What is Psychodrama?

One definition of psychodrama, which comes from Antonina Garcia and Dale Buchanan, is as follows:

Psychodrama is a deep action method developed by Jacob Levy Moreno (1889 – 1974), in which people enact scenes from their lives, dreams or fantasies in “an effort to express unexpressed feelings, gain new insights and understandings, and practice new and more satisfying behaviors.”

Another way to define Psychodrama is to look at the two root words.  “Psycho” comes from the Greek root psyche and means breath, spirit, soul and mind.  In the English language “psycho” refers to the “mind” and comes from the combination of the two words psycho-logical and psycho-analysis.  The word “drama” is more straight forward and means a story, play, movie or television or radio program.  Put together then, a psycho-drama is quite literally a “drama of the mind and soul.”

Psychodrama is most often conducted in groups, where group members join in the reenactment of an event from a single person’s life.  In this way psychodrama differs from sociodrama, which looks at a group issue, or a Bibliodrama, which reenacts a story from bible, a psychodrama focuses on a single individual, who is called the protagonist.

A traditional psychodrama consists of three parts or phases, the warm up, the action and the sharing, in this order.  So, a psychodrama session begins with the warm up during which group members begin to think about or be “warmed up” to personal or group issues. From the warm a protagonist emerges, and it is this protagonist’s story or issue that is then put into action.  After the action stage has been completed, the group members share with the protagonist how their story is similar to the protagonist’s story.

During the action phase a trained psychodramatist will utilize a variety of techniques to assist the protagonist in reaching a catharsis of some kind.  These include scene setting, role-reversal, mirroring, doubling, soliloquy, aside and empty chair.

It is impossible to define “psychodrama” in a few words and the best way to answer the question “what is psychodrama” is by experiencing psychodrama.  In fact there really is no substitute for one’s own experience.