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K-State Theatre

K-State Drama Therapy Program

Amy Kells

Drama Therapy generates enthusiasm!!

The MA in theatre with concentration in drama therapy at Kansas State University is designed to fulfill all of the criteria of the North American Drama Therapy Association’s (NADTA) Alternative Training Program so that when students graduate, they will have completed all the necessary educational and training components for their Registry in drama therapy. (Registry is also contingent upon a series of essays, 1,500 work hours after graduation, and three letters of recommendation from supervisors.) The program simultaneously affords each student the flexibility to concentrate in issues of and methods for working with specific client populations of his/her choice.

Students begin their first year with general overview courses on the field of drama therapy: Principles of Drama Therapy, Creative Drama, and Drama Therapy with Special Populations. These courses cover many of the basic theories and techniques of drama therapy. The over-arching theoretical framework followed by the program is Renee Emunah’s Five Phase Model of Drama Therapy. Workshop in Playwriting is designed to help students feel comfortable with the playwriting skills necessary for creating original plays with groups of clients.

In conjunction with Principles of Drama Therapy, students begin their first internship. If they have a population they would prefer to work with, every effort is made to arrange an internship in the Manhattan or nearby communities with that group. Many students opt to join The Barrier-Free Theatre, a theatre troupe for actors with and without disabilities, that every year creates an original one act play. This group is a partnership with the Drama Therapy Program, the City of Manhattan Parks and Recreation Department. First year internships concentrate on Emunah’s Phase One and Two, in order to help students develop leadership skills in creating group cohesion, trust, and the ability to play with group members.

In the summer between their first and second year and during winter intersessions, students have the opportunity to begin to deepen their drama therapy skills with courses in Sociodrama or Psychodrama, drama therapy with specific special populations (adolescent, hospitalized and grieving clients, older adults, etc.), Playback Theatre, and other advanced electives taught by guest instructors who are specialists in these drama therapy techniques.

Practicing Emotional Expressions Excited

Practicing Emotional Expressions: Excited!!

During their second year, students work on a creative project/paper which could be an original performance, a drama therapy group targeting a specific population, or in-depth research into an aspect of drama therapy. Creative projects should focus on theatre and therapeutic skills which students want to hone as well as to expand the student's knowledge of a specific target population.

The second year is also a time to explore courses relating to the student’s specific interests within the Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology, Gerontology, Sociology, Women’s Studies, Leadership Studies, or International Studies Programs. A second internship is undertaken with a different population (NADTA requires 800 internship hours with a minimum of 2 different populations), so that by the time students graduate, all or most of their internship hours are completed.

Student input on course selection and internship development are encouraged.

Emphasis is put on developing collegiality and a positive, supportive community with other students in the program. Learning to give and receive support from colleagues is an important tool to develop while in graduate school. Drama therapists do not always work in institutions with other creative arts therapists, but when they do, they need to learn how to work together as a team. When they don’t, creating community with other staff is crucial, as is reaching out to your drama therapy family in other places.

Developing abilities for self-care and self-reflection is highlighted at K-State. No matter how you slice it, graduate school is a stressful place – it is meant to be a crucible that presses you to hone your skills and shape your philosophy of practice. Simultaneous with working hard, however, students need to learn how to de-stress in order to stay well and create healthy boundaries. Self-reflection leads to strong critical thinking and ethical skills. Self-care leads to keeping oneself safe from burning out in the professional world. 

Upon graduation from the K-State Drama Therapy program, students will have a strong grasp of the fundamentals of drama therapy, a specialized knowledge of at least one client population, experience leading groups in a variety of settings, an understanding of ethics, and knowledge of how to approach work with a new population.



The Drama Therapy Core Curriculum:

THTRE 664 Creative Drama

THTRE 655 Drama Therapy with Special Populations

THTRE 760 Principles of Drama Therapy

THTRE 770 Creative Arts Therapies

THTRE 862 Workshop in Playwriting

THTRE 865 Ethics and Professionalism in Drama Therapy   

THTRE 784 Psychodrama OR THTRE 785 Sociodrama

One additional Drama Therapy Elective

A minimum of 3 Psychology courses (all 5 required are required by NADTA; students have the ability to take all 5):

  1. Developmental Psychology
  2. Abnormal Psychology/Psychopathology
  3. Psychology of Personality
  4. Group Processes/Group Counseling
  5. Research Method

Creative Project (taken for credit or no credit)