The Hero’s Journey: A 10 week dramatherapy course for gay, bisexual and queer men in recovery from addiction.

This project, launched in January 2018, is run in North London and is facilitated by Simon Marks. Below is a short introduction from Simon describing the project and its core aims.

Hello…I am a dramatherapist and chemsex counsellor at the UK’s only LGBTQ+ drug and alcohol service, Antidote @ London Friend. Thanks to funding from Create Recovery, I am thrilled to be launching the UK’s first Dramatherapy group for men recovering from chemsex addiction in London, as part of the aftercare treatment for our non-residential rehab programme, SWAP (Structured Weekend Antidote Programme).

Chemsex refers to the phenomenon that exists within a significant subculture of mainly gay, bisexual and MSM (men who have sex with men), who use the drugs Crystal Meth, Mephedrone and GHB/G (an industrial solvent) to help facilitate and enhance sexual experience. In 2017, the Government’s Drug Strategy paper reported a chemsex related death occurring in London every 12 days, referring to chemsex as a ‘healthcare priority’.

Dramatherapy is a registered form of psychotherapy and is widely practiced in the addiction and recovery fields. It draws on the creative arts – powerfully fusing them with the therapeutic process. With a Jungian approach, the focus is on the body – as well as the mind, enabling the client to work at a deeper level than in cognitive therapy alone. Using metaphor, stories, archetypes, myth, play, and movement to connect to the unconscious, powerful insights into aspects of the psyche can be safely explored at a distance. Here in this liminal space of creative possibility and potential, clients have space to reflect, process, change and heal their wounds.

This group is aimed at men who are working to maintain and build on their early recovery from chemsex. It will focus mainly on relapse prevention, using aspects of Joseph Campbell’s infamous Hero’s Journey structure, a motif seen again and again in classic fiction and much-loved story narratives such as Star Wars, Harry Potter and The Wizard of Oz.

Using the journey of recovery itself as a metaphor, through storytelling, developed character and mask work, embodiment and movement, participants will meet with different archetypes and shadow aspects of themselves. Their ‘Hero’ will be called upon to help nurture and develop their own sense of recovery – and to help develop their self-esteem and strength. And the ‘Saboteur’ – who they will need awareness of, to guard against potential relapse, will be met as the demon of self-doubt and toxic shame. Working in this way, the process allows participants to connect to both qualities within themselves to prepare for integration and healing of the whole self.

Furthermore, the contained group therapy process itself aims to offer participants the chance of authentic connection with each other. In my experience of pioneering dramatherapy groups for gay men, this process allows intimacy to develop and flourish, nurturing a more secure attachment to support their healing and journey moving forward.

As a piloted programme, this 10-week group, beginning in January 2018, is currently open to those who have successfully completed the SWAP programme at Antidote, or completed a course of therapeutic chemsex support with one of our partners Club Drug Clinic. We are equally excited to run the group at Clean Break, the ground-breaking women’s theatre company in North London.

Best wishes,