June 1, 2016

UIndy Program Uses Theater As Therapy

Actors rehearse the play Altered as part of therapy.

Actors rehearse the play Altered as part of therapy.

INDIANAPOLIS -- A unique intervention and recovery program at the University of Indianapolis is treating addiction with theater.

Assistant Professor Sally Wasmuth researches addiction recovery at the School of Occupational Therapy. She has built an intervention and recovery program that uses dramatic performance.

"Some research suggests that chronic drug use really reinforces reward pathways in the brain and that doing things like executive tasks like memorization and anything that really involves a lot of attention can really reverse some of those pathways," explained Wasmuth.

Her program is part of a six-week therapy intervention program through the Fairbanks Alcohol and Drug Treatment Recovery Center. Through it, men and women recovering from addiction rehearse and perform a play for audiences at the university.  

The original piece entitled Altered was written by a local plawright and gives the classics a modern twist. 

Wasmuth also said the production process can counteract addiction factors like the drive for instant gratification and loss of self-esteem.

She explained that the production process also provides a unique therapy structure.

"It takes the power dynamic out of therapy or treatment so that there’s not one person with the answers…It’s a group of people coming together to talk and share and try to recover," Wasmuth said.

Participant Leslie Butler said the production comes at a great time for her because she's had a lot of free time open up recently.

"A part of recovery for me is having purpose and structure throughout my daily life to keep me busy and keep me engaged," Butler said. 

The program is now producing its second play. The first was with a group of military veterans battling addiction. 


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