Home Mind & Brain Drama Therapy and Speech-Language Therapy Boost Aphasia Recovery, Reveals New Study

Drama Therapy and Speech-Language Therapy Boost Aphasia Recovery, Reveals New Study

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The CoActive Therapeutic Theatre (CoATT) model is proving to be a transformative approach in aphasia rehabilitation, combining drama therapy and speech-language therapy to enhance communication skills and social connections for persons with aphasia (PWA). A recent two-year pilot study conducted by researchers from Molloy University and Lesley University has demonstrated significant benefits for both PWA and their communities, highlighting the potential of interprofessional therapeutic interventions. The findings were published in the International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders.

Aphasia, typically resulting from stroke, leads to impairments in language and communication. Traditional rehabilitation models have focused predominantly on these deficits. However, the Life Participation Approach to Aphasia (LPAA) emphasises holistic recovery, aiming to improve overall life participation by addressing communicative environments, personal identity, and social engagement. The CoATT model aligns with LPAA by incorporating drama therapy, which uses theatre processes to facilitate behavioural, emotional, and psychological changes.

The CoATT model is unique in its manualised approach, designed to engage participants in creating and performing a play that revolves around a theme of recovery. This process not only aids in personal recovery but also aims to reconnect individuals with their communities. Over a 12-week period, participants work with drama therapists and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) to develop and rehearse their play, culminating in a public performance.

The pilot study, led by Hia Datta and Laura L. Wood, involved two primary investigations over two years. The first study focused on audience reactions to a therapeutic theatre performance by PWA, while the second explored the experiences of family and friends who witnessed the entire therapeutic process.

In the first study, 80 audience members, including friends, family, and professionals, participated in pre- and post-performance surveys. The results indicated a significant increase in the audience’s understanding of aphasia, with many reporting a deeper appreciation of the challenges faced by PWA. Audience members used words like “courage”, “empathy”, and “inspired” to describe their feelings after the performance, highlighting the emotional and educational impact of the CoATT model.

The second study involved nine participants who were close to the PWA. Through interviews, researchers found that family and friends observed substantial benefits for their loved ones. These benefits included increased confidence, improved communication skills, and enhanced social connections. Participants also noted that the CoATT process provided a unique healing opportunity, distinguishing it from traditional therapeutic methods.

The findings from the CoATT model pilot study underline the therapeutic and social benefits of integrating drama therapy with speech-language therapy for PWA. Participants in the CoATT programme reported feeling more supported and confident. They made new friends and felt better understood by their peers. The therapeutic theatre process allowed them to express themselves in novel ways, contributing to a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Moreover, the study highlighted the importance of interprofessional collaboration in aphasia rehabilitation. The combined efforts of drama therapists and SLPs created a holistic therapeutic environment, addressing both the communicative and emotional needs of PWA. This interdisciplinary approach not only improved the participants’ speech and language abilities but also fostered a sense of belonging and acceptance within the community.

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