Psychodrama Therapy – Notes


Psychodrama: An Action Approach to Group Psychotherapy

J.L. Moreno developed the psychodrama approach after witnessing the therapeutic value associated with the participation in the “Theater of Spontaneity”. Role playing and enacting situations are the primary components of psychodrama.

Psychodrama Concepts

  • Psychodrama is not normally used as a stand-alone technique. Instead, it is incorporated with other techniques.
  • Sometimes words are not enough. Action, interpersonal interactions, and imagery can, at times, better help clients express feelings.
  • Psychodrama allows past or anticipated future events and circumstances to be reenacted and explored in the here-and-now. Participants can work through “unfinished” business from the past and possibly assign new meaning to the situation.
  • Through creativity, clients can explore other potential coping methods.
  • Spontaneity promotes creativity. Spontaneity encourages re-thinking, questioning, and re-evaluating.
  • Encountering occurs when individuals interact in a meaningful and authentic way. Psychodrama’s symbolic encountering is therapeutic.
  • Surplus reality offers the chance to test new and different realities. Alternative viewpoints can be explored which help in reframing perceptions.
  • Catharsis and Insight: Emotional release can lead to awareness
  • Reality testing offers a safe method for trying out new behaviors.
  • Role theory states that we are all “actors on the stage of life”. Psychodrama can help people adjust and/or understand the roles they play in life.

Psychodrama Participants

  • The psychodrama director is the main group therapist.
  • The protagonist is the client presenting with a problem to be explored.
  • Auxiliary Egos are the “supporting players” who take part in the psychodrama. They are other members of the group who play the role of the protagonist’s significant others. They may be alive, dead, or even inanimate objects.
  • The audience includes the other members of the group who witness the psychodrama.
  • The stage is the location where the psychodrama takes place. It is usually a place in the room and may include props when needed.

Psychodrama Phases

  • The warm-up phase is the initial period of the group where trust and cohesiveness are built. It is also a time for the therapist to educate the group about psychodrama and to find potential protagonists.
  • The action phase is the actual enactment of the drama where the protagonist works through events or problems. The goal of this phase is to bring out the protagonist’s underlying thoughts, attitudes and feelings.
  • During the sharing and discussion phase the protagonist, auxiliary egos, and audience share and discuss their reactions and feelings about the psychodrama.
  • Closure does not necessarily mean that the problem was resolved. However, all group members need the opportunity to discuss how they were affected and what they learned.

Overall Principles of Psychodramatic Techniques

  • Use physical action when possible (instead of just talking).
  • Promote authentic encounters as much as possible.
  • Encourage the use of “I” statements.
  • When appropriate, incorporate humor and playfulness.
  • Encourage exaggerated behavior in order to explore a wider range of responses.

Common Psychodramatic Techniques

  • With Self-Presentation the protagonist simply plays him or herself.
  • With role reversal the protagonist assumes the role of the other relevant individual.
  • With the double technique another group member plays the role of another part of the protagonist. Example: the protagonist’s inner voice.
  • Using the soliloquy technique, the director may pause the drama and ask the participants to articulate their thoughts and feelings.
  • The empty chair technique can be used for role reversal or for confronting a deceased or too threatening individual.
  • With mirroring, another group member replays the protagonist’s posture, words, and gestures he or she expressed during the drama.
  • With future projection, an anticipated event is brought into the present.
  • The magic shop allows the protagonist to experiment with a variety of qualities he or she may not normally possess.
  • Replaying a drama allows for redoing or modification.
  • Role Training allows the protagonist to practice new styles and roles.

Multicultural Issues

The director must be aware that individuals from some cultures may be resistant to confrontation, talking to or about senior family members, etc.

Therapists should consider the client’s language of origin. Psychodrama participation may be more productive when performed in the client’s primary language.

Limitations of Psychodrama

  • Caution must be used when applying the technique to individuals with severe acting-out behaviors or serious disturbances.
  • Group leaders should exercise care when past traumas may be re-experienced.
  • Leaders should resist the urge to insert circumstances into the drama in order to “speed things up”.


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