Psychodrama is a psychotherapeutic-group-action method developed in the mid-1930s by Jacob L. Moreno, MD (1889– 1974). It explores, in the here and now, the perceptions, emotions, conflicts, needs and roles individuals bring to the group session.
In the field of addiction, Psychodrama helps residents to clarify ideas, get in touch with emotions, and prepare them to perform new healthy behaviors that would contribute to their emotional sobriety.
Residents work on the disorganized psychological patterns that endanger their interpersonal relationships. These patterns can be a consequence of traumatic experiences which are, at the same time, exacerbated by the abuse of substances and family conflicts.
What happens in a Psychodrama session?
The members of the group chose a personal story of an individual (the protagonist) that represents the group’s central concern. The director (the therapist) guides the protagonist through a number of scenes used to paint a detailed picture of the conflict to be explored. The action takes place on “the stage” (meeting room or actual stage) thus creating an alter reality fit to re-enact all possible scenarios furnished by the protagonist. Members of the group who play therapeutic roles in the re-enactment are called “auxiliary egos.” They are vital in mirroring the psychological and interpersonal elements of the scenes with the purpose of increasing the protagonist’s insight into the situation.
When working with addiction, the auxiliary egos can play roles representing the addiction, emotions, mother-father, son-daughter, feelings of ambivalence, shame, guilt and others. A physical representation of these elements helps the protagonist and the group in taking emotional distance thus evaluating possible resolutions to the conflicts.
After the exploration, the group shares how they related with the protagonist’s story. This part of the session connects all participants’ experiences to the protagonist’s while bringing back the group as a whole.
Who leads a Psychodrama Session?
Trained clinicians in the field of creative arts therapy, psychology, social work, counseling who are Certified Practitioners in Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy, and students under the supervision of a Trainer, Educator and Practitioner might use the method. Clinicians who are not certified might use some of the psychodramatic techniques as part of their repertoire. However they should not claim being psychodramatists if they are not trained. The American Board of Examiners in Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy provide the requirements for certification, and the guidelines that frame the proper use of psychodrama.
Psychodrama Spectrum of Practice
Psychodrama is used not only for the treatment of addiction but also for issues related with trauma, HIV, family dynamics, mental health, and personal growth. Some Certified Practitioners use psychodrama techniques to train Organizations in conflict resolution, effective communication, police interaction with citizens and hostage negotiation. In the last 15 years, psychodrama techniques has been used by lawyers, supervised by a Certified Practitioner, in preparing traumatized residents for the pressures faced at court.