Eliza Lyday didn’t expect a theater program to be therapeutic, but it ended up being exactly what she needed.
Lyday has been to traditional therapy sessions here and there, but being able to see her troubles on stage, as an outsider, she was able to navigate and open up to her friends about her mom going through cancer treatment.
“It’s nice to be able to talk through it and have a fresh set of eyes on a problem you’ve been dealing with for a while,” Lyday said.
Platform Theatre Company is an applied theater company for teens where they create their own play and perform it utilizing psychodrama techniques.
“It was relieving,” Lyday said. “It made me realize we all have something going on and share similar experiences.”
It’s a way for the individual to decompress, even without of the use of psychodrama techniques, co-owner Jessica Burzlaff said.
“A lot of people don’t meet the requirements for disorders; they just need an outlet,” Burzlaff said.
Desiree Giffard, a licensed family and marriage therapist and psychology professor at CSUB said that many people feel intimidated by therapy, but support groups can appear more approachable and normalize the trials one might be facing.
“Like how you would see your medical doctor for something small like the common cold, you could see a mental health professional for small life changes,” Giffard said.
“Big changes can mean uncertainty, even happy things like having a baby,” Giffard said.
Or devastating situations, like a break up, can use a healthy outlet. Burzlaff said one student based their scene off of a recent break up. By directing their scene, it allowed them to cope and come to terms with it from an outside perspective, as other students played the couple.
“It’s about validating, normalizing and reframing the issue,” Burzlaff said. “Things I did for years, I got new insights when I was actually on my feet, in my own body.”
Burzlaff, a licensed family and marriage therapist, uses psychodrama techniques in her private practice to help couples empathize. But she’s also seen success in her sessions with her therapist using these techniques.
“Every person isn’t cut out for a certain therapy,” Burzlaff said.
Dale and Martha Rose offer a different outlook through their faith-based mental health support group, Fresh Hope, at Canyon Hills Assembly of God.
The Roses’ Fresh Hope group focuses on discussing and replacing problems with hope. While group members may dominate a discussion one week, others will chime in with how they’ve coped using faith in their experience with the problem.
“The fact that others have experienced it, it makes so much of a difference when you’re interacting with those who have gone through the same things as you,” Dale said.
Fresh Hope is based off of a book by the same name that has exercises designed to help the group reflect, coping mechanisms inspired by hope and faith, and ultimately give a platform for them to talk.
“You can live a full, rich life despite your mental health,” Martha said. “By being a spiritual person, we have hope.”
The discussions aren’t bound to the book.
“People have come in so broken sometimes we’ve stopped teaching and gather around them and give them some prayer,” Dale said.
The Roses don’t condone the narrative that mental illness is because someone’s faith isn’t strong enough.
“Your brain is an organ, and just like any other organ, our brain can get out of balance,” Martha said.
The Roses don’t turn anyone away from their support group, even those who haven’t disclosed their affiliation to faith.
“A lot of the times they don’t have anyone else to talk to,” Martha said.
Getting help doesn’t have to be the Freudian character sitting silently behind you, psychoanalyzing you as you stare blankly at a ceiling lying down on a chaise lounge. It doesn’t even have to be therapy at first; maybe it’s a support group. Guidance can be disguised as a discussion or something more avant-garde, like acting out your current ordeals.
“We have to take care of ourselves and we have to take care of our community,” Giffard said. ￼