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International Journal of Group Psychotherapy
ISSN: 0020-7284 (Print) 1943-2836 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ujgp20
Psychodrama: Group Psychotherapy Through Role
Playing
David A. Kipper
To cite this article: David A. Kipper (1992) Psychodrama: Group Psychotherapy
Through Role Playing, International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 42:4, 495-521, DOI:
10.1080/00207284.1992.11490720
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00207284.1992.11490720
Published online: 16 Oct 2015.
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Date: 28 October 2017, At: 00:12
I NTE RNATI ONAL JOU RN AL OF G ROU P PSYCHOTHERAPY, 42(4) 1992
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Psychodrama: Group
Psychotherapy Through
Role Playing
DAVID
A.
K I P P E R, Ph.D.
ABSTRACT
The theory and the therapeutic procedure of classical psychodrama are described
along with brief illustrations. Classical psychodrama and sociodrama stemmed
from role theory, enactments, "tele," the reciprocity of choices, and the theory of
spontaneity-robopathy and creativity. The discussion fo cuses on key concepts such
as the therapeutic team, the structure of the session, transference and reality,
countertransference, the here-and-now and the encounter, the group-as-a-whole,
resistance and difficult clients, and affect and cognition. Also described are the
neoclassical approaches of psychodrama, action methods, and clinical role playing,
and the significance of the concept of behavioral simulation in group psychotherapy.
Although Jacob Levy Moreno, the founder of psychodrama and a
philosophical antagonist of psychoanalysis, was a contemporary of
Freud, and although the two lived for a number of years in the same
city, there was only one brief personal encounter between them (Marineau, 1989, pp. 30-32). It occurred in 1912, at the Psychiatric Clinic
of Vienna University. In his written account of that meeting Moreno
recalled that Freud had just ended a lecture that included the analysis
of a telepathic dream. As the students were leaving the lecture room ,
Freud asked Moreno what he was doing. "Well, Dr. Freud, I start
where you leave off," replied Moreno. "You meet people in the artificial
setting of your office, I meet them on the street and in their home,
in their natural surrounding. You analyze their dreams, I try to give
them the courage to dream again. I teach people how to play God"
(Moreno, 1972, pp. 5-6) .
David A. Kipper is Associate Professor of Psychology , Bar Ilan University, Israel,
on an extended leave, a nd is also associated with the University of Chicago.
495
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At the time this short dialogue took place, the then 23-year-old
Moreno was only beginning to experiment with what subsequently
would emerge as psychodrama: the "action method" approach to group
psychotherapy. Eighty years ago, the thoughts, the ideas, and the
empirical trials and studies were in an embryonic state, a long way
behind the contemporary systematic formulation of this psychotherapeutic modality. The famous answer, however, already revealed the
three philosophical foundations of Moreno's approach. The first was
the emphasis on health and creativity rather than on psychopathology,
that is, "give them the courage to dream again." The second was the
realization that the dimension of reality was an essential component
of the therapeutic process as opposed to the emphasis on the analysis
of projections, that is, "meet them in the street and in their home, in
their natural surroundings." The third foundation was the focus on
enactment and role playing as the preferred mode of expression during
therapy rather than on verbal interactions exclusively: "teach them to
play God" (emphasis added).
As Moreno proceeded to expound these three philosophical foundations, a new method of group treatment unfolded. The first foundation, the focus on health, eventually produced the theory of spontaneitycreativity (Blatner & Blatner, 1988; Fox, 1989; Kipper, 1967; Moreno,
J., 1934, 1959, 1964, 1965, 1972; Moreno,J. & Kipper, 1968; Moreno,
J. & Moreno, Z., 1969; Starr, 1977; Williams, 1989). The remaining
two foundations, namely, the focuses on reality and on role playing,
led to the creation of an unusually wide array of applied psychotherapeutic interventions. The pragmatic and concrete aspects of psychodrama became the hallmark of this therapeutic modality (Blatner,
1973; Clayton, 1991; Goldman & Morrison, 1984; Moreno, J., 1966,
1973; Moreno, Z., 1959, 1965, 1975; Yablonsky, 1976).
CLASSICAL PSYCHODRAMA: THE THEORY
Classical psychodrama refers to the original method conceived by Moreno and further developed by his numerous students and collaborators.
The most salient characteristic of classical psychodrama is that it considers
Moreno's concepts and theory and the techniques and treatment procedure inseparable aspects of one system. The justification for claiming
such a relationship is the historical fact that the theory and its application
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497
were developed hand in hand. Practically all the basic techniques derived
from the theory (Kipper, 1986). More importantly, most of these techniques, if not all, were created as operational definitions of the theoretical
concepts.
A note on terminology: The term classical psychodrama is not very
common in the literature. I decided to use it because, nowadays, the
Morenean (classical) psychodrama is not the only model available for
psychodramatic treatment. There are two contemporary alternative
models: the neoclassical psychodrama, and the "action method" approach, which have been developed in the last 15-20 years. These
two will be described at the end of the article.
A Theory for Group Psychotherapy
One of the extraordinary characteristics of psychodrama is that from
its beginning it was conceived as a specific group psychotherapy modality.
Unlike most of the leading contemporary group psychotherapies, psychodrama did not branch out of a theory of individual therapy. It is
not a theory and a method of individual therapy extended, adapted,
or transformed into the group context. It was during the first phase
in the development of psychodrama ( 1914-1940) that a new conceptual
frame of reference for group therapy emerged. During this period,
the most dramatic innovations occurred in the years 1914-1924, when
Moreno was experimenting with a group method that he called sociodrama (Sternberg & Garcia, 1989).
Conceptually, sociodrama is the "pure" form of group method.
