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Beyond dramatic truth: theatre within the therapeutic encounter

Pendle, Andrew and Rowe, Nick (2010) Beyond dramatic truth: theatre within the therapeutic encounter. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 15 (1). pp. 89-102.

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Recorded footage of counselling sessions with real clients can be a valuable educational resource that gives training counsellors the opportunity to analyse the theories and practices they encounter in their education. However, the use of such material raises complex ethical issues: what are the safeguards against the misuse of the material? Can the client realistically anticipate the impact of the recording and dissemination of their session? What is the impact upon the family of the client? Because of these concerns and in the light of the history of these recordings the practice of using real clients has come into question. In this article we describe a collaborative project between the theatre and counselling studies departments at York St John University in which, with support from tutors, student performers developed a character that would plausibly visit a counsellor. Each character was then filmed in a counselling session. The counsellors were asked, as far as possible, to behave as they would in a ‘real’ counselling session. The actors were asked to maintain their character and to stay open to the possibility of surprise and new discovery as the counselling progressed. We suggest that in order to be successful the actors need to be clear about, and protect the boundaries between self and character and allow the boundary to be permeable enough so that the improvisers are able to draw on personal material in the performance. We consider the performative and ethical issues raised by this initiative and propose that the resultant material will provide a valuable training resource for counsellors. We hope that this article will be seen as a provocation for debate and discussion around the ethical and dramaturgical issues that surround real-life recordings of counselling sessions and simulations/role plays in health and social care settings.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13569780903481060
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theatre
R Medicine > RM Therapeutics. Pharmacology
School/Department: York Business School
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/545

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