Adam Blatner, M.D.

This is Chapter 13 in the 7th edition of the textbook titled Current Psychotherapies (2005), with some references updated to 2007. This textbook, edited by Raymond J. Corsini and Danny Wedding, addresses many of the main approaches to psychotherapy. My chapter had been in about 4 editions, but was dropped after 2007. For a while it was on the publisher's website but now seems unavailable, so I posted it here.


Psychodrama is a method of psychotherapy developed in the mid-1930s by J. L. Moreno (1889– 1974). It is applicable mainly in groups, but with modifications can also be used in family therapy and with individuals. (AB2013: I have since come to appreciate what I noted in my 1973 introductory book---that psychodrama is about more than just treatment and can be applied in many non-clinical contexts, schools, businesses, spiritual development programs, etc.) The therapist invites a client to role-play some aspect of the client’s problem, and the therapist then uses psychodramatic techniques to draw the client out. If the method is used in a group setting, other group members may be asked to play the roles of the other people in the situation. The enactment is then followed by sharing and discussion.

Psychodrama draws on the natural capacity for imaginative, make-believe play that is evident in childhood. In adulthood, this capacity is used in more focused, task-oriented ways, for example, by candidates for political office in rehearsing for a debate. Many techniques derived from psychodrama, such as action methods, experiential exercises, or role playing, can be integrated with other approaches. This is because there are times in therapy when just talking about a situation is far less helpful than staging the problem in action, discovering the underlying issues, and working out more effective responses.

Basic Concepts

As well as investigating issues in clients’ lives, psychodramatic methods may be used to clarify the dynamics of relationships in group therapy. In exploring aspects of clients’ problems, events in the past, present, or even the future may be enacted. Psychodramatic methods can be to psychotherapy what electric power tools have been to carpentry: They can extend and vastly ease the work, whether the task (in carpentry) is building a house, a chair, or a jewel box, or, in therapy, clarifying confusion, helping to envision new possibilities, strengthening the capacity for creative adaptation, or reintegrating a previously disowned complex of feelings and attitudes.

Psychodrama in its classical form, in a group setting with an extended process of enacted exploration, is an elegant and complex process that requires a good deal of training. Using another analogy, it may be likened to surgery. More elaborate procedures require an operating room and specialists, but there is also “minor surgery,” procedures performed in the offices of general practitioners, such as draining an abscess or suturing a deep cut. Any psychotherapist, with study and supervised practice, can learn to integrate some action techniques in his or her clinical work. Also, just as general medical practice has integrated certain principles of surgery, such as keeping wounds clean and using sterile instruments, so also a number of psychodramatic principles can be integrated into mainstream therapy. The theoretical principles introduced and emphasized by psychodrama complement all the other approaches, and these principles are applicable even if the clinician never uses action techniques. Psychodrama has made notable contributions to our thinking about creativity, spontaneity, social psychology, play, imagination, catharsis, self-expression, experiential learning, and the power of action as a way of deepening insight and healing.

Indeed, psychodramatic methods have already been absorbed into a variety of contemporary systems, most notably gestalt therapy, behavior therapy, family therapy, as well as many other less well-known approaches. Clinicians familiar with such approaches are invited to discover and adapt even more from the incredibly rich resource that is psychodrama.

Those who might want to pursue training in classical psychodrama deserve encouragement, because this method in its fullest expression may be one of the richest and most exciting approaches in the applied behavioral sciences. Skill in psychodrama must be learned by doing and from feedback—one can’t just read about it in a book or master it in a few workshops. Training in this subspecialty involves several years of supervised training and experience. Because it is powerful, when misused it can be dangerous; in fact, many people with inadequate training have presumed to conduct psychodramas and generated casualties rather than cures.

Other Systems

Group Psychotherapy: Moreno was one of the earliest pioneers of group psychotherapy and continued to promote all the many variations of this general approach, including working with couples or families conjointly, throughout his career. He foresaw many of the benefits of group work at a time when clinical practice was almost entirely one on one.

Gestalt Therapy: This approach offers many original ideas and also utilizes certain techniques taken from psychodrama—especially the technique called shuttling, which is really a mixture of what Moreno called the empty chair technique and role reversal. Historically, when Fritz Perls immigrated to the United States from South Africa in the late 1940s, he attended Moreno’s open sessions in New York City. Perls found certain methods, such as those previously mentioned, as well as the personification of parts of self and dream figures, amenable to his own perspectives. Other principles, such as emphasis on the “here and now,” are found in both approaches.

Imagery Therapies: Therapists who use guided fantasy techniques can also deepen their practice by integrating psychodramatic methods. Implicit in psychodrama is the practice of imagining in very specific terms, the exact words, the facial expression, the sound of the voice, the gestures or posture of the one speaking. For example, this idea becomes a way to amplify the technique of active imagination as used by analytical psychologists (Jungians). Many insights can arise when not only living figures, but also parts of the body or even the inanimate objects in dreams or fantasies are personified and encouraged to speak about themselves and their message. This technique goes beyond merely verbally analyzing and interpreting these images.

Inner Dialogue: This procedure has become a part of a number of different therapies. The underlying theory of personality posits that the psyche involves different roles, also called parts, subpersonalities, complexes, voices, selves, archetypal images, characters, ego states, and so forth, and some of the therapy then involves a process of having these roles dialogue with each other, mediated by an observing ego function. In psychodrama, this process is called the multiple ego technique, and it involves the principle of encounter.

Drama Therapy: This is a parallel field, one of the Creative Arts therapies. During the middle of the twentieth century, there were many small theater groups in psychiatric hospitals around the world, and patients would actually put on plays in many of these programs. Around the early 1970s, professionals with theatrical backgrounds began to connect with each other; by the time the National Association for Drama Therapy in the United States was formed in 1979, the mainstream practice had come to incorporate a fair amount of psychodrama ( Johnson, 2000). In return, some techniques from drama therapy have become more widely used by psychodramatists, such as the inclusion of some ritual-like closing activities.

Play Therapy: This is a broad and rich field that naturally overlaps with drama therapy and psychodrama, and it is often used in a mixed format by therapists working with children and younger adolescents (Bannister, 1997). Cossa (2006) describes applications of action methods with older adolescents. Some of the principles and techniques of play therapy can also be applied with adults. There are now many board games and books about structured activities and relatively noncompetitive games that can be played in the office or on the field, and some of these overlap with the warm-ups invented by psychodramatists over the years. The sand-tray technique, in which small figures are used to represent significant elements or people in a child’s fantasy, is similar to the action sociometry techniques such as Raimundo’s “play of life” (Raimundo, 2002).

Body Therapies: These approaches share with psychodrama the awareness that activation of the kinesthetic modes of experiencing offer major channels to both insight and healing. Among the various approaches, the most well known has been the post-Reichian method of Bioenergetic Analysis, developed primarily by Alexander Lowen and his followers. There are a number of practitioners who comfortably mix this and/or other physical activation approaches with psychodramatic methods.
Another combination of drama and movement derived from dance-movement therapy is the Pesso-Boyden System Psychomotor (PBSP), which shares some insights with psychodrama, especially regarding the production of scenes in which clients can have reparative experiences involving all modalities (Pesso, 1997). Developed in 1961, it has been used widely internationally.

Creative Arts Therapies: These have also emerged as professional fields, with their own organizations: Psychodrama, though technically not a creative arts therapy, has found it useful to affiliate with dance movement therapy, art therapy, poetry therapy, music therapy, and the aforementioned drama therapy in the National Coalition of Arts Therapies Associations. There is also a field called expressive arts therapy that tends to emphasize a multi-arts-modality approach, whereas the other arts therapies mentioned tend to stick to their own medium. Psychodramatic methods, working as good warm-ups for further explorations, may be used in conjunction with any of these approaches. In turn, some of these preverbal approaches sometimes help to work through some of the insights or feelings that are brought up in the course of a psychodrama ( J. J. Moreno, 1999; Wiener, 1999).

