Founded in July 2007 by actress Zeina Daccache, Catharsis is the first non-profit organisation in Lebanon and the Arab countries to promote and offer ‘drama therapy’ which involves the use of art and theatre to address issues in a person’s life and rehabilitates society's marginalized through drama theory.
Catharsis was founded on the belief that the incorporation of drama and expressive arts in therapy is an effective and empowering method for problem solving, peacebuilding, promoting growth and wellbeing within individuals and groups; and that the arts can build bridges between cultures and different segments of society, and be used to lobby for policy reforms. It offers drama therapy for personal growth for all.
Catharsis offers services and programs in various social, educational and therapeutic settings such as schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, prisons, private and public clinics for children and adults. Drama therapy aims to help people address various social, health and educational issues they are experiencing. Individuals who participate are able to explore various life problems and improve their quality of life through the use of artistic expression including art, theatre and drama.
Catharsis produced a play entitled "12 angry Lebanese" where roles were performed by male prisoners in Roumieh Prison, the biggest in the country. It was adapted from the classic American play 12 Angry Men. After 15 months of training, 45 inmates performed before audiences that included Interior Minister at that period Ziad Baroud. For Mother’s Day in 2009, parents of the inmates were invited to watch the play. A documentary on the play won Best Documentary at the International Dubai Festival the same year. This movie was chosen in 2013 by the GUARDIAN as one of 10 best Arab films. It is often screened in public libraries and cultural hubs followed by discussions. And on the occasion of its 10th anniversary, a footage of the play "12 Angry Lebanese" is now available on youtube (Catharsis channel).
Each theatrical creation is aimed at providing psychological support for prisoners. By inviting ministers, members of Parliament and military officers to her plays, The plays aim to publicly point out the legal loopholes of the prison system that contributes to worsening the fate of prisoners while helping them manage their anger and work on their inner peace.
A documentary entitled "Sheherazade's diary" combined stories of female prisoners in Baabda prison in Mount Lebanon, and won several awards and was screened at the French festival "Cinema du Sud". It played in Lebanese cinemas in November 2014. In 2018 it took part in Carthage Film Festival in Tunisia, and was screened at London's Institute of Contemporary Art.
"ANY" is short documentary that followed the lives of women from the South of Lebanon who experienced Drama Therapy after the July Israeli War on Lebanon in 2006.
Another project was "Shebaik Lebaik", a play and folkloric performance performed by migrant workers describing their lives in Lebanon. This unusual experience was documented on a DVD. Another project was "From the bottom of my brain". It was performed first in 2013 by residents of AlFanar hospital for neuropsychiatric disorders. It is reproduced every now and then.
The play entitled "Johar... Up in the air" was performed in 2016 by 38 inmates as a part of a broader EU-funded project pushing to reform the country's penal system, especially what concerns mentally ill prisoner. In June 2016, two inmates were released after 37 years of incarceration and continuous effort by concerned parties
Unfortunately, the Lebanese penal code states that “insane” offenders (yes it states the term “insane” instead of mentally ill) should be incarcerated in a special psychiatry unit until evidence of “cured from insanity” (whereas mental illness can be managed with proper treatment and not “cured”). And there is no psychiatry unit in all Lebanese Prisons except for a small building in Roumieh prison.
Catharsis has worked in 2016 in collaboration with members of the Lebanese Parliament and foreign judges to draft two legislative proposals. Like previous projects, a documentary was produced on the project and was released in December 2017.
The organisation also hosts musical events in Roumieh prison.
Founder Zeina Daccache, registered Drama Therapist with the North American Drama Therapy Association- NADTA, USA, encouraged other directors use drama therapy with Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Catharsis organized several drama therapy sessions for Syrian women refugees and others from hosting communities in the North and all over Lebanon.
Daccache was one of the personalities listed in the version dedicated to Lebanon of the international book series entitled "Those Who Inspire".