by Lisa Ferentz, LCSW-C DAPA, with Yehuda Bergman, PhD RDT

We are excited to have Yehuda Bergman teach our upcoming training “Expressive Therapy Intensive: Using Psychodrama and Other Creative Modalities to Process Counter-Transference When Working with Traumatized Clients.”  I asked Yehuda to respond to a few questions about the paradigm, and I think you will find his answers very informative!

Q.) Can you briefly describe what psychodrama is and how it is used in therapy?

Yehuda) Psychodrama is a holistic, strengths based method of psychotherapy in which people are helped to enact and explore situations from their own life, addressing issues that can relate to the past, present and future.  It utilizes dramatic action to create a safe, supportive setting that allows people to practice new and more effective roles and behaviors.  Individuals are offered the opportunity to become creative in developing new solutions to old and tired problems.  For more than half a century, Psychodrama has been identified as one of the most powerful ways in which to treat traumatized people. It reaches into the hearts of people who cope with the everyday difficulties, misfortunes, and crises of life.  Each Psychodrama, whether in a group or individual setting, conveys the hidden, horrific realities of such victims and survivors through enactment. As a healing art, Psychodrama is a flexible form of brief experiential treatment typically including in its sessions a warm-up, action, working through, closure, and sharing.  A variety of standard interventions such as doubling, mirroring, role reversal, soliloquy, concretization and maximization are used.

Q.) What are the most common misconceptions about psychodrama?

Yehuda) One of the main misconceptions of Psychodrama is that it is a relatively new field in the world of psychotherapy. In fact, developed by Psychiatrist Dr. J. L. Moreno (1889‐1974) from the 1920s onwards, psychodrama was the first recognized method of group psychotherapy and is practiced in more than 100 countries!  Psychodrama is fully accredited as a psychotherapy by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). It has an extensive body of literature of more than 6,000 publications, plus many national and regional journals around the world. It has contributed ideas and techniques used in many other forms of psychotherapy. In 1912, Moreno attended one of Sigmund Freud’s lectures. In his autobiography, he recalled the experience: “As the students filed out, he singled me out from the crowd and asked me what I was doing. I responded, ‘Well, Dr. Freud, I start where you leave off. You meet people in the artificial setting of your office. I meet them on the street and in their homes, in their natural surroundings. You analyze their dreams. I give them the courage to dream again. You analyze and tear them apart. I let them act out their conflicting roles and help them to put the parts back together again.”

Another common misconception about psychodrama is that it is necessary to recreate the traumatic scene in order to access traumatic memory. This is not the case. It is only necessary that clients revisit their own sense of vulnerability, helplessness, rage or whatever they are carrying from the trauma. Revisiting the scene can be re-traumatizing and is not necessary for healing.

Also, many people think that you must know how to act in order to participate in a Psychodrama group.  In reality, this is not necessary at all.  Everybody can participate and benefit from Psychodrama!

Q.) What are the ways in which clients benefit from psychodrama?

Yehuda) Psychodrama can help people better understand themselves and their history, resolve loss and trauma, overcome fears, improve their intimate and social relationships, express and integrate blocked thoughts and emotions, and practice new skills or prepare for the future.

Psychodrama allows for the safe expression of strong feelings and, for those who need it, the practice of containing emotions. As participants move from ‘talking about’ into action, opportunities arise to heal the past, clarify the present, and imagine the future.  Psychodrama can offer a wider perspective on individual and social problems and an opportunity to try out new behaviors.

Let us know, in a comment, what your experience has been with psychodrama.  If you have any questions about the benefits of using psychodrama in your practice, we’re happy to get an answer for you!

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