Psychodrama can be used in a group or individually for therapy and personal growth. It can also be applied to family and couples therapy.
A typical Psychodrama session
The word ‘Psychodrama’ is often used as a generic term when talking about the range of action methods that J L Moreno developed.
Psychodrama facilitates insight, personal growth, and integration on cognitive, affective, and behavioural levels. It clarifies issues, increases physical and emotional well being, enhances learning and develops new skills.
Action Methods (Psychodrama) are used to enable past, present and future life events to be explored. Issues or problems and their possible solutions are enacted rather than just talked about. Psychodrama offers the opportunity to practice new roles safely, see oneself from outside, gain insight and change. There is a director, an action area and group members. In individual therapy or couples therapy, props may be used in place of group members. The director supports groups and individuals to explore new solutions to old problems, group members participate in dramas as significant others and share how they personally relate to and can learn from the presenting issue at the end of the session.
In this open-ended way, people find ideas and solutions they didn’t know they had, and which they would never have found using conventional training or self-discovery methods. Instead of passively absorbing ‘the answers’, they actively find their own answers and help other people find theirs. The whole thing is spontaneous and fluid, not didactic and rigid.
History of Psychodrama
Psychodrama is based on the philosophy and methods conceived of by psychiatrist Dr Jacob Moreno (1889-1974). It grew out of his experiments in Vienna in the 1920’s with the theatre of spontaneity, a form of improvisational theatre. Moving to the USA in 1925 he continued to combine this with his interest in social science, exploring the possibilities of treating clients using group psychotherapy. This work has been further refined by many practitioners and training institutes around the world including in the United Kingdom, Central and Eastern Europe, USA, South America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Though somewhat younger, Moreno was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud, and like Freud he developed techniques to get below the surface of ordinary life to help people heal. Yet where Freud used the couch, Moreno used the stage, and instead of sitting passively he was an active participant on this stage.
Psychodrama assists individuals
- re-examine their current life situations, their past, their social networks and cultural context
- generate new perspectives on particular events or situations
- develop fresh responses to entrenched relationship dynamics
- prepare for future situations in which they wish to function with a greater degree of flexibility, vitality and immediacy
- bring together action, insight and ‘here and now’ experience as they engage with life
- enlarge perceptions of themselves and others
Psychodrama assists groups
- examine themselves and constructively work through the dynamics of group life
- recognise patterns of interaction and interpersonal dynamics
- investigate both the formal and informal relationship networks
- recognize their collective functioning and make informed decisions about changing group norms