Aaron Beck Endorses the Union of Psychodrama and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was created by Dr. Aaron Beck in the 1960s.  Since this time it has increasingly been recognized as an extraordinarily effective psychotherapeutic intervention.  Since its early development, scientists around the world have researched CBT to determine if it is effective in treating such disparate disorders as depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, drug abuse, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder.  Scientists have also studied the efficacy of CBT for treating patients with suicidal ideologies.

Psychodrama was developed by J.L. Moreno, beginning in the early 1900 when he was living and practicing as a psychologist in Vienna.  He continued with its development in the United States after moving here in 1925.  Only recently has psychodrama been combined with CBT.  The union has often met with great success.

For example, Hamachi (2006) found in his research addressing the union of the two, “that only psychodrama integrated with cognitive behavioral therapy resulted in greater reduction in depression, dysfunctional attitudes and negative automatic thoughts from post-test to the 6-month follow-up than cognitive behavioral group therapy.”  This despite the lack of a statistically significant difference between the groups treated with both interventions separately.

Hamachi (2002) has also concluded that “treatment with an integrated approach, using psychodrama and CBT, leads to decreases in cognitive distortions related to avoidance intimacy, unrealistic relationships expectancy and mind reading.  He concluded that the combination of psychodrama and CBT can lead to significant reductions in cognitive distortions related to relationships.”

The union of psychodrama and CBT has also been found to be effective in treating addiction, in part because it allows the therapist to bypass the resistance common in these groups. (Avrahami, 2003).

In his excellent new book Treadwell (2016) explains how a therapist might blend psychodrama and CBT.  In the introduction, Treadwell explains “The purpose of this workbook is to explain the techniques that are used and encountered by group members in the Cognitive Psychodrama Group Therapy (CPGT) model. This model incorporates cognitive behavioral and psychodrama interventions to allow group members to identify and modify negative thinking, behavior, and interpersonal patterns.

Aaron Beck himself has recommended Treadwell’s book recently on the ACT listserve, writing that “[T]his compelling group workbook compiles the formulations of several leading researchers in the field of Cognitive Therapy and Psychodrama. This pioneering edition is the first in the field to integrate these valuable components in a simple workbook for clients and is a must-read for mental health professionals.”

Current research has demonstrated that psychodrama and CBT has a synergistic effect.  The combination of the two presents an exciting opportunity for practitioners.  Further research will continue to explore the synergy between psychodrama and CBT.

Avrahami, Cognitive-behavioral approach in psychodrama: discussion and example from addiction treatment, The Arts in Psychotherapy 30 (2003) 209–216.

Hamachi, The effect of Integrating Psychodrama and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on Reducing Cognitive Distortions in Interpersonal Relationships, Journal of Group Psychotherapy Psychodrama & Sociometry (2002).

Hamachi, Integrating psychodrama and cognitive behavioral therapy to treat moderate depression, The Arts in Psychotherapy 33 (2006) 199–207.

Treadwell, Group Therapy Workbook, Integrating Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Psychodramatic Theory and Practice.” (2016).