The South African Association of Dramatherapists (SAAD) is a professional association that oversees and supports Dramatherapists and their practice in South Africa. It was established in 2003 to provide professional membership and a networking community for Dramatherapists practicing in South Africa, to establish and uphold high standards of professional competence and ethics among Dramatherapists and to promote the profession of Dramatherapy through information and advocacy.
Dramatherapy is a fast growing and dynamic profession in South Africa. The use of the arts in therapeutic settings is steadily growing. The latest brain research findings and the field of neuroscience is confirming what the arts therapists have believed all along: that the highly sensorial and experiential methods used by the arts therapies can be more effective than the use of words alone.
Given the history of Apartheid in South Africa and the current status of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, one of our biggest national social needs is for support during and healing from trauma. The arts therapies have consistently proven to be effective in working with trauma both within the individual and the group context because of the way in which internal material can surface in a non-intrusive way.
There are currently 15 registered dramatherapists in South Africa working in many diverse contexts. These include schools, psychiatric centres/clinics, prisons, groups for adults and children affected by HIV/AIDS and the psychosocial support and wellbeing of care workers. There are two Playback theatre companies performing in Johannesburg and Cape Town, where dramatherapists are involved in bringing this therapeutic form of theatre to many communities.
The theory and practice of Dramatherapy is introduced within the applied arts curriculum at Wits University and introductory courses have also been offered at the University of Stellenbosch in the past. Dramatherapists are involved in educating University departments and the general public to aid preparation for the introduction of an MA in Dramatherapy in the near future.
Two documentaries have been made about the practice of Dramatherapy in South Africa and last year saw the first international Dramatherapy conference held in Johannesburg. Furthermore, foreign students from Europe are currently doing their Dramatherapy internships at schools and community centres in Cape Town and Johannesburg and are being supervised by qualified arts therapists. The demand to come to South Africa for this purpose is growing.