So, what exactly is it?


The Total Drama Technique is a totally new complementary therapy currently being trialled in care homes across South Wales.  It is a programme of drama-based activities that have been carefully devised to help people with dementia who live in the care system.  


Organised into 45-minute blocks, the technique session takes place as part of the weekly series of activities that many care homes provide.  Our informal workshop sessions are open to any residents in care (including those who do not suffer from dementia who may also live in the home) and we allow them to come and go as they please throughout the session.  We guide the participants through a series of fun and easy, age-appropriate games, puzzles and movements - all done from the comfort of the armchair - and encourage them to socialise and interact with one another, to make independent choices and to express themselves through the medium of drama. 


Within the 45-minute session, we get through roughly 6 or 7 different exercises, all of which have been deliberately chosen to aid the brain, memory and cognitive function.  The aim of the programme is to help the brain rebuild and rewire lost communication pathways that have been damaged through the onset of dementia.




The Power of Music     


The entire Total Drama Technique programme is set to a musical soundtrack, composed and timed specifically to work with the drama activities, making it a ‘total’ mental activity.  The descriptive music fosters an atmosphere of calm and safety, creates a trusting relationship between the group leader and participants, and promotes concentration within the group dynamic.


Many people will be familiar with the use of music to promote holistic wellbeing, improve mental capacity, aid healing and enhance relaxation (e.g. the Mozart Effect, Music for Healing), but the Total Drama Technique is the first example of music being used alongside drama activities for an all-round approach to wellbeing.  The music is specifically composed  to be of a certain length and style so that participants get the maximum benefit from each of the Total Drama Technique exercises.                                                                      

The Technique


The Total Drama Technique uses a system of cognitive restructuring to improve the quality of life in people with dementia.  Preliminary trials showw that when the Technique is practiced regularly and consistently, there is a substantial increase in the ability of dementia patients to communicate and work as a team, and thus the potential exists for patients to be able to live alone longer, perform more tasks for themselves and consequently maintain their independence and dignity.  This is supported by studies such as:


1)    De la Cruz (1995), who reported significant improvements in social skills (children) after a 12 week creative-drama programme;

2)    Lepp et al. (2003), who showed an improvement in the fellowship, communication, emotive expression and self-confidence of dementia patients;


The Total Drama Technique works with the parts of the brain that are still functioning well, to encourage people with dementia to interact with other people, where they might otherwise never meet others within a social context.  While the Technique can be practiced at home, it is unique in that it encourages entire groups of people to communicate and socialise with one another, particularly groups that are house ‘in ward’ together and those that live together in a care home or other social setting. 


Much of the counter-productive and dysfunctional behavior of dementia patients is due to frustration caused by lack of physical coordination and memory problems, and the consequent inability to perform everyday tasks effectively and efficiently.  People who are already under stress find learning and cooperating more difficult because of increased adrenaline and corticosteroid levels produced in response to stressful situations (Smith, 1996).  Our programme music works by stimulating directly an area of the brain to produce a second set of chemicals that antagonise the first, suppressing stress levels and opening the group up to interaction and communication in a more productive manner.





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