Theatre therapy with addicts; from the drug user to the theatre
by Georges Baal

The sources of theatre therapy can be found at shamans - since those times it appears in very different forms: in religion, in so called primitive rituals, in Greek philosophy and the esoteric ceremonies of exorcism; the theatre therapy differs in many aspects from psycho or socio-drama.
Generally speaking the very characteristic feature of western theatre, the drama, performed in presence of public as the product of a certain process is not the part of the theater therapy, which takes place in three phases: exercises with body and voice, improvisation and the analysis of stories, dramatic or poetic fragments.
In the last years, working with drug users this theory has been changed: the collaboration between the ATRAAL and Leo Amici Foundation approved that the performance based on a literal text and played in the presence of public gave a possibility for a deeper therapy with a bigger social effect. When starting a two-weeks workshop, we could not imagine, that having finished this period the clients having taken part in the work, presented the play inspired by Maldoror's song of Lautréamont in the theatre of Komló.
The main feature if the exercises and improvisations is the continuous balancing between the real and symbolic; it revalues the relations. Beginning with the simple technical exercises one can slowly reach the more important relations.
The task of the theatre therapy is to make clear the inner obstacles and to change it step by step into useful energy.
Usually the theatre therapeutic meeting begins with conquesting the space (stage); the first task is to feel oneself, to be with oneself; then there are meetings with one an other, without any obligation, on non-verbal, symbolical level; it is followed by creating groups, then the whole group works together.
As the drug-users are marginalized people, the aim of these exercises is to change the symbolic space-map, the image built by them for themselves. The Ego on the stage, as a role becomes the Ego on is own place.
The exercises with the space are followed by exercises of trust.
At the end of this process there is a complex relation between the reality and the sub-consciousness.
All nonverbal exercises are followed by a verbal phase at the end: then the feelings, emotions, experiences, fears, doubts, joys etc. are discussed. The analytical interpretation finds its place in this phase.
The group therapy starts from the group itself (from the material of consciousness and sub consciousness of its members), and its aim is the work with the inner world of the participants. The theatre gives the result of the process to the public, and not the process itself - that is the main difference.
In the theatre therapy the primary question is: "Who am I? That, what I think about myself? That, what others think about me? The questions like these have a special power among drug users, since they try to go through the boundaries of being by the help of drugs.
The publicity of the working process means a whish and a fear at the same time, but it also means, that the person participating in it is acceptable as he/she is, was and will be. The performance is processing in the presence of witnesses and it makes the therapy authentic; at the same time, it brings bank the drug user to the community: the drug addict use drugs only for him/herself, but for him/herself and for the others chooses recovery.