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  • Coco Zhu

Mindfull X Shield: an Introduction to Psychotherapeutic Playback Theatre



Last summer, I had the opportunity to participate in a playback theatre event. During the activity, the five actors invited us – the audience – to share a story or an emotion of different types; they then improvised a short theater clip based on the story being shared. During the process, I see my emotion being visualized, and, with the process of theatre art, being interpreted by others and by myself more easily. Playback Theater opened a new door for me when trying to understand myself –  it helped me to create a connection with my own mind.


An Introduction: What is Playback Theatre?

In the realm of psychotherapy, various innovative approaches continue to emerge, offering unique avenues for self-expression, exploration, and healing. One such intriguing and impactful technique is Playback Theatre. Rooted in the transformative power of storytelling, Playback Theatre combines theatrical improvisation with therapeutic principles to create a safe and cathartic space for individuals to share and reflect on their personal narratives.


Playback Theatre is a collaborative and interactive form of performance art. Originating in the 1970s, this therapeutic approach involves a group of actors, known as "Playbackers," who engage with an audience's stories in real time. Participants are invited to share moments from their lives, memories, or experiences, and the actors then reenact these narratives on the spot. Through movement, improvisation, and dialogue, they reflect the emotions, essence, and nuances of the shared stories.


Playback Theatre as a Type of Therapy

In a psychotherapeutic context, Playback Theatre serves as a powerful tool for self-expression and exploration. As individuals share their stories and witness them being enacted by performers, a profound sense of validation, empathy, and understanding can emerge. The process of externalizing one's experiences and witnessing them being mirrored and honored through artistic expression can facilitate emotional release, introspection, and connection.


Benefits of Playback Theatre in Psychotherapy

  • Emotional Release: Sharing personal narratives in a safe and supportive environment can lead to emotional catharsis, allowing individuals to express suppressed feelings and experiences.

  • Empathy and Connection: Witnessing stories being respectfully reenacted can foster a deep sense of empathy, understanding, and connection among participants.

  • Self-Reflection: Seeing one's story reflected through artistic interpretation often prompts self-reflection, providing new insights and perspectives on personal experiences.

  • Validation and Empowerment: The validation of one's experiences and emotions can empower individuals, fostering a sense of acknowledgment and affirmation.


Similar to other art therapy forms, Playback Theatre is the art of storytelling. It is a unique blend of collaboration, interpretation, creativity, and reflection. It offers individuals a platform to share, explore, and heal through the power of their narratives. As we continue to explore innovative ways to support mental health and well-being, Playback Theatre remains a compelling technique that celebrates the human experience through the art of storytelling.



Writer: Coco Zhu


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