Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Psychodrama: A Method of Group Psychotherapy


Psychodrama is a method of psychotherapy in which clients are encouraged to continue and complete their actions through dramatization, role playing and dramatic self-presentation. It is actually a method of communication in which the communicator expresses him/her/themselves in action.

It can also be defined as an action method, often used as a psychotherapy, in which clients use spontaneous dramatization, role playing and dramatic self-presentation to investigate and gain insight into their lives. Developed by Jacob L. Moreno, M.D. (1889-1974) psychodrama includes elements of theater, often conducted on a stage where props can be used. By closely recreating real-life situations, and acting them out in the present, clients have the opportunity to evaluate their behavior and more deeply understand a particular situation in their lives. Psychodrama may be used in a variety of clinical and community-based settings, and is most often utilized in a group scenario, in which each person in the group can become therapeutic agents for one another's scenes. Psychodrama is not, however, a form of group therapy, and is instead an individual psychotherapy that is executed from within a group. A psychodrama is best conducted and produced by a person trained in the method, called a psychodrama director.

In a session of psychodrama, one client of the group becomes the protagonist, and focuses on a particular situation to enact on stage. A variety of scenes may be enacted, depicting, for example, memories of specific happenings in the client's past, unfinished situations, inner dramas, fantasies, dreams, preparations for future risk-taking situations, or unrehearsed expressions of mental state in the here and now. These scenes either approximate real-life situations or are externalizations of inner mental processes. Other members of the group may become auxiliaries, and support the protagonist by playing other significant roles in the scene.

A core tenet of psychodrama is Moreno's theory of "spontaneity-creativity". Moreno believed that the best way for an individual to respond creatively to a situation is through spontaneity, that is, through a readiness to improvise and respond in the moment. By encouraging an individual to address a problem in a creative way, reacting spontaneously and based on impulse, they may begin to discover new solutions to problems in their lives and learn new roles they can inhabit within it. Moreno's focus on spontaneous action within the psychodrama was developed in his Theatre of Spontaneity. Disenchanted with the stagnancy he observed in scripted theatre, he found himself interested in the spontaneity required in improvisational work. He founded an improvisational troupe in the 1920s. This work in the theatre impacted the development of his psychodramatic theory.


Dr. J. L. Moreno (1889–1974) is the founder of psychodrama and sociometry, and one of the forerunners of the group psychotherapy movement.[17] Around 1910, he developed the Theater of Spontaneity, which is based on the acting out of improvisational impulses. The focus of this exercise was not originally on the therapeutic effects of psychodrama; these were seen by Moreno to simply be positive side-effects.

A poem by Moreno reveals ideas central to the practice of psychodrama, and describes the purpose of mirroring:

“A meeting of two: eye to eye, face to face.
And when you are near I will tear your eyes out
and place them instead of mine,
and you will tear my eyes out
and will place them instead of yours,
then I will look at me with mine."

In 1912, Moreno attended one of Sigmund Freud's lectures. In his autobiography, he recalled the experience: "As the students filed out, he singled me out from the crowd and asked me what I was doing. I responded, 'Well, Dr. Freud, I start where you leave off. You meet people in the artificial setting of your office. I meet them on the street and in their homes, in their natural surroundings. You analyze their dreams. I give them the courage to dream again. You analyze and tear them apart. I let them act out their conflicting roles and help them to put the parts back together again.'"

While a student at the University of Vienna in 1917, Moreno gathered a group of prostitutes as a way of discussing the social stigma and other problems they faced, starting what might be called the first support group. From experiences like that, and as inspired by psychoanalysts such as Wilhelm Reich and Freud, Moreno began to develop psychodrama. After moving to the United States in 1925, Moreno introduced his work with psychodrama to American psychologists. He began this work with children, and then eventually moved on to large group psychodrama sessions that he held at Impromptu Group Theatre at Carnegie Hall. These sessions established Moreno's name, not only in psychological circles, but also among non-psychologists. Moreno continued to teach his method of psychodrama, leading sessions until his death in 1974.

Another important practitioner in the field of psychodrama is Carl Hollander. Hollander was the 37th director certified by Moreno in psychodrama. He is known primarily for his creation of the Hollander Psychodrama Curve, which may be utilized as a way to understand how a psychodrama session is structured. Hollander uses the image of a curve to explain the three parts of a psychodrama session: the warm-up, the activity, and the integration. The warm-up exists to put patients into a place of spontaneity and creativity in order to be open in the act of psychodrama. The "activity" is the actual enactment of the psychodrama process. Finally, the "curve" moves to integration. It serves as closure and discussion of the session, and considers how the session can be brought into real life – a sort of debriefing.

Although psychodrama is not widely practiced, the work done by practitioners of psychodrama has opened the doors to research possibilities for other psychological concepts such as group therapy and expansion of the work of Sigmund Freud. The methods of psychodrama are also used by group therapy organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and also find a place in other types of therapy, such as post-divorce counseling for children.

Basics Elements of Psychotherapy:

Moreno named five basic elements of psychodrama….viz.
1.     Protagonist: Protagonist is the person who is the subject of psychodramatic enactment.

2.     Director: The director is the person who orchestrates the psychodrama to help the protagonist explore a problem. In therapy group, director takes on the role components of both director and therapist.

3.     Auxiliaries: The auxiliary formerly called auxiliary ego is Moreno’s term for anyone besides the protagonist and the director who takes part in a psychodrama.

4.      Audience: The term audience refers to the others present during the psychodrama. The audience is the group in which the enactment occurs or this may be a psychotherapy group.

