Butler, Jason

To Become a mad knight-errant

Jason D. Butler

As therapists, it is often our task to battle truth and the perception of truth.  Within their world experiences, clients create narratives that lock them solidly into harmful repetitions.  Often traditional ideas of ‘self’ and ‘true self’ actually limit clients to maladaptive patterns of behaviour and rigid perceptions of identity.  Into this perception of ‘truth’ within creative arts therapy, it is our task to introduce creativity, possibility, multiplicity: madness.  Don Quixote says, “Too much sanity may be madness - and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”  

To Quixote, it seemed life required "that he should become a knight-errant.” Similarly, in our challenge of truth, it becomes our task to transform windmills into giants, to take our clients’ perceptions of “life as it is” and inject them with possibility.  In so doing, we become the dreamers of giants, the errant-knights whose enemy is unwavering truth and whose mission is to help our clients dream the possible - and impossible - dreams. 

This paper will expand on the calling of the mad knight-errant.  It will examine the role of play and metaphor for doing battle with our clients’ windmills - releasing the giants and challenging long-held truths.  The paper will also examine the parallel process of teaching future creative arts therapists to release their own hold and dependence on ‘truth’ in the service of future clients.

“It is one thing to write as poet and another to write as a historian: the poet can recount or sing about things not as they were, but as they should have been, and the historian must write about them not as they should have been, but as they were.” 

(Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote)



Jason D. Butler, PhD, RDT-BCT is an Associate Professor in Expressive Therapies and coordinator of the drama therapy program at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and currently serves as the Assistant Editor for the Arts in Psychotherapy.  Previous to Lesley, he was a professor in the Creative Arts Therapies Department at Concordia University.  Prior to teaching he was the director of a day program for individuals experiencing homelessness and mental illness in New York City and on faculty at New York University.  He is a former President of the North American Drama Therapy Association (NADTA).  He has published on role theory, developmental transformations and experiential learning methods.  Current research centers on drama therapy pedagogy and the use of personal affective material in experiential learning.


Recent Publications

Butler, J.D. (2017). Re-examining Landy’s four-part model of drama therapy education. Drama Therapy Review, 3(1), 75–87. http://doi.org/10.1386/dtr.3.1.75

Butler, J.D. (2017). The complex intersection of education and therapy in the drama therapy classroom. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 53(2017), 28–35.


Recent Presentations

2018: Drama therapy with homelessness and mental illness (Keynote address), First International Drama Therapy and Education Summit, Beijing, China, June 9.

2018: Butler, J.D., Legari, S., Sevcikova, Z. Once upon a training playspace (workshop). Third International Developmental Transformations Conference.  Prague, Czech Republic.  June 23.

2018: The many and varied stories of us. Compassion Summit, Amman, Jordan. March 22-24.