The desire to create a professional British Association for Dramatherapists (BADth) emerged in the 1970’s. By then countless professionals in mental health, special education and social care were using creative methods, especially drama, to help troubled children and adults to resolve significant personal and social difficulties. Requests for training, research and professional development in this field abounded. BADth was established in 1977. Key-founders included John Evans, Peter Hawkins, Sue Jennings, Dorothy Langley, David Powley, Roy Shuttleworth and Gordon Wiseman. From then on previously unregulated dramatherapy-practitioners could register as dramatherapists.
Like other professional bodies BADth had three primary tasks:
- to safeguard the interest of pupils, clients or patients who participated in dramatherapy
- to uphold the interests of dramatherapy-practitioners
- to generate professional standards for the practice of dramatherapy as well as training, research and continuing professional development in the field
In 1982 Alida Gersie joined BADth’s original founders. Several years later she was joined by Phil Jones and Ditty Dokter. Together with Sue Jennings, Sarah Scoble, Ann Cattanach, Roger Grainger, Anna Seymour, Steve Mitchell and Madeline Andersen-Warren they set-up conferences, strenghtened the content of BADth’s quarterly Journal, wrote books about dramatherapy and storymaking, and enhanced the postgraduate training programmes that attracted students from wide and far. Over time the ever-growing membership of BADth enthusiastically documented their practice and established strong links with a wide variety of professional bodies and organisations. During the 1980’s graduates from the Sesame trainings in drama and movement in therapy, set up by Marian “Billy’ Lindkvist in the 1970’s, joined BADth in increasing numbers.
Over the years this steady growth in membership enabled BADth to expand and solidify the three tasks outlined above. It established strong sub-committees in specific areas of employment, such as education, forensics and health, and also in key-areas of professional concern, such as supervision, equal opportunity and diversity. Following intense discussion, the membership added a requirement for individual and group therapy during training to the training-programmes. They also decided to regularise expectations regarding the ongoing supervision of dramatherapy practice. These developments supported the decision by the Health and Care Professions Council (formerly the CPSM) to request the granting of powers, mandated by Parliament, to regulate the profession of Arts Therapists (which includes art, drama and music). The professional title: Dramatherapist became protected.
Since their inception in the 1970’s Dramatherapy training programmes in the UK have grown from weekend workshops and short courses in Colleges for Further Education to Masters Degrees in several universities. Now strong links exist between BADth and other professional bodies in the arts therapies (such as BAAT and APMT/BSMT). The voice of BADth is respected and heard on issues that matter to dramatherapists and their patients/clients. Representatives from BADth precisely articulate to employers and other interested parties how dramatherapy intersects with public interests. BADth still publishes an esteemed ‘peer reviewed’ journal and acts as a learned society for the discipline. Its history demonstrates that the founders’ dream of creating an organisation for people with an interest in Dramatherapy was realised, but thanks to the steady work of many members much more than that was achieved. The professional title dramatherapist is nowadays widely known and respected, while BADth is still a growing and flourishing organisation.