Psychodrama was designed as a group therapy method, in the 1920s, but I find psychodrama techniques very useful with my individual clients.
Clients talk about issues but also move into action and try out new behaviors and situations before trying them in “the real world. Psychodrama is also great for taking care of unfinished business with a loved one or helps us learn how to heal from trauma. It helps clients find their voices who feel silenced. Our issues are in our tissues. Psychodrama helps us get out of our heads and into our bodies through action.
In 1989, I was a young actress learning psychology in college in order to help me get into characters. During that year, I started participating in a psychodrama training program. I participated in dramas in helpful roles and learned how to be a psychodrama director.
Psychodrama has three parts in groups and in individual therapy.
Warm-up- exercises to get a client ready for action and to find a protagonist in a group
Ex. Lay postcards on the floor and give a voice to the image participants( client) feels drawn to.
Drama: Protagonist (client) acts out issues. In groups, other participants play supportive roles.
Sharing: Process drama. De-role roles. Each person shares from their own experience. It’s not a time to give advice or pass judgment on the protagonist who has shared a part of their lives.
In individual psychodrama therapy, the therapist may also share from their own experience something they have resolved and healed.
How do I use Psychodrama with individual clients?
When clients work with me they get to have a new appreciation for pillows. Instead of other people playing roles as in a group psychodrama, in individual therapy, pillows, chairs or other objects can take on the roles of other people. If a client is having a hard time accepting a part of themselves like a “Needy Nelly” a pillow takes on the role of “Needy Nelly” and the client can actively dialogue with that part positioning that pillow as close or as far away as they feel with that part. Clients can gain insight, develop more self- compassion and self-acceptance.
Psychodrama can also be helpful when taking care of unfinished business. A client had a break-up with a boyfriend. There were still things she wanted to say to her ex. With an empty chair in front of her, the client gets to say all the things she wanted to say to her ex and then role-reverses with her ex. Then role-reverse back. Role-reversals may happen several times. The client always gets the last word. This “empty chair technique” can bring insight, feelings of more self-empowerment, and more resolution with the old relationship.
Rehearsal for Life
Another helpful use of psychodrama techniques is practicing what to say during awkward/difficult conversations. Asking for a raise is a common one to practice. Again with the help of a pillow or chair, the client sees their boss sitting there and begins to ask for what they want. The client can practice different approaches. The client starts the dialogue, role-reverses to become the boss. It is helpful to see what it is like in the other’s shoes. Then the client role-reverses back and has the last word. Role-reversal can happen several times. Again this technique may bring a sense of having choices, boost self-expression and self-efficacy.
Eve Brownstone, LCPC, and is a Certified Psychodramtist with Symmetry Counseling. Currently, Eve Brownstone has some openings. Eve can be reached at 312-768-8762. Contact our Chicago counselors today to arrange your appointment.