Initially, Moreno imagined group therapy as an intervention that could
not be defined solely (or simply) in terms of the number of the clients
involved in the session . To him the essence of group therapy was not
captured merely by having a psychological treatment rendered in the
presence or with the active involvement of several people. Yes, group
therapy included the above characteristics, but its most important
feature was the subject matter: the exploration of subjects pertaining
to the collective. The key factor was that the designation of the word
"group" in connection with therapy meant having a psychological
treatment with a primary focus on those elements of behavior shared
by the group. Such a prior sharing could only exist if these elements
have already been part and parcel of the common sociocultural back-
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ground and value system of the participants. Alternatively, it could
exist in cases where the elements were developed within the context
of the particular group, thus becoming "group property" or the "group
culture."
Obviously, sociodrama needed a theory and "a carrier": an implementation procedure. For the theory, the concepts that fulfilled
the need were role (role theory), enactment (playing roles) , "tele" and
reciprocity, choice (sociometry), co-conscious and co-unconscious states,
spontaneity-robopathy, and creativity.
Role and role theory
Modern role theory has been associated with sociology and social psychology more than with clinical psychology and psychotherapy. The
reason for this may be related to the fact that most psychotherapeutic
approaches began as individual theories. These theories traditionally
regarded the individual as an independent psychological construct
clearly separated from another independent construct, namely, the
external environment, both human and inanimate. In modern role
theory, role has been defined as "those behavior characteristics of one
or more persons in a context" (Biddle, 1979, p. 58). It is, therefore,
a functional unit that integrates rather than separates the individual
and his or her sociocultural milieu. By definition, it reduces the significance of personal-social division and makes it inconspicuous. lt is
not difficult to understand the disinclination on the part of clinicians
to consider the concept of role within the context of the individualoriented theories. Conversely, it is equally not difficult to understand
why role could be a very useful concept in a group-based theory.
Psychodrama has a particular affinity to the dimension of role,
and its connotation as represented in drama. This is actually a therapeutic
rather than a theatrical affinity because the original dramatic characteristics of role are the closest to the psychiatric perspective. Role
in drama is expressed through enactment and generates emotional
outlet. It involves a process of assimilation and incorporation. The
actor not only permits an "invasion" of an external persona into his
or her private world, but also strives to integrate it all into a (albeit
temporary) harmonious coexistence. The therapeutic ingredients of
these facets of role are enactment and disinhibition, catharsis, and
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PSYCHODRAMA AND ROLE PLAYING
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retraining, that is, the process of integrating sociocultural and moral
codes into the self.
The function of the role is "to enter the unconscious from the
social world and bring shape and order into it" (Moreno, J., 1972, p.
v). Psychodrama postulates that roles preceded the self, and the self
emerges from roles. The formation of role begins at birth, from the
moment the infant is capable of sensing external stimuli. The first
roles to be formed are the physiological ones, for example, the role
of the eater, the sleeper, and so on. This process takes place prior to
the onset of the process of separation and differentiation from the
mother. As the child grows into adulthood, the external sociocultural
aspects of the incoming information become increasingly differentiated
and clearer hence their influence in the shaping of roles becomes
progressively larger. The primacy of roles in human development
lends further credence to a method that is based on "role therapy."
The relationship between the external and the internal, between
what is communal and individual properties, is the foundation of role
theory. It is also the point where psychodrama and modern sociopsychological conceptualization of role theory meet. Actually, the two
are not in conflict. They only differ in emphasis.
Every role is comprised of a collective and an individual component
that must be harmoniously integrated. The collective component includes all those aspects of behavior that are shared by members of a
particular sociocultural milieu: family, friends, club, and so forth . The
individual component includes the private characteristics of the individual owner of the role, and the personal colorations he or she
ascribes to it. It is the collective components of roles that serve as the
raison d'etre for the existence of a group therapy. In other words, the
rationale for treating several individuals together, that is, group therapy,
is the existence of those impersonal aspects of roles, the shared property
of the collective.
Enactment and playing roles
The fact that psychodrama therapy is based on action, role playing,
rather than on merely verbal interactions is a corollary of the "role"
concept. There is an affinity between psychodramatic role and the
original concept of role in drama. Dramatic roles are enacted because
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action facilitates identification with the portrayed persona and because
actions are closer to authenticity. Also role in drama is related to the
concept of catharsis. In the legitimate theater, catharsis refers to the
spectator's catharsis, and thus it is related to the therapeutic element
within the group. Moreover, nonverbal communication precedes verbal
language. Epigenetically, therefore, action language is natural to roles.
If role is behavior in context, it must be portrayed in its totality: words
and action simultaneously. Lastly, there appears to be a close association
between spontaneity and actions. The sensation of freedom and satisfaction is also expressed as demonstrable, nonverbal, behavior.
Tele and reciprocity
In individual therapy the psychological processes that draw together
the client and the therapist, the only two persons present in the session,
have been identified as transference and/or countertransference. Psychodrama found it unacceptable to explain interpersonal relationships
on such a premise. First, classical psychodrama maintains that the
therapeutic process is based on the realistic elements of roles . Transference and countertransference, on the other hand, represent projected,
displaced, and thus distorted, reality. Second, each of these two processes
is a one-way relationship. A group theory requires a concept that
describes two-way, reciprocal relationships. Psychodrama proposed
such a concept as an alternative. A dynamic construct called tele (from
Greek: "distant" or "influencing over distance") was introduced. Tele
is based on mutual realistic perceptions. It is an ongoing reciprocal
process responsible for cementing interpersonal relationships. Reciprocity has many facets: reciprocity of attraction, rejection, indifference,
excitation or inhibition, distortion, and so on.
