Drama For Life makes history with its first black male drama therapists  

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


SLICE OF LIFE: Watch me dive into the talent pool


Palesa Radebe

Palesa Radebe

If you are like me, you are probably nervous about every new experience and change that occurs in your life. Having recently graduated, I’m about to start an internship and am anxious about what lies ahead.

[pullquote align=”right”]Change would always occur – with or without your participation. So if you aren’t enjoying some aspect of your situation, you should actively work to change it.[/pullquote]

I recently read an O magazine article which made a lot of sense. Basically, the point was that it didn’t matter whether you embraced change or ran in the opposite direction. Change would always occur – with or without your participation. So if you aren’t enjoying some aspect of your situation, you should actively work to change it.

It turns out, even if you make no changes to your lousy job or your painful relationship, all those things will eventually change anyway.

This new phase of my life has been a bit difficult to embrace. I constantly hear my friends and former classmates talk about how interns are hated in the workplace and how their lack of experience makes them a liability.

I personally do not believe this to be true. You do have valuable skills and you need to remind yourself of that fact through the job hunting process. Companies spend large amounts on graduate recruitment and training programmes, not because they pity us, but because they need us! Yes, I said it.

The problem is that our attitudes hurt our chances of getting a job. To an employer, this lack of confidence comes over as a lack of initiative, a lack of drive. To them it’s unprofessional – a sign that you’re not competent. An indication that they’re going to have to walk you through every little stage and task. They will, but you don’t have to remind them of this. Fake it till you make it.

[pullquote]We need to learn how to appreciate the skills we possess and sell these as valuable assets.[/pullquote]

After four years of frequent visits to the career counsellor, there is one thing I have learned. Spend time learning how to sell yourself. Learn how to make your skills seem essential. Be ready to always give the best answer to this recruitment question: Why are you the best person for the job?

We need to learn how to appreciate the skills we possess and sell these as valuable assets. You might not have the experience, but remember, you have spent three or four years at university. You have learned to write essays and reports, worked in teams, made presentations and, most of all, committed to tasks. Think positively, remember your strengths and approach it like this: “I’m good. I would be an asset to this company because …”

As I venture into a new phase of life, I can’t help but feel excited about this new growth experience.

I’ll walk into my new organisation with the confidence of knowing I can make a meaningful contribution and be open to learning.

IHRE invests in future of Witsies

THE International Human Rights Exchange (IHRE) programme at Wits’ is investing in the future of students by offering them employment opportunities through internships.

The programme offers an average of 50 local and international Wits students internships at prominent non-governmental and other organisations such as the SA Human Rights Commission, Civicus, Helen Suzman Foundation and Sonke Gender Justice.

The initiative by IHRE attempts to deal with the widespread problem of unemployment that South Africa faces by allowing students to work and gain experience in the areas of research and project management to make them more marketable by the time they graduate.

IHRE’s programme assistant and student liaison, Shingirai Taodzera, says the South African job market is “extremely competitive” and “expanding at a slow pace”, making it essential for students to have “networked and gained practical skills of the work environment to limit the hardships of finding a job after completing their degrees”.

 “Because social sciences is mostly non profitable in comparison to other fields such as engineering, networking is important to allow students to know where jobs could be, and if they have the experience of working, it makes it easier for them.

 “IHRE offers internships so that students can learn etiquette, teamwork, leadership and inter-personal skills in a more practical manner because this is vital in the kinds of work they will do when they leave university.”

International relations honours student, Veronica Benham, has been part of IHRE for three years and having done an internship at the South African Human Rights Commission, feels she has “climatised to the work environment”.

“I had good relations with people at the commission and they were willing to have me beyond the duration of the internship,” she said.

Blake Desormeaux is an international student from Wellesley College in Boston, US, who is interning at the Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA).

“Through the IHRE internship I hope to gain more insight as to how better I can help the gay and lesbian support group which I run back at my college,” she said.