2012 - NADTA 33rd Annual Conference


Witnesses to the Dark: the Absence, Emergence and Performance of Trauma

November 2-5, 2012
New Haven, Connecticut


As drama therapists, we are often called upon to bear witness to narratives of trauma in our work and our studies. We engage with these stories: to explore and examine trauma’s boundaries and qualities, to bring fragmented and incomplete images to light, and to help clients and communities respond to frightening and traumatic experiences.

We navigate trauma narratives that are interpersonal, intergenerational and social. We encounter and evoke traumas experienced by individuals, groups, institutions, and communities. Societal traumas such as racism, homophobia, sexism, poverty and war are perpetuated on a generational stage throughout history and emerge in the present. Even those of us who do not engage explicitly with trauma in our work still negotiate its impact. We are subject to the absences it leaves in memory and narrative, spawning inquiry into its emergence as traumatic patterns in behaviors; or as feelings of confusion, grief, shame, and anger in the relationships and lives of our clients.

One lens through which drama therapists can explore trauma is by investigating its performance: how are the traces of trauma performed in our bodies, in the words and actions of our clients, in the politics of our nations? What sort of mindful and therapeutic performances and rituals can be brought to bear in the service of witnessing, of healing, and of change?

We also hope to explore as a community the role of the witness: how does our presence as observers and narrators affect and transform the experiences of those being witnessed? Can we journey with them from isolation and despair to connection and hope? As witnesses can we invoke the capacity to question, hold and engage with the multifaceted impact of trauma on our client’s lives? Furthermore, what is the effect on us in the role of witness? How do we attend to the effects of vicarious trauma in our own lives?

The image of a witness to the dark: attempting to discern the outline of a trauma that is obscured and incomplete, may seem daunting, even dangerous – our hope is that this call for proposals can bring together a multitude of such witnesses, to meet before the curtain rises and reveals the scope and extent of our therapeutic work.

 If you have any questions regarding the conference, please email the 2012 Conference Chair!

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Keynote Speaker

David Read Johnson, Ph.D, RDT-BCT

2012 Conference Keynote Speaker:  Witnesses to the Dark: the Absence, Emergence and Performance of Trauma

David Read Johnson, Ph.D. was hired right out of college as a drama therapist at the Yale Psychiatric Institute in 1973, where he fell in love with drama therapy, being part of a collaborative team, working with psychiatric patients, and operating against impossible odds. After receiving his doctorate in clinical psychology, he began work at the West Haven VA Medical Center and spent 17 years involved in inpatient psychiatry, geropsychology, and the creative arts therapies. In 1987, he had the honor of becoming the first non-physician Unit Chief of a training site at the Yale Medical School and then became the Assistant Clinical Director of the entire 175 bed Psychiatry Department.

In 1989, he was chosen to lead the new Specialized Inpatient PTSD Unit funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs, where he collaborated with many influential and prolific leaders in the field of trauma treatment. Meanwhile, after helping to found the National Association for Drama Therapy, he served as the Chairperson of the National Coalition of Arts Therapy Associations through its culminating Joint National Conference in Washington, D.C. in 1990.

In 1997, Dr. Johnson and his colleague Hadar Lubin, MD left the VA and formed the Post Traumatic Stress Center in New Haven, CT., a full-service specialty clinic serving clients exposed to traumatic experiences. The clinic has grown to serve hundreds of clients and their families and is known as a center of expertise in trauma-related treatment, employing drama therapists, psychologists and medical professionals.

Alongside serving six years as Editor-in-Chief of the Arts in Psychotherapy journal, Dr. Johnson has authored numerous articles, chapters, and the books: Waiting at the Gate: Creativity and Hope in the Nursing Home (with Susan Sandel); Essays in the Creative Arts Therapies: Imaging the Birth of a Profession; Current Approaches in Drama Therapy (first edition with Penny Lewis, second edition with Renee Emunah); Trauma-Centered Group Therapy with Women (with Hadar Lubin), and Assessment in Drama Therapy (with Susana Pendzik and Stephen Snow).

Along the way, David has created Developmental Transformations (DvT), a drama therapy practice based in improvisational play that helps people adapt to the instabilities in life and the constantly changing nature of experience, which is ironic, because David has never left New Haven, nor drama therapy, nor being part of a collaborative team, nor working with distressed clients, nor operating against impossible odds. He is most proud of being the father to two wonderful children, and the mentor to many amazing and talented drama therapists.

Continuing Education (CE)

Take advanage of the NADTA Conference Continuing Education (CE) credits.  Ensure that your credentials stay up to date and you have the latest information in the field to continue developing skills in drama therapy, psychotherapy, and theater.

NADTA Conference sessions are valid for the following types of Continuing Education credits:  NADTA RDT CE Hours and CEUs for California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) and California Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW).

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