Psychodrama Therapy

Experiential Therapy for Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders

Substance use and mental health disorder treatment and recovery programs employ a range of treatment modalities, including group therapy, medication-assisted therapy, and experiential therapies like psychodrama.

Using techniques grounded in psychology and theater, psychodrama therapy helps you work through the conflicts and emotions that hinder your recovery for a true path to healing. Guided by a psychodrama therapist or other licensed professional, you can explore your feelings in a safe space to gain perspective and self-awareness.

Addiction and mental health disorders are not universal. Your treatment program shouldn’t be, either. Come pursue your Epiphany with us.

What Is Psychodrama Therapy?

Psychodrama therapy is a type of experiential, action-based therapy that helps people explore their issues and conflicts by acting out events. Using elements of role-playing, dramatic self-presentation, and group therapy, psychodrama gives people in-depth insight into their lives and past experiences through a process of self-discovery.

Developed in the 1900s by psychiatrist Jacob Levy Moreno, MD, psychodrama was initially a therapy for the individual.[1] He founded the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama (ASGPP) in 1942 to further development in group psychotherapy, psychodrama, and sociometry.[2]

Psychodrama evolved as a foundation for group therapy in general, changing the process to allow patients to act out their traumatic experiences and gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics in a group setting that influence others.

Though psychodrama is used in a group therapy format, it’s fundamentally an individual therapy that relies on psychological principles, sociological principles, and elements of drama and theater in therapy sessions.

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Psychodrama Therapy Information

Techniques in Psychodrama Therapy

Psychodrama sessions are performed once or twice a week in groups of eight to 12 people. Though sessions are usually around two hours, they may last longer.

Each session focuses on one individual. The remainder of the group acts in a supporting capacity as needed to assist the individual in their exploration process.

There are three components of a psychodrama session:

The Warm-Up Phase
The warm-up phase is an introductory session that allows the group participants to introduce themselves, get to know each other, and build trust for future experiences.

The Action Phase
The action phase includes psychodramatic techniques with the elements of role-playing and acting based around the focus individual – the protagonist. The therapist acts as the “director” to guide the experience using techniques like:

The protagonist observes others acting out scenes, events, and conversations. This builds perspective for the individual to recognize and interpret their emotions, reactions, and thoughts with emotional distance.

Role-playing allows the protagonist to portray an object that is a source of conflict or stress in their personal or professional life – usually a person.

A member of the group acts out the protagonist’s emotions and behaviors. They are free to interpret the protagonist’s thoughts and emotions, revealing what they may be holding back. This process creates a connection between reality and the protagonist’s internal perception.

Role Reversal
The protagonist acts out the role of someone in their life while another member of the group plays the part of the protagonist. This technique involves improvisation, unlocks empathy, and helps the protagonist recognize other people’s perspectives.

With this technique, the protagonist shares their inner thoughts and feelings to the audience, modeled after the dramatic theater device that addresses the audience. The purpose of this technique is to help the protagonist gain insight into their feelings and thoughts to reach a catharsis.

Empty Chair
With the empty chair technique, the protagonist sits before an empty chair that represents a person, object, situation, or themselves. The protagonist then speaks to the empty chair and shares their feelings.

Surplus Reality
Surplus reality is a specific technique that can be used for anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and trauma disorders. It involves acting out scenes that haven’t occurred, typically based around the protagonist’s fears or anxieties of the “worst-case scenario.”

The Sharing Phase
The sharing phase involves a therapist helping the protagonist process the thoughts and emotions that have surfaced during the session to deepen insights and move toward transformation.

During this phase, other group members are free to share their insights to help the protagonist on the journey to self-discovery.

Benefits of Psychodrama

Psychodrama has many potential benefits, including:

  • An increased sense of competence and self-efficacy
  • Deeper resolution of trauma
  • Integration with other types of psychotherapy

One of the greatest advantages of psychodrama is that it has a variety of applications. It can be adapted to the individual’s needs and situations, accessing deeper healing.

