A typical Psychodrama session

How does psychodrama work in practice? In a typical session, a group of enthusiastic people work cooperatively to do their personal psychodramas and are led by an experienced practitioner. The group leader will ask someone to get up and act out some of their deepest personal or communal concerns, such as being bullied in the workplace, or the plight of the homeless in society. Others in the group will join, acting extra roles in the person’s drama. The session develops spontaneously and is often both satisfying and enlightening; sometimes deeply personal, and sometimes great fun for everyone involved. For many their first brush with psychodramatic methods is revelatory in its simplicity and effectiveness to get beyond the realms of talk or ‘talk-therapy’. 

In this open-ended way, people find ideas and solutions they didn’t know they had, which they would never have found using conventional training or self-discovery methods. Instead of passively absorbing ‘the answers’, they actively find their answers and help others find theirs. The whole thing is spontaneous and fluid, not didactic and rigid.

History of Psychodrama

Psychodrama is based on the philosophy and methods developed by psychiatrist Dr Jacob Levy Moreno (1889-1974). It grew out of his experiments in Vienna in the 1920s with the theatre of spontaneity, a form of improvisational theatre. Moving to the USA in 1925 he continued to combine this with his interest in social science, exploring the possibilities of treating clients using group psychotherapy. This work has been further refined by many practitioners and training institutes worldwide including in the United Kingdom, Central and Eastern Europe, USA, South America, Japan, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.

Though somewhat younger, Moreno was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud, and like Freud, he developed techniques to get below the surface of ordinary life to help people heal. Yet where Freud used the couch, Moreno used the stage, and instead of sitting passively, he was an active participant on this stage.

Moreno developed several techniques related to psychodrama, including sociodrama, sociometry, role theory and group psychotherapy, all of which are studied within the psychodrama training programs run by training institutes in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.

Psychodrama is being actively used and taught throughout the world, like North and South America, Canada, the European Union, Russia, Turkey, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, China and Japan.

Exploring what is important to you

As a participant in a psychodrama session, you can explore the life situations that are of interest and concern to you through this type of dramatic enactment. During the enactment, you can express, refine and integrate new ways of being and doing. Psychodrama works for people of all ages and cultures with a wide range of life experiences. It strengthens your sense of self. It also strengthens your relationships with others and your effectiveness in groups.

Experiential Training

Psychodrama is taught experientially. This means that the training is highly interactive, involving you with working with yourself, your life, the life of others and then the development of the group. This method of teaching provides a form of deep learning that grounds the learning in your identity not just a series of ideas.

Psychodrama assists individuals

  • re-examine their current life situations, their past, their social networks and cultural context
  • generate new perspectives on particular events or situations
  • develop fresh responses to entrenched relationship dynamics
  • prepare for future situations in which they wish to function with a greater degree of flexibility, vitality and immediacy
  • bring together action, insight and ‘here and now’ experience as they engage with life
  • enlarge perceptions of themselves and others

Psychodrama assists groups

  • examine themselves and constructively work through the dynamics of group life
  • recognise patterns of interaction and interpersonal dynamics
  • investigate both the formal and informal relationship networks
  • recognize their collective functioning and make informed decisions about changing group norms
Psychodrama Stage at Beacon
A meeting of two: eye to eye, face to face. And when you are near I will tear your eyes out and place them instead of mine, and you will tear my eyes out and will place them instead of yours, then I will look at me with mine.
J. L. Moreno