Choice
Role-to-role reciprocal relationships exist on two levels. One is the
level of the collective (impersonal) components of roles and the other
that of the private (personal) components. Interpersonal feelings between people, attraction, rejection, or neutrality, are evoked automatically and may be driven by unconscious selection, which is part
of the private level. The maintenance of relationships, however, requires
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deliberate cultivation with, at least, some involvement of the collective
level of roles.
Choice is the key to interpersonal relationships and to the understanding of group structure and processes. By recording members'
reciprocal choices and their direction, that is, attraction, rejection, or
indifference, it is possible to unravel the internal structure of groups.
This technology is known as sociometry, a system of measuring and
charting reciprocal relationships devised by Moreno (Moreno,]., 1934,
1937, 1942, 1960). The group structure is a flexible phenomenon, a
picture of the moment. As choices and their directions change so does
the group structure. The study of the shifting sociometric structure
of a group within a given period reveals the qualitative nature of the
matrix of its interpersonal relationships.
Co-conscious and co-unconscious
The term co-conscious refers to the intimate knowledge people share
about each other. The co-unconscious is the reciprocal intuitive, seemingly "magical," understanding developed between persons who are
in intimate emotional relationships. It is a perception that transcends
sheer factual information. The propensity to develop such psychological
phenomena stems from the collective elements of roles. It is further
enhanced as two, or more, "role owners" become more intimately
familiar with each other. The co-conscious state, and sometimes also
the co-unconscious one, can be developed and experienced in a cohesive
group; it is the shared property of the group and, therefore, cannot
be claimed by one individual. If a reenactment is desired or necessary
it should take place with the help of all partners involved in the original
episode. In working on issues that surfaced within the group, all the
original players ought to participate. Actually, it is the rationale for
treating intimate dyads jointly, for couples' therapy or intimate groups,
and for family therapy.
Spontaneity-robopathy
Spontaneity is the principal ingredient in Moreno's theory of creativity
(Moreno, J., 1972; Moreno, J., & Moreno, F., 1944), and it is often
promulgated as the prime purpose of psychodrama. Spontaneity is a
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concept that pertains to the healthy aspect of functioning, and so is
creativity. This is a point of cardinal importance because it explains
why psychodrama became a theory of health and growth rather than a theory
that explains the intricate dynamics of psychopathology. Spontaneity is a
complex concept. For example, spontaneity has been characterized as
both an intangible and tangible entity, for example, a catalytic force,
an energy, and a concrete response to new or old situations (Kipper,
1967). Even as a response it was described as having two dimensions:
adequacy and novelty. It is important to emphasize that the meaning
of spontaneity in psychodrama differs from its colloquial connotation
as an unrestricted freedom of expression. Quite on the contrary, spontaneity has qualifiers: it must reflect adequacy and novelty. These put
certain limits on spontaneity that, actually, involve a great measure of
control. One must learn to be spontaneously free as well as spontaneously
restrained. There are three kinds of spontaneity: (a) true spontaneity, an
adequate and novel response; (b) stereotyped spontaneity, an old but
adequate response; and (c) pathological spontaneity, an inadequate response.
The concept robopathy (Yablonsky, 1972) denotes perseverance, an
automatic, habitual, fixated, compulsive, and rigid behavior. If exhibited
in excess, it tends to reduce the quality of living and the degree of
the satisfaction derived from life. Robopathy is the opposite of spontaneity (Blatner & Blatner, 1988), yet it is not synonymous to stereotyped
spontaneity. The former refers to maladaptive rigidity (always a pathology) whereas the later can be adaptive, habitual behavior that
must, to some degree, be part of living, for example, driving a car,
brushing one's teeth in the morning, or saying "Hello" to people.
Creativity
Creativity is the manifestation of human mastery. Whether it is a one
time creation that remains in an encapsulated form like a book, an
object, a song, a painting, a tradition (cultural conserve) or a one time
contribution that is not remembered, creativity is the closest one can
get to the Godhead , the Creator (Moreno, 1972). Spontaneity liberates
creativity. The goal of psychodrama is not so much to make one just
spontaneous but more to liberate his or her creative potential.
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THERAPEUTIC MODALITIES OF CLASSICAL
PSYCHODRAMA
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Sociodrama
As a metatherapeutic concept, the idea of sociodrama is that it is the
healing of the entire social structure or sociatry (Moreno, J., 1943,
194 7). In its simplest form, however, it is a therapy that concentrates
on the collective components of roles. It is based on the assumption that
any group is tacitly organized by the social and cultural roles.
It is therefore incidental who the individuals are, or of whom is the
group composed, or how large is their number. It is the group as a
whole which has to be put upon the stage to work out its problem . . ..
But as the group is only a metaphor. .. , its actual contents are the
interrelated persons composing it, not as private individuals but as representatives of the same culture. (Moreno, J., 1972, p. 354)
In practice, the participants in sociodrama enact an agreed-upon
social situation. While these situations may require careful planning,
the enactment proper is spontaneous. Its purpose is to help the participants examine their own thoughts and feelings regarding a wide
variety of human predicaments. Participants experiment in solving
problems, and they strive to clarify their own values, and understand
the others. "At no time in a sociodrama session would the group act
out a specific member's problem or real-life situation. Rather the group
chooses a hypothetical situation to explored its shared underlying
features" (Sternberg & Garcia, 1989, p. 6). An example follows. (Note:
All the names appearing in the cases described this article are fictitious.
The situations too were altered to protect the identities of the protagonists.)
