Drama Therapy Groups

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2nd Act leads monthly drama therapy groups for Certified Peer Recovery Specialists (CPRS). A CPRS is someone in recovery from Substance Use Disorder who seeks to use their experience to provide recovery support to others. These groups are facilitated by a drama therapist in recovery and funded by Rhode Island’s state behavioral health department.

This project brings together a trauma-informed therapeutic intervention to prevent relapse, compassion fatigue, and secondary trauma among peers working on the frontline of the overdose epidemic aiding those with Substance Use Disorders. 

Photo by Stefy Hilmer

The drama therapy groups train CPRS in recurrence prevention and trauma self-monitoring to use in their professional roles and in their private recovery journey. Each session is created to fit the needs of the CPRS and is adapted to the current climate of COVID-19, a spike in overdose deaths, and other relevant mental health and substance use topics. The sessions run for two hours and include an embodied warm-up exercise, a discussion about a specific topic, a drama therapy experiential and a closing creative ritual. 

“The workshops give me a feeling of connection to others who do what I do. I feel this solidarity when serving those in the recovery community.”

— Anonymous Participant

This application builds on the successful “Peer Workshop” program piloted by Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts, Inc. and Ana Bess Moyer Bell in May of 2020, generously funded by the RI Department of Health. Based on program evaluation surveys, eighty-two percent of participants agreed that the group helped them to process their own trauma and avoid recurrence of mental health and Substance Use Disorder symptoms.

Why is this program so critical?

Across the behavioral health system, secondary traumatic stress (STS) and burnout are a major sources of sickness, absence, psychological injury claims, job turnover, and compromised quality of care. Secondary trauma is indirectly experiencing trauma by listening to someone explain their firsthand account of a traumatic event. There is also growing evidence that STS contributes to institutional stigma against people with Substance Use Disorders. Among peer recovery specialists, anecdotal reports from RI agencies suggest that STS contributes to a high rate of recurrences. Significantly, most CPRSs are in early recovery (two to five years) themselves, a window of time where recurrence rates are 50 percent. This vital workforce, which serves as the central pillar of the state’s overdose prevention plan, is a doubly vulnerable population. The need for more resources, especially related to STS, is urgent.