Meyer, Kirsten

“I didn’t know what the heck I was actually doing.”  Dramatherapy core processes and consequent shifts in awareness for child and youth care workers in Australia.

Kirsten Meyer

In a changing, complex world obsessed with needing to know, professional development programs that encourage not knowing are not commonplace. 

This paper will explore findings from doctoral research that examined a professional development experiential workshop program that uses arts-focused, active methods to understand how participants experience core dramatherapy processes and how arts methods influence youth care workers.

The study used a multiple case study design, which included practice-led inquiry and pre- and post-workshop interviews with two different groups of care workers. Data was analysed using theory-informed thematic analysis. The findings suggest that, through participation in the program, most participants reported new understandings of themselves, the young people they work with and their professional practice.

The analysis showed the importance of group processes and climate for enhanced learning. Further analysis revealed that participants’ experience of the three specific arts-focused, active methods were important in effecting reflection, thereby resulting in new insights such as recognising the importance of feeling validated and affirmed in their work, awareness of power dynamics between adult and child, and the importance of intentionally working in relationship with children.

Significantly, reported new self-understandings included recognising the need to acknowledge one’s feelings in work with children (both comfortable and uncomfortable) and recognising that despite anxious feelings, one can be open to emergent experience. Participants reported discovering problematic aspects of the need to know and offer solutions and acknowledged how difficult it is to not offer solutions and let go of the need for certainty.

The implications of the findings in relation to professional program development suggest that arts-focused, active methods can enhance the capacity to think and feel in the here and now, and that applied practice and theory of drama therapy can support understanding of how change, through core underlying processes, happens through arts practice.




Kirsten Meyer is a UK trained drama therapist with 20 years of experience spanning South Africa and Australia. She has worked in clinical, educational and community settings, with a particular interest in group work and the intertwining of the psychological, social and political dimensions of stasis and change. She co-founded the Zakheni Arts Therapy Foundation in South Africa, with the aim of working collaboratively across arts therapy modalities and with communities. She completed her PhD in 2017.


Recent Publications

Sonn, C., Smith, K. and Meyer, K. (2015) Chapter 15: Challenging Structural Violence Through Community Drama: Exploring Theatre as Transformative Praxis. In: Bretherton, D. & Law, S.F. (eds.), Methodologies in Peace Psychology, Peace Psychology Book Series 26, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-18395-4_15


Meyer, K. (2014), ‘Making fires: Rethinking the possibilities of creative arts therapy practice in South Africa’, Journal of Applied Arts & Health 5:

Meyer, K. (2009) Chapter 7: Dramatherapy with adolescents living with HIV: story making, drama and body mapping.  In: Jones, P., Drama as Therapy 2: Clinical work and research into practice, Routledge, London.

Conference Presentations

2018: CATRU seminar presentation Processes common across CAT modalities: findings from a systematic review. July.

2017: ANZATA/ACATA Conference: Convergences and Confluences: exploring the Creative Arts Therapies Research Unit.  December.