After the first few minutes of the meeting, the director asked if there was
anyone who wished to suggest a topic for the session. Jane mentioned her
relationships with friends , commenting that she avoids real confrontations,
even when people infuriate her. She wondered what would happen if she let
herself be overtly furious with any of her friends . The director (therapist)
and the group members discussed for a few minutes the sociocultural role
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components involved in the Jane's personal fantasy. They identified several
elements. The two that headed the list were the fear of aggression and the
fear of being rejected. The hypothetical and impersonal situation they devised
was as follows: "In the jungle, the people of the Sonzo tribe held a meeting
and decided to check whether the new person they captured could adapt to
their way of living. They invited that person to take part in a war dance ritual
in which violent and aggressive behavior must be exhibited against the spirit
of defeat." Members of the group including Jane participated in the dance,
where the role of the captured person was performed, alternatively, by three
members and jane. At the end of the role playing, the members shared their
thoughts and feelings about the portrayals.
Sociodrama can be further subdivided into thematic subcategories.
The two most familiar ones are (a) axiodrama: sociodrama that is exclusively concerned with the exploration of issues such as ethics: loyalty,
invasion of privacy, the right to know, medical ethics; values: good,
bad, fair; or cosmic issues such as relationship to God, Satan, birth,
death, and so on; and (b) ethnodrama: sociodrama that focuses on ethnic
issues such as discrimination, prejudice, mixed marriages, and the like.
Psychodrama
According to Moreno, psychodrama was born on April Fool's Day
(April1), 1921 between 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. The particular event that
signified the birth of psychodrama took place in a Vienna theater, the
Komoedian Haus, rented by Moreno for the evening. In the session,
an empty chair, decorated as a throne of a king, was placed on the
otherwise empty stage. At that time, Europe was in turmoil, having
just emerged from World War I, and needed leadership, a savior.
Moreno asked members of the audience to volunteer as leaders/kings
and tell what would they do (Moreno, 1972, pp. 1-2). Although the
idea of psychodrama started early in this century ( 1914-1920), the
final formulation of the method as a systematic therapeutic procedure
occurred later, between 1940 and 1960. Psychodrama is the individual
version of sociodrama. It is concerned with the private components of
roles.
The need for psychodrama was also evident from clinical observations. In the course of conducting sociodramas it became increasingly
clear that the boundaries that separated the collective and the private
PSYCHODRAMA AND ROLE PLAYING
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aspects of the role were not always clear. People tended to "slip" from
one domain into the other and often expressed difficulties in keeping
the two completely apart.
The greatest strength of sociodrama is an educational vehicle, and
it is primarily a training modality. Psychodrama served broader therapeutic functions. It is concerned with subjective perceptions, feelings,
dreams, fantasies, and wishes, as well as the consensual reality thus
combining the private and the collective components of role.
THE PROCESS
The Structure of the Session
The team
The therapeutic "team" in psychodrama has five elements: the director,
the protagonist, the auxiliaries, the group, and the "action space" (the
stage).
The director is the main therapist and functions as a catalyst and
the designer of the psychodrama. The protagonist is the individual
client who emerges from the group as the focus of the session. Sometimes, one session may involve several protagonists in succession each
portraying a brief psychodrama. The group as a whole can also serve
as a protagonist. The auxiliaries are those group members who are
asked to portray roles that serve the needs of the protagonist. The
group members are all the clients. The action space is a specially
designated area (it need not be a stage) where the enactment takes
place. The significance of a specifically designated action space is that
this is where the protagonist has a complete control over time, space,
and reality. It is where one can grow young or old, travel to any place,
and create anything real, imagined, or desired.
The session
The psychodrama session is comprised of three stages: the warm-up,
the action, and the closure. The prime objective of the warm-up stage
is to increase the level of readiness of the group members to become
genuinely involved in the psychodrama, and to produce a protagonist
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for the next stage. In a regular session, the warm-up stage lasts for
the first 15% of the time. In a newly formed group, the entire first
few sessions usually serve as a warm-up prelude to the ensuing treatment
sequence.
The second, action stage is the core of the session. It begins at the
moment that a protagonist has emerged . Actually, it includes three
smoothly connected segments. The first segment depicts the role playing
of "the complaint," that is, the portrayal of the present difficulty. This
is followed by "explorations and clarifications," a segment containing
a number of scenes/episodes to investigate the difficulty. The last segment, "rehearsing and searching for alternatives," deals with the enactment of solutions, even temporary ones, for the conflicts.
The entire scenario ("the psychodrama tic plot") is based on a series
of scenes connected by clues, that is, meaningful associations. A scene
contains concrete situations-episodes identified in terms of specific
time, space, and reality configuration . There are two kinds of scenes:
key scenes and connecting scenes. A connecting scene features a brief
soliloquy by the protagonist (and perhaps an auxiliary) to elicit his or
her feelings and thoughts either prior to the commencement of a key
scene or following its termination. A typical action stage will have
about five key scenes and one to three connecting ones. It must be
remembered that it is the shift from one scene to another that produces the
therapeutic effect, not the excessive exploration of one scene. The action stage
typically lasts for 60% of session . The following is an example of a
connecting scene with a search for a clue to move on to the next key
scene.
The protagonist, in her late 20s , just ended the first key scene (i.e. , the first
segment of the action stage). She portrayed a situation that demonstrated her
presenting problem described as : "I always seem to be looking, 'unconsciously ,'
for my mother's approval." The first scene depicted an argument between
the protagonist and her mother (portrayed by an auxiliary). At the end of
this scene, however, the director did not have a clear clue for proceeding to
the next scene.
Director:
Helen:
So, is that how the argument ended? You told your
mother to stay out of your life, and you left her apartment slamming the door. Is that correct?
Yes. That's right. That's exactly how it happened. That's
how it often ends.
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Director:
507
O.K., what happens next? (temporal sequencing) Where
are you going next?
Helen:
Well, I take the elevator down and walk to my car,
which is parked in front of the building.
