The Performing Art of Therapy : Acting Insights and Techniques for Clinicians book cover
1st Edition

The Performing Art of Therapy
Acting Insights and Techniques for Clinicians

ISBN 9781315175683
Published January 25, 2019 by Routledge
224 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations

FREE Standard Shipping

What are VitalSource eBooks?

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

The Performing Art of Therapy explores the myriad ways in which acting techniques can enhance the craft of psychotherapy. The book shows how, by understanding therapy as a performing art, clinicians can supplement their theoretical approach with techniques that fine-tune the ways their bodies, voices, and imaginations engage with and influence their clients. Broken up into accessible chapters focused on specific attributes of performance, and including an appendix of step-by-step exercises for practitioners, this is an essential guidebook for therapists looking to integrate their theoretical training into who they are as individuals, find joy in their work, expand their empathy, increase self-care, and inspire clients to perform their own lives.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements. Prologue Act I. Prepare 1. Listen 2. Know What You Look Like (And Use Your Subtext) 3. Know What You Sound Like (And Face Your Inner Critic) 4. Be Present 5. Breathe 6. Embody 7. Speak 8. Warm Up Act II. Rehearse 9. Frame 10. Play 11. Find the Characters 12. Love Act III. Perform 13. Narrate 14. Direct 15. Publicize 16. Present 17. Take a Bow 18. Audition. Epilogue. Exercises. Drawings. Notes. Bibliography. Index.

View More



Mark O’Connell, LCSW-R, MFA, is a New York City-based psychotherapist in private practice, an author, and an actor. He is the author of Modern Brides & Modern Grooms: A Guide to Planning Straight, Gay, and Other Nontraditional Twenty-First-Century Weddings. For more information, see


"The Performing Art of Therapy is a significant contribution to the field of counseling and psychotherapy. Mark O’Connell has given us a smart, practical, and deeply personal book that will be useful to therapists of all orientations. So much of psychotherapy is taught by text, in a removed, scientific, objective style. O'Connell presents therapy as a creative art, emphasizing performance and the experiential dimension of the encounter. This is not a list of techniques but rather a journey into the use of oneself as the essential instrument of therapeutic engagement."Lewis Aron, PhD, director of the New York University postdoctoral program in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis and author of Dramatic Dialogues: Contemporary Clinical Practice

"Mark O’Connell writes to enliven therapists’ use of their selves as creative artists. He situates himself at the intersection of acting and psychotherapy, from which he offers practical exercises that focus on mind, body, emotion and breath; he does so not in the manner of a how-to guide, but in keeping with a therapist’s reach for the freedom of potential and the luxury of being. Sweetening the read, O’Connell serves up wonderful anecdotes from well-known actors who help bring to life his valuable psychotherapeutic suggestions."—Ken Corbett, PhD, assistant professor in the New York University postdoctoral program in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis

"The Performing Art of Therapy brilliantly explores the nuances of therapist and patient on the therapeutic stage. O’Connell’s creative, useful and inspiring work offers us new ways of thinking about our clients as well as our own aliveness, engagement, and self-care."—Galit Atlas, PhD, author of The Enigma of Desire: Sex, Longing, and Belonging in Psychoanalysis and Dramatic Dialogues: Contemporary Clinical Practice

"This revelatory book proposes that the elements of observation, empathy, and truthful self-examination so essential to the art of acting are also fundamental to the practice of therapy. In clear, readable, almost conversational prose that is remarkably free of scientific jargon, Mark O’Connell shares insights learned through years of training and practice that are equally applicable to artists and mental health professionals. Any student actor could open a page of this delightful, thought-provoking book and find a nugget of wisdom or practical advice, and any seasoned professional could find, analyzed with simple clarity, the lessons of a lifetime of experience and training. This book, written in a voice that is at once wise and wise-cracking, serious and ironically self-effacing, is a great gift to the field of therapy."—Brian McEleney, MFA, director of the Brown University/Trinity Rep MFA program in acting

"Drama is often dismissed as a means of exaggerating a point, as in making something 'dramatic'! By contrast, I see drama as essential to our theories and practice. It is the 'flesh and blood' on the epistemological 'bones' of every theory of contemporary psychoanalysis, making it essential to relational meta-psychology. Properly trained in dramatic techniques, clinicians become more alive, authentic, and effective in how they perform their interventions. In this vein, The Performing Art of Therapy is the best book I have read proffering both exercises and techniques for helping clinicians better 'use themselves' therapeutically. This is critical, since as O'Connell argues, psychotherapists are inescapably performers of their art. Further, that of much greater significance than our theory-driven interventions is how our clients experience us performing them. This book is a drama training manual for therapy par excellence, breaking down every dramatic element of treatment in both highly meaningful and useful ways. As a sincere, serious, fun, and deeply engaging text, it is a must read for clinicians of all levels."Philip Ringstrom, PhD, PsyD, author of A Relational Psychoanalytic Approach to Couples Psychotherapy