Te Reo, Samoan or whatever languages we need but until then it is so heartening to know that we can connect through creative thinking and action.

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