Transpersonal Psychology: The integration of a spiritual dimension in psychotherapy seems to be gaining increasing sympathy among practitioners. Moreno’s work recognized the relevance of religious imagery and belief and worked with it from the outset. Moreno himself felt that all his methods derived from a literally mystical sense of the immanence of the Divine in the creative process, however it may be manifested in the Cosmos (Moreno, 1971). In practical terms, psychodramatic methods may be useful in exploring clients’ experiences with religion, their sense of meaning and purpose, and their sources of solace.

Cognitive Therapy, Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: Each of these therapies uses role playing to identify maladaptive beliefs, and each requires rehearsing and individualizing the integration of new attitudes and response patterns. Behavior therapy has long used role playing, rehearsing, modeling, and other methods without specifically noting their origins with Moreno in the 1930s.

Family Therapy: Like group work, family therapy evolved from a more psychoanalytic or counseling approach to a more dynamic, multimodal process. Virginia Satir learned about psychodrama while she was a resident scholar at Esalen in the late 1960s and began to apply it in the form of family sculpture and other more dynamic interventions. More recently, Farmer (1995) has written about psychodrama’s usefulness within the framework of systemic family therapy.

Narrative Therapy and Constructive Therapies: Fashionable in recent decades, these postmodern approaches address treatment as a process of retelling the client’s life story, reinterpreting its events and phenomena in a more positive and useful fashion. This invites creativity and breaking away from tendencies to describe life’s challenges only in negative and pathological terms. Since both drama and narrative relate to the more fundamental storylike nature of psychological functioning, in contrast to expository descriptions, they offer natural areas of potential synergy.

Other Psychotherapies: Alfred Adler’s Individual Psychology was promoted in the United States primarily by Rudolf Dreikurs, and he in turn employed Adeline Starr as a psychodramatist—an example of another important theory that used Moreno’s procedures. Jung’s analytical psychology has been integrated with psychodrama, as has Berne’s Transactional Analysis and other approaches  (Gass, 1997; Scategni, 2002).



Dramatic enactment has been part of healing rituals for thousands of years and can trace its origins to shamanistic reenactments of traumatic events. In Western medicine during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, occasional references were made to the utility of drama as an element in healing, and in the nineteenth century, a few psychiatric hospitals engaged their patients in the activity of putting on plays. Psychodrama itself, though, was invented by J. L. Moreno. (A few others in the early twentieth century explored the interface of theatre and therapy, but these efforts were not developed and lapsed into obscurity—and there’s nothing to suggest that Moreno ever heard of them.)

Another predecessor was Henri Bergson, the French philosopher, whose ideas about creativity were well known in intellectual circles in the early years of the twentieth century. Moreno acknowledged Bergson’s influence. Certainly there was an intellectual ferment in many areas, including literature, art, and sociology. Novel ideas refreshed these fields, and Vienna during Moreno’s youth was one of the liveliest centers of Western cultural renewal.


The beginnings of psychodrama may be discerned in themes in Moreno’s youth and young adulthood. He was born Jacob Levy in Bucharest, Romania, in 1889, into a Sephardic Jewish family (Moreno, 1989, 2004). (He added the last name, Moreno—meaning “teacher”—in his young adulthood.) His family moved to Vienna when he was around five, and as a teenager, he read philosophy and delved into religious literatures (Marineau, 1989). As part of his interest in creativity, he engaged in storytelling and improvisational dramatics with the children in the city’s parks, and was impressed with the vitality they brought to the process. While he was in medical school, one of Moreno’s avocational interests was theater, which for him was a natural vehicle for the imagination. However, he felt that the theater of his time was burdened by rigid traditions; as a result, it was decadent and lacked the vitality of truth.

Moreno’s interest in applied sociology was stimulated during the First World War when he was assigned as a medical consultant to one of the camps for Tyrolean refugees on the outskirts of Vienna. He noticed the plight of different types of people thrown together.
Moreno envisioned social arrangements in which people could be helped to find and live with those with whom they affiliated, rather than with those who were arbitrarily assigned by administrators. (This was the precursor to his developing the method he called sociometry—to be described later in this chapter.)

Following WWI and his graduation from medical school, Moreno became a general practitioner in Vienna’s suburbs. He traveled into the city, participated in its intellectual and literary activities, and even edited a small literary journal, Daimon. Addressing his interest in theatre, Moreno organized what was probably the first improvisational troupe, calling it the Theater of Spontaneity. This group played events reported in the daily news, but the players spoke out loud what their characters might be thinking in these situations, thus bringing out imagined depths. These enactments were held “in the round”— another of Moreno’s innovations. During this time, Moreno began to see a therapeutic potential in improvisational drama, because the enactments also began to positively affect the members of troupe’s personal lives. However, the economics of postwar Europe were so distressed that Moreno immigrated to the United States in 1925.

Moreno gradually established himself as a consultant in the greater New York area, working at Sing Sing prison and in other settings. In 1931, he attended one of the early annual meetings of the American Psychiatric Association and presented a paper there, coining the term “group psychotherapy,” relating to how prison inmates might best be grouped (Moreno, 1931). In subsequent years, Moreno became a tireless pioneer and promoter of group psychotherapy of all types, believing in the power of people to be therapeutic agents for each other (Hare & Hare, 1996).

In the early 1930s, as a consultant to a girls’ training school in upstate New York, Moreno was able to test out some of his emerging theories of sociometry, a method that promoted psychological harmony by supporting more open choices for the girls at the school (e.g., the choice of whom to live or work with). He wrote about these ideas and methods in his first book, Who Shall Survive? (1934). This book also offered the beginnings of role theory and role playing, the roots of psychodrama. Soon thereafter, Moreno opened a sanitarium in Beacon, New York, about 60 miles north of Manhattan on the eastern bank of the Hudson River. Here he built a specially designed psychodrama stage and theater. At this time, there were few who dared to treat psychotic patients with psychological treatments. Moreno sought to help such patients relieve their delusions and hallucinations by symbolically “living them out,” expressing their underlying needs in role playing, and thereby neutralizing their compelling influence. It was what now might be called a kind of mental jujitsu, going with the flow. Reportedly, he had a number of remarkable responses.

Unfortunately, the idea of acting out problems sharply contrasted with the strictly verbal method of the then dominant school of psychoanalysis. (The acting that is done consciously in psychodrama is almost the opposite of what is called acting-out in analysis—and so psychodramatic enactment might better be called “acting-in” [Blatner, 1996].) It was feared that Moreno’s method might stir patients up rather than quiet them down, and, of course, it did. Qualified staff, however, who could then work with the evoked material, keep the enactment going to its natural conclusion, and process the ensuing catharsis would achieve a longer-term positive outcome. Training the staff to set up a psychodramatic environment, however, would be the equivalent of training a whole community of therapists. In retrospect, Moreno created a sort of therapeutic milieu at his sanitarium that required ongoing training and close supervision of nurses and aides and therefore didn’t transfer easily to most other hospital settings in the 1940s. More than a decade later, Maxwell Jones incorporated some aspects of psychodrama in his pioneering experiments with therapeutic communities in Great Britain.

Moreno, in addition to teaching, treating, and administering, began to write and publish. He published his own professional journals, (Sociometry, Sociatry, Group Psychotherapy, The International Journal of Sociometry and Sociatry) and in 1942, founded the first professional association devoted to group psychotherapy, the American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama (ASGPP). The more psychoanalytically oriented American Group Psychotherapy
Association (AGPA) was founded a few months later by Moreno’s rival, Samuel Slavson.

In addition to the difficulties faced by any approach competing with psychoanalysis in the 1940s through the 1960s, Moreno hindered his own success by writing in an obscure style and conducting his professional relationships in a mercurial and grandiose fashion.
However, by virtue of the method’s basic soundness, Moreno was able to attract and maintain a few followers who were inspired by his vitality, spontaneity, warmth, and brilliance, and gradually his enterprise grew. His third wife, Zerka Toeman Moreno (1917– ), was invaluable to him in these endeavors.

