Drama Therapy

Drama Therapy MA Program

The program allowed me to tap into the limitless storehouse of compassion, imagination, play, and resiliency inside of me and helped me channel all that into my fullest potential as a therapist and human being. It was an all encompassing and transformative experience. As a storyteller, scholar, and now clinician, the impacts of the Drama Therapy program at CIIS will continue to serve me professionally and reverberate through me and those with whom I come into contact. - Aileen Cho, MA (2012)

Freedom and possibility are two key words that begin to describe the essence of drama therapy. Life is finite; there are only so many experiences we can have. But in drama, the opportunities and options are endless, enabling us to dive more deeply into the richness of life. And when the dramas are authentic and "real," they have the power to affect, and even alter, our real lives profoundly. For the past thirty years, we have been investigating how therapeutically adapted dramatic processes work over time to heal wounds, facilitate lasting change, and help people reach their highest potential.

The CIIS Drama Therapy program is one of only a few master's programs in the field both regionally accredited and approved by the North American Drama Therapy Association, and is one of only a handful such programs in the world. CIIS is internationally recognized as housing one of the world's most highly developed and rigorous training programs for drama therapists.

The primary sources of drama therapy include dramatic play, theater, role play, psychodrama, and dramatic ritual. Drama therapy, as one of the creative arts therapies, facilitates artistic expression-engendering clarity, mastery, meaning, and hope. In drama therapy, we choose from a wide array of adapted dramatic processes. Storytelling, improvisation, self-revelatory performance,* life review, playback theater, physical theater, creative drama, puppetry, scripted pieces, and more are tailored to the needs of a specific group or individual. Drama also includes the other arts; in drama therapy, music, dance/movement, art, poetry, and photography/video are selectively incorporated to enhance the therapeutic and/or aesthetic nature of the work.

*A process, articulated by Renée Emunah, involving shaping personal material into an aesthetic theatrical performance, and bringing healing to actor and audience.


Interviews will take place in late February and early March, dates TBA.

JOIN OUR MINI INFORMATION SESSION AT THE CIIS SCHOOL-WIDE OPEN HOUSE: SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 27, 2:00 - 2:50 IN ROOM 216.  THERE WILL BE AN ADDITIONAL QUESTION & ANSWER PERIOD FROM 3:00 - 3:45. Meet faculty and students to talk about the program and the field. RSVP: dtownes@ciis.edu

JOIN OUR INFORMATION SESSION: SATURDAY DECEMBER 13, 1:30 - 2:30 PM AT CIIS. Meet faculty, students, and graduates to talk about the program and the field. RSVP: dtownes@ciis.edu

Drama therapy invites us to uncover and integrate dormant aspects of ourselves, stretch our conception of who we are, and experience our intrinsic connection with others.

Renée Emunah, Acting for Real

In former times, acting simply meant putting on a disguise.... Now it's clear that the wearing of the disguise changes the person. As he takes the disguise off, his face is changed from having worn it. The stage performance informs the life performance and is informed by it.

Joseph Chaiken, The Presence of the Actor

Our aim in the program is to take people on a challenging and compelling personal and intellectual journey toward deeper levels of understanding and developing competence in drama therapy. Our commitment is to provide a serious, multilayered training in using this potent medium ethically, respectfully, and skillfully. Faculty and students delve into the complexities, subtleties, and possibilities of drama therapy.Coursework is sequenced and progressive. Theoretical, practical/clinical, and experiential formats are incorporated. Small, action-oriented classes within a cohort model support students' personal development and a sense of community. While many people come to our program already personally familiar with the transformative power of drama and having seen its positive effect on others, even the first semester of the program reveals new dimensions to the field and gives a glimpse of the vast range of exploration ahead.

Drama therapy is the systematic and intentional use of drama and theater processes to promote emotional growth and psychological integration. The field of drama therapy, which was founded in 1979, has a solid theoretical foundation. Many models and methods (including Emunah's Integrative Five Phase Model of Drama Therapy, Johnson's Developmental Transformations, and Landy's Role Method) are studied. Clinical issues (such as distinguishing compulsive and constructive reenactment, therapeutic direction of improvisational enactment, creative responses to resistance, and use and misuse of psychodramatic tools) are examined from multiple perspectives. We use role-play and enactment in training-making learning more engaging, embodied, and interactive! We believe that learning can and should be relevant, exciting, and transformative.

To play it out is the most natural self-healing measure that childhood affords.

Erik Erikson, Childhood and Society

The repidly expanding field of drama therapy offers a huge range of work opportunities, and we encourage students to pursue their individual passions. The unique combination of a solid background in counseling psychology and specialized training in drama therapy, along with considerable experience in leading groups (a skill that mental health facilities highly value) comprise some of the factors that have led our graduates to obtain satisfying jobs readily. Alumni work in private practice, psychiatric settings, battered women shelters, schools, and substance-abuse treatment programs; they work with children, at-risk adolescents, seniors, veterans, and polarized groups in the community. Some use action methods and role-play in corporate consulting, diversity training, and small- and large-scale community projects. Others are engaged in research, teaching, publication, performance, and doctoral or postdoctoral pursuits.

An integral part of the program is on-site clinical training and supervision at a wide range of possible placement sites. Interns receive individual weekly supervision on-site by a licensed clinician, as well as small-group supervision at CIIS with a Registered Drama Therapist (RDT).

To complete the program, students take an Integrative Seminar supporting development of a final project. This may be either a theoretical article; a live, self-revelatory (therapeutic) theater performance; or a high-quality video documenting a drama therapy treatment process. All formats are presented publicly to a community of peers, family, and friends, leading to a sense of culminating achievement in the program.

CIIS is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The program follows the academic guidelines set forth by the North American Drama Therapy Association and meets academic requirements for registry as a drama therapist. Students also fulfill academic requirements for Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) licensure in the state of California. Coursework preparing for licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) is also available.

The arts abound at times of nightfall, death, birth, war, and natural disaster, for they help to encapsulate terror. If psychological trauma is the origin of art, is it any wonder that the creative arts therapies hold so much promise as a reparative force?

David Johnson, Essays on the Creative Arts Therapies

The dramatic mode liberates clients from real-life constraints and from imbedded patterns, affording them a means of expanding their behavioral and role repertoires.

Renée Emunah, chapter in Beyond Talk Therapy