• Advice for Actors: Therapy

    In this month's advice column, film & TV industry Psychologist, Charlotte Armitage talks about the importance of therapy in actors' life and how understanding your emotions will help you develop your skills as a performer.

    9th Jul 2019By Charlotte Armitage

    Why Should Actors Consider Therapy?

    These days, with the overwhelming demands that are placed on all of us in society, undertaking regular therapy to help de-clutter and understand your thoughts, motivations and behaviours should be deemed as normal and carried out routinely. As actors, certain types of therapy can be incredibly helpful for your work. Psychotherapy can help individuals to understand themselves on a very deep level; it can help you to understand how you behave and why you have learnt to behave in certain ways. Therapy can help you understand what circumstances or situations evoke emotions in you and of course, this insight is incredibly useful for the work of an actor.

    The central tenet of acting is emotion. Good actors can easily access intense emotion to enable them to play the high-stakes scenes with conviction. In the casting room, for lead roles, actors will be tested to see how well they can move between emotions and how easily they can reach these emotions in the artificial audition situation. As all actors know, there is nothing more artificial than a film set with a whole crew staring at you, which means that having the ability to reach those intense emotions under pressure is imperative to your work. Relaxation exercises work incredibly well for helping to reach these emotions but understanding them in the first place makes the task much easier.

    For those actors who secure highly emotive roles that perhaps require multiple stage performances a day or long periods of filming as a certain character, this can take its toll emotionally. Many performers draw upon their own life experiences to enable them to reach intense emotion and re-living these intense emotions time and time again can be draining. It is easy to underestimate the power that your brain has over your body. If after filming or performing on stage, you find that you are having aches and pains, feeling unwell or struggling with other physical or psychological symptoms, this could be a result of the emotional demands of the role you are playing. Certainly once a performance/show/production has finished, it would be advisable to consider seeing a psychologist to help you to decompress mentally and to help you to deal with any memories or emotions that might have surfaced as a by-product of the part that you have played. Dealing with these emotions and putting them to rest is important for your mental health. We only have to look at certain high-profile actors who have played psychologically intense roles only to end up dying young from drug overdoses. Perhaps they were unable to deal with the emotions that they had accessed to enable them to play the part so well and consequently turned to drugs and alcohol to help them cope. It is quite possible, but we will never know. All we can say is that whenever you are working with difficult past experiences which still have the ability to evoke emotion in you now, then it is likely to have a psychological impact on some level so do the sensible thing and make sure that you are looking after your most important acting tool, your mind.

    Ultimately, therapy can be used at various points throughout your career. As an actor, your life experiences and your emotions form a significant chunk of your actors’ toolkit and therefore working on understanding yourself on an implicitly deep level is an important part of developing and maintaining your tools needed to act. In addition to this, using therapy to help you decompress after playing particularly challenging roles helps to ensure that you are doing your best to remain mentally healthy whilst working in this challenging career.

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