From the late 1940s through the early 1970s, the Morenos traveled widely, published prolifically (Fox, 1987), organized national and international meetings, and offered training at his sanitarium in Beacon. Jacob Moreno held open sessions in Manhattan, traveled around the country and in Europe, and attracted increasing numbers of professionals who found in psychodrama positive elements that were missing in the main approaches then currently available. His work on role theory was influential in social psychology and his method of sociometry influential in sociology. Moreno helped found the International Association of Group Psychotherapy (, which involves many psychodramatists, group analysts, and practitioners of other approaches. However, in the mid- 1960s, as he was growing older, Moreno’s wife, Zerka, increasingly took on the role of major trainer at the Beacon Institute. She also coauthored his later books. Moreno died peacefully in May 1974. His tombstone reads, “Here lies the man who brought laughter and joy back into psychiatry.”

Current Status

Zerka Toeman Moreno has continued to teach, travel internationally, and write, a recent collection of her papers having recently been published (Z. Moreno, 2006). Also the number  of other psychodrama trainers and practitioners has increased significantly. The ASGPP ( has continued to hold annual conferences, and the peer-reviewed Journal of Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama, & Sociometry has enhanced its professional status. (The journal, which has been renamed a few times, was named The International Journal of Action Methods from 1997 to 2003, but has returned to its previous name.) In the late 1970s, an official certification board was established, apart from but in cooperation with the ASGPP. Two levels of training are now recognized: Certified Practitioner (CP) and, with further training and supervision, Trainer, Educator and Practitioner (TEP). The latter designation is for those who are qualified to train others. At present, there are approximately 200 CPs and 200 TEPs in the United States. Psychodrama has continued to evolve, with many practitioners integrating techniques and theoretical principles from other approaches and in turn influencing therapists in those other fields. Modifications have been developed for using psychodrama more effectively with problems such as addiction or trauma, and these changes will be described in a later section on applications.

Psychodrama is expanding significantly, and more than 12,000 professionals around the world identify with this practice. At present, there are over 20 psychodrama organizations in different countries, and a number of these publish their own journals. In addition to translating books written by Moreno and his students, there are also scores of books written by authors from other countries in their own languages. International networks and organizations of trainers, Web sites and Internet listservs, in English, Spanish, and other languages all keep the field advancing (Blatner, 2006). At least one international psychodrama conference has been held almost every year in various sites, in addition to regional and national conferences.

In spite of the fact that a number of established textbooks ignore current writings on psychodrama and refer only to Moreno’s own books—if they mention psychodrama at all—it should be noted that publications on psychodrama, many of which are far more understandable than Moreno’s own difficult-to-read books and monographs, have continued to multiply. These more current books address the many ways that psychodramatic methods continue to be refined and developed (Figusch, 2006; Fonseca, 2004; Kellermann, 1992; Z. T. Moreno, Blomkvist, & Rützel, 2000; Røine, 1997).


 Although elements of a theory of personality may be discerned among the pages of Moreno’s writings, none have been accepted as dogma by psychodramatists. This chapter will attempt to present in more coherent form some of Moreno’s key ideas, but it should be noted that many psychodramatists utilize mainstream personality theories deriving from such traditions as psychoanalysis, transactional analysis, analytical psychology, and so forth. Other practitioners have elaborated their own theories for how the process is effective in psychotherapy, including a major anthology addressing the most recent advances in theory internationally (Baim, Burmeister & Maciel, 2007; Kipper, 1986, 2001; Verhofstadt-Denève, 1999). Blatner (2007b) has further addressed a number of  meta-theoretical considerations which help the practitioner to think more flexibly about the general problem of theory in psychology and psychotherapy.

Psychodrama shouldn’t be considered just a technique, though, because many of Moreno’s ideas about psychology deserve to be integrated at the theoretical level. As in all psychotherapies, psychodrama has an underpinning theory of personality and a conception of human nature, with its panoply of needs, interests, drives, and creative impulses.

Role Dynamics

Moreno was one of the pioneers of social role theory. While most role theorists focused more academically on ways of describing or analyzing phenomena, Moreno’s emphasis was on practical application. His point was that by becoming more conscious of the roles we play, we could play them more creatively. Analyzing the components or definitions of a role allows one to renegotiate these definitions, to bring new interpretations to the attitudes involved. Also, new roles may be added to the role repertoire and old roles relinquished.

The word role derives from the rolled-up scrolls that were the scripts for early actors, and has broadened in its meaning so the word now refers to any function in a complex system. Although there are numerous definitions in the sociological literature, the simplest and most practical definition is that a role involves any stance or position that could be dramatically enacted. Roles thus imply a dramaturgical way of thinking, as expressed in Shakespeare’s lines, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” (As You Like It, act 2, scene vii.). Most human problems and interactions, as well as most psychological dynamics, can be expressed more understandably by describing the roles being played in a given situation, how they are defined, and how these definitions may be subject to challenge, negotiation, and revision.

Thus, a significant contribution of psychodrama is its development of role theory as a “user-friendly language” for psychology. Role theory offers a lingua franca, a common language that can be used by professionals of many disciplines and theoretical backgrounds. The role concept and its associated dramaturgical viewpoint is a particularly evocative metaphor. It invites people to think of themselves as creative artists and actors, not just puppets.

The term, “role dynamics,” refers to a more systematic organization of applied role theory (Blatner, 2000a). More than just a language, role dynamics offers a theoretical framework that allows for the integration of the best insights of all the other approaches in psychology and psychotherapy. This is achieved by noting the essential dynamic of the interplay of two levels of mind: (1) the various roles or parts played and (2) the meta-role, the role beyond the roles, that special part that determines how those roles will be played. Most therapies implicitly if not explicitly address the gradual empowerment of the metarole. Both role dynamics and psychodrama more explicitly name and emphasize the interaction of the two levels (Blatner, 2007b).

With all due respect to Shakespeare, “all the men and women” are not “merely players”!
Using psychodrama, the major players shift their viewpoints, and even at times join the director in creating a different scene. As the actors move from playing the role to the metarole position, they become codirectors and coplaywrights, exercising creativity in improvising alternative responses, either to explore new facets of the problem or to experiment with new behavioral responses. This meta-role, the inner director-playwright, has been called in other theories the “observing ego” or “witness self.” However, in psychodrama the definition of the term meta-role is expanded, suggesting not only an analytical function but also an executive one, deciding, choosing, interviewing the various parts, mediating, balancing, judging, reviewing, and so on. It can be trained and developed, helped to open to intuition and spiritual resources, sensitized to more subtle interpersonal dynamics, and broadened in terms of imagination and circle of caring. In this sense, the dynamic of developing the meta-role function, when mixed with the sheer usefulness of role dynamics as a language, offers a unifying meta-theory for psychology and psychotherapy (Blatner, 2007b). Some of these dynamics will be noted in the following theory of psychopathology.

In role dynamics there is no need to reduce the number of motivations to any single or small set of themes. While the various sources of motivation articulated by the more traditional approaches are acknowledged, a few others are given a little more recognition: self-expression, drama, playfulness, physical exuberance, creativity, and spontaneity are also important for optimal health. These deserve to be integrated into a holistic approach to psychology.

Variety of Concepts


Anticipating the ideas of humanistic psychology, Moreno felt that the human capacity for creativity was a key component of the personality (Blatner, 2005c). As people are helped to become more creative, they also feel more vital and experience their lives as more meaningful. In addition, from a general philosophical and socio-historical perspective, the world needs all the creativity we can give it. However, Moreno also noted an opposite inclination in personality dynamics, a tendency to avoid the responsibility of engagement and instead to rely on what has already been created (a category he called the “cultural conserve”). This was the root of automatic thoughts and rigid attitudes. Actual adaptation involves meeting the unfolding circumstances of the present moment, and this requires a continual exertion of responsibility. This is the core from which many of the other principles derive logically.


