Drama Therapy for Troubled Teens

How drama therapy can be extremely effective

Students reading scripts in high school drama class

Hill Street Studios / Getty Images

Expressive or creative therapies, such as drama therapy, are a unique way to deal with problems, express yourself, set goals and gain confidence. Amongst the expressive therapies, drama therapy offers the best forum for teens to try on new roles, learn new ways of relating and express how they feel. 

What Is Drama Therapy?

Drama therapy takes a unique approach to helping teens by using drama and/or theater techniques, including improvisation, role-playing, using puppets and acting out stories. It is an active, experiential form of creative therapy that helps teens gain self-confidence and explore new problem-solving skills.

Drama therapy combines drama and psychotherapy methods to offer teens new ways to express what they are thinking or feeling in order to cope more effectively with behavioral and emotional problems.

No previous experience or dramatic training is needed for a teen to participate. A Registered Drama Therapist (RDT) facilitates this specialized type of therapy.

Why It Appeals to Teens

  • They get the chance to rehearse new ways of being or acting
  • They get to tell their story to an audience 
  • The story details and ending can be changed
  • Acting-out is encouraged as a learning tool
  • They learn to look at problems from a different perspective 
  • Drama therapy feels like playing


  1. You're having a significant conflict with a sibling, so you're asked to role-play a scene in which you pretend to be your sibling and speak from their perspective. 
  2. In a group setting, each teen acts out a role they take in the group, such as someone who exhibits leadership or someone who is scapegoated by others.


Drama therapy has a whole host of benefits, including:

  • Encouraging you to learn how to solve your problems
  • Giving you an opportunity to express how you are feeling 
  • Learning how to set goals for yourself
  • Helping you improve how you relate to other people
  • Understanding yourself and your experiences more clearly
  • Taking these skills with you into your roles at home, school, and/or work to improve the way you cope with life
  • Using creativity, imagination and play to practice reacting to difficult situations
  • Getting to the point of addressing problems quickly
  • A way to escape from the pressures of life into the imagination for a little while
  • Interacting with others in a safe, comfortable environment

Where Is Drama Therapy Offered?

According to the North American Drama Therapy Association, you can find Registered Drama Therapists in outpatient and inpatient mental health settings, at schools, shelters, community centers, after-school programs, multicultural centers, group homes, private practice, hospitals, wellness centers, hospices, home health agencies, early intervention programs, and rehabilitative facilities. 

Credentials to Become a Registered Drama Therapist

A master's degree in psychology or a related field, as well as coursework in drama therapy, is required in order to become a registered drama therapist. RDTs must also go through a supervised internship, have experience in theater, and be board-certified in drama therapy.

Other Forms of Expressive Therapy

Drama therapy is just one form of expressive or creative therapy. There are others, including music therapy, writing therapy, art therapy and dance therapy, that can help draw on your teen's creative abilities and personal expression.

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