Amber Lenore is the creator and lead teaching artist for the Transformational Women’s Circus Project.
Amber is an therapeutic circus coach and circus artist at The School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts, a Master’s in Couple and Family Therapy Candidate and Master’s in Drama Therapy Candidate at Antioch University, and Antioch University’s Drama Therapy Program Representative for the North American Drama Therapy Association.Amber specializes in working with women and children in recovery from trauma and is currently adapting social circus as a trauma informed somatic therapy for adult trauma survivors through the Transformational Women’s Circus Project. Amber has presented her work at the 2016 American Circus Educators Conference, at The Smithsonian’s 2017 Folk Life Festival, and has been published in American Circus Educators Magazine and Seattle Magazine. Amber’s background is in childbirth and community health education, mental health counseling, public health research, and social services.
Amber has worked with a wide variety of populations, including families, pregnant and parenting women, people with schizophrenia and traumatic brain injuries, children on the autism spectrum, sex workers, teen mothers, refugees, people without homes, and people in recovery from drug addiction. Amber is the former supervisor and case manager at The Parent Child Assistance Program at The University of Washington, where she conducted intensive street outreach and case management with pregnant women in recovery from addiction and facilitated trainings and seminars for The Fetal Alcohol and Drug Unit at The University of Washington. Amber is the former Chairwoman of The Regional Association of Childbirth Educators of Puget Sound and has been trained and certified in Motivational Interviewing, Mental Health First Aid, Promoting First Relationships, Non-Abusive Psychological and Physical Intervention, and Labor and Delivery Support.
Alex is SANCA’s Therapeutic Circus Arts Manager and coach, and will be co-facilitating and supervising the TWC project. Alex has had extensive experience in both the circus and the therapeutic world. From 2008-2010 she taught both children and adults hand balancing and other circus arts at SANCA.
She has a BA in Psychology from Oberlin College and a Master’s in Clinical Social Work from Boston College, and has experience working with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Trauma based diagnoses, Depression and Anxiety.Before coming back to SANCA, Alex has worked in multiple school settings as an Adjustment Counselor and also at the Academy of Physical and Social Development where kids learn social and emotional skills through physical play.
Ian is SANCA’s social circus director and coach, and he will be co-faciliating and supervising the TWC project. Ian’s work focuses on physical expression, from absolute stillness to virtuosic acrobatics. Having received training in physical theatre from the Ecole Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, Ian explores the potential of acrobatic movement in narrative performance. During the day, Ian is the Social Circus Program Director at SANCA offering a variety of classes to at-risk youth and adults in the greater Seattle area.
Elsewhere in Seattle, Ian has taught Clowning for Teatro Zinzanni as well as Acting and Physical Comedy for Seattle Children’s Theatre where he completed the Teaching Artist Fellowship program in 2013. At the heart of his teaching is the desire to animate his students and to ignite a passion for joyous, physical expression.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why use Trauma Informed Drama Therapy for this project?
Drama Therapy is understood to be one of the most accessible forms of therapy and has been used successfully with populations such as people with developmental disabilities, children, refugees, elders, and people in recovery from addiction. Drama Therapy is a body based therapy, which current research demonstrates to be appropriate and effective for individuals in recovery from trauma. Additionally, Drama Therapy is easily adaptable in a circus context, as it is similar in theory, methodology, and practice to social circus interventions.
What does it mean for this project to be “trauma informed” and why is that important?
In order for a program, organization, or system to considered “trauma informed”, according to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), it must meet the following criteria:
- All people at all levels of the organization or system have a basic realization about trauma and understand how trauma can affect families, groups, organizations, and communities as well as individuals.
- People in the organization or system are also able to recognize the signs of trauma.
- The program, organization, or system responds by applying the principles of a trauma-informed approach to all areas of functioning.
- A trauma-informed approach seeks to resist re-traumatization of clients as well as staff.
TWC meets criteria for a trauma informed intervention by employing facilitators and auxiliary supervisors who 1. possess an in-depth, working knowledge of trauma and how it affects families, groups, organizations, and communities as well as individuals, 2. can identify and respond appropriately to trauma responses, and 3. are trained to build safety, transparency, collaboration and empowerment with group participants. By ensuring that TWC is trauma informed, participants will have greater success in the program, psychological harm to participants and staff is diminished, and SANCA remains a safe, supportive environment for all involved in the project.
Why conduct research?
Emerging research on treatments for adult trauma survivors strongly suggests that popular “talk” therapies are insufficient for the treatment of complex trauma. Research on alternative therapies which integrate mind and body, such as dance and movement therapy, yoga therapy, and drama therapy, have yielded promising results but more research is needed to establish an evidence base. If an we can establish an evidence base for this treatment, it becomes more widely available to those who need it, because programs and institutions can use it. Thus, there is a need for research which explores treatments that address mind and body congruently in the healing of trauma. Similarly, social circus (which is fundamentally integrative of mind and body) explores themes congruent with creative arts therapies, yields similar promising results, and is likewise in need of continued research. Thus, a study which explores the use of integrative creative arts therapy in a circus context could be impactful for adult survivors of childhood abuse as well as for the fields of social circus, creative arts therapy, and trauma recovery
Why focus on women for this project?
Women have been specifically selected for this project because they are disproportionately represented in mental health disorders. Here is the World Health Organization’s position on the issue:
“Gender is a critical determinant of mental health and mental illness. The morbidity associated with mental illness has received substantially more attention than the gender specific determinants and mechanisms that promote and protect mental health and foster resilience to stress and adversity…Unipolar depression, predicted to be the second leading cause of global disability burden by 2020, is twice as common in women. Depression is not only the most common women’s mental health problem but may be more persistent in women than men. More research is needed.”
Having clearly defined women’s spaces has tremendous therapeutic value, particularly for women who are survivors of child abuse and domestic violence, and other gendered forms of violence. Additionally, research demonstrates creating gender specific treatment environments if efficacious:
“Women differ significantly from men in antecedents, risks, progression, consequences, and presentation of their substance abuse problem, as well as in certain predictors of relapse to substance use (Davis, 1994; Hodgins et al., 1997; Hughes et al., 1995; Pelissier et al., 2003; Saunders et al., 1993). It is often asserted that women are more likely to address psychosocial issues relevant to recovery in a single-gender, women-focused treatment…”(Jansson et al., 1996; Knight et al., 1999; Nelson-Zlupko et al., 1995; Volpicelli et al., 2000)