This is the innate capacity to respond adequately to the novel elements in the present, the source of creativity. While some breakthroughs arise in quiet contemplation, most require an activity of exploration, experimentation, improvisation—and this is how young children learn most naturally. One of Moreno’s most important insights was that spontaneity was the best attitude and activity for generating creatively.


This is a corollary dynamic, a recognition that spontaneity is the kind of process that cannot simply be willed. It involves interplay of activity and receptivity to intuition or subconscious inspiration and must unfold gradually. These dynamics apply to the way children learn through play and also to the ways groups develop cohesion.


Anxiety must be minimized, and one way to do that is to generate a context in which the consequences of making mistakes are limited: In normal development, this is one of the main functions of play. The essence of the context of play is that it is relatively fail-safe. It is also the basis of many kinds of scientific experiments, and one way to think of a laboratory is as a place in which experiments can be safely conducted. In this sense, psychodrama should be thought of as a kind of laboratory for psychosocial experimentation.

In addition to its functionality, play is recognized in psychodrama as a valid need, a part of health, so that people can enjoy a far broader range of experiences than can be actually manifested in the ordinary course of life. It’s a way for imagination, spontaneity, and self-expression to be channeled, and needs to be recognized as an important dimension of normal psychology (Blatner & Blatner, 1997).

Physical Action

The theory of psychodrama recognizes the widely appreciated principle of learning that one learns best by actually doing. The power of the body’s internal cues as a person actually faces someone—even an imagined someone—and speaks directly to that person, stands, moves around, and feels the fullness of his or her own voice is an important component of holistic healing. In this sense, psychodrama integrates many of the benefits of the “body therapies.” The power of touch, pulling, being pulled, and other physical engagements is also powerfully catalytic.


When thoughts and feelings are retained and not expressed openly, defense mechanisms come into play: “This doesn’t really matter, what are you being so fussy for?” “This didn’t count.” “It’s too hard.” “It’s not really happening.” “It wasn’t the real me who was involved.” This constant undermining self-talk is countered and somewhat dissolved when a person expresses a feeling or idea openly, knowing it is heard by others. (If several people hear, the self-expressive process is even more effective—one of the reasons why group work has extra value.) When ideas are thus expressed, brought into the interpersonal context, they are also able to be reexamined in light of present awareness. The exercise of self-expression thus develops the role of the observer—the client begins to listen to what she said. (See “The Mirror” under “Applications.”)

This expressiveness goes beyond the cognitive level. There is also a kind of emotional expressiveness, a deep drive to act, to do, to counter deep fears, gettting past passivity and “stuckness.” Sometimes talking it out does the job, but often more is needed, such as ritual and an expressive process. The deeper the stress or trauma, the more this paraverbal dimension is triggered and needs to be expressed. Moreno called this dynamic “act hunger.” Therapists need to recognize the need for more than just talk, and to offer channels for more multileveled bodily expression—singing, moving, pounding, and especially the dramatization of self-affirmation. People need to experience the confrontations with their opponents, they need to hear themselves argue with a judge, confront God, and challenge their own inner persecutor. They need to feel the volume of their own voice, and the power it can channel. People can talk all they want, but if one can only talk in a whisper, it’s a kind of “self-strangling” as the body muscles participate in a deeper process of psychophysical “armoring,” as Wilhelm Reich described it. Self-expression breaks free of this tendency toward emotional imprisonment.

Encounter: Indirectness is a variation of the avoidance of direct engagement and the responsibility it evokes. Therapists use psychodrama to get people to encounter others directly, talking to them instead of talking about them. This produces a sense of immediacy, intimacy, and authenticity in both parties. If the actual other person isn’t available, talking to that other person imagined sitting in an empty chair is still more meaningful than explaining what one might say, or could say, to a third party. That explaining serves as a massive filter of experience. In addition, for Moreno, the idea of encounter entailed openness to a more authentic meeting in which both parties would open their minds to the viewpoints of the other—anticipating his development of the technique of role reversal.

The Group: Moreno’s personality theory was as much of a social psychology as an individual psychology, and he noted the obvious: People are embedded in relationships, groups, and networks. He was talking about interpersonal relations and family triangles a decade or more before analysts began to use such terms. The audience function mentioned in the section on self-expression is intensified when several people are present, and there is a corresponding extension of the power for validation, support, and new ideas.

Drama (also known as "Enactment"): The natural social vehicle for combining the various principles of psychology previously mentioned—creativity, spontaneity, warming up, play, action, imagination, selfexpression, and the like—is, of course, drama. Children naturally play make-believe, and adults organize this complex multimodal format as theater. Psychodrama further modifies the process, making it the source of a more natural way to learn and to heal.

The Social Dimension (also known as collaborative creativity): Role dynamics also bridges individual psychology and social psychology more than any other approach because the role concept is so innately multileveled in nature. Multiple levels of life can be integrated: cultural, group, interpersonal, intrapsychic, and even psychosomatic. Our roles are conditioned by forces operating at all these levels, and they can be best illuminated in the examination of how clients define their roles—how they view the “appropriate” expectations involved—or how they challenge these definitions.
Various techniques can highlight the way clients experience their relations in their social networks.

Rapport: Moreno was especially interested in the psychology of rapport (which he called tele), that subtle sense of attraction or repulsion, and sometimes indifference or neutrality or mixed feelings that exists, often reciprocally, between and among people (Blatner, 1994b). Numerous interpersonal problems arise because these issues are allowed to operate unconsciously, but attending to these dynamics can help to deal with them.


Moreno developed a method for measuring tele; he called it sociometry, and it became a significant complex of techniques used by sociologists and social psychologists in the 1950s and 1960s, and, to a lesser extent, today. Certain sociometric techniques also are remarkably effective in bringing important individual and group dynamics to the surface.
Their central focus is the investigation of who is preferred for which roles and why. The roots of our interpersonal preferences are manifold, deeply meaningful, and often subconscious or preconscious. If dreams are, as Freud (and earlier nineteenth century theoreticians) suggested, the “royal road” to the unconscious, sociometry might be the “jet stream.”

Theory of Psychopathology

Psychological problems can arise from conflict, as is noted in other theories, but also frequently involve the phenomenon of simply not having mastered the requisite role components or skills needed for effective adaptation. In other words, people are sometimes less competent than they think they are, and this is rarely questioned in therapy. Another way to think about health and illness is in terms of the way roles are balanced or distributed. Is the person’s role repertoire broad enough? Furthermore, the coordinating functions of the meta-role are often crude in a surprisingly large number of people, and problems may be viewed in terms of the need for refinement in the skills of self-management. For example, what is known as a “harsh superego” may be translated as a rather crude inner disciplinarian. Just as modern managers now attend management training, so too can the inner manager use therapy to be more discerning, gentle, and effective.

Role dynamics attends not only to past events, but equally to the present predicament and anticipated future. Problems in these here-and-now dimensions may be quite sufficient to generate a maladjustment. Role dynamics also recognizes that individuals can be relatively healthy but disturbed because they are enmeshed in dysfunctional systems—perhaps a single relationship, a family, or one’s workplace or neighborhood.
(Historically, this view anticipated the systems-oriented thinking that arose in family therapy and other approaches.)

Another aspect of role dynamics is the idea that just as some roles can be overdeveloped, as in addictions, others can be underdeveloped. Some roles that might carry vitality remain neglected, often invalidated by family or the culture. This is one of the points of feminist psychotherapy, and psychodrama is one approach that has been noted to be particularly compatible with this orientation (Worrell & Remer, 1992). Another dimension that tends to be neglected is a noncompetitive approach to recreation, and the recognition of a number of more accessible and simple dimensions of pleasure and fun (other than intoxication, sex, and other commercially touted images). Indeed, those with addictions often suffer from a relative deficit in knowing other modes of play.

