Ethical Standards and Practice

Definition: The ethical standards and practice competencies require knowledge of and investment in acting with professional integrity and responsibility to self, clients, community, and the profession of drama therapy. Ethics touches on each of the knowledge domains, therefore ethical standards and practices are integrated not only in ethics-specific coursework but also in each of the learning experiences of the therapist-in-training. Ethical knowledge is expected to come from written knowledge and research in our field, as well as applied classroom activities, internship/practicum learning, and lived experience.
Drama Therapists demonstrate knowledge of:

  1. The ethical responsibilities of drama therapists as articulated in the NADTA Code of Ethics
  2. The cultural humility, equity and diversity responsibilities as articulated in the NADTA Cultural Response/Ability Guidelines
  3. The legal and ethical boundaries of drama therapy practice per the law and credential/licensure regulations in their jurisdiction
  4. Processes for ethical decision-making in the practice of drama therapy, including, but not limited to:
    1. Confidentiality
    2. Informed consent
    3. Mandatory reporting
    4. Suicidality and crisis intervention
    5. Boundaries, dual relationships, and self-disclosure
    6. Advocacy
  5. Ethical principles of drama therapy as they apply to a range of cases across a variety of settings, populations, communities, social locations, and goals
  6. Their responsibility to engage in personal and professional self-evaluation and self-reflexivity strategies, as well as the knowledge of when and how to apply them
  7. When and how to engage in supervision, consultation, additional training and/or personal therapy
  8. Frameworks and strategies for decisions around the ethical use of touch and implications of performance in drama therapy
  9. The ethical practice of drama therapy as it relates to emerging technology, social media, and telehealth
  10. Core ethical principles in drama therapy research


Definition: The research competencies refer to the knowledge and application of research approaches, designs, and analyses in drama therapy. This area of competencies refers to one’s knowledge of systematic inquiry, and the steps involved in gathering, interpreting, and disseminating information. Drama therapists are expected to have a thorough understanding of how to read and review research from a critical perspective, and a basic understanding of how to conduct research with cultural humility, ethical awareness, and in a professional manner.

Drama Therapists demonstrate knowledge of:

  1. Research as a systematic process
  2. Qualitative and arts-based approaches and their applications in and beyond a drama therapy context
  3. Quantitative approaches and their applications in and beyond a drama therapy context
  4. How to identify and analyze ethical dilemmas in research
  5. How to demonstrate cultural humility in research practices
  6. How to identify and locate credible forms of research
  7. How to engage with and be a critical consumer of research
  8. How to synthesize a body of research
  9. How to effectively present research findings across a variety of forums, including publication and presentation
  10. Evidence-based practice and how research contributes to this paradigm

Drama Therapy Theories and Core Processes

Definition: This domain identifies the theoretical principles, core processes, and contextualizing knowledge that comprise the foundations of drama therapy. Drama therapists have understanding and command of these foundations, enabling them to connect theory to practice and to determine appropriate interventions applicable to specific circumstances across various clinical, social, and cultural contexts.

Drama Therapists demonstrate knowledge of:

  1. Foundations of Drama Therapy
    1. Historical and conceptual roots of drama therapy practice, and the emergence of drama therapy as a distinct profession
  2. Drama Therapy Theoretical Constructs
    1. Role Theories – Theoretical models focused on therapeutic exploration of roles as “containers” that identify and express behaviorally a person’s self-concept (actual or assumed) within interpersonal and intrapsychic contexts, real or imaginal
    2. Distance and Distancing Theories – Theoretical models that focus on helping clients attain aesthetic distance through the use of dramatic processes that vary the representational distance (literal, emotional, metaphorical, and fictionalized) between real- life experience and its depiction in drama therapeutic enactments
    3. Theories of Play, Embodiment, and Improvisation – Theoretical models that center on embodied improvisational processes as a means of cultivating spontaneity, disinhibiting creative impulses, deconstructing habituated patterns, and experimenting with alternative behaviors
    4. Theories of Story and Narrative – Theoretical models that use storytelling, fable, myth, or similar creative approaches for reframing a person’s life experience, allowing for new and more adaptive understandings and meaning-making
    5. Theories of Therapeutic Performance – Theoretical models based on the transformational potential of performing devised or scripted theatre pieces with individuals or groups
    6. Theories of Applied Theatre – Theoretical models that use theatre and drama as tools for attaining social goals such as education, community-building, and consciousness-raising around issues of social justice
    7. Integrative and Developmental Process Theories – Theoretical models that adapt and integrate multiple theories and processes to best meet the needs of clients at different developmental phases of their lives
  3. Core Drama Therapy Processes Across Major Models
    1. Dramatic Reality – Creation and maintenance of an imaginal reality related to play space, wonder place, liminal space, transitional space, stage, and surplus reality
    2. Play – Action taken within an imaginal reality related to dramatic imagination, “as if” states, pretend states, and dramatic reality
    3. Embodiment – Physicalized expression and exploration of a psychological state, idea, role, emotion, and metaphor
    4. Role-playing, Role-taking – Creating a dramatic representation of an assumed identity through the enactment of its characteristic patterns of behavior, thought and feeling
    5. Projection – Expressing one’s inner world (conscious and unconscious) through the use of external devices such as masks, puppets, roles, objects, sandtray, and texts
    6. Distance, Distancing – Varying the representational distance (literal, emotional, metaphorical, and fictionalized) between painful real-life experience and its depiction in drama therapeutic enactments
    7. Story, Narrative – Using storytelling, fable, myth, or similar creative approaches to reframing a person’s life experience
    8. Ritual – Using an ordered and intentional sequence of actions as part of dramatic enactment, usually to facilitate entry into or transitioning out of dramatic reality and/or the associated shifts in consciousness, and to mark or consolidate experiences had while in dramatic reality
    9. Witnessing – Using an active, holding, observing body within drama therapy enactments (by the drama therapist, group members, or an invited audience) considered important for reflecting, validating, and integrating experiences
    10. Life-Drama Connection – Intentional reflective processing of drama therapeutic enactments to foster insight regarding clients’ real-life experiences

Group Therapy

Definition: Group Therapy is a form of drama therapy in which multiple individuals participate in a group process supported by one or more drama therapists. This domain identifies the underlying theory of working with group dynamics.

Drama Therapists demonstrate knowledge of:

  1. The history and development of group psychotherapy
  2. Theories and methods of group psychotherapy
  3. Theories and methods of drama therapy approaches in group work
  4. Group development, process, roles, and stages
  5. The use of psychodrama and psychodramatic techniques at the level of training the drama therapy student/group leader has received
  6. Group planning, facilitation, and management
  7. Self-reflection and monitoring transference and countertransference reactions, triggers, and group projections
  8. Ethical, legal, and professional standards relevant to different types of drama therapy groups
  9. Applications of group work for specific populations, settings, and conditions
  10. Awareness of privilege, power, and oppression within the group setting

Human Growth and Development

Definition: Human growth and development includes a broad understanding of the nature and needs of individuals at all levels of development in a multicultural context. This includes the processes that facilitate and accompany biological and psychological maturation and development of personal/cultural identity, which promote wellness across the human lifespan.

Drama Therapists demonstrate knowledge of:

  1. Theories of individual, group and family development, including attachment theories and patterns and how they shape/impact social interactions across the lifespan and across various cultural dynamics
  2. Theories of human development, including normal and abnormal personality development across various cultures
  3. Assessments for various developmental streams of human experience across global cultures, which include physical, psychosocial, emotional/affective, cognitive, and cultural criteria reflecting typical and atypical developmental growth
  4. Biological, neurological, ecological, and physiological factors that affect human development and family functioning, as well as the socioeconomic, ethnic, sociopolitical and cultural factors that intersect as part of human growth and development
  5. Cultural, systemic, and environmental factors that affect human development, functioning, and behavior across various cultures
  6. The role of play in human development and growth within a global context
  7. Trauma-informed practices that consider intersectionality in human development and the experiences impacting diverse individuals over their lifespan
  8. Strategies for differentiated interventions and services that are culturally competent and promote resilience, optimum development, and wellness over the lifespan

Performance, Theater Perspectives, and Aesthetics

Definition: These competencies include familiarity with theories, strategies, and applications of the aesthetics of theatre and drama to therapy.