Director: Good. In reality that walk may have lasted a minute
or two. In psychodrama we can freeze that time to last
as long as needed. So, I would like you to to take that
walk as if it is happening now. Please, walk around the
middle of the room, in a circle, and soliloquize aloud,
and tell us what are you feeling and thinking right
now. In real life you probably do it silently. In psychodrama it is done so that we can hear it too (Helen
begins to walk slowly and silently in the middle of the room,
the designated "action space, " in a circle.)
Helen:
(talks to herself while walking) Well, I wonder where I put
the car keys. (She searches in a make-believe purse.) Oh
God, I hope they are in here. I don't want to go upstairs
again and face her guilt-arousing stare ... I want to
cry. Why does she do this to me every time? Why can't
we talk without ending up arguing, and why am I
feeling under attack? She always makes me feel guilty,
and I haven't done anything to be ashamed of. Oh
[expletive]. I want to cry. (Tears roll down her cheeks;
someone hands her a tissue.) No, crying doesn't help. I
always cry, and when I am through crying I feel just
as [expletive] as I felt before I started crying. I want
to hide (a potential clue!) . I want to be in my little corner
(a potential clue) . I want to be loved (a potential clue). I
want to live in a world that is completely guilt free ....
(The director interrupts .)
Director: Thank you, Helen. Let's stop here. Where is the corner
that you can hide?
(smiles amidst the tears) There isn't any now. I used to
Helen:
have one when I was child. It was in my room. I know
this may sound terribly unimaginative but it was in the
closet.
Director: Would you like to go there, again?
(blushes) Sure.
Helen:
(The director sets up the second, key scene.)
Director: So, Helen. Where is that hiding place?
Helen:
It was in my parents' home, in my room. I mean, when
I was living there.
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Director:
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Helen:
Director:
Helen:
Director:
Helen:
Director:
Helen:
Director:
Helen:
Director:
Helen:
Could you arrange the room for us using the empty
chairs here so that we can visualize the way your room
is arranged.
All right. Here is the bed (puts two chairs together), and
here is my desk and my chair. On this wall I have all
my books and my dolls and stuffed animals. Here is
the window, and here are two posters with animals:
cats.
Which is your favorite doll or animal?
Well, Bunny-bun, is to hug when I go to sleep. Ducky
sits next to me when I am sad. And Big and Small Kitty
I take to the hiding place . .. with Ducky. Laura, the
doll, is one of my best closet companions.
Anything else of importance here?
The closet.
Of course. Anything besides the closet. Look around
again.
(suddenly begins to talk in a child's voice) Do you know
that I hide inside the closet in the dark? I am not afraid
of the dark.
Helen, how old are you in this scene?
Nine. I am almost nine.
O.K. Let's move the clock back. You are nine years old,
and the year is 1971, is that right? (Helen nods affirmatively.) We are in 1971 and everything is happening
now, in the present (here-and-now), so you must speak
in the present tense. Let's select some auxiliaries to be
Ducky, Big and Small Kitty, and Laura. Why don't you
pick them yourself (a sociometric choice) and then you
all will go to the closet together? (She selects the persons
to be her doll and animals .) Do we start in the dark?
(almost whispering) I suppose so.
(The lights are turned off.)
The last stage of the session is "closure," and its general purpose
is suggested by its name. Typically, it is a period of discussion , and
only rarely does it contain role-playing activities. It is the time when
the auxiliaries and group members share their similar experiences
with the protagonist, so that he or she is not left feeling alone with
the difficulty. It also provides other group members with the opportunity
PSYCHODRAMA AND ROLE PLAYING
509
to talk about their own difficulties as evoked by the psychodrama. It
is the time when an attempt is made to bring the experience-based
learning to a meaningful integration. This part should take the last
15-20% of the time.
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Transference and Reality
Transference, in psychodrama, is a tele gone awry. It is an example
of role confusion. Roles are transient. Every role has a "cycle of existence"
characterized by a beginning, a ripening, and a fading out. The duration
of the cycle of existence is typically not very long although it varies
depending on the role. Still, those roles that continue to operate
throughout a longer part of life must be periodically revised and
changed. Transference is an illustration of a role marked by a distorted
reality. The role that involved childhood relationships to parents failed
to fade out. Since it remained alive, but no longer serves a useful
purpose, it is repeatedly misplaced . Except for extreme cases where
transference impedes therapeutic progress, that kind of reality distortion
has no special significance in psychodrama.
The hallmark of the psychodrama is the focus on the "healthy"
reality factor. The therapeutic process becomes effective as this factor
gradually expands and "invades" (replaces) the world of irrational
beliefs, erroneous perceptions and evaluations, hallucinations, and
delusions. According to psychodrama, the rationale for using the group
as a therapeutic modality has nothing to do with increased opportunities
for transference or with the symbolic significance, the unconscious
personal universe, that the group represents for each individual member.
Quite on the contrary, it considers tele , the realistic, "verifiable," mutual
perceptions, not transference, as the common foundation of human
relationships.
Reality
The reality factor contains four dimensions: (a) distortions, for example,
errors in judgment and perception, transference, delusions, and hallucinations, (b)jantasy, the reality-like dreams and hopes we sometimes
wish to become a reality, (c) reality, the tangible reality in which we
live, and (d) surplus-reality, the invisible, intangible dimension of the
KIPPER
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510
reality of life not fully experienced or expressed (Moreno, J., 1966),
for example, reversing roles with another person or doubling the
protagonists of the opposite sex. Every time, one dimension of reality
moves a step upward, from (a) to (b) to (c) to (d), the therapeutic
effect of increased reality has taken place. The last dimension (d),
however, is the most potent therapeutic vehicle. When the quality of
one's living reality (c) is not satisfactory, it could be expanded psychodramatically through the corrective effects of surplus-reality dimension (d). When the dissatisfaction lies in the world of dreams, the
"healthy" fantasy (b) is psychodramatically concretized thus becoming
a reality (c), and then expanded through surplus-reality (d). The same
process occurs when one lives on the side of the distorted reality (a).
