According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, psychodrama is “a method of psychotherapy in which clients enact their concerns to achieve new insight about themselves and others. Its central premise is that spontaneity and creativity are crucial for the balanced, integrated personality and that humans are all improvising actors on the stage of life.”

What Is Psychodrama?

Psychodrama has its roots in the disciplines of psychology and theater and was developed by psychiatrist Jacob Moreno in the early 1900s. Group psychodrama is a type of experiential therapy that uses role-playing to explore painful or traumatic experiences from participants’ lives with the intent of discovering underlying trauma, gaining fresh insights, resolving past conflicts, or practicing new behaviors and life skills.

Typically, psychodrama is conducted in weekly group therapy sessions with 8-12 members and uses role-playing and group dynamics to help group members explore conflicts, trauma or other complex issues in a safe environment. In each session, a life event of one member will be enacted. 

Phases of Psychodrama

The session is broken into three sections or phases:

  1. Warm-up phase: This aims to develop trust, group unity and a feeling of emotional safety. 
  2. Action phase: This phase has group members create a scene based on an event in one of the group members’ lives. The person with the issue, referred to as the protagonist, may be portrayed by another group member. The therapist functions as the director and other group members play different roles in the story or serve as the audience. 
  3. Sharing phase: The last phase is when the therapist leads a discussion of the scene and helps the group process emotions that may have surfaced as a result of the scene and any observations that might impact the protagonist.

Psychodrama Techniques

Psychodrama uses a number of techniques, including role reversal, mirroring, doubling and soliloquy. Here’s a look at each technique:

Role reversal: The protagonist plays someone else in the story for role reversal. This technique can help the protagonist understand someone else’s point of view as well as help the therapist understand the dynamics of the relationship being portrayed. 

Mirroring: In this technique, the protagonist becomes an observer, and another group member plays the protagonist. This way, the protagonist can watch themselves. This technique is helpful if the protagonist is experiencing strong negative feelings, or conversely, if they are feeling distant or removed from their emotions. 

Doubling: This is when another group member speaks the thoughts and feelings they think the protagonist may be experiencing. This technique can create empathy for the protagonist or can function as a type of challenge to the protagonist. 

Soliloquy: The protagonist speaks their own thoughts and feelings directly to the group members who make up the audience during this technique.

Psychodrama and Healing

Psychodrama is considered a holistic treatment modality because it uses both the body and action, exploring the patient’s thoughts and emotions surrounding a life experience. This technique is good for a range of issues, including addiction to drugs or alcohol as well as unresolved trauma or loss.

When a person experiences trauma, often the memory is not processed by the brain but is stored in the body. The thoughts and perceptions of the person who experienced the trauma become distorted. Psychodrama helps bring the person’s past experience into the present and bridge the gap between the mind and the body, allowing healing to occur.

As part of a treatment plan for someone struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, psychodrama is a powerful tool to help patients learn more about themselves, their emotions and their addiction. Frequently, people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol began abusing their substance of choice in an effort to escape from uncomfortable negative emotions. As a result, their emotions often have been buried. Psychodrama is a powerful tool that can help people reconnect with their emotions and process them. In addition, group psychodrama can give people a safe place to work on interpersonal skills, practice new, healthier behaviors and coping mechanisms, examine situations in which a relapse could occur and roleplay solutions.

Casey Castronova, clinical director at the Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford, reiterates psychodrama’s effectiveness in giving patients a way to address painful issues that can lead to relapse. Casey states that psychodrama provides “a more interactive way for clients to get in touch with their feelings and address some internal pain and trauma that often leads to relapse.” She adds that because of psychodrama’s effectiveness, all the clinical staff are receiving training in this area. Psychodrama is not as commonly used as other treatment modalities, but because of its positive outcomes, it is on the rise.

Group psychodrama is a type of experiential therapy used to help patients gain greater insight into themselves by exploring traumatic or painful experiences from their lives. In psychodrama, patients re-enact past situations and even dreams in order to resolve issues that are causing problems in their lives. Psychodrama can be particularly useful for patients struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, or for patients with unresolved trauma or loss. If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction and is ready to seek treatment, group psychodrama can be beneficial. Psychodrama is one of the treatment modalities used at  Pinelands in New Jersey to bring help and healing to people struggling with addiction. Our focus is on treating the whole person rather than just focusing on the addiction. Our goal is to help all our patients lead the rich and rewarding life after rehab they deserve. To learn more about the recovery treatment offered at Pinelands, call (877) 557-5372.