What young child does not like to play dress-up or put on a play for parents or visitors? To have children act out a story from either a book they have read, a story that has been read to them, or a story they create around a particular topic helps those children identify with the character, discover the means to resolution, and attain the outcome. If you are communicating through stories in a group or classroom setting, there is a good opportunity to develop various characters and perhaps even put on a play in front of the parents or the rest of the group or class. If you are consulting on a one-on-one basis, it is still possible to act out a scenario by setting up a two-character dramatization of an outcome story. For example, a therapist working with a child who is being bullied may ask, "Who is the person who annoys you the most? Of the people you know, who is the one who can best handle that person's annoying behavior?" Here we are seeking a role model with whom the child may identify and, hopefully, from whom he or she may learn to replicate successful coping strategies. "What do you think he or she would do? Let's make up a little play about it. I'll pretend to be the annoying person. You can pretend to be the person who handles it well. Let's see where the story goes."
It may take some prompting or guidance along the way to help move the child from the problem toward the outcome, but ways to assist with this are elaborated further in Chapter 16. It is important when casting a child in a role that he or she becomes the problem solver or character who reaches the desired outcome. Sometimes it may be helpful for the child to assume (as in the current example) the role of the annoying or bullying person to perhaps understand that person's perspective a bit better. However, it is better to complete the story with movement toward, or attainment of, the desired outcome rather than just an understanding of the other perspective.
A second use of drama is to recommend that parents take children to live theater productions of plays that may be relevant to the therapeutic outcome, such as The Wizard of Oz or The Lion King. This means the therapist needs to be aware of what is happening in his or her community at the time and to recommend those productions that may be beneficial or therapeutic. Such stories can then be discussed at subsequent therapy sessions in much the same way that a storybook might be discussed.
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