This reality is psychodramatically concretized into a "realistic fantasy"
(b) and, again, it is treated through the corrective surplus-reality dimension (d). It should be pointed out that, psychodramatically, the
two dimensions of dream (b) and reality (c) sometimes tend to be very
similar, even undistinguishable. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for
the effectiveness of psychodrama with individuals who have difficulties
in separating the two, for example, psychotics. Yet, the possible confusion
between these two dimensions is also a potential pitfall psychodramatists
must avoid.
Linda, the protagonist, a lawyer in her early 30s responded to the previous
psychodrama about guilt with a story of her own. She had a twin sister, Carol,
who died of pneumonia at the age of 18 months. Linda always felt guilty
about her sister's death without knowing why. As far as she knows, checking
extensively with her parents and other family members, she had nothing to
do with the tragedy. After the first few key scenes depicting the process of
checking, the director asked her if she ever fantasied about visiting Carol,
and had she ever had, in her fantasy , a discussion with her about this issue .
Linda:
Director:
Linda:
Director:
Linda:
Director:
Oh, if you mean visiting her in my fantasy, sure,
I have spoken with her many times.
Where is Carol now?
In limbo, I suppose.
Would you, please, set the "action space" as Limbo?
Use the empty chairs to portray Limbo?
I don't know. I have no idea what it looks like.
Close your eyes and try to imagine it. That sometimes helps.
PSYCHODRAMA AND ROLE PLAYING
Linda:
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Director:
Linda:
Director:
Linda:
Baby Carol:
Linda:
Baby Carol:
Linda:
Baby Carol:
Linda:
Carol:
Linda:
Carol:
Linda:
511
(closes her eyes for a moment) Maybe it is like the
South Pacific. A big wonderful island. The skies
are light blue, the sea deep royal blue, white beach
sand, green trees, lots of vegetation with beautiful
flowers and wonderful scents, and lots of people.
And where's Carol?
She's under a big tree. (She piles three chairs to
represent the tree, and places two additional chairs facing
each other.) These two are for me and Carol.
Please, pick someone from the group to be Carol
(Sue is selected. Sue comes to the center of the room, the
"action space," but instead of sitting on one of the two
chairs, she sits and crawls on the floor playing with an
imaginary toy. Linda looks surprised.)
(sits on the chair) What? You are not a baby? You
are my age! Are you not? (Baby Carol continues to
play silently.) Hi, Carol, what are you doing?
(played by Sue in a babyish voice) Do you want to
play ball with me?
(bends slightly) Carol, I am Linda, your twin sister.
Do you know me?
Let's play ball, Linda.
Do you know me? Do you know who I am?
Your name is Linda and you are my b-i-g sister.
I don't have a sister.
No, I am not your big sister. I am you twin sister,
that is, I was your ... well . . ., never mind . I have
to talk to you about something very important,
Carol.
I have a big ball. You see. Very b-i-g ball. And
we'll play with the ball. Do you have a ball?
(Impatiently) No, I do not have a ball. Can we talk,
please?
O.K. You talk (continues to play).
The reason I came to visit you has to do with my
guilt feeling about your death. You may not remember this, and you may think it is silly to think
that when I was 18 months old I could have done
anything to harm you, but you must understand
that. ... (In the meanwhile, Carol crawls all over the
place pushing an imaginary ball.) Stop, playing, Carol,
please, and listen to me.
512
KIPPER
Director:
Linda:
Carol:
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Linda:
Carol:
Linda:
Carol:
Linda:
Carol:
Linda:
Carol:
Director:
Linda:
Reverse roles. Linda, you will be Carol playing
with the ball on the floor. Sue, you will be Linda,
sitting on the chair, and please repeat your last
few words.
(played by Sue) Listen to me, Carol.
(played by Linda) I cannot play with you if you sit
on the chair. Come down here, and let's play.
(Sue sits on the floor and starts playing) Listen, we
have to talk about this.
(Linda) O.K. Let's talk.
(Sue) I came to ask your forgiveness and absolution.
(Linda) I don't have them. I have only a ball. Do
you want a ball?
(Sue,frustrated) Oh, c'mon! I need your forgiveness
and absolution.
(Linda) But I don't have them. I only have only
a ball. Do you want a ball?
(Sue) No, I mean I came to say that I am sorry.
(Linda, starts crying) You did not come to play with
me. You only came to say sorry. Now, I wouldn't
have anyone to play with (cries) .
Reverse roles again. Linda you become yourself
again, and Sue you will be Carol.
(pats Carol on the head) I'll stay and play with you.
They play silently for a few minutes and then
Linda left the scene before the director had a
chance to end it, leaving baby Carol alone. She
said she was "shocked" to find out that Carol remained an 18-month-old baby. She always imagined herself and Carol being the same age. All
her fantasy conversations were with a grown-up
Carol. Then, in the role reversal, she tried to behave
like a baby only to realize how "impotent" she was
as a baby. She decided to leave Limbo when she
felt bored, not guilty.
Countertransference
Psychodramatically, countertransference is a misguided tele emanating
from the therapist toward the protagonist or any other group member.
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PSYCHODRAMA AND ROLE PLAYING
513
Like transference, this phenomenon too is a form of a distorted reality,
a role whose function is misplaced. It is a situation where the director
secretly abandons the role of the therapist and assumes, often subversively, the role of the protagonist whose needs are the focus of the
sessiOn.
The opposite of countertransference is tele relationship between
the therapist and his or her clients. Truly sensitive, caring, and empathic
relationships between these two typically benefit the treatment and
are quite desirable. The presence of group members serves as a controlling measure fulfilling the function of observers to ascertain that
tele is not abused. Members are advised to watch for signs of "countertransference" and alert the director when appropriate.