Drama Therapists demonstrate knowledge of:

  1. Relevant and diverse performance theories that influence drama therapy
  2. Performance forms related to or used within the field of drama therapy
  3. Strategies for designing and facilitating dramatic structures that support participation by clients
  4. Aesthetic awareness in both process-oriented and performance-oriented work
  5. Strategies for utilizing aesthetic choices in supporting optimal aesthetic distance, helping to distill central issues, and augmenting therapeutic impact, including choosing and modifying chosen roles, fictional and real
  6. Therapeutic implications and issues in using performance in drama therapy
  7. Serving the therapeutic needs of an audience in a therapeutic performance
  8. The function of active witness as it pertains to the aesthetics of transformation
  9. The use of drama and performance as a vehicle for social change

Helping Relationships

Definition: This domain is defined as the supportive and collaborative presence of the drama therapist in their interactions with those they are serving. The drama therapist employs embodied and action-oriented processes to help participants identify, access, and embody inner resources, and move towards health and wellness.

Drama Therapists demonstrate knowledge of:

  1. Self-examination and awareness of the therapist’s self within the therapeutic relationship
  2. Therapeutic interventions through the use of embodiment and coregulation
  3. Therapeutic interventions through various modes of expression, including both verbal and non-verbal
  4. Conducting comprehensive and ongoing informed consent
  5. The development and maintenance of therapeutic rapport
  6. Mutuality within the intersubjective encounter between therapist and participant

Cultural Humility, Equity, and Diversity

Definition: Cultural responsibility refers to the ability to respond to the dynamic lifeways of colleagues and clients and how these differences are expressed in the therapeutic encounter in a way that affirms pluralism, mutuality, and accountability. Accountability, in this context, involves a responsibility to uphold human dignity and remain vigilant of how unequal power relationships may inform the provision of care. Cultural responsibility comprises attitudes and beliefs, knowledge, skills, and actions that increase the accessibility of our services, the ability to valorize cultural knowledge, and notice and challenge prejudice and injustice.

Drama Therapists demonstrate knowledge of:

  1. Cultural awareness
    1. One’s own cultural background and the ability to communicate their membership in multiple sociocultural groups
    2. The signs of dominant culture, together with their own cultural affiliations that may inform/influence the mental health profession on issues of human development, mental health, disability, illness, care, payment, and aesthetics
  2. Clients’ Worldview
    1. Their clients’ membership in multiple sociocultural groups
    2. Continuing education opportunities to better understand current, historical, social, political, and cultural events that may reflect present-day inequities in the contexts and communities in which they live and practice
  3. Therapeutic Relationships
    1. How to lead discussions about cultural similarities and differences between clients and therapists, understanding how these may impact the therapeutic alliance and ways of working
    2. Sources of discomfort and commit to working through their own cultural anxiety or fears
    3. How power and privilege influence professional, therapeutic, and institutional relationships
  4. Advocacy and Empowerment
    1. The value of co-creating therapeutic solidarity with clients as partners in care
    2. Drama therapy techniques to advocate for social justice
    3. How personal and professional avoidance interferes with challenging the status quo and capacity to make principled decisions


Definition: Drama Therapy assessment includes the use of all forms of dramatic media to gain knowledge and understanding of the client on multiple levels: psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, and behaviorally.

Drama Therapists demonstrate knowledge of:

  1. The history and development of assessment methods in the field of drama therapy
  2. The major assessment tools developed for drama therapy
  3. The multidimensional nature of the concept of assessment in drama therapy, including cultural, psychological, ethical, and aesthetic lenses
  4. The different aims of assessment: establishing a diagnosis, developing a treatment plan, gathering information on a specific issue, and guiding the client-therapist relationship
  5. The unique needs of specific populations while being assessed
  6. The relationship between assessments in drama therapy and those in related disciplines
  7. The major quantitative and qualitative methods used in assessment procedures
  8. Knowledge of ethical, legal, and professional standards relevant to the use of assessment in drama therapy
  9. The importance of conducting assessments guided by principles of cultural humility, equity, and transparency; as well as awareness of gender, race, nationality, disability, or religious bias, and in co-created partnership with clients