Psychodrama is a type of relationship therapy which explores the problems, issues, concerns and difficulties that people might have in their daily lives through role play in a group setting.
Through acting out certain types of scenarios that represent issues that are going on in a person’s life, it enables the therapist to gain an understanding into how the person reacts in certain given situations and to identify potential problems in order to suggest other ways the person may have dealt with a situation in another way which might be more productive for them in the future.
Ultimately, its aim is to develop new solutions to old unresolved problems or to suggest meaningful solutions to new problems through role play. For people who are interested in personal development, it can often help them to see certain situations in a new light which then empowers them to make changes in their lives and relationships.
Usually, a group which forms together in a psychodrama session will all have some area of doubt in their lives which they want to eradicate or improve upon. Therefore, the initial process is all about getting participants to feel safe which is often achieved through mutual respect and confidentiality considerations when it comes to each member expressing concerns that they have individually and sharing those with the rest of the group.
How Does Psychodrama Work?
Psychodrama employs a range of techniques to explore the interaction of a person with somebody else to enable the therapist to explore how that situation has made the person feel and how it might have been handled differently. There are 4 main variations:
- Role reversal
Here is a typical situation which a person might encounter in a psychodrama group therapy class. Let’s suppose Tony is a person attending a psychodrama therapy session. Tony is a married man who is having difficulties communicating with his wife Karen without their discussions boiling over into an argument and use that as an example to demonstrate the 4 techniques outlined above.
In this situation, Tony would act out a typical discussion as himself with one of the group members who would assume the part of his wife Karen. Then after that’s played out, the roles would be reversed and the group member would assume Tony’s role whilst Tony would assume the role of his wife. In this way, Tony is then able to experience the relationship through Karen’s eyes which can help him to see things from her perspective which he may not have previously been able to do.
Here, Tony is taken to one side and another group member is asked to assume Tony’s role and play the same scene out in the same manner that Tony did initially. In this way, Tony can watch from a distance a ‘mirror’ image of himself and how he relates to Karen. In this way, his detachment can often help him to identify patterns of speech, body language or behaviour which he may not have realised he was demonstrating in order to identify problem areas in order to communicate differently next time.
Here, other group members are asked to assume the role of Tony and are asked how they would react to the same interaction with Karen. This way, Tony is able to watch the different ways each group member takes on his role which might suggest better ways he can handle things.
Here, Tony acts as himself but he has a group member standing right next to him (like a sort of shadow) as he interacts with the person playing the role of Karen. Here, though, Tony’s ‘shadow’ tries to act and speak in a way which reflects the signals Tony is giving off.
For example, if he saw Tony clenching his fist, the ‘shadow’ might verbally respond by saying, “I’m angry with you, Karen.” Then the therapist might stop the scene and ask if that’s what Tony was feeling. This way, Tony is able to identify non-verbal cues that he’s giving off which he might wish to work on in his actual interaction with his wife, Karen.
Ultimately, psychodrama therapy enables the subject to see things from alternative viewpoints or as the result of being detached from a particular situation.
In doing so, it allows the subject to identify problems they may not have previously been aware of and, along with discussing these with the therapist and other group members, the subject can often come to the realisation that there are alternative and better ways of handling a given situation which, up to this point, has been something they are concerned about.