Refugee Statistics
How Drama Therapy Works
A Client's Story
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This year, in dedication to the amazing clients we work with at each partner agency, CANY will feature a different population group as the theme for each E-news.  We hope you will enjoy!

Which CANY population group would you like to see featured in our next E-news?
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The CANY Spirit of Renewal
As we usher in the New Year, it's inevitable that we reflect on times past, and project our thoughts to the opportunities of 2013. 


At CANY, our work involves a constant process of reflection and projection; as group participants confront past historical narratives and look forward to the possibilities of the future-- toward lives rebuilt and self-confidence renewed.


One CANY group in particular exemplifies this spirit of renewal; our program with refugees at the International Rescue Committee (IRC).  These individuals face an enormous task; after experiencing traumatic events in their home country and the upheaval of their whole lives, they must adjust to a new life in a strange country.  


These individuals demonstrate incredible bravery and resolve.  


Shared below is more information on the trauma experienced by refugees, as well as ways drama therapy can help with resettlement, and stories of triumph that CANY has observed, firsthand. 
From a CANY Group at the International Rescue Committee (IRC)
Each CANY drama therapy group begins with a 'check-in' to assess the needs for the group on that day and to discover themes that can be developed for dramatic exploration.  Below is an example of this from an IRC men's group, (as told by CANY staff member, Dusty Evans):

Recently, we had two brothers from Bhutan. The older brother was vocal and expressive. The younger, shy and a little withdrawn.


As we checked in with the group, themes of the problems in Bhutan-- political issues, poverty, arbitrary arrests-- emerged, leading to the theme of not feeling safe and the challenges of adjusting to the new world of New York City.


The emotional atmosphere in the room was serious and subdued.


To explore these themes, the group leaders asked if there was anything from their homeland that they would like to bring back to the United States to help them adapt. The two brothers both said, "the festivals."


As they began explaining the festivals; agreeing on the one they would most like to see brought over here, the whole mood changed.


Taking the initiative to lead the group, the brothers got up to teach us the responses to one of the festival songs and the dance that goes with it. As they began to enact the joy of the festival dance, the withdrawn younger brother became animated; smiling and singing and dancing with his brother and the whole group.


The creation of this fictional festival brought the group to a different place, helping them regain a connection to their potential for resiliency.


So, there we were; strangers searching for some common ground at 1:30 p.m.-- singing and dancing together at 2:15. 
International Refugee Statistics

  • 4.3 million people were newly displaced in 2011
    • 800,000 were forced to flee, becoming refugees; the highest number in over a decade [1]   
  • NY State receives the 2nd highest number of refugees in the U.S., after CA [2]
  • In any given refugee population rates of PTSD range from 4% to as high as 86% [3]   
In a Dutch survey of refugees presenting to a specialized clinic:
       - 37% reported being tortured
       - 37% reported being close to death 
       - 35% stated that a friend or family member had been killed [4] 
An evaluative study of a school drama therapy program with refugee adolescents, found that participants were less impaired by the emotional symptoms of their past trauma versus the control group after only 9-weeks of sessions. [5]
How Drama Therapy Works
For refugee groups in America,  
drama therapy can be a particularly effective means of facilitating integration and social adjustment.

In CANY's weekly sessions with refugees at the IRC, drama therapy groups allow participants to create a metaphoric community where past traumatic experiences can be worked through from a safe distance, with trauma narratives emerging organically.  Through embodied, creative therapy, CANY's work cuts through language barriers and allows for a more culturally-sensitive approach than traditional interventions.

At IRC, CANY aims to:
  • Give members a safe place to talk about their concerns and share stories using metaphor to reduce the risk of re-traumatization
  • Assist in socio-cultural adjustment by allowing clients to take on new roles in a safe environment 
  • Increase members' feelings of empowerment and mastery  
  • Diminish symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression   
Delivering strength-based drama therapy groups, CANY allows clients to identify and develop a sense of hope for the future.  Through the creative process individuals re-connect with their ability to imagine, allowing for the expression of experience in nonverbal and symbolic forms, tapping into the client's capacity for resilience and growth.
"In meeting a refugee in need of support, it's important to shift the focus from suffering to resilience. We need to be aware that the refugees themselves have resources - to listen to them and allow for these resources to come into play." - Gwynyth Øverland, Senior Advisor at RVTS Sør - Regional Trauma Centre in Southern Norway [6] 
In Her Own Words

"Hello. My name is Tia* and I was born in Burma. Because of the situation there I had to go to a refugee camp. I was there a long time before I arrived in New York. I felt happy to come here, but equally worried. I knew I needed to start my life again from the bottom. I needed to learn everything.


How would I start?


When I came to the IRC... I got [into] the CANY women's group. The leader chose two people to be in a scene and they could only say 'Yes' and 'No.' We got to make our own opinion about what was happening and it became a wonderful story. It was unbelievable how we could be so creative and learn about ourselves and each other in this story.


I like attending the CANY group because even though it sometimes feels like we don't have too much intelligence in this country, this group makes me smile. This group gives me confidence to be here.


Sometimes I think, "How will I survive at being in America?" After I attended the group I said to myself, "Why should I worry about so many things, because I can always make a wonderful story - in the group and in my life."    


(*Name has been changed)

Want to hear more inspiring stories? Check out our video on YouTube logoYouTube from the 2012 CANY Benefit, featuring a speech by one of our amazing refugee clients.  
Brand New Full-day Training!

This experiential workshop will explore trauma
through a drama therapy lens, providing tools for clinical
and educational use with children and adults.

 Learn More & Register Today!

Or, call CANY at 212.222.1969 and speak to our trainers,
Heidi Landis,
RDT-BCT, LCAT and Meredith Dean, RDT, LCAT, CASAC-T.


[1] UNHRC (18 June 2012) The Global Trends Report 2011.  

[2] US Department of Health & Human Services (18 July 2012) Fiscal Year 2011 Refugee Arrivals.    

[3] Hollifield, M., et al  (2002). Measuring trauma and health status in refugees: A critical review. Journal of the American Medical Association.  

[4] Kleijn, W.C., Hovens, J.E., & Rodenburg, J.J. (2001). Posttraumatic stress symptoms in refugees: Assessments with the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire and the Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25 in different languages.   

[5] Rousseau C, et al. (2007) Classroom drama therapy program for immigrant and refugee adolescents: a pilot study. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Jul;12(3):451-65.

[6] Foss, Arild (22 November 2012), "Focus on refugee resilience, not trauma" Science Nordic.