Where are they now? Lara Poole, Mental Health Coordinator

What’s Dramatherapy? That’s the question that usually follows telling someone what my profession is. The answer is always a difficult one to put in a sentence; it’s also an answer that is unique to everyone. To me, Dramatherapy is a form of therapy which uses dramatic expression and activity in order for individuals to explore their lives. A Dramatherapist may use exercises such as role play, or use masks or puppets to help someone in this exploration.

I didn’t make the decision that I was going to be a Dramatherapist until very late on in my education – mainly because I hadn’t heard of it until then. I was led to the profession through always choosing the subjects that I enjoyed. When I left school I completed A Levels in Drama & Theatre Studies, Performance Studies and English Language.

I applied for a four year degree in Drama at the University of Kent. I chose the course because it focussed on all aspects of the theatre, not just performance but also what it takes to create a production such as analysing texts, plotting the lighting and sound, stage management and marketing. Sadly, I didn’t achieve the grades I needed to be accepted onto the four year degree, but after a conversation with the university on results day, they offered me a joint honours degree in Drama and Film Studies. I really enjoyed the film studies part of my degree and ended up declining the offer of transferring back on to my original course at the end of my first year.

During my first summer break from university I began working in a nursing home as a key worker for adults with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and neurological conditions. I instantly loved my job – the shifts were very long and started very early, so that took some time to get used to, but it felt wonderful to go to work and get to know so many different people.

As I approached the end of my degree I started thinking about what I could do next. This is when I found out about Dramatherapy. I found I could do a Master’s Degree in Dramatherapy near to my home town, which meant I could live with my Mum and Dad whilst I completed it. I applied straight away, but deferred for a year and worked full time at the nursing home in order to fund it. My master’s degree was a two year course which involved theoretical study, clinical work placements and group work. I worked part-time at the nursing home as well, so it’s safe to say I was very busy! After completing my master’s I had to then register with the Health & Care Professions Council so I could practise as a Dramatherapist.

Because Dramatherapy was, and still is quite obscure, full time work as a Dramatherapist is difficult to find. I remember feeling that I needed to grab every opportunity I was offered after I qualified, and that I wouldn’t necessarily find a job as a Dramatherapist, but I would be able to use my skills and professional registration to work in different areas.

This is when I found the role I work in now – which is a Mental Health Coordinator at a further education college. In my role I support learners experiencing difficulties with their mental health to achieve their goals at college. This involves coordinating support in the classroom, regular appointments with learners and assisting them to access external support, meaning I work collaboratively with CAMHS and adult mental health services. I also lead staff training on mental health awareness, and deliver tutorials on this subject to the learners. This role has helped me to build on my knowledge and experience of mental health, and I am also hoping to use my skills as a Dramatherapist by beginning to run some groups within college that learners can attend. I thoroughly enjoy the variety that my role brings, from one to one support to engaging learners in discussions about mental health care in Great Britain. I can honestly say that all the hard work feels worth it, and I love what I do!

Lara Poole, Mental Health Coordinator.