In summary, the fields of creativity research, spontaneity, “flow,” play, group dynamics, and the like all converge in appreciating how psychodrama can operate to enlarge our view of personality. The role concept helps to bring these dynamics more to the fore, and also builds a bridge with social psychology, emphasizing the way the understanding of human experience must be viewed also from its relational and cultural field.


Theory of Psychotherapy

Psychodramatic methods are best appreciated as being a complex of principles and procedures that are embedded within a larger, eclectic approach to psychotherapy, and not as a stand-alone system capable of managing all the phases of diagnosis and treatment. Indeed, it is arguable that no single approach to psychotherapy has such a scope. What is needed is an eclectic, integrative, or multimodal approach, and this does seem to be the emerging trend. Those who use psychodramatic methods still need to just talk with clients, engage them in therapy, generate a treatment alliance, evaluate problems, and address other issues meaningfully. There is a place for education, and for orientation of clients to the nature of the process involved. Different components need to be interwoven. There are occasions for direct instruction, and other occasions in which listening or abiding may be more helpful. Many of these components involve more conventional discussion modalities. Having a language for describing psychosocial phenomena—i.e., role talk—is one way that psychodrama is useful, even without recourse to action methods. A great deal of analytic work can be achieved simply in the process of naming and defining intrapsychic and interpersonal roles. Furthermore, a great deal of therapeutic work can be achieved by considering how those role definitions can be creatively redefined and renegotiated.

Many therapies seek to promote the client’s capacity for self-reflection. Talking about problems as if they were scenes in a play, though, brings this dynamic into sharper awareness for the client, because any actor needs to exercise role distance, the capacity to shift from playing “in role” to rethinking how that performance can be improved. An actor as a creative artist is open to guidance from the director. Also, to avoid burn-out actors need to “de-role” between performances, and to be open to a number of other roles besides that of the character being played. Psychodrama uses these ideas to help clients to develop their capacity for observing their own behavior and underlying attitudes.

The therapist similarly needs to be open to a remarkably broad range of possible helping behaviors, which are conceptualized in psychodrama as role components. In addition to having strategies for figuring out what might be troubling the client, the therapist needs a capacity for communicating empathy, an ability to understand group dynamics, and a willingness to offer support.

A key theoretical principle in psychodrama is that two or more processes or modalities can function synergistically, each intensifying the effectiveness of each other. Psychodrama is unique in its integration of action, imagery, improvisation, creativity, the dramaturgical model, role talk, playfulness, rapport (i.e., “tele”), and direct encounter. Any one of these elements adds to the effectiveness of psychotherapy; combined, they act to profoundly deepen and broaden the therapeutic process. In addition, they are compatible and synergistic with the verbal modes of interaction described in the other chapters of this book.

Process of Psychotherapy

Although the emphasis of this chapter is on the use of psychodramatic methods along with other approaches, a thorough acquaintance with the key elements of psychodrama is necessary for remaining oriented to the shifting roles in the process. The reason is that at one moment, the client might be in the role of himself; the next moment he may be the other person in the scene, or his own inner, ordinarily unexpressed voice. Thus, some specialized terms are needed that are drawn from the metaphor of drama: protagonist, director, auxiliary, audience, and stage.

Basic Elements of Psychodrama

The protagonist, or main player, is the one whose life situation is being explored. In a group, everyone may at some point play the role of protagonist for a dramatic enactment, which can go on for anywhere from five minutes to a couple of hours. (Most play out within 40 minutes or so.) In a therapy group, two or more people might engage together as coprotagonists, using psychodramatic techniques to work through conflicts or experience something new. On occasion, the director or therapist will take on a coprotagonist role to explore certain transference dynamics or deal with a challenge.

The director is the one who facilitates the dramatic enactment, suggests when the protagonist might change parts or try on a different role, brings up the supporting players (auxiliaries), and in general orchestrates the process. In spite of all this directiveness, a good director can still be remarkably “person-centered,” serving the needs of the protagonist in the moment rather than imposing any assumptions or frames of reference on the client-protagonist. In some groups, a director who is not a regular group member is brought in to lead the psychodrama, while the therapist participates primarily as an observer. Alternatively, the therapist might refer the whole group or individuals to a local psychodrama director for a more intensive workshop. The director and the client’s primary therapist would then discuss the activities in order to provide a coordinated treatment experience.

The auxiliary is the third basic element in psychodrama. (AB: I have begun to de-jargon-ize the method by offering a simpler name, "supporting player"---2013.) Originally called “auxiliary ego,” this term refers to a supporting player, one who takes the role of the someone else in an enactment. Usually, the auxiliary portrays a family member, friend, supervisor, or some other person, but he or she might also portray different parts within the protagonist’s own mind—the inner bully and the inner vulnerable child, for instance. Other auxiliary roles, such as the double, will be described further on in the text.

Gestalt therapy uses psychodrama in the form of monodrama, without the use of auxiliaries. The client plays all the parts, and dialogue is with what in psychodrama is called “the empty chair.” While this more clearly exposes the client’s own projections, it lacks the evocative power that can be experienced by having a living person spontaneously and vitally be the other and the dynamism that comes in a more vivid encounter with an actual physical person. If the auxiliary isn’t playing the role properly, the director can review and correct the performance. Auxiliaries also often come up with very intuitive and insightful points that might never have occurred to the director. This supports Moreno’s contention that in group therapy every person becomes the agent of healing for the others.

Auxiliaries can be directed to employ touch and physical contact, which can evoke complex feelings. This could be a tug on the sleeve, a squeeze of the hand, or a hand on the shoulder. Additional auxiliaries may play roles of other figures in the scene, so there may be several people on the stage at a time. The auxiliary in the role of the significant other also becomes the focus of the protagonist’s transferences, instead of them being wholly directed toward the director or one of the group members. In most group settings, other group members can be called on to play these roles. For more complex problems, sometimes one or even a team of trained auxiliaries are used. Psychodramatists-in- training sometimes serve as auxiliaries, because the more experience one has with the method, the more sensitive one is to the nuances of the process and can serve the protagonist in a more refined way.

The audience generally is the therapy group itself. Psychodrama should not be thought of as a process played to a larger audience for entertainment. The protagonist’s awareness that the scenes being enacted are being witnessed brings in a sense of intensified reality. The more people who have seen and heard the client’s expressive behavior, the less they can retreat behind habitual verbal defenses. The audience also functions as the source of auxiliaries. As the warming up of the protagonist commences, the question is asked, “Who here is in the scene with you?” If the protagonist—call him Alex—talks about his family, he answers, “Well, there’s my dad.” The director says, “Pick someone to be dad.” The protagonist looks around, and intuitively picks Bill. Other group members may also go onto the stage and play Alex’s mother, sister, or other roles.

In the witnessing role, the group is available for feedback, so that the transference to the therapist is diluted. The question “How did you see that interaction?” may evoke a response that has more impact than the more easily discounted observation of a therapist.
The question “How would you handle that differently?” can lead to group members coming up for a brief enactment in which they take the protagonist’s role and show how they would have dealt with the other person in the scene. Alex can then take his own role again and replay the scene, perhaps using the cues suggested by the audience. This process of behavioral rehearsal originated with psychodrama and was called role training.

The stage is the fifth major instrument. In classical psychodrama, sometimes there is an actual slightly raised platform area about 12 feet across, but for most groups, it suffices to simply designate a special place in the room where enactments take place. In this
“stage” area, actions are understood as exploratory. It’s special in that group members don’t walk across it on the way to the bathroom, or for other ordinary-life actions. To sustain the even temporary suspension of disbelief, and to promote a measure of imaginative vividness, some respect must be given to the space that is to represent the protagonist’s phenomenological world.

