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Taking to the Stage to Battle Mental Illness
Date:7/22/2010

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 22 (HealthDay News) -- In small theater spaces across the United States, people fighting psychiatric illness are learning that acting can be a powerful form of therapy, while the shows they put on help educate audiences through deeply personal accounts of mental health issues.

"Theater arts can really give patients a very valuable additional opportunity to piece their lives back together," said David A. Faigin, department of psychology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio. He believes the approach works by "focusing on the same things that standard interventions focus on: community reintegration and social reintegration."

Faigin, along with Bowling Green professor of clinical psychology Catherine Stein, co-authored a review of theater as mental health therapy in a recent issue of of Psychiatric Services.

More and more, mental health professionals are viewing the arts -- visual arts, dance, writing -- as key tools in patients' recovery, and theater is no exception.

Faigin has tracked the efficacy of the technique through the Stars of Light group, a community theater linked to the Janet Wattles Center, a mental health agency serving adults in the Rockford, Ill. area.

Stars of Light has had a 15-year partnership with the Wattles Center, putting on productions using amateur actors diagnosed with a wide range of mental health problems. Faigin described the effort as "an exciting exemplar of a grass-roots, community-based theater setting devoted to involving and helping people with psychiatric disabilities."

He estimates there are about 20 similar groups scattered across the country in places like Chicago, Memphis and Connecticut. In these programs, artistic directors work with mental health staff to help bring structure to an environment where patients are free to generate the artistic content necessary to stage theatrical produ
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