Drama Therapy for Troubled Teens

A Creative Way to Deal With Emotions

Drama therapy for teens

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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 a 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 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.

How It Works 

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

Depending on the therapeutic goals, drama therapy can take on many forms and include a range of techniques, including:

  • Drama exercises
  • Enactment
  • Improvisations
  • Puppetry
  • Role play
  • Storytelling
  • Theater games

Here's an example: If you're having a significant conflict with a sibling, you may be asked to role-play a scene in which you pretend to be your sibling and speak from their perspective. 

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 been found effective in the general population as well as among the following: 

  • Abuse survivors
  • At-risk youth
  • Developmentally disabled persons
  • Dysfunctional families
  • Homeless persons
  • Older adults
  • People with AIDS
  • People with behavioral health issues
  • People recovering from addiction
  • Prison inmates

Drama therapy can benefit troubled teens in many ways, including helping them to:

  • Feel less isolated
  • Learn how to solve problems
  • Express how they're feeling 
  • Set goals
  • Relate better to other people
  • Understand themselves and their experiences more clearly
  • Improve self-esteem and self-worth
  • Develop better coping skills at home, school, and/or work
  • Broaden the range of expression of emotion
  • Use creativity, imagination, and play to practice reacting to difficult situations
  • Get to the point of addressing problems quickly
  • Escape from the pressures of life into the imagination for a little while
  • Interact with others in a safe, comfortable environment

Why It Appeals to Teens

Drama therapy can feel like playing for teens, as they get the chance to rehearse new ways of being or acting. Other reasons why it appeals to teens include:

  • 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 is just one form of expressive or creative therapy that can help draw on your teen's creative abilities and personal expression. Other types of expressive therapy to consider for teens include:

  • Art therapy uses art media and the creative process to reduce stress and get in touch with your feelings.
  • Dance therapy uses dance and movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration.
  • Music therapy uses making music, writing songs, or listening to music to improve communication, reduce anxiety, and enhance quality of life.
  • Writing therapy, also known as journal therapy, uses various writing exercises to improve mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Where Is Drama Therapy Offered?

According to the North American Drama Therapy Association, registered drama therapists work in multiple mental health and community settings, including:

  • Community centers
  • Early intervention programs
  • Group homes
  • Hospices
  • Hospitals
  • Multicultural centers
  • Outpatient and inpatient mental health settings
  • Private practice
  • Rehabilitative facilities
  • Schools and after-school programs
  • Shelters
  • Wellness centers

How to Become a Registered Drama Therapist

To become a registered drama therapist, you'll need a master's degree in psychology or a related field, as well as coursework in drama therapy. RDTs must also go through a supervised internship, have experience in theater, and be board-certified in drama therapy.

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  1. North American Drama Therapy Association. What is drama therapy?

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