‘Psychodrama’ sounds scary, but most of us do it every day.

Have you ever had something challenging or embarrassing to say to someone, but you just didn’t know how to say it? It's natural to think through and prepare for different scenarios because we are uncomfortable with the unknown. Because of this discomfort, we often unknowingly employ the therapeutic technique of psychodrama, so that we can physically and mentally work through past or present scenarios, to have closure or be better prepared. How do you ask?

Just look in the mirror.

If you have ever found yourself talking to the bathroom mirror or in the car, working out a difficult conversation you need to have with your boss, co-worker, or partner, congratulations, you are doing psychodrama.

Psychodrama, by definition, is a technique that falls under the Drama Therapy umbrella and entails acting out unresolved moments from our pasts, or future moments that are causing discomfort or confusion. Within a psychodrama therapy session, we often physically embody these moments and re-live the details, experiencing an intense emotional response in the present.

For someone who is new to therapy, the term and intensity of Psychodrama can be quite intimidating, but the positive results can be extremely effective. 

Some benefits of Psychodrama include:

  • Playing out a scene re-maps in your brain, making you feel as though you have had the reparative experience in real life. 
  • In the Psychodramatic scene, you can identify what you need in order to have the ideal, reparative experience.
  • Sometimes, the acting “as if” and hearing the healing words in a fictional environment is effective enough to resolve what has been affecting you.
  • Once the core issue been identified, it becomes a much quicker process to begin to let go of any resentments built up around the issue. 

To better understand this process, let’s take a look at *Amanda’s story within a Psychodrama group to see how she gained some necessary closure: 

Amanda, a woman in her mid-20’s, was in a long-term, committed relationship with her boyfriend from college. They had discussed marriage, and around the four-year mark, Amanda’s boyfriend decided that he could no longer be in the relationship. The standard break up conversation occurred, but on Annie’s side of the equation, she felt blindsided and betrayed. For her, the “conversation” was much less of a dialogue than it was a lecture directed at her. She sat in the aftermath feeling as though she had been silenced.

In the ensuing months, Amanda felt a nagging feeling that made it difficult for her to let go and move on. Even though she knew that breaking up was the best decision overall, she felt as though she had things that still needed to be said. Within the psychodrama group, she decided that she needed to re-experience the moment they had broken up, so she went through the process of reiterating the story to the group, choosing another group member to play the auxiliary role of her ex-boyfriend, and then re-creating that scene to the best of her memory. 

As she was listening to her “ex” who was recounting the exact words that had been said to her months prior, she realized that what she needed was an apology, but also that she needed to hear that he was in as much pain she was, and that they were both experiencing a loss. In her grief, she had felt alone. 

In her ideal re-enactment, she was able to hear his pain, and she believed it. She felt as if this conversation were real, even in that extension of reality, and in her own words, she felt lighter. The anger and sadness that she was feeling, even though still present was re-directed into a healthier grief pattern, one where she was not stuck. She experienced the physical and emotional adjustment that she needed to re-frame the experience and to shift her energy towards forgiveness. Annie reported that a few days after this experience, she was finally able to release the resentment she had built up over time.

The psychodrama experience has many rituals and steps involved that safely prepare the client and the group to effectively support each other in these re-enactments. The therapist acts as a representational container, and a director, and keeps a close watch on the protagonist and other group members to ensure that each person feels supported, heard and safely pushed within their boundaries. You as the client are given all of the necessary tools to most effectively perform in, or witness a scene, and to glean the most from the group experience. The world we live in today is incredibly results oriented, and driven by the question: “how long will this take?” Even though there are no guarantees in any types of therapy, having guided countless clients through this process, I can personally attest to the effectiveness of the relief felt by my clients. There is no panacea for our issues, but this technique works quickly and thoroughly in pinpointing a need or a want, and progress can be measured right away. Measurable relief keeps clients engaged in the psychodrama process and excited to open up more stories and continue to let go of issues that may have been difficult to discuss.

Thank you for reading! Questions or comments? Please let me know below!

*Fictional names were used to represent potential therapeutic scenarios. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.