Psychodrama was created by J.L.Moreno when he was a young medical student in Vienna in the early 1920’s. He was intrigued by creativity and determined to use it as a measure of mental health and healthy development…and indeed he did. Psychodrama, in short, is enacting our stories rather than just talking about them. We choose a protagonist (or one self-selects) among a group dedicated to enacting the drama, taking roles chosen by the protagonist, and led by what Moreno called a “director” (not a work I like much…more like a facilitator). Usually about 90 minutes long and mapped by starting with the external story, going into scenes further and further back in the protagonist’s life, until we find a core experience that relates to the symptom otology in the beginning scene. We then find reparative scenes/experiences on the way back to the original problem, which may be enacted in a new way.
Dan Siegel describes healing our implicit (non-conscious) wounds via differentiation and linkage toward the goal of integration. This is exactly what we do in psychodrama: differentiate the unintegrated feelings, sensations, images, perceptual fragments, enact them, then link them back to the narrative of the protagonist, integrating them into real-life, but without the “baggage” once linked to them.
Psychodrama is a therapeutic modality but it is also used in many other settings: education, role-training in business, spirituality, among others. And speaking of spirituality, let me give you a bit more information about Bibliodrama. This is a use of psychodrama wherein members of a group choose roles in a spiritual passage (usually chosen by the group…from the Torah, the Christian Bible, the Bhagivad Gita, a Zen or Sufi tale, etc.) and enact the passage. The participants gain a deep understanding most often of the relationship of their character to their own life and the meaning the passage has for them.
An example of this: the stoning of the adulteress in (John 7:53-8:11). Since we cannot change what is written (what Peter Pitzele, the creator of Bibliodrama, called the “black fire”), we give the group the opportunity to take all the roles in the passage, even the inanimate objects (like the stones). But since we know there were other things going on that were not written, we can add characters (called the “white fire,” what had to be there but was not written about), like the adulterer. I always use characters like this and often they are the most powerful in the story. Another example of this might be Sarah in the story of the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22). She was not written about but you can be sure she knew (at some level) what Abraham had in mind…and the chances are pretty good that she had something to say about it!
I have conducted hundreds of Bibliodramas and would like to introduce more people to this modality, very powerful and evocative.