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P-8 Youth plays – using art and drama with bereaved teenagers who wouldn’t otherwise engage
  1. Tracie Slade
  1. Isabel Hospice, Welwyn Garden City, UK


Background The intention was to connect with young people who wouldn’t engage with a therapeutic group using drama and art. All felt very isolated, different to their peers and alone in grief after bereavements and significant losses (Di Ciacco, 2008).

I recognised there could be benefit from a group experience. However, I found that they were too avoidant or emotionally fragile to engage with the usual psychotherapeutic group that we hold (Dowdney, 2000).

Aims (i) To connect this group by putting on two short plays that were about loss and bereavement; (ii) To build confidence and resilience by handing over control of the plays and give them creative freedom and choice; (iii) To engage with the wider community and their peers.

Method With the support of a local theatre director, we sourced some short youth plays that would facilitate talking and thinking about loss and bereavement by sharing the characters’ experiences in the plays. This would help the young people by externalising their feelings and putting themselves into the shoes of the characters (Curtis, 1999).

The young people chose their roles e.g. to act, as stage manager, to make props or be sound technicians. This gave the young people a voice and purpose within the group. We managed to get local media students to join the group to evidence the process using video and photographs and help by giving confidence and self-worth.

Conclusion The group were anxious about meeting expectations and how they would share experiences with strangers. By sharing and participating together, giving them control and allowing choice, the group started to form bonds. The group took risks, made suggestions and felt accepted. Six out of six children reported it helpful being with others that had experienced similar issues, one didn’t know. Five out of six children felt more confident after the youth plays.

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