Phases of an Enactment

Even if it is a brief facilitative intervention, therapists should be aware that there are three phases implicit in any psychodramatic process: warming-up, the action, and sharing.

Warming-Up     This involves a number of activities that get people involved. It can be just a bit of explanation by the director, or her getting out of her chair and starting to walk around. It might be a structured experience, though as Yalom (2002) noted, these should not be used excessively when the group dynamic has its own momentum.

Action     This is the second phase, and, like the middle part of a game of chess, its variations seem endless. The various techniques are orchestrated according to the needs of the client. Psychodrama is a person-centered process in many ways. Modifications are freely invited to fit the tenor of the group, the abilities of the client, and other aspects of readiness. In classical psychodrama, the process tends to follow a curve of emotional intensity and focus, increasing with the warm up, culminating with the action, and cooling down as a working-through of insights are pursued, heading toward the sharing phase. However, before sharing, the director should make sure that the protagonist and auxiliaries are “de-roled.” Those who play a mother, employer, the double (the role of the protagonist’s inner self) or even a dream figure, should be helped to explicitly divest those roles and become themselves as fellow group members. Some directors have these people say something like, “I’m not your sister, my real name is Sarah.”

Sharing     After a protagonist has risked and explored, respecting this unusual degree of self-disclosure, the director invites not analysis, not criticism, but simply a counterdisclosure of what the enactment has meant in terms of the lives of the others in the group, including the auxiliaries.

Psychodrama should not be thought of as merely a hodgepodge of techniques. Rather, the techniques and principles work synergistically with each other and with other approaches, so the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Consider this analogy: Adding anesthesia and asepsis (keeping instruments and the wound sterile) were more than just “other tools” for a surgeon; they were the conditions that made for much more successful surgery. Similarly, adding a user-friendly language, a measure of exploratory playfulness, attention to body language and physical action, the power of speaking directly, or speaking in specific imagery, and so on, all make for a far more dynamic therapeutic process.

Psychodramatic methods can be integrated with ordinary talk therapy. They simply shift the activity toward a more explicit use of the “observing ego,” as therapists call it, the capacity to reflect on what is happening here and now, in the interaction with the therapist, and in the feelings in the body. Most therapies seek to heighten this capacity, but the dramaturgical context—treating life itself as a play that can be refined and improved, made more creative and effective—offers a familiar metaphor and context for achieving this goal.

Mechanisms of Psychotherapy

Therapy is an enormously complex enterprise, and hundreds of theories have been put forward regarding what is therapeutic. Now more attention is being devoted to underlying factors that all the different approaches seem to have in common, from arousal of hope to relationship with the therapist. Psychodrama makes use of many of the various factors that are part of therapy and even uses specific techniques to emphasize these processes.
Getting up with a director and entering a stage area represents a type of commitment to a process of exploration, which implies a corresponding mixture of trust in the relationship with the director and group, an expectation of a helpful outcome, and an increased sense of one’s own active participation.

There is a logical development in noting the principles that follow: The best way to achieve a higher level of creativity is to develop the capacity for spontaneity and improvisation—this insight is one of Moreno’s key contributions to psychotherapy. To feel free to explore spontaneity, a measure of playfulness is needed. Drama provides a natural vehicle for improvised play in older youth and adults.

Engaging a Creative Attitude

Psychodrama generates a process that engages the curious and playful child within. Being a creative artist is a respected role in Western culture, so there’s a measure of pride in daring to explore life’s depths. In addition, the metaphor of life as a work of art leads the client away from the tendency to seek “answers” and allows for the generation of novel and individualized responses. Sometimes there are no solutions in any purely rational sense, but the mere expression of the predicament in an aesthetic fashion can satisfy one’s emotional needs. For example, one of the ways to cope with a significant loss is simply to talk about it, draw a picture, write a poem, or role play some typical interactions. In this sense, psychodrama resonates with some of the ideas of the early psychoanalyst Otto Rank, who was an artist in his youth. Rank wrote about life as a work of art that one can engage in more or less creatively, and he recognized that creativity requires courage. Psychodrama brings this metaphor alive, and is novel, varied, and dynamic enough to remain challenging.


In addition to its being the first phase in classical psychodrama, warming-up is also a fundamental psychological dynamic. The key to authentic work in psychodrama is spontaneity, which develops gradually; warming-up is the psychological, physical, and interactive process that produces increased spontaneity. Even during the action, there needs to be an ongoing process of warming-up to each scene or change of role. The director uses a tone of playfulness or reminders of safety to “lubricate” the role shifts. Frictions within a group, transferential complications with the director, and confrontation of new areas that had been previously avoided are all issues that require shifts of pace, a regrounding of the process in the healing contract, and a renewed warming-up. Psychodramatic methods may be used for exploring and resolving these tensions, but deeper work should not be pursued if the relationships in the group aren’t harmonious.

Psychodrama sessions involving deeper experiences require more time than is typically allocated to a conventional therapeutic session, so that the group members can warm up to the level of trust, group cohesion, and involvement in the relevant issues needed for overcoming the layers of subtle inner defensiveness.

There are numerous structured experiences that can be used as “warm-up techniques;” however, there are pitfalls associated with using them mindlessly. Different kinds of warm-ups are more appropriate for different age groups and levels of psychological sophistication. The warm-up should be suited to the ostensible task of the group.
Warm-ups generally are used to promote group cohesion and to motivate people to think about deeper issues. Once the group process has been galvanized, techniques often become superfluous—the interpersonal interactions suffice as continued stimuli for involvement.

The importance of warming-up needs also to be recognized as a basic principle of ordinary talk therapy. Certainly, simply waiting silently functions in one way as a warmup, the ambiguity of the “empty” space prodding a kind of anxiety reaction that then may be analyzed. However, silence also “cools down,” by removing the expected natural interchange that is part of ordinary relationships. Psychodrama supports a bit of introductory talking, orienting the clients to the process, and other gentle warming-up suggestions that promote symmetrical and gradual self-disclosure.


Psychodrama is often thought of as a method that hinges on the production of emotional catharsis. This is only indirectly true: The actual underlying dynamic is that of integration of aspects of the psyche that had been previously separated and dissociated. As these are brought back together, there is a relief and release of feelings that were associated with fear and tension. Therefore, while the display of strong emotions may be associated with certain effective interventions, simply promoting emotionality should not in itself be the goal of therapy. Indeed, there are many clients who are already too inclined to emote, and for them therapy should target the development of a capacity for containment. There are times in many types of expressive therapy that clients are encouraged to bring a half-stifled feeling more into full awareness. However, good psychodramatists seek to promote the underlying dynamic of healing rather than the mere show of emotionality, and the image of the psychodramatist pushing clients to emote is only a caricature of the actual therapeutic process.


As clients explore dimensions of their lives that they hadn’t previously considered, there are opportunities to become more explicitly conscious of overly rigid attitudes and beliefs. These can be reevaluated, new distinctions can be drawn, and new approaches generated. However, there are degrees of insight. Occasionally, insights may come with the simple reexperiencing of a situation, accompanied by a more authentic emotional expressiveness. The catharsis suffices, and no great cognitive working-through is necessary. More often, though, the emotional scenes need to be followed by a more systematic exploration of the ideas and attitudes involved, because these basic beliefs may well require revision. Moreno maintained that every catharsis of abreaction should be followed by a catharsis of integration, which means that there is a more subtle release at the level of the “aha!” experience as clients are able to discover how their authentic emotions may be realistically worked with in their own lives.

A number of different scenes can address such cognitive integration. Enacting a scene that may have happened earlier in life, for example, may help offer some understanding about the context and associated beliefs that affected the way a person constructed the reactive pattern. On the other hand, scenes in related roles in the very recent past or anticipated future might be helpful for clients who are still in denial or are unclear about how they are continuing to engage in dysfunctional reactions.

