Safe Ground - Using drama to educate prisoners and young people at risk in the community



Safe Ground’s work is informed by a range of therapeutic and psychological theories and practices, guided by a set of principles that are common to all programmes’ design and delivery.

Aiding Desistance

Safe Ground believes that strong family relationships are a pillar of desistance and for many people in prison, they are the single most important factor in any process of development. For others, family is a source of conflict, distress and harm. Safe Ground works with people to establish boundaries, understand dynamics and develop communication skills that can protect, support and encourage personal and social development. Our impact demonstrates that through the careful structures of our programmes, participants shift and alter the perceptions they have of themselves and others (often negative or hurtful).

The arts elements of our programmes enable support the creation of new identities, encompassing multiple aspects of participants’ personalities, skills and abilities, so developing more rounded and holistic identities with which to face the world and cope with obstacles and frustrations. Building an identity that can withstand negativity is part of our hypothesis for change.

Aspects of arts practice which aid desistance include;

  • Critical thinking
  • Performance and receiving positive feedback
  • Creating something and completing something
  • Taking the stage and committing to something

The Power of Group Work

While some Safe Ground programmes may include elements of 1:1 work, the primary work takes place in a group. We believe the power of the group creates an environment in and of itself and while working alone or 1:1 can be powerful and effective, it represents a different process. The group is made up of dynamics and these, when skilfully managed, become part of the challenge and reward of the work. We are all in groups most of the time, and being aware of our responses, attitudes, skills and abilities in groups can help us all achieve more and work better with others. Safe Ground group is built around the principles of group psychoanalysis, therapeutic practice and the holding, witnessing and ‘free-floating’ associations possible within a context of trust, safety and containment. These functions provide the group with security withing which experiment, adventure and new experiences are not only possible, but necessary and enriching.

Trauma Informed

All of Safe Ground’s work is based on the understanding that, as people, we carry with us a history of emotional, intellectual and relational experience. This history shapes and often defines how we interact, think, perceive and expect the world to be. As such, our work is designed to question, challenge, investigate and develop the values, attitudes and beliefs we hold, creating opportunities for new experiences as a result. Our work is reparative as well demanding; we ask people to be profoundly honest with themselves, often leading to difficult and sometimes crisis moments. These moments, witnessed and held by the group, enable learning, growth and transformation for all concerned.

Drama as Therapy

The use of drama techniques (throughout Family Man, Fathers Inside and Man Up) and arts practices such as music (in Common Ground), film (in Transitions) and poetry (in GROUNDation) are all part of our core methodology. Holding the space, managing conflict and supporting people to take risks, try new things, speak up and perform are all therapeutic processes.  They can be cathartic and afford people a freedom to reach new goals. The use of character and story can allow participants to express or experience other people’s perspectives; experiment with new ways of being or doing, and feel the impact of someone’s actions from another point of view. The arts help us understand ourselves and each other.

Transactional Analysis

Safe Ground uses Transactional Analysis (TA)  and the Drama Triangle as concepts throughout our work. We believe that conscious awareness of inter-personal relationship styles, attachment experiences and dynamics are all vital to self-realisation, accountability and personal growth. All our programmes incorporate elements of TA and the Drama Triangle in different ways, exposing participants to their own responsibilities and responses to emotional and sub-conscious triggers.

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