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What is Psychodrama?

Psychodrama is a method of psychotherapy in which people are helped to actively explore situations from their own life, past, present and future. Psychodrama is holistic in the sense that it takes into account the whole person - one's thoughts, feelings, behaviour, physical being, relationships, social context and history, and also the emotional / spiritual dimensions of well-being.

Each psychodrama addresses the concerns of the person who is in focus. The range of issues may be wide. With sensitively guided facilitation, participants in psychodrama are helped to examine areas of concern, better understand themselves and their history, resolve loss and trauma, overcome fears, improve their relationships, express and integrate blocked thoughts and emotions, practise new skills or prepare for the future.

The scenes enacted may be based on specific events in a person's life, their current or past relationships, unfinished situations, desired roles or inner thoughts and conflicts. These scenes include, for example, finally saying goodbye to a loved one, re-visiting a painful time to express previously forbidden emotions, or trying out a new, successful role.

A psychodrama often begins with a scene examining a current problem or difficulty, and may trace it back to earlier life situations. Here, the participant may have the chance to experience what was missing but needed at that time. The enactment then returns to the present, where new learning can be integrated and put into practice.

During a psychodrama, individuals in the group take various roles, as needed. Witnessing and participating in each others personal stories can generate feelings of deep understanding and trust amongst group members.

Developed by Psychiatrist Dr. Jacob Levy Moreno from the 1920's, psychodrama was the first recognised method of group psychotherapy and is fully accredited by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). Psychodrama is practised by thousands of therapists in more than 100 countries, and has contributed ideas and techniques used in many other forms of psychotherapy. For a brief history of psychodrama, click here.


How does it work?

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 behaviours.

The term 'psychodrama' means 'the mind in action.' It is a way of learning through the active presentation of one's own life and perceptions. In psychodrama, people are helped to enhance their own capacity for psychological healing by re-discovering their natural spontaneity, creativity and imagination. The method has been described as a way of practising more effective living without being punished for making mistakes.

Each psychodrama includes:

a. The protagonist: The person whose story or issue is explored through guided dramatic action.
b. The auxiliary egos: Group members who assume the roles of significant others in the drama. This may include significant people, objects or even aspects of the self or a person's internal world, e.g. 'my optimistic self' or 'my internal critic.'
c. The audience: Group members who witness the drama and who may become involved in auxiliary roles.
d. The stage: The physical space in which the drama is conducted. This is often simply a designated part of the room.
e. The director: The trained psychodramatist who guides participants through each phase of the session.

As these five ingredients suggest, psychodrama is usually done in group settings. The emphasis is on creating a safe and supportive environment where each person is a potential therapeutic agent for the others. People in the group participate in each others psychodramas, taking the role of significant others. The action is guided by a trained psychodramatist, and afterwards people speak about any experiences they may share in common with the protagonist.

Psychodrama can also be used in one-to-one work, and psychodramatic techniques are used and adapted by many qualified counsellors and therapists from other disciplines who have trained in the method.


Who can benefit from psychodrama?

Because psychodrama is highly versatile and places equal emphasis on thoughts, emotion, body and action, it is a treatment of choice in helping people with difficulties in relationships, self-management and social and emotional functioning. This is especially the case where there is complexity to a person's difficulties (including the combination of several problems at once) and they feel that their issues cannot be addressed sufficiently through such methods as counselling, brief therapy or cognitive-behavioural therapy. Psychodrama is also particularly useful for helping people experiencing unresolved loss, trauma or mood disorders such as anxiety or depression.

Psychodrama has also been used to good effect with people who have been diagnosed with personality disorders and a wide range of other mental health conditions, including psychosis.


Where is psychodrama used?

Psychodrama and its related methods - including sociodrama, sociometry and role play - are applied in diverse settings such as mental health, trauma and abuse recovery, counselling, medical training, residential children's homes, social work, schools and universities, prisons and probation, youth and community work, addictions programmes, public and voluntary sector agencies, refugee centres, retirement homes, personal development workshops, relationship and marital counselling, community-building, professional training and development, human resources, and business and industry.

Psychodrama is often used in combination with other therapies such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, creative arts therapies and group analysis, depending on the training of the therapist and the nature of the problem.


Who are BIP workshops intended for?

BIP offers training to people in all of these fields of work. Practitioners and students are welcome to attend BIP courses and events, where they can expand their clinical and facilitation skills, gain knowledge of psychodramatic techniques and promote their professional and personal growth.

Members of the general public interested in personal growth in a safe therapeutic environment, and people who are considering training in therapy, are welcome to attend therapy groups, open weekends and introductory days.


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