The Here-and-Now and Encounter
The concept of the here-and-now in traditional, past oriented, group
therapy approaches refers to the therapist's concerns with the spontaneous reactions of members to a significant incident that occurred
in the group. This is only one aspect of the here-and-now used in
psychodrama. It represents one category of psychodrama therapy where
all the involved parties are the original players, and no one has to role
play an absentee. The primary advantage of such reenactments is that
they allow a rewrite of history, that is, they can be repeated with
alternative endings. For instance, the following situation was taken
from a group of students.
After the group reenacted an incident where Barbara was severely chastised
for being uncooperative and discourteous , each member was asked to reverse
roles with her and face the accusing group. In the role reversal situation
several members reported that they felt that saving face was too painful an
experience and that their only recourse was to leave the group. Others reported
feeling completely helpless and that they were desperately looking for a constructive resolution. Only one member managed to remain defiant. The group
decided that from now on, no group member should be put in a position of
such helplessness. At this point the director asked Barbara and the group to
reenact the entire episode, but this time to end it differently, in accordance
with their new decision. So, a group situation that initially was traumatic was
reenacted still with an unpleasant, but constructive, ending. All agreed that
it was a positive learning experience.
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514
KIPPER
Psychodrama, of course, makes far greater use of the here-andnow. Actually, each and every psychodramatic and sociodramatic scene
is played in the here-and-now regardless of when it occurred or might
take place. There is no past and future in psychodrama. There is only
the present. The significance of "the moment," the present, is that it
is where all encounters occur. The encounter is a psychological process
believed to produce much of the therapeutic effect of psychodrama.
For instance, the reader may recall that the role reversal technique
was referred to in the preceding section as a technique employing the
corrective, surplus-reality dimension. Reversing roles is ipso facto an
encounter. An encounter can only occur in the here-and-now.
The Group-as-a-Whole
Classical psychodrama was designed, and is technically well equipped,
to serve as a method that can address all possible levels and dimensions
of group interactions. This is possible because psychodrama is, to a
large extent, role therapy. Role functions as a multilevel phenomenon.
The following psychodrama session illustrates the versatility of that
approach in dealing with the group as a unit.
The group was made up of adult clients. In the beginning of the lOth
session, the group seemed to hit a low. Members said they were bored.
A heavy atmosphere descended on the room, and no one was particularly
eager to change the situation. The director placed an empty chair in
the middle of the room. It was called Boredom. Members were invited
to sit in the chair, one at a time, and play that role from their own,
personal perspective. They were interviewed by other members as to
why they were bored or depressed and then were asked to do something
about it.
Resistance and Difficult Clients
The theory of psychodrama does not attribute a special significance
to resistance. Consequently, it does not find it advantageous to examine
this phenomenon at any length during the treatment session, except
in cases when resistance reflects a habitual inclination to display criticism,
rejection, and disapproval. The task of diffusing resistance , therefore,
is largely a pragmatic issue. Resistance needs to disappear as quickly
PSYCHODRAMA AND ROLE PLAYING
515
and as painlessly as possible. There are four kinds of resistance in
psychodrama
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1. Resisting the content
This is the common resistance that is displayed in the form of a reluctance
or a fear of facing the issue. The first strategy is to apply techniques
that belong to the mimetic, pretend simulation condition that activate
disinhibition, for example, portraying roles of others, under assumed
identities, or using the mirror (action feedback) technique. If the resistance persists an eventual encounter with the traumatic event will
be needed.
2. Resisting the therapist
This is an infrequent kind of resistance, in regular groups. It is more
prevalent among psychotic groups. For example, paranoia may cause
a client to reject any type of leadership or authority. In that case a
monodrama is often used where the patient portrays all the roles; he
or she is the director, the protagonist, and the helper. Given the
difficulties in conducting a monodrama, it is almost inevitable that the
client will request help. Resisting a particular auxiliary in a certain
role may be a more frequent phenomenon. In such situations the
protagonist is usually given the option to select an acceptable helper
without asking any reason for the change. At the closure stage, however,
the reason for the replacement may be raised.
3. Resisting the group
Some clients may find the group format an inhibiting factor. If they
wish to leave the group they are asked, first, to participate in one
sociodrama on the topic of "a discomfort in a group." If they refuse
to participate or if they do but nonetheless do not change their mind,
they can leave. Resistance of this sort may reflect unwillingness to be
in that particular group. Then, participation in another group may be
offered. A person can be a sociometric isolate in one group and a star
in another. Sometimes the resistance is to participating in the group
therapy format. Then, individual therapy is indicated.
KIPPER
516
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4. Resisting the role playing
Some patients are reluctant to role play. Instead, clients insist on having
a discussion format: "I am not good at acting, let's talk." Customarily,
this request is granted. Still, the director with the help of the group
may gradually try to bypass the reluctance. Often, this is achieved by
encouraging such patients to serve as auxiliaries to other protagonists.
There is always less unwillingness to participate when the role played
is an impersonal one.
In general, the psychodramatic principles for dealing with the
difficult individual or the difficult group are as follows: (a) Make the
issue a symbolic, impersonal one, and role play it, and, ultimately, (b)
move the process toward a direct encounter with the difficulty. The
former step involves labeling the issue as an abstract quality, for example,
"the tendency to be late," "an obstinacy," and so on, then to represent
it by objects (chairs) or persons (auxiliaries). The latter involves reversing
roles with that quality and conducting a dialogue to uncover its role.
These two steps tend to elicit new, alternative responses .
