ART THAT HEALS
In the spring of 2008, a clinical therapist, Ms Lubitsh began a pilot project “Off the Rocks” that moved theater arts to a new level. In Feb 2009, the project culminated with Ms Lubitsh directing the hit stage production titled “Sweet” at the Out North Theater.
Art has been used for centuries to educate and inspire. Art in theater form. provides the means to open discussions and engage people who would normally zone out, or totally ignore community-based problems. Art can bring (and did) an audience of hundreds information on substance abuse and related mental health issues and the consequences that would normally remain unseen and unheard.
Ms Lubitsh holds the belief that a healing power exists in all art, most noticeably in theater arts. The process of creating art rejuvenates those struggling with substance abuse, mental illnesses, and trauma. The theater provides a safe space for clients to articulate emotions, resolve problems, cope with a variety of problems such as, but not limited to, depression, bereavement, trauma, abuse and addictions. When one combines art and healing, an opportunity opens allowing both the audience and the direct participants to benefit and grow and be educated from the interaction with this art medium.
The project was funded from combined grants from the arts and mental health communities in Alaska.
By DAWNELL SMITH - Daily News correspondent - Published: February 10, 2009
“Wow. Check out the full house, the all-female theater ensemble, the dual lines and lives within the script; watch how everyone in the audience rises to their feet when the room goes black for the last time. Seeing Out North this crowded brings tears to a theater hag's eyes, even more so because of the good writing and acting.”
The clinicians background as a theater director and drama/substance abuse therapist enabled her to develop and direct this innovative project. Her passion and talent for using creativity and theater arts in community-healing work built Off the Rocks Theater.
. With funding, Off the Rocks hopes to continue incorporating art in future programs and is developing a new theater workshop project for women and teens. It is hoped that the drama therapy project may also be used to help clients with PTSD including military personnel returning from the middle east and other embattled countries.
Play and humor are so basic and we all understand their healing power and huge potential. Using drama and play in order to promote health and growth is an ancient concept, drama therapy as a treatment approach is the new kid on the block. It carries the potential to change the way we think about treatment and it also provides us with tools to increase the effectiveness of existing treatment methods.
Sigmund Freud defined mental health as our ability to “work, love and play.” We tend to put a huge emphasize on our ability to work, we are willing to accept the need to be able to love but most of us tend to ignore the importance of our ability to play. While many forms of therapy are cultural sensitive, play is universal. Children from different cultures, backgrounds and languages can play together and understand each other perfectly. Recent researches indicated that play has a crucial role in the development of the brain. In the animal kingdom play is a prime teaching method. It is through play that little puppies learn how to survive in the world. It is clear that serious tasks can be efficiently integrated when we turn to be playful.
Drama therapy carries some unique features. Adam Blatner M.D., a psychiatrist and psychodramatist, explains the uniqueness of drama therapy, “Through drama therapy, people can be helped to recapture the freshness of their early childhood’s excitement and vitality, dimensions of the personality that tend to become stifled in the ordinary course of development. Indeed, many forms of psychopathology may be understood in part as repressing disorders of excitement and spontaneity, problems with re-connecting with the innate flow of images, impulses, feelings, and activity that characterize the innocent exuberance of young children.”
In a very powerful and memorable therapy session a client stated, “That was really fun, it didn’t feel like therapy. It felt real.”
Drama therapy can be perceived as a 4 dimensional approach to treatment. It activates the intellect, allows expression of emotions, it involves all our senses and it adds the element of play. The “as if” world provides us with unique opportunities. We can re-visit our past, we can take a peek into our future, we can communicate with people that we can not reach in real life, we can reveal new sides of ourselves, we can play our fantasies, we can give a voice to side of ourselves that had been repressed and we can give ourselves the opportunity to complete acts that froze us and created a crevasse of terror in our psyche and soul. Drama therapy gives us the tools and experiences to create and try on a new identity. It challenges the definitions of who we perceive to be and gives us freedom to act beyond the limitations of definitions of self that were bestowed on us by our families, our society and culture. It gives us the freedom to choose.