Jennifer Gordon, MA, RDT

What to say about Jennifer Gordon...Well, of course I think she's one of the nicest people I know. She's also very down-to-earth and a great drama therapist. By example, Jennifer taught me to be respectful and kind to our patients, thoughtful and gentle but edgy, nudging them toward growth and insight. She is funny and knows when a situation needs some levity. I met Jennifer when I was just starting out as a drama therapist-ling. Within those first few fragile years it's easy to get burned especially in the at-times frenetic energy of an inpatient unit. But she took me under her wing and showed me the ropes. I've since abandoned her for a partial hospitalization program but she's just down the hall and still makes herself available when times get hairy. I wanted to spotlight Jennifer because she is also highly involved in the NADTA, but quietly so, behind the scenes. When I ventured out to present at the NADTA conference, she was there to support and be a part of the presentation; when I thought I could take on co-chairing the conference, she kept me from drowning and volunteered to help; and when I need a little pick me up of why I do what I do, she's able to remind me of the good behind our work and offer inspiration or a pointer here and there. She deserves a spotlight. Channeling Cher from her second farewell tour, 'ladies and gentlemen and flamboyant gentleman'...Jennifer Gordon:

-Josiah Stickels, MA, RDT, LMFT
Western Region Representative
westernrep@nadta.org

1. Please tell us about your path to drama therapy.

I had been an actor in New York City for many years before I even heard the words drama and therapy uttered in the same sentence. I had become a bit antsy, longing for work that I felt had a more direct social impact. A wonderful writer that I knew from a "survival job" looked at me one day and said, "You'd be a great drama therapist." I hadn't a clue what she was talking about. Drama therapy. It sounded like a very shady profession. I imagined sadistic directors damaging the psyches of vulnerable, approval-seeking actors. Fortunately, this writer had forethought and wisdom, generosity and prescience. She contacted NYU and had them mail me an informational packet, which remained unopened on my desk for many months. The day finally came when I began to clear the mountain of rubble from my desk. Half way through, I unearthed the packet of information from NYU. I opened it and began to read. I got very excited! THIS was the work I'd been longing to do! Who knew there was an entire field with practitioners, training programs, literature and guidance? I went straight to a bookstore, purchased Landy's Persona and Performance: The Meaning of Role in Drama, Therapy, and Everyday Life and quickly devoured it, underlining passages and scribbling my thoughts in the margins.

2. Who have been your mentors both in the drama therapy community and outside of it?

Robert Landy, Maria Hodermarska, Sara McMullian, Tian Dayton, Darby Moore . . . all are incredible teachers and guides. They inspire with their passion, dedication, wisdom, humor, kindness, and generosity. Nina Strongylou was an exceptionally supportive and patient supervisor. Nils Riess, an undergraduate professor, was a great advocate and champion of mine and has remained a lifelong friend. The most wonderful mentor, the great director/producer/teacher, Gene Lasko, passed away earlier this year. Much more than an acting teacher, he possessed incredibly keen insight into human nature and a deep understanding and respect for actors and the creative process. Through the years, I have shared his words and wisdom with incarcerated men, ex-offenders, survivors of violence, middle school students and psychiatric patients among others!

3. What are your current projects and the path of your work?

I've worked with a variety of populations, some mentioned above. Currently, I work at UCSF's Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. There, I provide group therapy on a locked, acute, psychiatric inpatient unit. In collaboration with drama therapist, Josiah Stickels, I supervise a wonderful drama therapy practicum student from CIIS. I am also a regular presenter of role theory/method to first year drama therapy students at CIIS. Over the past few years, I have been honored to be part of the NADTA's site visit team, assessing new and existing university drama therapy programs for accreditation/reaccreditation by the NADTA. It has been a rich experience for me to closely examine how drama therapy is taught and to see the unique approach and benefits of each program.

4. How do you see the future of drama therapy evolving?

It is exciting to see the directions in which drama therapy is expanding. I am pleased to see a focus on research and the publication of the Drama Therapy Review. There also appears to be emphasis on reconnecting to the drama and theater roots of drama therapy, with performance receiving renewed attention in many programs. Our field has also seen the launch of new drama therapy master's degree programs in recent years. I believe a growing edge continues to be grappling with the need for creative arts therapy licenses.

5. What does your NADTA membership mean to you?

Membership in NADTA connects me to an inspiring and supportive community. It holds me accountable, challenging me to maintain my identity as a drama therapist. It reminds me that membership is an active choice. We are a small community so there is a need for active participation and service from members in a myriad of ways that help define and expand our community and our field. The pay-off is connection, stimulation, guidance and, of course, fun!

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Jennifer Gordon, MA, RDT


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