More to psychodrama than drama

Psychodrama creates a safe space - which we call "surplus reality" - where people can begin to clear away "the wreckage of the past" and step into a more satisfying future. Psychodrama sessions are often performed as weekly group therapy sessions, but this method can be used for individual work as well. A session is typically executed in three phases: warm-up, action, and sharing.

The goal of the warm-up phase is to establish a sense of safety and to identify a core theme or issue. A typical way to clarify the focus for a session is by setting out markers at various locations in the room to represent those topics that seem most important, then inviting you to explore how it feels to be on each spot. This embodied, action approach to choosing often helps bring rapid clarity about what to work on.

In the action phase, typically the psychodramatist will help you create a scene based on an event or situation associated with the issue. Other people who were involved may be represented by empty chairs, scarves, or other objects. Often, simply the act of setting a scene helps enhance recall of the emotions and events associated with an experience and put them in a new light. In addition to expressing whatever you wish to say – which may have gone unspoken when the event actually occurred – two key techiques include:

  • Role reversal: You step out of your role and take on the role of others in the scene. In that way, you may come to see things from others' perspectives or have an intuitive understanding of feelings that may not have been evident at the time. You may experience a newfound compassion. Or you may recognize that the other person will not change in ways you keep hoping they will.
  • Doubling: After asking whether you are comfortable with him doing so, the psychodramatist will step behind and slightly to your side and express emotions or thoughts (as if he were speaking through you) that may help clarify your own innermost thoughts or feelings. He will then invite you to put that doubling statement into your own words, correct it, or change it so that it is true for you. You may find that this helps you get in touch with unexpressed, deep-seated feelings.

Often role reversal and doubling bring new and unexpected insights. For example, you may become aware of things you wish you had said or done at the time: enactment offers an opportunity for a corrective experience. Or you may realize that you're in a stalemate and you have to let go and move on. Or you may clarify that you need to set boundaries that you have not recognized previously and will get to practice stating your needs and setting your limits.

During the sharing phase, the psychodramatist will help you integrate the experience. He invites you to clarify the meaning of feelings and emotions that have come to light or to reinforce a new vision or intention for your life going forward. He may share how he can relate to or identify with universal aspects of your experience as it played out in the drama. Often this phase also identifies issues you can “bookmark” as a focus for future pieces of work.