Though many of us will never know the symptoms of PTSD after serving in a war, we can easily assume that it would be a dreadful, terrifying ordeal to go through. There have been veterans from every war that have suffered with this disorder for the rest of their lives- nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, and many other debilitating symptoms of stress disorder. But recently, many have found a release for their pains- through theatre!
A program was started to aid Vietnam veterans called the Drama Therapy Program. The drama therapy program is part of an integrated treatment program for veterans. The program focuses on (a) process (i.e., playing in an imaginative world of drama) (b) practice (learning effective coping behaviors through role-playing) and (c) performance (preparing autobiographical theatre for audiences). Each patient has the opportunity to try out these modes of drama therapy during the program. Many different acting exercises are done with the patients to see which ones they are more connected to, and then they go on from there. They still have these programs, but now they also have regular classes for veterans.
The project from Forces charity Combat Stress uses acting as a form of therapy for former service personnel. The men have been rehearsing Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and hope to perform the play at a West End theatre later in the year. The veterans all suffer from different levels of PTSD, but have found new purpose in putting together a show. They attack rehearsals, their energy, optimism and enthusiasm in stark contrast to their PTSD. One man said, “It’s nice to feel part of something again. I distanced myself… and now I’m part of it.” They love the camaraderie that they get to feel again. “I found it difficult to connect with people, this has really helped me, I’ve made friends” Now they are relying on eachother to put on the best show possible. They are even trying to start a new group of veterans that go around and perform for the troops.
Of course, they still have bad days, but they’ve worked together and they’ve now got a dream, something to look forward to instead of always looking in the past. Theater is an incredible thing. It takes love, devotion, and an army of support, which is all these soldiers need.
British Forces News. Theatre Therapy Helps PTSD Sufferers. January 10, 2012.
James, Miller, Johnson, David Read. Drama Therapy in the Treatment of Combat-Related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Arts in Psychotherapy. Vol. 23 No. 5. Pp. 383-395, 1997.