Psychodrama Therapy gives your the opportunity to explore emotional traumas, triggers and potential outcomes through acting in a group or in private.
Have you ever aspired to be an actor? I think we have all drifted into such a reverie now and then, imagining we are the stars of a thrilling drama or saucy romance. While we may never get our slice of fame, acting could play a starring role in your recovery. Enter psychodrama therapy.
What is Psychodrama Therapy?
Psychodrama is a deep, active method of therapy that empowers the individual to confront their emotions. Here is an example; a person is suffering from the backlash of a ruthless, abusive fight they had with a significant other, either recent or long past. They are haunted by the words and actions of this event. In a psychodrama group therapy session, they would become the protagonist of this scene. Others would take on the roles present in that individual’s story. This gives them the opportunity to explore and diffuse the emotions at their own pace, encouraged by the supportive insight of others. It is much easier to solve a puzzle that is out in the open rather than locked in your head. They can experiment with the scenario by filling the shoes of the “other” person or by acting out various outcomes. This method can break down mental barriers and discover new routes to recovery.
History of Psychodrama Therapy
Around 1910, Dr. J. L. Moreno developed an exercise called the Theater of Spontaneity. It focused on improvisation and was his way of helping people act out conflict from their natural environments and discover ways to live healthier and stronger lives. He brought his innovations from Austria to U.S. soil in 1925 and led psychodrama sessions until his death in 1974.
Carl Hollander also specialized in early psychodrama and created the Hollander Psychodrama Curve. It explains the three-part structure of therapy sessions. During warm-up, patients use creativity and spontaneity as they prepare for the activity where the psychodrama takes place. Integration closes the session and allows participants to talk about what they learned. Thanks to both of these men, psychodrama therapy as we know it offers a holistic approach to emotional healing for recovering addicts like you.
Psychodrama Offers Flexibility
The beauty of psychodrama lies in how fluid it is, much like human emotion itself. It bends and stretches with your emotional needs, each session tailored to the ebb and flow of your life. For example, we may spend one week digging through the trenches of childhood trauma, and the next week we may role play what to do when friends ask you out to drink. With an open mind and heart, psychodrama can deliver peace and enlightenment to an endless array of scenarios.
Psychodrama Therapy Includes Many Genres
Some typecast acting professionals focus on one type of genre, whether that’s improv, drama or comedy. Your recovery journey is unique, however, and your treatment needs to be unique too. Psychodrama therapy sessions explore many venues of expression. A few examples include:
Spontaneous improvisation: You simply act out a scene that is pressing upon you without critical thought. This encourages you to find your true, organic voice, unravel subconscious issues as they arise and feel more comfortable in your own skin. Confidence does wonders in steering through the rocky waters of recovery.
Soliloquy: Imagine this like a spoken-word diary. Your emotions are given a chance to unwind and air out as you verbalize them, clearing the way for recovery. The group will connect with your words, offer feedback and feel empowered by your courage and honesty. This method is part of why AA and NA meetings are so successful. This technique works especially well for auditory learners since hearing yourself speak fosters self-awareness and acceptance. If your mind is a cage, speaking can be the hand that unlatches it to free the birds.
Mirroring: You begin as yourself, the protagonist of your own story. Then, another in the group takes your place. To witness a projection of yourself can invite gentle, positive self-reflection and understanding. We are always our own worst enemies, so to see someone else in our shoes is a wonderful way to ease guilt and judge yourself less harshly.
Doubling: Sometimes, deep trauma and chaotic emotions can stifle our ability to truly verbalize how we feel. Often, the most troubling person to understand is ourself. A second person, or your double, expresses your feelings for you. Not only is it so cathartic to feel completely understood by someone else, this will urge you to relate to yourself as you would any beloved character. When you can witness your own emotions unfold before your eyes, they seem much more manageable.
Role Reversal: One of the most powerful forms of psychotherapy is role reversal. As mentioned before, this technique involves playing the role of the significant “other” in the scenario. This could be a lover, a parent, a friend and beyond. By doing this, we can unearth more compassion and understanding of each other. This can shatter communication ruts and perhaps invite forgiveness, or at least acceptance. Even if the person is no longer in our lives, the experience may guide us to find peace with ourselves and strengthen our resolve to recover.
As you explore psychodrama therapy, you’ll stretch beyond your comfort zone and expand your mind and emotions. You’ll find yourself opening to new possibilities as wounds are healed, insight is received and changes are made. This is just one of many experiences I urge you to try as you discover what fits best with your own personal recovery.
By Angela Lambert
Photo by: Tyler Bell (Flickr)