Student actors in professional training are potentially vulnerable to difficulties with their psychological wellbeing, but there has been little research to date investigating the positive and negative impacts of this unique environment and training process. The current study uses contemporary psychological theory and qualitative methodology to explore the perceptions of both acting students and their trainers. Seven acting students and eight trainers from two institutions were interviewed in-depth and the data analysed using thematic analysis. The findings were clustered into three domains of experience: the conservatoire (environmental/cultural factors), acting training (process factors) and student qualities (individual factors). Influences on students’ psychological wellbeing included: complex personal relationships, intense workload, chronic uncertainty, perfectionism, personal strengths, mental health difficulties, identity destabilisation, growth and feeling exposed. An important unresolved question arose: when is acting training dangerous? Practical implications included: building mental health literacy, increasing students’ feelings of competence, fostering students’ ability to tolerate stress and uncertainty and employing a specialist clinician. There is vast scope for future research, particularly in clarifying the wellbeing challenges in training and identifying appropriate, evidence-based interventions for use in this unique environment.
- mental health