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Psychodrama Los Angeles
An action approach using therapy, creativity and intuition
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What is Psychodrama?

1. What is Psychodrama?
2. What is Sociometry?
3. What is Group Psychotherapy?
4. What is Sociodrama?
5. What is Playback Theater?
6. Resources for further reading 

1. What is Psychodrama?


 Historical Perspective

Psychodrama is a professional practice based on the therapy, philosophy, and methodology developed by Jacob Levy Moreno, M.D. (1889-1974), which uses action methods of enactment, sociometry, group dynamics, role theory, and systems analysis to facilitate constructive change in individuals and groups through the development of new perceptions or reorganizations of old cognitive patterns and impacting changes in behavior (Buchanan, 1984). The history of psychodrama for the most part is also the history of its founder, Moreno, who immigrated to the United States from Vienna, Austria in 1925.  By the mid 1920's, Moreno had developed and began to publish his theories of psychodrama, sociometry, and group psychotherapy.  According to Moreno, the first psychodrama session was held on April 1, 1921.  Currently there are moe than 400 certified practitioners and trainers throughout the US and many more throughout the world.

Theoretical Framework of Psychodrama 

Spirituality is at the core of Moreno's theory. He believed that within every person there lies a divine spark, which he called the "Godhead". Moreno believed that our spontaneity and creativity flows from that divine spark. Spontaneity can be thought of as the readiness for action and Creativity as the response or act.  Problems often can be connected with a block to our spontaniety and creaivity. These blocks cause impairments to the roles we play, both intrapsychic roles such as the meditator or the dreamer, or social roles such as mother/father or employer/employee.

Role Development : Moreno argued that the self emerges from the roles we play.  We begin with psychosomatic roles (the sleeper, eater) move on to social roles (son/daughter and sister/brother) and fantasize about psychodramatic roles (both professional such as a teacher or policeman and personal such as a friend, spouse, parent or recovered alcoholic). Psychodrama is a creative modality in which participants enact these psychodramatic roles in order to access the spontaniety needed to bring these psychodramatic roles to fruition in our lives in the here and now. 

Tools of Psychodrama

Double : Supportively speaking the inner voice of another group member. To express the feelings, thoughts, or experience that another group member cannot or will not express.

Mirror: The employment of a double or stand in for the protagonist to play him so that the protagonist can watch the scene from another perspective.

Role reversal: A technique that allows the protagonist to play any role in the drama,see the self from the outside and to experience the role from the position of the other

Future Projection: A scene that has not actually happened, but is anticipated, or wished for in the future.


Playback Theater: the spontaneous enactment of a group member’s personal story, enacted by other group members


2. What is Sociometry?


    Sociometry is the study of human connectedness. Moreno viewed society as composed of units made up of each individual and the essential persons in his or her life. Moreno called this smallest unit of measurement, the social atomcomprised of all the significant figures, real or fantasized, and past and present.  
     Jacob Levy Moreno coined the term sociometry and conducted the first long-range sociometric study from 1932-38 at the New York State Training School for Girls in Hudson, New York.  As part of this study, Moreno used sociometric techniques to assign residents to various residential cottages.  He found that assignments on the basis of sociometry substantially reduced the number of runaways from the facility (Moreno, 1953, p. 527).  Many more sociometric studies have been conducted since, by Moreno and others, in settings including other schools, the military, therapy groups, and business corporations.
     A useful working definition of sociometry is that it is a methodology for tracking the energy vectors of interpersonal relationships in a group.   It shows the patterns of how individuals associate with each other when acting as a group toward a specified end or goal (Criswell in Moreno, 1960, p. 140).  Moreno himself defined sociometry as “the mathematical study of psychological properties of populations, the experimental technique of and the results obtained by application of quantitative methods” (Moreno, 1953, pp. 15-16).

