The concept of ‘distancing’ is a central concept in drama therapy (Landy, 1994 p. 111). According to Brecht, distancing is the separation of thought from emotion, the separation of the actor from the role. In a state of under-distance the subject is flooded by emotions whereas in a state of over-distance he or she is emotionally disconnected (Jenkyns, 1996 p.100). There is a distance between the emotional aspect of the experience and the analytical aspect, distance between the subject’s experience as experienced “then and there” and as remembered in the ”here and now”. Drama Therapy wishes to create an esthetic balance (Jenkyns, 1996 p.100) that enables both feeling and thinking; simultaneously enables being close enough to the experience to feel it (experience-near) and distanced enough to understand it and make connections (experience-distanced).


The concept of “Esthetic Distance” is also called “Esthetic Balance” or ”Safe Distance”, and is a central term in drama therapy (Jenkyns, 1996 p. 13). Esthetic distance describes an emotionally adjusted place. It happens when the subject finds a middle place between the two extremes of ‘over-distance’ which represents too great a distance from the experience and ‘under-distance’ which represents too small a distance from the experience (Landy, 1994 p. 113).


In psychodrama, the protagonist who investigates his or her issues ‘here and now’ needs to be emotionally close enough to the issues of ‘then and there’ so as to work effectively. But if he or she is too close, there is a risk she will experience re-traumatization with the psychological harm that goes with it (Jennings, 1996 p.8). In playback theatre, esthetic distance is created by means of an actor who plays the storyteller, enabling her to observe herself as through a mirror (Adderley, 2004 p.7). But when the teller is an over-distanced person by nature, the distancing of an actor may leave her emotionally distanced and in an analytical place.



  • Adderley, D. (2004). Why do tellers tell? Essay written for the School of Playback Theatre. Leadership course. Retrieved on 20/9/11 from http://www.playbacktheatre.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Adderley_WHY%E2%80%A6.pdf
  • Cohen, O. (2011). PsychoPlayback: The Space Extended Between Playback Theatre and Psychodrama, on the Axle between a Theatrical Artistic Experience and Psychotherapy. (Lesley University).
  • Jenkyns, M. (1996). The play’s the thing, London: Routledge
  • Landy, R. (1994). Drama therapy: Concepts, theories, and practices (2nd Ed.). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

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