Psychodrama can be used therapeutically to help clients in three different settings.
A. Individual therapy sessions
There are several psychodrama techniques that are used with individual clients. One is called doubling: With this technique the therapist speaks what he or she feels is not being said by the client. Often unsaid because of fear or unawareness. They may say that their father was “a harsh disciplinarian” or “very strict” when they were a child. The therapist would say, “I am now speaking with your voice and then say, ‘I was physically or emotionally abused as a kid.” Then the client could acknowledge that as a true statement, or change it to what is true. Doubling can move the therapy ahead by helping them speak difficult truths.
B. Couples therapy sessions
In a couple’s session the same technique of doubling can be used to facilitate the couple being more honest and intimate with each other. When one person says, “It seems like you are never available to me” the therapist might double them and say, “I miss you so much and I am angry that I don’t seem to be very important to you!” And then check to see if that statement fits, or not. By being more honest it can help the couple create more closeness.
In addition to techniques like doubling a psycho- dramatist’s tool bag includes long nylon scarves in a wide variety of colors. They can be used as a symbol of the division and separateness between the couple. It is laid out on the floor in front of the couple. The couple can be asked to stand and face each other across “the divide” represented by the scarf. Then the therapist asks each person to come up with a statement that they feel with bring about more closeness and connection with the other. The therapist will coach each person or offer suggestions for each statement. Like, “I feel closer to you when you ask me how my day was.” Or, “I want us to be more intimate, but I don’t know how to make that happen. Please help me.” This type of work continues and is later processed with the couple.
C. Group therapy sessions
Full psychodramas are done in a therapy group where other people who can take on the roles in the dramas. It makes for a richer experience and others benefit from being in others dramas.
For example, a member may want to work on understanding why they have a hard time speaking up for themselves. The group leader takes on the director role and works with the group member, now called the protagonist, to help them set up the initial scene. If the scene is a workplace bullying incident someone is chosen to play the boss who was bullying the protagonist. The drama begins as the protagonist takes the role of their boss and shows the director how they stand, what they said, etc. Another group member would be chosen to play the boss and someone possibly to stand in for the protagonist. This standing in is done so that they can observe the scene from a distance. By doing so the protag can be more objective and less emotionally entangled by the scene. The director would next discuss the scene with them; the feeling that came up, etc. They might get to how it reminded them of some part of their childhood. Next a new scene would be set up with new group members taking on roles.
This time the protagonist might be encouraged to step into the scene as they are now, an empowered adult and tell the bullying parent “Stop! You can’t talk to me that way!” By speaking up they are standing up for a younger part of themselves. It is a low risk way of getting to right a wrong from long ago.
They would return to the original scene carrying the righteous anger and strength from their encounter with a parent. They would stand up to the boss and then be coached and helped on how to do that effectively. This technique is called “role training”.
Group members would be de-roled and the session would end with group sharing. The sharing are spontaneous and address how each member related to the struggle. This process helps bring the group back together and gets it ready to shift into other work.
Psychodrama is a powerful therapeutic method with multiple applications.
To read more on Psychodrama Training click here.