...a session with Ryan

Find a position that is comfortable and relaxing, and close your eyes. You may also keep them open; simply pick a point in the room to focus on, to help your concentration.

Then, take a deep breath in and…slowly…let…the…air…out. Take another one, and…slowly…let…the...air…out. Take a moment to focus on your breathing and the rhythm of your breath. Notice the air going in…and out. 

Slowly begin to expand the focus from your breath, to the rest of your body and just notice how you are feeling physically in this moment. Notice every part of your body and how it feels. 

Once you have acknowledged your body, slowly move your focus to your mind and your thoughts. Notice what kind of thoughts are going through your mind. Notice and acknowledge them, without trying to analyse them. Allow them to be what they are in this moment.

Once you have acknowledged your mind and thoughts, slowly move your focus to your heart and your emotions. Again, notice what you are feeling in this moment, acknowledging your emotions, without trying to analyse them. Letting them be what they are in this moment.

Finally, imagine or try to visualise a blank postcard. Allow any images or messages to appear without trying to control them. Allow them to become clear, and then, depending on what is there, decide if it’s something you want to keep with you, or something you would like to get rid of. Once you’ve made that decision, take a deep breath in, and…slowly…let…the…air…out. 

In your own time, slowly make your way back to the space around you, and slowly open your eyes, and readjust to the light in the space.

This is how I start every one of my Dramatherapy sessions. I do this in part because I was trained in the ritual theatre model, which in short is about creating a safe, contained structure whereby depth of feeling may be explored and expressed. By creating a ritual for the beginning and ending of each session, a person becomes free to express anything in the middle of that session, no matter how painful or chaotic, because there is a symbolic and literal structure in place to contain those things. This meditation has evolved massively over the years, and has been through many variations, but I’ve been doing this version for some time now. 

Why do I do this? The answer is, I’m not really sure. I don’t remember why I decided on a meditation, rather than a different kind of ritual. Maybe I was into meditation at the time, and decided to incorporate that into the therapy? One thing I know for sure though, is that the first time I did it, I noticed its power immediately. A calm came into the space, a sense of relief. A literal and figurative breathing out. We underestimate the power of our breath so much! Over the years, I’ve had people who spontaneously started crying by the second deep breath. The present moment is extremely powerful. It is literally where we feel everything. We don’t feel anything in the past or in the future. We feel about those things, for sure, but we don’t feel them per se. To align body, mind, and heart (and soul) in the present moment, is one of the most powerful tools there is. It allows us to feel, to understand, to reflect. 

The postcard element is about the unconscious. When I say “allow any images or messages to appear”, what I’m really saying is: “Hello unconscious, what would you like to say right now?”. I don’t actually ask about what people saw in the postcard – sometimes they share, sometimes they don’t – because for me is simply about bringing things to the fore and allowing the client to make a decision as to whether they are ready to address some things, or not. After all, the session is led by the client, not the Dramatherapist.

I tend to follow the meditation with “How are you, right now, in this moment?” This is to encourage the person to stay with whatever has been brought up in the meditation. I find this more valuable than any prepared topics the client might have been thinking about, because it tends to be more genuine and authentic. Conscious expression is often much more contrived than unconscious musings, and the latter ones are what I live for as a therapist. I love to explore the unconscious world behind all of our actions, thoughts, and feelings. 

If you’re a new client, I won’t necessarily ask you for your life story, but will ask about any previous experiences of therapy and how they were, but most importantly, why you’ve decided to come to therapy at this particular point in your life. Through the years, many people have expressed surprise at the fact that I don’t ask about their past straight away. To that, I always say: “we don’t need to go into the past, unless we have to.” Invariably, the past will come up anyway, and then it’s about discerning how much to explore or simply to acknowledge. I will then do a very simple creative exercise in that first session, which I use as a direct channel to your unconscious. It’s one of the simplest Dramatherapy techniques, and yet, one of the most powerful – very much like life itself! Simplicity resonates more powerfully and deeply than complexity. The 4-line script technique is a great way to express and acknowledge underlying concerns, feelings, or desires. 

I was sharing with someone the other day that what ultimately makes a therapist is not their approach or training, but their personality and life experience. The combination of my personality traits and life experiences has led me to be a person who is actually very cognitive and rational, but also immensely sensitive to emotions. In fact, I understand emotions better from a cognitive perspective, than from a felt sense perspective. For this reason, my starting point is always with emotions. Many Dramatherapists start with the body, as that is the main vehicle of an actor, but again, because I’ve always been very cognitive, very “heady”, I’ve always been more drawn to the roles of director and writer in the dramatic arts. I love a narrative, and I love a character with emotional depth. And so, as a Dramatherapist, that is what I tend to follow instinctively: deep, emotional narratives. And because we focus on metaphors and symbolism in Dramatherapy, I often use archetypes as a tool to find out who the main characters are in the narratives of your life. We then use dialogue and character development techniques to explore these narratives in a symbolic way, in order to allow for some healthy distance from painful experiences. 

The length of therapy is very much dependent on you. I’ve seen clients for 6, 10, 12, 25 weeks. I’ve seen clients for several weeks who then stop for several months, and then return for another set of weeks. There are no rules or prescriptions for this. Each person is different, and each person will need different things. 

A therapy space is a space of great potential for healing and transformation, but also a space of great responsibility. If used authentically by both therapist and client, it is one of the most healing environments that exist. What do I mean by this? If the therapist understands that ultimately they are as human as the person sitting across from them, then there isn’t a single life experience that they are not able to hold or support. Granted, some life experiences will be more difficult to hold and support than others, but if the humanity is there, then the therapeutic relationship is already well on its way. Additionally, as we are all wounded in relationship, only through relationship can we heal. Forging a loving and boundaried relationship with someone is perhaps the greatest gift a therapy space, and therapist, can offer to anyone. 

It is the relationship that heals, as Irvin D. Yalom once said. 

As before, find a comfortable position, and slowly close your eyes. Take a deep breath in and…slowly…let…the…air…out. Take another one and…slowly…let…the…air…out. 

Take a moment to focus on your breathing and the rhythm of your breath. 

In your own time, focus on one positive aspect from this session that you would like to take away with you. There may be several, but pick one. Pick something that is hopeful and helpful, and something that you can integrate into your day to day life. 
Imagine yourself receiving that, making it yours, and when it feels clear and authentic enough, take a deep breath in and…slowly…let…the…air…out. 

Take your time to slowly come back to the space around you, slowly opening your eyes and readjusting to the different light in this space. 

Thank you, and see you next week.