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Monday, February 6, 2012

Acting Therapy: Bring Joy to Kids with Cancer

I've got a treat for you today. Allison Brooks, a recent biomedical anthropology graduate and self-proclaimed avid health nut wrote a compelling guest post for my readers today on a new kind of therapy....or at least it was new to me.

Show Allison some comment love after reading about some of remarkable things acting does for emotional health. I'm sure that one of you, if not more, will find a way to work this kind of information into your stories.

Without further ado, here's Allison:

When a child gets the diagnosis of cancer, it's the beginning of a new, and often frightening, emotional experience. Kids undergoing cancer treatment--and their families--begin to experience an entirely new range of emotions. Anxiety, fear, worry, and anger are just some of the new feelings kids find themselves having, and it's important for them to have a positive way to release these emotions.

Kids Acting Against Cancer (KAAC) is one such organization that provides this positive opportunity for children. KAAC helps kids undergoing cancer treatment find a creative outlet for their emotions. 

KAAC was founded by two sisters, Jaclyn and Whitten Montgomery, whose mother fought non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma more than nine years ago. The girls turned toward acting to deal with the emotions brought on by their mother's diagnosis, since this cancer is very aggressive and is normally diagnosed to have a low life-expectancy.

Along with other children affected by cancer, the sisters have put on a variety of productions for charity which have not only been successful in raising money, but also help provide kids and families undergoing cancer treatment with a creative outlet for their emotions.

KAAC isn't the first group to recognize how acting can be a therapeutic tool. The ancient Greeks recognized that "acting therapy" was helpful in healing emotional and physical sickness. KAAC continues in this tradition by providing a platform for kids to find emotional fulfillment during what is typically a very stressful time. The creative process of playmaking and performance gives these children an emotional outlet through which they can release their fears and worry. Kids might not always feel like "talking it out" with an adult, and performing in a play and taking on a creative role can be the ideal way for them to positively express and release their emotions.

Acting not only helps improve the moods and attitudes of kids undergoing cancer treatment, but it helps the families and audiences who are entertained by their plays. KAAC travels from hospital to hospital, entertaining cancer patients and inviting them to participate. The theatrical performances bring joy not only to the performers--the kids undergoing treatment--but to their families as well, who are indirectly but still profoundly affected by the cancer treatment. 

KAAC has been a successful model of how bringing the theater experience to children can provide a stimulating way for kids and their families to stay active and emotionally positive during their cancer treatment.  It is like the saying goes, “A laugh a day, will keep the doctor away.”

Thanks for the guest post, Allison. If you want to connect with Allison, you can find her on Facebook. You can also "like" KAAC on Facebook as well and show your support for these amazing kids.

Let's Analyze: Had you ever heard of "acting therapy?" In what ways has participating in acting (either as an actor or an audience member) helped you express yourself?