Affect and Cognition: Catharsis-InterpretationsRetraining
The therapeutic elements of psychodrama are said to be catharsis,
realization, and learning new modes of responding. Most importantly,
these three curative processes are interrelated, and at least two must be
represented in a given therapeutic endeavor. Catharsis in psychodrama
is primarily the protagonist's catharsis. To be thera peutically viable it
should occur in the presence of another person, the one involved in
the original distressing experiences or his or her role playing substitute,
and ought to be followed by learning new modes of responding to
the old situation. Otherwise, it may have a short-term effect, at best.
Psychodramatic interpretations are action interpretations. An action
interpretation involves the translation of the meaning of the protagonist's
performance as intellectually phrased in the mind of the therapist into
a concrete scene, "a critical incidence" situation. It is hoped that, in
portraying such a scene, the protagonist will realize the meaning of
his or her action(s) and will be able to articulate it back to the group
PSYCHODRAMA AND ROLE PLAYING
517
in his or her own words. Psychodrama was the first method that incor-
porated the practice of systematic simulated training and retraining.
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THE NEOCLASSICAL APPROACHES TO PSYCHODRAMA
While the classical approach remains the dominant force in the practice
of psychodrama, two other approaches have been developed in the
last decade. One was described as action methods and it pertains to the
adaptation of psychodrama technology to skill training, and the specialized needs of different clienteles (e.g., Buchanan, 1981; Swink,
Siegel & Spodak, 1984). The other was described as clinical role playing
and evolved from a model developed and researched by the present
writer (Kipper, 1986). Both approaches adopt a pragmatic view based
on the effectiveness of the psychodrama procedure and techniques in
clinical as well as in nonclinical setting. Both focus on the simulation
aspect of psychodrama and design their interventions with this concept
as the focal point. They are less concerned with the conceptual interdependency between the theory and the application as mandated
in classical psychodrama.
Action methods
The main principles of this approach are (a) that learning is facilitated
through role playing enactments, (b) that the method is indicated
whenever in-vivo practice is either impossible because reality does not
provide such situations frequently or when in-vivo practice is too risky
or costly, and (c) that the enactments occur in a simulated environment,
a specially designed and controlled situation that approximates reality.
Action methods do not necessarily adhere to the classical three-stage
process and to the 90-minute session format. Their process may vary
from using isolated scenes to running 1-3 day-long, multiepisode simulations, from rendering psychotherapy to the focus on skill training
and conducting organization and business simulations.
Clinical role playing
Clinical role playing proposes a separation between Moreno's theory
and the psychodramatic procedure, the two components classical psy-
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518
KIPPER
chodrama considers one unit. It offers a new theoretical model that
addresses only the application portion of the method and is based on
the concept of simulation, that is, artificially recreating behavior in
environment (Kipper, 1982, 1986). In other words, clinical role playing
provides theoretically independent rationale to the method proper.
Clinical role playing uses psychodrama as the intervention apparatus
through which psychological material is elicited and explored. It does
not require the clinician to replace his or her preferred approach with
Moreno's theory. Quite the contrary, one may continue to adhere to
one's chosen approach using its theory to provide the direction for
the enactment and the interpretation of its meaning. The concrete
intervention procedure, however, is role playing. Thus clinical role
playing provides the text and the therapist's preferred theory, it commentary.
Moreno's theory describes the adaptive process that leads to emotional health. The strength of this theory is that it identifies the key
psychological mechanisms of the normal, creative person. That strength
has been translated into an intervention method unsurpassed with its
repertoire of techniques. The weakness of Moreno's theory is that it
has too few concepts to differentiate among the wide spectrum of
psychopathological conditions. Other theories may have been more
successful in that respect (but less concerning the healthy aspect).
Clinical role playing is based on the hypothesis that each kind of
simulated condition creates different phenomenological states and thus
differentially activates or accentuates selected psychological processes.
Three basic simulation conditions were identified: (a) spontaneous, the
person plays himself or herself, (b) mimetic-replication, the person imitates
specific, well-known responses of someone else who is a familiar person,
and (c) mimetic-pretend, the person plays someone else, that is, adopts
an assumed identity of a somewhat unfamiliar absentee. Studies have
supported this classification and the notion of the differential effects
of the simulated conditions (e.g., Kipper, 1988; Kipper & Cohen-Raz,
1988; Kipper & Har-Even, 1984; Kipper & Ushpiz, 1987). It seems
that behavior simulation is, in itself, a psychological phenomenon that
can promote therapeutic processes.
All the basic psychodramatic techniques can be classified into the
three conditions. Here, too, the "theoretically neutral" concept of sim-
PSYCHODRAMA AND ROLE PLAYING
519
ulation provides a basis for their utilization by many group therapy
approaches.
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ABOUT THE FUTURE
In contrast with its historical image, the fact is that psychodrama is
one of the most flexible and inclusive methods of the group psychotherapy modalities. Any closed system can grow beyond the visions of
its pioneers provided it muster the courage to cease protecting the
past, and admit imperfection.
For psychodrama, that process has already begun with the development of the neoclassical approaches. Loosening the ties with the
past was done through evolution rather than revolution. The neoclassical
approaches proposed yet another foundation for psychodrama, the
concept and model of behavioral simulations. If we look around it is
clear that the future will see an increase in the role of simulations in
the process of improvement, societal, technological, and psychological.
That fact is already here. Computer technology in industrial, medical,
and social sciences have made it possible to use simulation as a method
of learning about the future before plans are actually implemented.
The better the simulation, the safer the outcomes. Classical psychodrama
started by introducing a similar notion to the field of group psychotherapy. The neoclassical approaches attempt to broaden the application
of psychodrama technology without clashing with other theoretical
approaches, therefore making it a highly inclusive modality for the
future.
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David A. Kipper, Ph.D.
13 00 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, /L 60610
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