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Drama Therapy for Cancer Patients

Drama therapy can be helpful for people living with cancer or in recovery from cancer. Both types of patients have physical symptoms, like pain, as well as emotional symptoms, like depression, fear, anxiety, and social isolation. Trained drama therapists work with these patients to address individual goals and to improve overall wellness.

Proven benefits of drama therapy — role playing, game playing, improvisation, and other techniques — include reduced anxiety, less pain, more social interaction, greater sense of control over one’s life, and other benefits. If you are interested in drama therapy, find a trained and licensed drama therapist who is experienced in working with cancer patients.

What is Drama Therapy?

Drama therapy is a therapeutic strategy that uses theater, storytelling, role playing, drama, comedy and play to facilitate healing and overall wellness, for personal growth and to meet specific goals, particularly for mental health. This therapy is led by a trained therapist who has studied theater and drama. Drama therapy can be useful for individuals, but it usually is done in group settings, such as hospitals, prisons, mental health facilities, and schools.

A drama therapy session may take many forms depending on the participants and their goals. It is often active, requiring the participant to move and engage. Most participants will act in some way, although no talent for acting or theater is required. A session may also involve telling stories, playing games, improvising, reading or writing, and interacting with others.

Why Drama Therapy for Cancer Patients?

Patients living with mesothelioma and other types of cancer can benefit from a range of alternative therapies. Patients in treatment and those in recovery struggle with big emotions, like fear and anxiety; they suffer side effects like pain and fatigue from the cancer and treatment; and often they struggle with the big changes in their lives. All of this means they may become socially isolated.

T issues can be addressed through various types of therapy, including drama therapy. Patients may choose drama therapy for several reasons. It is an active therapy that can help a patient move more and get some gentle exercise. It is also usually a group therapy that allows patients to socialize and interact with others. And drama therapy helps distract from physical pain and anxiety. There are also many other proven benefits of drama therapy.

Creative Expression Improves Mental Health

Drama therapy can boost the mental health of cancer patients. Cancer may be a physical illness, but it has a big impact on mental and emotional health, triggering depression, anxiety, and other negative emotions. Most cancer patients struggle with the loss of power or control over their bodies and health. Drama therapy can help to restore that sense of control because patients become active participants in their own healing.

It is typical for cancer patients to experience both pain and anxiety, and there is a link between more anxiety and more pain. Drama therapy has been proven to improve both. Studies have shown that anxiety is significantly reduced in participants in drama therapy as compared to control groups.

Drama therapy is good for overall emotional wellness. It lets patients express difficult emotions in indirect ways that are easier to approach. This can be powerful for emotional wellness and healing and is often easier than talking directly about emotions and personal challenges.

Theater as Therapeutic Play

Therapy is often approached as something very serious, but drama therapy can be playful and fun, which may provide participants with benefits they won’t get from standard therapy. While drama therapy can be very serious, there is room for play, which has been proven to help even adults be more flexible in their thinking, connect better with other people, and enjoy life more.

Reducing Stress before Procedures

Drama therapy may help patients psychologically prepare for treatments and procedures, especially those that are frightening or stressful, like surgery. A study of children with cancer split participants into two groups: those who went through drama therapy before a procedure, and those who did not. The children who participated in drama therapy had lower blood pressure, heart rate, and other indicators of fear or stress before their cancer procedures.

While this study was conducted with children, there is every reason to believe it can be extrapolated to adults undergoing surgery or other therapies for mesothelioma. Fear and anxiety before a procedure may be reduced or eliminated by using specific drama therapy to help the patient be more prepared psychologically for what is about to happen.

Drama Therapy in Support Groups

Social support is a powerful tool for wellness for anyone, but for patients living with or recovering from cancer support groups can be especially important. Simply sitting with a group of people who know what you are going through is helpful, but some researchers have added drama therapy to cancer support groups to make them even more productive.

A support group for cancer patients is a great vehicle for drama therapy, as long as it is guided by a trained therapist, because the therapy works best with multiple participants. One study found that using drama therapy in this setting helped participants gain insights into their struggles with cancer, learn new ways to cope with their challenges, and find expression and validation for their feelings and experiences. The study also found that the approach was useful for the participants because it was flexible and allowed for a safe space in which to explore and express emotions.

Drama therapy is a great tool for people living with mesothelioma and other types of cancer. As long as you find a trained and experienced drama therapist, you are likely to have a positive experience. You can expect to find a safe way to express your feelings, to be distracted from your pain, to engage with other people, to learn healthy ways to cope with having cancer, and to experience a number of other benefits.

Page edited by Dave Foster

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Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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