Another type of insight comes with discovering that there may be alternative ways to react to a given predicament. Sometimes, simply asking other group members to share their coping strategies helps a protagonist break out of an impasse. In addition, watching or participating in another group member’s psychodrama often triggers thoughts of salient themes in one’s own life, and in the course of sharing, insights emerge for audience (other group members) as well as for protagonist.


People need to feel that they are heard, seen, and understood. The “mirroring” dynamic, an important component of Self Psychology (Kohut’s school of psychoanalytic thought), is very similar to Moreno’s developmental theory that children need parents to “double” for them—and people never outgrow this need. The experience of having a double is healing for the protagonist. Hearing someone else express inner feelings reduces the sense of “being the only one who thinks this way.” In addition, being asked to empathize with others counters the protagonist’s egocentricity and develops a more mature capability (Blatner, 2005b).

Cognitive Orientation

All therapies require that clients develop new schema for understanding the world and their place in it. Role dynamics and role talk are meaningful schema that are relatively easy to understand. They have the additional advantage of not subtly suggesting pathology or promoting stigma. Anyone can admit to having an imbalance of roles, and the challenge is then simply to identify how this is so. It’s not the same as having to take on some “label” that suggests sickness, weakness, or moral turpitude.

A Corrective Experience

One of the more important therapeutic factors in psychodrama is the restorative drama, constructing what the analyst Franz Alexander called a “corrective emotional experience.” Experiences of feeling helpless and shamed can be replayed so that the individual experiences a sense of mastery. This reprogramming, which involves imagery, kinesthetic experience, and the flow of a storylike process, operates at a deep level, not just in the psyche, but also in the nervous system. Experiences of being understood, validated, and supported can replace memories of feeling misunderstood, ignored, and rejected. Recent research has demonstrated the importance of this dynamic, especially in the treatment of fixations, blocks, and traumatic memories that simply aren’t reached by ordinary verbal modes of therapy.

The technique of the “reformed auxiliary” involves a scene being replayed in a different way: Now the parent, sibling, teacher, or other significant person in the client’s past behaves in a positive manner, and in a way that is very different from the behavior stored in the protagonist’s memory. However, this replay should only happen after the protagonist has had a chance to fully own and appreciate the depth of feelings involved in that original negative experience, because the acceptance of one’s own reality—in contrast to continuing to live with layers of overt or subtle denial—is a necessary precursor to the healing process. (An analogy can be made to physical wounds; infected tissue needs to be cleaned out before the healthy tissues can begin their restorative processes.)


Tendencies to project on others expectations based on past relationships may be explored in psychodrama. After presenting a given scene, the director may casually ask,
“With whom in the past have you had similar feelings?” If the transference is with the therapist, an auxiliary will be called up to stand in for the therapist, and the client as protagonist will be invited to confront the therapist. A double may be used for support and to facilitate bringing out withheld feelings. At a later point, the protagonist may be asked to change parts and play the therapist. (The actual director-therapist stands to the side.) However, the possibility that the group member is reacting to a real behavior on the part of the director should not be overlooked. In psychodrama, the therapist-director may also become a coprotagonist and the two parties can encounter each other in a spirit of equality, in front of the group, with doubles for both parties, and a cotherapist who directs the encounter.


Complex phenomena cannot be fully comprehended or predicted, but rather require multimodal experimentation. This is why astronauts practice simulated landings and armies go through military maneuvers. Variables that may have been overlooked can thus be noticed. It’s the principle of the laboratory, and psychodrama offers such a complex of tools and environments for simulating the complexities of human interaction. No matter how much discussion is given to self-assertion in therapy, there’s a different kind of challenge involved when the client is actually facing another person and asserting himself. This is why role playing is diagnostic: It reveals where weaknesses may exist, but it is also corrective, in that clients are allowed to practice, get feedback, try again, and begin to feel more confident at skill mastery. Psychodrama recognizes the need for kinesthetic- emotional “learning by doing.” In the therapeutic process, as a part of working through, actual practice in implementing new attitudes as expressed in new behaviors can be crucial (Kipper, 1986).


Addressing issues regarding clients’ highest values, their underlying belief systems about where they belong in the universe and what they should do with their lives, offers a particularly useful framework for healing. In addition, spiritual conflicts are frequent elements in people’s broader emotional development. In fact, God, Jesus, Buddha, and other significant figures also become internalized, and they play their roles in the inner psychic system. By externalizing these dialogues, participants can be subjected to the light of consciousness and the best awareness of the present moment, rather than continuing to parrot what was taught and ingrained in childhood.

Moreno was one of the first innovators to write and talk about the spiritual dimension of life and was in this sense a precursor to the later-emerging field of transpersonal psychology. In addition, since the 1980s, psychodramatists have paid increasing attention to clients’ values and belief systems and have integrated Jungian, Asian, and Native American concepts into their practice.

Learning Skills

Clients use psychodramatic techniques in therapy, and they also learn to think as if these approaches were part of their lives. They become more capable of accessing and disclosing a greater breadth of emotional responses, and they learn to empathize with others. In summary, psychotherapy may be thought of as a process that modifies emotional patterns, changes cognitions, and alters behaviors. Psychodramatic methods facilitate all these processes and anchor them in physical activity (Blatner, 2005a).


Problems: Psychodramatic methods are so adaptable they can be used for almost every type of problem. More complex psychodramas generally shouldn’t be used with clients whose anxiety levels are exceptionally high, such as those in a still-acute stage of psychotic disorganization, withdrawal from alcohol or drugs, or those with other brittle conditions. With people whose cognitive capacity is diminished, much simpler forms of imagery work, role playing, and role training must be used. Classical psychodrama can be modified extensively, and simplified techniques can be used with good results. For example, Tomasulo (1998) describes work with developmentally disabled clients who live in group homes and/or work in sheltered workshops. Simple role plays can help to develop skills for self-assertion, effective communication, and conflict resolution. Razza & Tomasulo (2004) have further applied action approaches to healing trauma in this population. (A case worker can learn enough about this approach to act as mediator in cases of conflict resolution.)

Therapists treating children can integrate psychodramatic techniques with other techniques derived from creative and educational drama, drama therapy, play therapy, and the other creative arts therapies (Bannister, 1997; Hoey, 1997). For example, the technique of the aside can be used with hand puppets, with the protagonist puppet turning to the audience (i.e., the therapist) and saying something he normally wouldn’t directly admit to the other puppets playing counter-roles in the enactment.

Classical psychodrama is a powerful method that requires a good deal of special training on the part of the director, sufficient time for preparation and follow-up, the establishment of group support, and clients who are appropriate for this type of intervention. These sessions generally require at least two to three hours and are sometimes conducted in day-long or weekend workshop settings. Such workshops can serve as powerful adjuncts to more conventional therapies. Clients in medium- or longer-term talk therapy who have good ego strength can generate a great deal of material for later discussion and integrate some of the work they had been doing. Used judiciously, then, classical psychodrama is an especially beneficial approach. Nevertheless, it is hoped that learning about the principles and techniques of psychodrama will encourage therapists to integrate them in their own work.

Psychodrama as an Adjunct to Individual or Group Therapy: Clients in individual or group counseling or therapy, or even an entire therapy group, might contract to do a day-long or weekend psychodrama workshop with a trained psychodramatist. In the case of a therapy group, the group’s therapist also attends and acts as a kind of cotherapist but does not function as the psychodrama director. If the workshop includes individual clients, there should be some opportunities for preworkshop and postworkshop liaison between therapist and director. For most relatively healthy clients, it would be probably enough that they report the highlights of their experience with their therapists, maintaining confidentiality regarding the identities or details of any of the work done by other group members during the psychodrama.

The day or weekend experience results in a degree of group cohesion and trust that enables a greater degree of self-disclosure among the group members. The disclosure that occurs during enactments is typically revealing and intense, and it motivates symmetrical involvements by others. Therefore, the warm-up builds on itself in a way that can’t happen in more traditional and briefer (one- or one-and-a-half-hour) group sessions.

