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Actors Highly Vulnerable to Mental Health Problems

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Actors highly vulnerable to mental health problems

University of AdelaideNew research from the University of Adelaide is raising the curtain on the not-so-glamorous aspects of being a professional actor, with psychology experts finding that Australian actors experience a wide range of threats to their mental wellbeing.

Researchers from the University’s School of Psychology conducted in-depth interviews with a group of 20 Australian professional actors, after realising that little had been done to understand the psychological experience of the acting profession in this country.

The results are now published online ahead of print in the journal Australian Psychologist.

“There are many positives associated with acting, such as feelings of personal growth and a sense of purpose in the actors’ work. Many of them see it as a ‘calling’ and couldn’t imagine doing anything else professionally; they feel driven to do it,” says lead author Alison Robb, who has been conducting this research as part of her PhD in Psychology at the University of Adelaide.

“However, we also found that actors are highly vulnerable to depression and symptoms of anxiety.

“Their mental wellbeing is threatened in a range of ways, such as: a lack of autonomy in their profession, lack of control over their employment and general working environment, complex interpersonal relationships, a high level of self-criticism, a high level of criticism by family and friends for their choice of profession, and a heavy drinking culture.

“Actors also report experiencing vicarious trauma through their acting experiences – they are so emotionally, intellectually and physically engaged in their roles that it can be difficult to switch off. Some report having nightmares and intrusive thoughts related to their roles,” she says.

Ms Robb – who herself is a former theatre director – says acting has a false reputation of being a glamorous profession.

“Many professional actors find themselves out of work for long periods of time. This creates a high level of instability in their lives, adding to feelings of anxiety,” she says.

“They usually have no control over whether or not they get a particular role. If they aren’t successful, they can feel demoralised and humiliated. When they do find work, it’s often for very little money.”

Ms Robb says these findings are relevant to both the acting profession and to psychologists.

“Quite opposite to the Hollywood stereotype of the attention-seeking, neurotic actor who is always in therapy, our research has found that Australian actors are extremely unlikely to seek help for the problems they’re experiencing.

“As clinicians, psychologists need to think about how to apply their services to people with particular needs. Actors are such a group, and our recommendation is that psychologists find a way to reach out to them in a meaningful way,” she says.

Award Title:Master of Psychology (Clinical)
Length of Program:2 years full time
Prerequisites:Completion of an Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) accredited 4 year sequence of study in psychology
Application Dates:Applicants are advised to apply 9 months in advance
Annual Tuition Fees:Contact KOM Consultants for latest tuition fees 1-877-318-8203
Faculty:Faculty of Health Sciences

About the University of Adelaide in Australia

The University of Adelaide was established in 1874 and is the third oldest university in Australia. It has 25,000 students and over 2,800 staff. It is a member of the Group of Eight research intensive universities with three Nobel Prize winners, 102 Rhodes scholars and 104 Fulbright Scholars amongst its alumni.The University is located in the city, just a short walk from the Art Gallery, Museum, State Library, National Wine Centre, Government House, Parliament House, Zoo, and Botanic Gardens. Adelaide is a beautiful and cosmopolitan city of 1.2 million people on the coast with a Mediterranean climate, many festivals and a vibrant cafe culture.

University of Adelaide Psychology School Overview

The Master of Psychology (Clinical) degree is the standard preparation program providing professional training and practise in clinical psychology. It consists of three major components: specialized coursework in a series of topics relevant to clinical practice; research thesis; and three long field placements aimed at developing professional competence under the guidance of highly experienced supervisors.

The program involves two years full-time or four years part-time study. The program has two key objectives. The first is to provide thorough theoretical and clinical skills preparation in core areas to meet formal requirements for entry to the profession (as determined by its accrediting bodies). The second is to prepare graduates to accept responsibility for continuing self-monitoring and development, skills that are essential to ongoing employment in the profession.