Conducting playback theatre with older adults—A therapist's perspective

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Playback Theatre (PT) is a form of improvisational theatre that centers on the personal story. Therapists conduct PT with older adults (PT-O) in a therapeutic setting. However, there are only a handful of studies to support its use. This report presents the experiences of therapists who conduct PT-O in a group therapeutic setting. Eight therapists were interviewed about their experience of conducting PT groups or the use of PT tools in a therapeutic setting with older adults. Data were gathered and analyzed using Grounded Theory to generate concepts and inter-related categories. The constructed theoretical PT-O model yielded four major categories that represent the four key aspects of the process and its healing effects: 1) PT brings personal stories to life, thereby generating therapeutic value from the testimonies and reconstruction of one's life story in old age; 2) Playing within the stories of others encourages playfulness, fun, flexibility and self-development along with a sense of relevance and essentiality for older adults; 3) The aging body joins the spirit, resulting in a sort of awakening, which becomes visible through the creative process; 4) A shared, group experience is created for the older participants. Based on the findings, we constructed a theoretical model that anchors the key concepts relating to the PT-O. These concepts portray guidelines for PT-O process. The model also illustrates PT-O's therapeutic value, although further research is necessary to more fully examine the efficacy of PT within the therapeutic setting in old age. Implications of these aspects to conducting PT-O are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-81
Number of pages10
JournalArts in Psychotherapy
StatePublished - Sep 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


  • Aging
  • Creativity
  • Drama therapy
  • Group psychotherapy
  • Older adults
  • Playback theatre

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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