5.     Stage: The stage is the area in which the enactment takes place.


In psychodrama, participants explore internal conflicts by acting out their emotions and interpersonal interactions on stage. A psychodrama session (typically 90 minutes to 2 hours) focuses principally on a single participant, known as the protagonist. Protagonists examine their relationships by interacting with the other actors and the leader, known as the director. This is done using specific techniques, including mirroring, doubling (psychodrama), soliloquy, and role reversal. The session is often broken up into three phases - the warm-up, the action, and the post-discussion.

During a typical psychodrama session, a number of clients gather together. One of these clients is chosen as the protagonist, and the director calls on the other clients to assist the protagonist's "performance," either by portraying other characters, or by utilizing mirroring, doubling, or role reversal. The clients act out a number of scenes in order to allow the protagonist to work through certain scenarios. This is obviously beneficial for the protagonist, but also is helpful to the other actors, allowing them to assume the role of another person and apply that experience to their own life. The focus during the session is on the acting out of different scenarios, rather than simply talking through them. All of the different elements of the session (stage, props, lighting, etc.) are used to heighten the reality of the scene.

The three sections of a typical session are the warm-up, the action, and the sharing. During the warm-up, the actors are encouraged to enter into a state of mind where they can be present in and aware of the current moment and are free to be creative. This is done through the use of different games. One such game is called the "lifeboat warm-up." In this warm-up, the clients are told that they are in a lifeboat with a limited amount of space. In order to survive, an actor must convince the client that he or she deserves a seat on the lifeboat. Next, the action section of the psychodrama session is the time in which the actual scenes themselves take place. Finally, in the post-discussion, the different actors are able to comment on the action and share their empathy and experiences with the protagonist of the scene.

Mirroring is an important technique in psychodrama. In mirroring, the protagonist is first asked to act out an experience. After this, the client steps out of the scene and watch as another actor steps into their role and portrays the client. Afterwards, the client is asked to comment on the action and/or reenter the scene.[11] Doubling is another psychodramatic technique, in which the client is joined by another actor in his or her portrayal of him- or herself. The second actor assumes the role of an "auxiliary ego," which reveals hidden parts of the protagonist's behavior, by acting as him or her. Role playing is another method, in which the client portrays a person or object that is problematic to him or her. In soliloquy, another technique, the client speaks his or her thoughts aloud in order to build self-knowledge. Finally, role reversal is a technique in which a client is asked to portray another person while a second actor portrays the client in the particular scene. This not only prompts the client to think as the other person, but also has some of the benefits of mirroring, as the client sees him- or herself as portrayed by the second actor.

Psychodramatic Enactment:

In general, the psychodramatic enactment can be divided into three phases………..viz.

1.     Warm up

a.     The director warms himself up.
b.     The group discusses goals, roles, fees, limits, time arrangements, and so forth
c.      Getting acquainted; exercises are used that introduce group members to each other.
d.     The director leads the group in action exercises that build group cohesion and spontaneity.
e.        This often leads to a discussion of what the participant experienced in the warm-up exercises which in turn leads to the emergence of a theme of common interest to the group, or to an individual’s problem.
f.       One of the group members is selected to be the protagonist who will enact his own or the group’s problem.

2.     The Action

a.     The director brings the protagonist to the stage, where the problem is briefly discussed.
b.     The conflict is redefined in terms of a concrete example—one that could be enacted.
c.      The director helps the protagonist to describe the physical surroundings in which a specific action occurs, thus setting the scene.
d.     The protagonist is instructed to play the scene as if it were occurring in the here and now.
e.      The director brings other members of the group forward to take the parts of other significant figures in the protagonist’s drama--- these people then become the auxiliaries.
f.       The opening scene is portrayed.
g.     The director helps the auxiliaries to learn their roles by having the protagonist change parts with them (reverse role)
h.     The scene continues with the director introducing other psychodramatic techniques that function to elaborate on techniques, asides, etc.
i.       The protagonist is helped to develop other adaptive attitudinal and behavioral response to his situation—this is called working through.

3.     Closure

a.     The director helps the protagonist to receive some supportive feedback from the other group member.
b.     The director may proceed to use a variety of supportive psychodramatic techniques
c.      Further discussion by the group ensues.
d.     Finally, The director either goes on to the process of warming up to another psychodramatic enactment with a different protagonist or moves toward terminating the group, possibly using a variety of closing techniques.

Application of Psychodrama:

Psychodrama can be used in both non-clinical and clinical arenas. In the non-clinical field, psychodrama is used in business, education, and professional training. In the clinical field, psychodrama may be used to alleviate the effects of emotional trauma and PTSD.  One specific application in clinical situations is for people suffering from dysfunctional attachments. For this reason, it is often utilized in the treatment of children who have suffered emotional trauma and abuse. Using role-play and storytelling, children may be able to express themselves emotionally and reveal truths about their experience they are not able to openly discuss with their therapist, and rehearse new ways of behavior. Moreno's theory of child development offers further insight into psychodrama and children. Moreno suggested that child development is divided into three stages: finding personal identity, recognizing oneself (the mirror stage), and recognizing the other person (the role-reversal stage). Mirroring, role-playing and other psychodramatic techniques are based on these stages. Moreno believed that psychodrama could be used to help individuals continue their emotional development through the use of these techniques.

Apart from the above-mentioned application areas, it can be also applied to --------------------
1.     For improving mental health
2.     For marital counseling
3.     For family problem
4.     For children and adolescents problem
5.     In primary and secondary education. Such as discussion of class materials, creative works, special situation, special education, learning about feelings, etc.
6.      For professional training
7.     In Business and Industry
8.     And for religious problem also

In fine, we can say that Psychodrama is a method of group psychotherapy in which clients are encouraged to express themselves by their self-dramatization and self- action. By getting help from this method, Clients may get rid of their complicated problem which troubles their movement in personal, family, social life situation.