European Project: Play It Out Loud

Drama in Shyness Therapy for Children

Play It out Loud is a European partner project designed to combat social anxiety and shyness in children.

The motivation for pursuing this project arose from an understanding of the risks children’s shyness poses with regard to participation in social situations, especially the fact that shyness can do much harm. Shyness can make it difficult to meet new people, make friends, express an opinion or demand rights. Shyness relates to interpersonal inhibitions – the tendency to avoid social situations, and the tendency for physical or mental escape (withdrawal) from this type of situation. The timid are those people who are experiencing social anxiety, which motivates them to avoid situations arousing their concerns or to behave in an overly protective and unsure way while participating in a social situation (Jones, Briggs and Smith, 1986).

The consequences of social anxiety may be as follows:
• a lack of interpersonal relationships
• a lack of friends and support in difficult situations
• avoiding asking for help
• a pessimistic style of explanation resulting in depression
• avoiding challenges
• social inactivity
• difficulties expressing own opinion
• a lack of self-realisation 
• an inability to demand rights
• solitude
• social phobia
(Arkin, Appelman i Burger, 1980; Jones, Briggs i Smith, 1986; Leary i Kowalski, 2001; Woolfe, Lennox i Cutler, 1986, Zimbardo, 1990).

In light of the risks resulting from shyness, social anxiety and interpersonal inhibition should be considered a disadvantage which does not allow an individual to use their potential and realise their capabilities (Smółka, 2008). Shyness becomes a social disadvantage that brings negative effects to the cognitive and psycho-social development of children. The problem of shyness is now very common and can have a very negative impact on children’s development (Gładyszewska-Cyculko, 2007).

Fortunately, today we have extensive empirical material which indicates that proper psycho-educational activities can help fearful and timid people to make social challenges with greater confidence and efficiency (Butler, 1999; Leary, 2000; Leary and Kowalski, 2001; Mączyński, 1991; Miller, 1999; Zimbardo, 1990). The psycho-educational activities may include: cognitive therapies, social skills training (drama exercises), relaxation techniques and interaction exercises (Leary, 2000; Leary & Kowalski, 2001, Smółka, 2008).

Drama defined as a method supporting socio-emotional, cognitive and psychosocial development through playing a role is present in every psycho-educational program for shyness and social anxiety. The factor that allows crossing their own limits in drama is fiction, providing participants with a kind of protection, a sense of security. According to Philip Zimbardo (1990) entry into a role is a way of overcoming shyness, precisely because it is encased fiction. The person in the role has a feeling that it was not their own ‘I’ exposed to the assessment, but the role, which is sanctioned by the circumstances. What’s more, drama is a natural way of playing, behaving and thinking for children. Cognitive therapies are less useful for children than drama. It is not easy to explain and teach small children to think and behave in an expected way without action and role playing. Drama exercises are also very useful for the classroom application because it concerns a group process and drama can be used for more purposes: learning knowledge, skills, creativity, attitudes and values. The experience of the partners of this consortium (who use drama as a method for learning and development) suggests that drama can help children to deal with their shyness and social anxiety.

The partners in this project are:

Akademia Humanistyczno-Ekonomiczna w Lodzi

Smashing Times, Ireland



National Drama, UK