Moreno (1934, 1946, 1966b) created a useful group therapy method, “psychodrama,” which he first introduced in 1925 and that has evolved into a number of clinical methods, including sociodrama, the axiodrama, role playing, and the analytic psychodrama.
What to expect?
In the hands of a skilled therapist psychodrama is a valuable adjunct in helping patients work through resistances toward translating their insights into action. The initial tactic in the group is the “warm-up” process to facilitate movement. This may take the form of the director (the therapist) insisting that the group remain silent (“cluster warm-up”) for a period. As tension mounts, it will finally be broken by some
member expostulating about a problem, the verbalizations drawing a “cluster” of persons around the member. Other members may similarly come forth with feelings and stimulate “clusters” interested in what they are saying. Soon the whole group is brought together around a common theme. The “star” chosen is the person whose personality reflects the problem area most clearly. Another warm-up method is the “chain of association.” Here the group spontaneously brings up fears and associations until an engrossing theme evolves. The star chosen is the person who is most concerned with the theme. A third warm-up is initiated by the director (“directed warm-up”) who, knowing the problems of the constituent members, announces the theme. A “patient-directed warm-up” is one in which a patient announces to the group the subject with which he or she would like to deal.
How does it work?
The star is groomed for the roles to play with representatives of important people in the patient’s past and current life, selected from other group members (“auxiliaries”) whose needs for insight preferably fit in with the parts they assume. The director facilitates the working together of the group on their problems, while focusing on one person (the “protagonist”). Among the techniques are (1) “role reversal,” during which a protagonist and auxiliary reverse positions; (2) “the double,” another member seconding for and supporting the protagonist; (3) “the soliloquy,” characterized by a recitation by the protagonist of self-insights and projections; and (4) “the mirror,” auxiliary egos portraying what the protagonist must feel. By forcing themselves to verbalize and act parts, the members are helped to break through blocks in perceiving, feeling, and acting. Sometimes the therapist (the director) decides which life situations from the patient’s history are to be reenacted in order to work at important conflictual foci. A technique often followed is that assumed by “auxiliary egos,” who are trained workers or former patients “standing in” for the patient and spontaneously uttering ideas and thoughts that they believe the patient may not yet be able to verbalize.
When is it used?
By venting feelings and fantasies in the role of actor, the patient often desensitize to inner terrors, achieves hidden wishes, prepares for future contingencies, and otherwise helps to resolve many deeper problems and conflicts.
Role of therapist:
The therapist, in the role as “director,” may remain silent or inject questions and suggestions. Material elicited during psychodrama is immediately utilized in the presence of the “actor” patient and the group “audience.” This technique usually has an emotionally cathartic value, and it may also help the patient understand problems revealed by one’s personal actions and thoughts as well as those reflected by other members of the group.