Drama therapy is the intentional use of theatre techniques to facilitate personal growth and promote health, thus treating individuals with a range of mental health, and cognitive and developmental disorders. New York University was the first in the country to develop an academic program leading to a Master of Arts degree in drama therapy.
The program attracts theatre professionals and educators, therapists, and those working in the fields of medicine, healthcare, and special education. Students come from diverse cultural and academic backgrounds to study and do fieldwork and internships with leading professionals in the creative arts therapies. Classes are small and instruction individualized. The Drama Therapy Program has been accredited by the North American Drama Therapy Association and the New York State Department of Education. (See also Music Therapy in this department and Art Therapy in the Department of Art and Art Professions.)
We host an internationally recognized therapeutic theater series “As Performance.” This series investigates the nexus of therapeutic theater and arts-based research. Clinical drama therapists participate as artists, and artists explore a therapeutic process. Therapeutic theater is presented as a primary process where need transforms into action. Productions are made possible by an ongoing grant from the Billy Rose Foundation. As Performance seeks to explore the aesthetic, therapeutic, and ethical issues embedded in the process of making theatre.
The New York metropolitan area offers rich opportunities for clinical internships in hospitals and shelters, drug rehabilitation centers, prisons, and special facilities for the elderly, those with developmental disabilities, and the terminally ill, among others.
Graduates are employed in a variety of therapeutic settings throughout the world, including public and private hospitals and mental health clinics, centers for adults with developmental disabilities, nursing homes, and drug rehabilitation centers. Drama therapists work in medical facilities as well as artistic ones, in social services as well as private practice. Although drama therapy is a relatively new profession, it is practiced widely with a number of special populopulara- tions: war veterans and those afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abusers, mentally ill individuals, the elderly, and children who have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse. Drama therapists also treat dysfunctional families and, more generally, healthy individu- als in need of exploring significant life problems.
The program is approved by the New York State Department of Education and qualifies students for licensure in Creative Arts Therapy (LCAT) after graduation and 1,500 hours of postgraduate supervised practice. The 50-unit track (DRMT) meets all requirements for licensure in New York State as a Licensed Creative Arts Therapist (LCAT) This includes required coursework in drama therapy and applied psychology with no electives. The 60-unit track (DRRL) allows students to do advanced training in Role Theory and Method, Psychodrama, Arts-Based Research, or pursue other electives in Applied Theater (e.g., Theater of Oppressed) or in Applied Psychology (e.g., Marriage and Family Counseling). This track meets the degree unit requirements for licensure in most states outside of New York. Those who intend to practice in New York only, and international students who will not require a license to practice, might prefer the 50-unit alternative. Students intending to practice in states other than New York should consider the 60-unit option. Additionally, all students are required to complete fieldwork and 800 hours of internship with two different populations in selected clinical facilities.
All students should have a solid, practical background in the art form of drama and theatre, including experience in improvisational drama and theatre performance. Candidates should also demonstrate a strong academic background in psychology or a related social science, including coursework in developmental and/or abnormal psychology. In certain exceptional cases, alternative experience relevant to drama therapy will be considered. All students are required to submit three letters of recommendation attesting to their strengths, weaknesses, and potential as future drama therapists. Applicants are also required to submit an autobiographical statement of four to six pages which should address all of the following:
- A significant turning point in your life and how that event contributes to your curiosity and excitement about a career in drama therapy.
- A brief statement of purpose about what you intend to do with your degree in drama therapy. This should include areas of research interest.
- At least three references to drama therapy literature. Discuss how those readings influence your thoughts about the significant turning point and/or the field of drama therapy and/or your areas of research interest.