      Sociometry is based on the fact that people make choices in interpersonal relationships. Whenever people gather, they make choices--where to sit or stand; choices about who is perceived as friendly and who not, who is central to the group, who is rejected, who is isolated.  As Moreno says, “Choices are fundamental facts in all ongoing human relations, choices of people and choices of things.  It is immaterial whether the motivations are known to the chooser or not; it is immaterial whether [the choices] are inarticulate or highly expressive, whether rational or irrational.  They do not require any special justification as long as they are spontaneous and true to the self of the chooser.  They are facts of the first existential order.” (Moreno, 1953, p. 720).


3. What is Group Psychotherapy?

       Group psychotherapy, like individual psychotherapy, is intended to help people who would like to improve their ability to cope with difficulties and problems in their lives. But, while in individual therapy the patient meets with only one person (the therapist), in group therapy the meeting is with a whole group and one or two therapists. Group therapy focuses on interpersonal interactions, so member's relationship issues are addressed well in groups. One overarching benefit of the group modality is that often member's feel "less alone" with their issues due to other members relating and identifying with one another. 

       The aim of group psychotherapy is to help with solving the emotional difficulties and to encourage the personal development of the participants in the group. The therapist (called conductor, leader or facilitator) chooses candidates who may have a useful influence on other members in the group.


 Psychodrama Group Format

Warm-up: For a spontaneous warm-up the facilitator and group members join together and discuss their common concerns or participate in a structured warm up excursive.

Action: The central enactment phase of the group, which could be group or individual focused.

Sharing: The portion of the psychodrama, after the enactment, in which role players and audience members share how they relate to the enactment

4. What is Sociodrama?

       Sociodrama is Moreno's term for the application of psychodrama techniques to group, community, or organizational situations. It is a broad term that can probably be used to subsume all the other categories. The following definition is by Pat Sternberg of Hunter College:

"Sociodrama concerns itself with group issues. It is a group action method in which participants act out an agreed upon social situation spontaneously and discover alternative ways of dealing with that problem. It concerns itself with those aspects of roles that we share with others and helps people to express their thoughts and feelings, solve problems, and clarify values. Unlike simple role playing, sociodrama employs many specific techniques to deepen and broaden the action of the enactment. Some of these are: doubling, soliloquy, and mirroring."

     Sociodrama is used with groups wishing to explore common issues in training, organizations, community, educational and political contexts. It uses many of the same techniques as psychodrama to enable individual and group learning and change. Whereas psychodrama focuses on an individual's personal concerns, sociodrama addresses the group's issue.

  For a fuller description, read Sociodrama: Who's in Your Shoes? by Patricia Sternberg and Antonina Garcia, Praeger 1989


5. What is Playback Theatre?

     Playback is improvisational theater which honors personal story. Playback was created by Jonathan Fox in 1975, and there are now Playback companies around the world. In addition to being performed as artistic theater, Playback is used in educational, community and clinical settings.


     The actors listen to the teller’s tale, and then “play back” what they hear as the essence of the story. Their enactment may be realistic or symbolic. A conductor helps to structure the story for the actors by asking questions of the teller. Often, a musician will accompany the performance. The actors may use drama, mime, dance , movement, sound or puppetry in their enactments. A performance will include various Playback forms. Perhaps a moment in the teller’s day will be played back as a brief Fluid Sculpture. A more literal and lengthy story may be appropriate at times. The actors use fabric to create costumes, sets and symbolism. 

6. Resources for further reading

Adam Blatner, M.D., Acting-In:Practical Applications of Psychodramatic Methods Foreword by J.L. Moreno, M.D. Revised, 3rd Ed. Springer (1996)
Buchanan, D.R. (1984)  Psychodrama. In T.B. Karasu, (Ed.) The Psychiatric Therapies. Washington D.C. The American Psychiatric Association.

Fox, J. (Ed.) (1987) The Essential Moreno: Writings on Psychodrama Group Method and Spontaneity by J.L. Moreno MD. New York: Springer Publishing.

Marineaue, R. Jacob Levy Moreno, 1889-1974. Tavistock Rutledge. London 1989

Antonina Garcia&Patricia Sternberg Sociodrama: Who's in Your Shoes? by Patricia Sternberg and Antonina Garcia, Praeger 1989.