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Psychodrama: method, goals, areas of application

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 156 views

Psychodrama is a creative method that is used in particular in psychotherapy, but also in school and adult education as well as in coaching . Affected people present their problems with the help of other participants like in a play on a stage. By actively re-enacting difficult situations, those affected gain a deep understanding of existing conflicts. Read more about psychodrama here!

What is psychodrama?

The word psychodrama is composed of the Greek words for action (“drama”) and soul (“psyche”). Accordingly, psychodrama is about making the inner mental processes visible in a playful way.

The doctor and psychotherapist Jacob Levy Moreno founded psychodrama in the 20th century. It arose out of the realization that people primarily learn by doing and not by speaking. Children in particular understand the world through play by imitating adults.

In contrast to other psychotherapeutic methods, the central method in psychodrama is not conversation, but action. As a rule, psychodrama takes place in a group of eight to 15 people. In each session, a participant can bring in his wish to play or his topic.

Through the scenic representation, problems that have long since passed can be experienced and changed in the present. The participants can also deal with fears about the future by testing possible scenarios in role play.

When do you do a psychodrama?

Psychodrama is used as a method in psychotherapy , in supervision, but also, for example, in business to resolve conflicts in companies. In the psychotherapeutic field, psychodrama can be helpful, for example, in overcoming anxiety disorders, psychosomatic complaints and addictions.

However, this type of problem solving requires active and creative action and is therefore not suitable for everyone. Those who are hesitant to express their feelings in front of a group will find it difficult in psychodrama.

If you want to try psychodrama, you should also have imagination and empathy. Acting skills are not necessary, but the participants should be able to empathize with other situations and people.

Psychodrama was originally intended as group therapy, but some therapists also offer it in individual settings or in couple therapy. Depending on the topic, the meetings can last from a few weeks to several months.

What do you do with a psychodrama?

A psychodrama leader (therapist or counselor) and a group participate in psychodrama. In each session, a group member with his concern can become the protagonist, i.e. someone seeking help who wants to use psychodrama to overcome his problems. He selects players or “auxiliary egos” from among the other group members who are to represent the protagonist’s reference persons. The remaining group members can act as observers.

In contrast to the family constellation, the players do not play and speak freely according to their feelings, but receive instructions from the protagonists on how to behave in their position.

In terms of the process, the psychodrama is divided into a warming-up, action, integration and evaluation phase.

warming phase

The psychodrama requires a lot of spontaneity and empathy. To help the participants find their way into the following role-play, there are various warm – up techniques. The leader often inquires at the beginning about the state of mind of the participants. Each individual can represent their mood, for example, through a posture. If the participants do not know each other, the leader can ask them to position themselves in the room according to certain criteria (eg place of residence or age).

Action Phase (Game Phase)

In the first step, the protagonist of the group explains the problematic topic that he wants to work on. This could be his work situation, for example. The second step is to select a scene that depicts the central problem. The protagonist and his helpers reenact the situation on a stage.

In the so-called “role reversal” the protagonist can switch to the role of an auxiliary self and a fellow player to that of the protagonist. This technique helps the person concerned to better empathize with the position of other participants. In addition, the other players know how to behave in a certain role.

Other techniques are also used in psychodrama. For example, “mirroring” should help the protagonist to recognize inner resistance. To do this, the psychodrama director has the protagonist observe the scene from the outside. When “doubling”, the leader stands next to the protagonist and speaks from their perspective.

The psychodrama leader interrupts the role play as soon as he has the impression that the situation being played no longer provides any new insights. He also breaks off the role-playing game when more explosive topics arise. The situation played may remind the protagonist of a scene from childhood. This is then immediately implemented in a role-playing game. Through this method, the protagonist gains a deeper understanding of the existing problems.

integration phase

After the role play, the group exchanges ideas. For example, the participants can report on their own experiences in similar life situations and thus convey to the protagonist that he is not alone with his problems. They also talk about what they felt and perceived in the role play. Finally, the psychodrama leader explains which processes he observed in the role play. In psychodrama, great importance is attached to an appreciative climate.

The protagonist should feel safe in the group and experience support. The effect of psychodrama lies not only in the role play, but also in the sense of community that develops in the group.

What are the risks of psychodrama?

In psychodrama, problems in the present are once again actualized. When painful feelings arise, some sufferers feel emotionally overwhelmed. Not only the protagonist but also the other participants in the group can experience strong feelings in the process.

The task of the psychodrama leader is to pay attention to the state of mind of all participants and to avoid overloading them. However, the larger the group, the more difficult it is for the leader to keep an eye on everyone.

If the session is too long, poorly structured and insufficient explanations, the participants may be overwhelmed or burdened. If participants are suffering from an acute mental disorder, the therapist must take special care to ensure that the role-play does not create additional stress. This can worsen the patient’s health.

What do I have to consider after a psychodrama?

In psychodrama you will experience a variety of different feelings. Experiencing things together in a group can further intensify these feelings. In order for all participants to be able to sort out their feelings, an important part of the psychodrama is the discussion at the end of each session (integration phase).

If you still feel confused or overwhelmed after the session, you should tell the psychodrama leader. If the negative feelings are still there after a few sessions, you should talk about them in a one-on-one session with a therapist. This also applies if you have topics that you do not want to work on in a group or in psychodrama.

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