Psychodrama is a form of therapy that uses an active and creative approach. It uses guided drama and role play to work through issues to heal trauma and other painful experiences. This approach is used in a group setting and incorporates different group dynamics to help individuals gain a greater perspective on the conflicts, emotional concerns, and other areas of difficulty.
During a psychodrama therapy session, clients reenact specific experiences with therapist guidance. Participants reenact scenes from past situations, dreams, or future preparations. In the group setting, group members either play a role in the scene or the audience, all offering their support and bringing up underlying beliefs.
Benefits of Psychodrama
The psychodrama approach allows people to express strong emotions and feelings in a healthy and productive manner. It is helpful for individuals who struggle to contain their emotions as well. The technique uses a holistic approach by emphasizing body action as well as emotion and thought. It is effective for a wide array of issues, such as relationship troubles, social and emotional function, trauma, loss, and addiction.
It can also be beneficial for treating those diagnosed with personality, mood, and eating disorders and dealing with identity and self-image. Psychodrama provides clients with a safe space to communicate the challenges they face and gain support from group members.
Psychodrama therapy can be a powerful experience for clients. It differs from talk therapy methods because it is “real-time” and action-based. The goal of psychodrama is to resolve issues, gain a new perspective, and practice new life skills and behaviors. In addition to that, psychodrama can help individuals:
- Overcome loss and grief
- Improve their communication skills
- Enhance relational skills
- Restore self-confidence and well-being
- Learn life skills
- Express their feelings in a safe environment
- Use new ways of thinking
Each psychodrama session centers around the situation of one individual, with other group members playing their roles as needed. The session is usually done in three phases: the warm-up, the action, and the sharing phase. Through the role play, the protagonist and other participants gain insight and perspective into the past event, present challenges, and future possibilities.
The warm-up phase is meant to establish trust and safety amongst the group members. Without trust and group cohesion, some clients may not feel secure with performing action methods or sharing their feelings on certain issues or conflicts. The group uses this time to get to know one another and gain insight to group members.
In the action phase, the protagonist uses the guidance of the therapist to create a scene based on an important event. The therapist directs the session while group members play the roles of auxiliary egos, individuals in the protagonist’s life, or act as an audience. Some techniques that may be used during the action phase are:
- Role reversal: The protagonist takes on the role of a significant person in their life or during the event. This technique allows the protagonist to step away from their own role and understand and empathize with the other person. It also helps the therapist understand the relationship dynamic.
- Doubling: This is when the director (therapist) or other group members follow the protagonist’s movements and behavior while acting as their “inner voice”. The person expresses aloud any thoughts or emotions that they belief to be the protagonist’s feelings and thoughts. They are presenting what is not being said, but what may be being experienced unconsciously.
- Mirroring: The protagonist observes as auxiliary egos act out the event. This technique is useful when the protagonist is feeling distant from the feelings and emotions of the event. It is also helpful if they are experiencing extremely negative feelings about the scene.
- Soliloquy: In this technique, the protagonist presents inner thoughts and feelings to the group. This is either done when speaking to a double or at the therapist’s encouragement.
During the sharing phase, the therapist helps individuals process the scene. In order for the treatment to be successful, processing the meaning behind the feelings and emotions from the scene is critical. The sharing phase allows time for group discussions about the events of the action phase.
As one of the core therapy methods used at Safe Harbor, psychodrama has helped countless individuals struggling with trauma and other painful situations. Not only are individuals helped, but they are also a vital part in helping their peers. By assisting others, individuals contribute to their community and feel necessary to the whole. Clients also learn to empathize with their peers and develop meaningful relationships based on trust. As the protagonist, individuals gain a new perspective on their situation and negative energy is released.