By Nyree Robinson

The arts therapies include drama, dance, art and music, and they evolved progressively from the 1940s onwards to the health professions we know today. The profession began to formalise in the UK with training programmes from the 1980s. Locally, there has been a surge in recent years with the younger generations taking an interest in these professions, and locally we have two fully-trained dramatherapists and one awaiting completion of her MA. Arts therapists come under the umbrella of the allied health professionals and are registered in the UK with the HCPC (Health and Care Professionals Council) which enables them locally to join the GMRB (Gibraltar Medical Registration Board) as a health professional.

They work in a variety of settings using creativity as a channel of communication with clients. They work within schools, prisons, drug and alcohol services, dementia care, mental health, learning disabilities, and in the private sector. The training at MA level includes training in psychology as well as the specialist art form, and inherent in their work is the assumption that creativity and expression leads to good health.

Sometimes words are limiting, and this is where creativity can help.

HOW DOES DRAMATHERAPY WORK?

It has been described as the intentional use of drama techniques, role-play, metaphor, movement, objects, puppets, art materials, music, games, imagination and other creative tools to facilitate positive change in people. A common misconception is that they are a treatment for children, but this is not the case. The arts therapies are for anyone who feels that they need to work beyond words. Sometimes words are limiting, or do not do justice to what we are experiencing inside, and this is where creativity can help. Through the use of metaphors in stories we can explore issues within the narrative that resonate with our own life. The story serves as a container to enable us to explore difficult issues within a therapeutic context.

THE ARTS THERAPIES LOCALLY

I first begun my journey in the year 2000 by completing a BA in ‘Creative Expressive Therapies’ at Derby University. Back then, very few people had heard about dramatherapy as an alternative means to treatment in Gibraltar. I was met with blank stares, and a sense of wonder by people as to the value of my work. I had discovered its effectiveness whilst working with children with ADHD, nonverbal severe autism and hyperactivity. I discovered that through role playing I was able to communicate and build sound relationships with children that had challenging and violent behaviours. I noticed that using songs, stories, and play facilitated communication with children and adults, and it was clear to me that in some cases verbal therapy was limited. In 2008 I returned to the UK and completed an MA in Dramatherapy which qualified me to work and call myself a dramatherapist. During my training I worked with clients in care with complex needs; a mixture of mental health issues, learning disabilities and criminal offending behaviours.

In the last 2 years since Gibraltar Dramatherapy launched, many people in our community have seen and experienced the benefits that arts therapies can provide in the community.  GAMPA (Gibraltar Academy of Music and Performing Arts) have supported my work within the LSF (Learning Support Facility) at a number of schools, and by offering dramatherapy to children with diagnosis of autism and ADHD, I have facilitated groups for neurotypical children to learn about autism, and will be facilitating dramatherapy for children within their I AM ME project are all opportunities that I have embraced. The ASG (Autism Support group) has also funded some of my work to provide group work for children to play and develop creative skills with others. The Youth Service have also benefitted from a dramatherapy project exploring respect, as well as providing low sensory workshops two years consecutively at the Youth Day. I have facilitated training for professionals around working with Trauma and Introductions to working creatively with people. I continue to work with individuals and groups as a freelance arts therapist locally and developing my trade. I am currently training in DvT (Developmental Transformations) – an approach within dramatherapy developed in the USA by working with Vietnam veterans. I form part of an international community of dramatherapists across the globe that meet monthly on Skype to share ideas on culture, dramatherapy and challenges we face within our work.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE ARTS THERAPIES IN GIBRALTAR?

I hope that through awareness and people training in these professions we may be able to grow as a community locally, and permeate sectors of justice, education, health and social care where perhaps more traditional medical models have dominated. I would love to see people that have issues around addictions having access to more dynamic forms of therapies. I would love to see people that have dementia being offered music therapy, which is proven to alleviate some of the terrible symptoms of the illness. I will continue spreading the word of this wonderful profession that has kept me captivated for over 20 years!