Using Psychodrama to Resolve Conflict in the Business Place


In the business world, we have work groups and work teams. A work team has members who work interdependently on a specific, common goal to produce an end result for their business. A work group is two or more individuals who are interdependent in their accomplishments and may or may not work in the same department. (Wengrzyn, 2016).

Conflict has been with us as long as human beings have existed. Consequently, the mere fact of being together in any sort of group or team pretty much assures that there will always be some amount of friction if not outright conflict among its members. While conflict may have been with us for eons, conflict resolution is a much newer phenomenon.  (LeBaron, 2002).

Although such friction or conflict may have an apparent ‘negative’ effect on the business group, they are not necessarily something ‘bad.’ In fact, conflict may be necessary.  According to Tuckman, all groups go through four stages of development; (1) forming, (2) storming, (3) norming, (4) performing.  This has also been described as dependence on the leader, criticism among members, optimism, and cohesiveness. (Tuckman, 1986).  Thus, all groups “storm” meaning have conflict among the individuals that compose it.  It is therefore appropriate to think of conflicts as normal in healthy relations and if properly managed, as opportunities for development, growth and new learning. (Kellermann, 1996).

The Encounter Method:

One way to resolve friction or conflict in a business group or team is the encounter method. The encounter is a face to face exchange between two people in which each person is able to feel his or her way into the reality of the other, to see themselves through the other person’s eyes as well as their own.  In a group situation, an encounter can be structured by placing two chairs on the stage or work area facing each other.  Psychodramatic techniques such as doubling or working with transference figures that may be obstructing the ability to be with each other in the here and now can be used.  But the goal is to talk directly to allow other the other person, to encounter him not in a role, but as himself.  Encounters allow group members to be in the here and now with each other and work through what might be in the way of the ability to be present. (Dayton, 2005).

Encountering the Other in Action – Role Reversal

The first actual referral to role reversal was described, but not named, by Moreno (1914) in his poem on encounter;

A meeting of two: eye to eye, face to face.  And when you are near I will tear your eyes out and place them instead of mine and you will tear my eyes out and place them instead of yours then I will look at you with your eyes and you will look at me with mine.

This poem may be regarded, not only as the spiritual foundation of role reversal, but also as the philosophical basis of Moreno’s existentialist view of life, reflecting his deep belief in direct, reciprocal meetings between people who take the roles of one another. (Kellerman, 1994).

Although role reversal may have been first conceived by Moreno, and is most effectively performed on a psychodramatic stage, most persons have developed a way of “putting themselves in the other’s place. We think of it as “Trying to understand,” remained in our own role and mentally working out what it must be like to be that other person.  Moreno wanted to bring life, depth and accuracy to the mental process by providing a place where the role reversal takes place in action, the psychodramatic stage.  As with most psychodramtic action, some warming-up to the task is required. (Hale, 1981).

The encounter is essentially a formalized method of role reversal that can sometimes be used to help resolve conflict.  The first and most obvious application of reciprocal role reversal is to help two persons understand one another better and to modify whatever erroneous conceptions they may have about the other person. This result of reciprocal role reversal involves a change of the perception of another person. In contrast, reciprocal role reversal can also change the view we have about ourselves. In such cases, the immediate feedback and mirror image of how we are seen by others and why we are treated in a certain manner make our own roles more clear. Ideally, role reversal produces a shift in perception so that both persons can see the other and themselves in a new and fresh way. The goal is not ‘insight’ or awareness only in itself, but also spontaneity; to look at an old situation differently, or to reorganize old cognitive patterns in a way which facilitates more adequate behavior. (Kellerman, 1996). Moreno believed that in any conflict, role reversal allows us to fully be present with the experience of the other. To this end, he wrote, “Any therapeutic procedure cannot have less an objective than the whole of mankind”. The resolution of conflict cannot take place without a deep understanding of not only our own needs, but that of the other, happening only when we truly take on their shoes in a full and meaningful way.


Dayton (2005), The Living Stage, a Step-by-Step Guide to Psychodrama, Sociometry and Experiential Group Therapy, Health Communications.

Garcia and Buchanan, Psychodrama (2000), In P. Lewis & D. R. Johnson, Current Approaches to Drama Therapy, Ch. 9.

Hale, Conducting Clinical Sociometric Explorations: A Manual for Psychodramatists and Sociometrists, Royal Publishing Company (1981).

Kellerman, Role reversal in psychodrama. originally published in “Psychodrama since Moreno”, London: Routledge. 1994.

Kellerman, Interpersonal Conflict Management in Group Psychotherapy: An integrative Perspective, Group Analysis, Vol. 29 (1996), 257-275.

LeBaron, Bridging Troubled Waters, Conflict Resolution from the Heart, John Wiley & Sons, (2002).

Tuckman, Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited Group & Organization Studies (pre-1986); Dec 1977; 2, 4; ABI/INFORM Global pg. 419.

Wengrzyn, The Difference Between Groups and Teams: Definition & Contrasts,, last checked 10/19/16.