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Drama Therapy for Cancer Patients

Drama therapy can be a powerful tool for helping people living with cancer or in recovery from cancer. In both situations, patients deal with 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, which includes 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 others. 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, and comedy and play as well, to facilitate healing and overall wellness and personal growth and to meet specific goals, particularly for mental health. This kind of therapy is led by a trained therapist who is also educated in theater and drama. Drama therapy can be used for individuals, but it is more often used in group settings, such as hospitals, prisons, mental health facilities, and schools.

A session of drama therapy 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 other participants.

Why Drama Therapy for Cancer Patients?

Patients living with mesothelioma and other types of cancer can benefit from a range of alternative therapies. Both patients going through treatment and those in recovery are coping with big emotions, like fear and anxiety; they have side effect from the cancer and treatment, like pain and fatigue; and these patients are often struggling with the big changes in their lives and may often become socially isolated.

All of these issues can be addressed through various types of therapy, including drama therapy. There are several reasons why patients may choose drama therapy. It is an active therapy that can help a patient move more and get some exercise that is gentle. It is also usually a group therapy that allows patients to socialize and interact with others. And also, importantly, drama therapy can serve as an important distraction from things like physical pain and anxiety. There are also many other proven benefits of participating in drama therapy.

Creative Expression Improves Mental Health

One of the biggest reasons that cancer patients may benefit from drama therapy is to see improvements in mental health. 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 particularly 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 are active participants in their own healing.

It is typical for cancer patients to experience both pain and anxiety, but having higher anxiety levels is also linked with more physical pain. Drama therapy has been proven to be able to address and 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 is a technique that allows patients to express difficult emotions in ways that are easier to approach, that are indirect. This can be powerful for emotional wellness and healing and is often easier than talking directly about emotions and personal challenges and can act as a gateway to more open expression.

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 experience overall greater quality of life.

Reducing Stress before Procedures

Drama therapy may be a useful tool in helping patients become psychologically prepared for treatments and procedures, especially those that are frightening or cause stress, 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 find out how it can make the groups 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 explorer 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.

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