Four aspiring black male drama therapists transform South Africa’s psychotherapy landscape

Wits University’s Drama For Life has welcomed its new cohort of 10 drama therapy interns for the year, 2022/2023 — four of which are the first black male registered drama therapists in South Africa.  

Drama therapy, is a form of psychotherapy. Therapists in this field are trained in theatre techniques like role-play, story-making and movement in order to help participants deal with processing trauma, promote personal growth, and achieve other therapeutic goals. The therapy’s focus is on personal narrative from a distanced perspective. It explores the source of why someone may be feeling a particular way, rather than on their symptoms. 

The four interns: Siya Skosana, Sibusiso Vonder Fihlani, Jermain Johnson, Lebogang Mokgatle say they regard being the first registered, black, male drama therapists as a huge responsibility. However, they also recognise factors that have excluded men to participate in this field. 

“It is a rarity to see a drama therapist even more so a male and black drama therapist,” says Skosana when he was asked by Wits Vuvuzela how he feels being among the first males in this field. Fihlani explained that while he was studying towards his masters of arts research, he observed that this field is filled with “female (s)”, particularly white females because it’s seen as offering caregiving, which is equated with the female gender.  

He added that having black males within this practice is much needed, “[as] seeing males in the positive light of caregivers, who are contributing meaningfully to society can influence [other men] to ‘give care’ rather than ‘taking care of a situation’,and can indeed shift the paradigm.”  

Mokgatle, added that their contribution could serve other males because, “due to cultural factors, some men find it easier to confide in male therapists in terms of relatability. It thus makes it important to train more black males in this profession in order to foster spaces that are more inclusive for all to access.” 

Meanwhile, Johnson says the lack of black males within this profession is “a matter of access and not enough advocacy.”   

The internship program is a 600-hours program which also includes clinical, community-based and psycho-educational site placements, and individual and group supervisions. After completing, the cohort will be fully qualified and registered drama therapists with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).  

Drama For Life, a department at Wits school of arts whose focus is on applied theatre and drama therapies is the only university programme in Africa that offers a recognised professional qualification in drama therapy with HPCSA accreditation.  

Warren Nebe, founder of Drama for Life, says that although the four have their own reasons for pursuing this field of work, however, they “will make a massive difference and will help change the constructs of therapy in South Africa”. He adds that they come at a moment of “great significance and of deep transformation”. 

FEATURED IMAGE:  Drama therapist’s are a rarity in general so to have the first HPCSA registered four black males is a great achievement for Drama For Life  Photo:  Drama For Life Facebook