Psychodrama Therapy vs. Drama Therapy

Though similar, psychodrama and drama therapy are not the same. Drama therapy is a therapeutic technique that encourages participants to act out stories for personal growth or healing, but it doesn’t require the direction of a psychotherapist or licensed professional.

Psychodrama is a type of drama therapy, but it has some specific requirements:

  • Psychodrama exists within the context of psychotherapy. Drama therapy can occur in many different settings with different group dynamics.
  • Psychodrama focuses on one protagonist, while drama therapy may have a range of different focuses in each session.
  • With psychodrama, there’s an emphasis on the new role the protagonist plays in their own story. Drama therapy is less focused in its approach, and though it may resolve psychological problems, that’s not necessarily the goal.
  • Drama therapy is centered around expression in general, while psychodrama focuses on personal growth and healing.

Is Psychodrama Effective?

More research into the effectiveness of psychodrama is needed, but limited studies suggest that it’s effective for a variety of health conditions.[3] In particular, doubling and role reversal techniques show the highest rates of improvement as interventions in adults and adolescents.[4]

Some studies show that psychodrama sessions can improve outcomes battling substance use disorder by helping them confront their problems, express their feelings, and improve their social skills for better well-being

Psychodrama is a form of therapy often used for substance use disorder and typically addresses issues that may affect the entire group, such as relapse risk and prevention or social issues surrounding substances. Participants can work both as a group and individually to confront the past and manage their triggers and stressors to manage the future.

What Is Psychodrama Used For?

Psychodrama can be helpful for a variety of different mental health conditions, particularly involving emotions, moods, and self-image. The conditions it may help include:

  • Grief
  • Identity issues
  • Eating disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Negative self-image
  • Trauma
  • Relationship problems
  • Addiction
  • Schizophrenia

Following detox, psychodrama therapy may be used in several levels of care, including during partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, outpatient, and dual diagnosis programs.

Integrative Treatment for Mental Health and Drug Abuse

An Integrative Approach to Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder

At Epiphany Wellness, we take an integrative approach to treat the patient as a whole person. Using a tailored, holistic plan that includes evidence-based modalities like psychodrama, MAT, and dual diagnosis treatment, we strive to address your physical, mental, and spiritual wellness for lasting recovery.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Psychodrama

What Is an Example of Psychodrama?

Psychodrama techniques involve acting out events and experiences. For example, a person struggling with substance abuse may be asked to act out being a father and protecting his family from gaining an outside perspective on their struggles with addiction.

What Are the Techniques Used in Psychodrama?

The core techniques used in psychodrama include doubling, mirroring, role-playing, role reversal, the empty chair, soliloquy, and surplus reality. Some therapists may adapt or build upon these techniques with additional interventions as part of an integrative approach.

What Is the Goal of Psychodrama?

Psychodrama therapy helps people process difficult or intense emotions in a safe space to gain a deeper understanding of their thoughts and emotional state.

What Is Psychodrama in Therapy?

Psychodrama is a type of drama therapy that allows an individual to dramatize their personal conflicts with the help of a group. Though other members are involved in supporting roles, each session focuses on one individual.

What Are the Benefits of Psychodrama Therapy?

Psychodrama therapy has many benefits, including increased empathy and emotional intelligence, better conflict resolution, and improved grief management. It provides an outlet to help people work through personal issues with emotional distance for a better perspective.

What Is the Difference Between Psychodrama and Role-Playing?

Role-playing is a guided technique with psychodrama, but there are many other techniques involved. Role-playing can also be used in other settings beyond psychodramas, such as business training, education, and general drama therapy.

What Is Sociometry?

A complement to psychodrama therapy, sociometry is the scientific measurement of social relationships in groups. Also developed by J.L. Moreno, sociometry focuses on interpersonal relationships, not social hierarchies, to increase awareness, empathy, and reciprocity in social situations.[5]

Psychodrama Therapy for Inner Healing

Psychodrama therapy is a key component of letting go of negative thoughts and emotions to reach self-awareness and healing. Let us guide you in your self-expression to confront your conflict, gain a better perspective, and live a life of intention. Contact us.