Many types of group psychotherapy can be enhanced by the integration of psychodramatic methods (Corey, 2004; Young, 2001). The main purpose of this chapter is to encourage this kind of utilization of techniques and principles. The use of role language facilitates the group dynamic, and more specific enactment techniques may be used when appropriate. Yalom (2002) calls action techniques “accelerating devices” and notes their usefulness in therapy.

Family Therapy: Blatner (1994a) has described a number of applications of psychodramatic methods in working with families. One of these techniques, “family sculpture,” expresses perceived relationships in concrete form and has been used extensively, often by those who never realized its origins in psychodrama. Other action techniques may be added to family sculpture work to make it even more effective. In working with couples, a wide range of other techniques may catalyze the process (Hayden-Seman, 1998).

Therapeutic Milieu: This approach was an important aspect of psychiatric hospital treatment in the later twentieth century, and it became part of many residential treatment center approaches. It involves a quasi-group therapy approach and is used in outdoor-life challenge programs and many other settings. The interactions and frictions accompanying the events of everyday life in such settings (e.g., flagging morale and acting-out behaviors) can be immediately addressed using the technique of replay, followed by exploration of alternative responses.

The Treatment of Addictions: A number of recognized leaders in addictionology, a new and growing subfield in the last 25 years, use psychodramatic methods to support a more comprehensive approach to recovery (Dayton, 2000). The 12-Step methods that were developed first in the treatment of alcoholism, then in the treatment of drug abuse and many other types of addictions, codependencies, and related problems, all draw on the healing function of a “higher power” and use group dynamics and personal therapy–like interventions to reinforce this reorientation.

Trauma: The treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) has become increasingly important because of international events in the past decade. Because many of those who suffer from PTSD also tend to abuse drugs to alleviate their symptoms, the treatment of addictions and the treatment of PTSD overlap somewhat. Therapists who work with Vietnam veterans, victims of ethnic strife, those who were physically and sexually abused in their childhood, and those who have had other kinds of trauma have noted that these individuals share a number of common dynamics that resist verbal approaches. Psychodrama has been one of the more powerful approaches used with traumatized patients; combined with other methods, it effectively addresses the multilayered and often comorbid dimensions of PTSD. Kellermann and Hudgins (2000) published an anthology of psychodramatic approaches to trauma, and Kate Hudgins (2002) has gone further and developed ideas and techniques that build on psychodrama, adding her own original contributions. Hudgins’s “Therapeutic Spiral Model” combines the provision of an orienting framework, a team approach, and other techniques to make it possible for people suffering from PTSD to benefit from psychodrama without being retraumatized in the process. As demonstrated by Hudgins’s work, the powerful techniques of psychodrama can be adjusted to the tolerance levels of the client, and help the patient not only heal but become stronger and more resilient in the face of future stresses. Again, some of these techniques can be adopted and used by nonpsychodramatists, but a great deal of professional judgment is required. Working with trauma is the group psychotherapeutic equivalent of open-heart surgery—it is complicated and potentially dangerous.

Grief Work: This process often is a component of working with trauma, and at other times stands on its own. Parents of children with life-threatening illnesses, caregivers to relatives with Alzheimer’s disease, and others in situations in which loss is a significant part of the distress may be helped by an experiential approach (Blatner, 2000b).

Cross-Cultural Dynamics: Psychodrama is used internationally and applied in many kinds of settings, with slight modifications of style as needed for the types of people attending. The quality of warming-up is different for people who are naturally more expressive, such as those who live in Latin America. In Japan, once the process has started, the subtle group influence leads to a more prolonged sharing. People who are reluctant to talk about their own problems may warm up gradually by engaging in enactments about figures in fairy tales or some other common cultural story.

Beyond the Clinical Context

As a group of tools for exploring both individual and social psychological dynamics, psychodramatic methods can be applied for many purposes aside from therapy—in self-help groups, personal development groups, business and industry, community building, education, religious education and spiritual retreats, and just for recreation (Blatner, 2007a). For many of these purposes, Moreno created a modified form of psychodrama, “sociodrama,” which addresses general role definitions and intergroup tensions, and which operates in a less individual-centered fashion. Indeed, sociodrama may have more of a socially constructive impact than psychodrama, just as public health measures often prevent more illness than doctors ever treat (Blatner, 1995; Kellermann, 2007; Sternberg & Garcia, 2000).


There is an extensive literature that documents the use of psychodrama, and over 4,800 articles, books, or chapters in books have been written about the technique (Sacks, Bilaniuk, & Gendron, 2003). [As of 2013, there are over 7,000 items on an international website hosted by Dr. Michael Wieser: ) This continuing—indeed, growing—use of psychodramatic approaches offers compelling face validity, suggesting thousands of therapists have found these methods efficacious and useful. Nevertheless, a number of therapists and psychotherapy researchers continue to insist on evidence-based support for the effectiveness of this method. However, psychodrama, because of its multifaceted nature, does not constitute a method that can be described in a manual-like format, nor can sessions be replicated —thus, ipso facto, it is resistant to traditional “hard science” modes of evaluation. Instead, its work may be appreciated more in terms of the case-review approach—a well-established mode adapted for the complexity of human affairs. (A number of writers have noted the difference between the “nomothetic,” statistical approach that has come to dominate academic journals and the more humanistic, “idiographic,” or case-study approach.) Many question the trend for demanding evidence that can only be produced by a certain kind of research that by definition requires a limited scope. The “lens” of practical scientific technology not limit the vision of inquiry. Nevertheless, the approach does have a number of ways of evaluating its effectiveness in any given situation.

A recent report by Dougherty (2002) notes that patients on a special psychiatric unit for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder included psychodrama as one of the most highly rated approaches. A scholarly meta-analysis of research on psychodrama was recently conducted by Kipper and Ritchie (2003). This analysis of 25 experimentally designed studies documented an improvement effect similar to or better than that commonly reported for group psychotherapy. The techniques of role reversal and doubling emerged as the most effective interventions. Because there are many other psychodramatic methods, and they operate in combination with other approaches, it is difficult to tease out the effect of any particular technique. As stated earlier, these methods are best thought of as being facilitating agents for other psychotherapy methods. Some psychodramatic methods have already been incorporated into various psychotherapies; still others may similarly and rationally be more fully applied.


Examination of the major psychodramatic techniques suggests how these approaches may be used in treatment. After warming-up clients and establishing the therapeutic contract, scores of techniques are available. Most therapists benefit from using some of the following techniques to amplify the effectiveness of the therapeutic process.


A typical psychodramatic instruction is “Don’t tell us, show us.” With this phrase, the patient is encouraged to plunge into the situation at a more intense and committed level of experience, acting “as if” instead of talking “about.” “Show us what happened with your family”; “Show us the conflict you’re having within yourself”; “Show us what you’d like to be doing in 10 years.” Scenes from the past, present, or future may be set up, and this kind of concretizing of issues has the benefit of cutting through defensive tendencies toward vagueness and circumstantiality.

Cut the Action

In the midst of the process, the director might call “cut,” using the same term as someone directing a movie. Upon hearing this command, the protagonist and auxiliaries (or group members, if this technique is used to evaluate group dynamics apart from any explicit enactment in the stage area) are to pause and listen, awaiting the next direction— perhaps an invitation to reflect on what was just said or a recommendation to try some other technique to heighten awareness.


The behavior just enacted is consciously repeated, thus bringing it into sharper awareness and offering the opportunity to do it differently. Each time an action is consciously repeated, it becomes a bit less dominated by automatic thinking. Moreno said, “Every second time is a liberation from the first.” When clients are given a chance to replay their behavior, they learn that the environment is supportive and exploratory, and they learn that saying “the wrong thing” does not necessarily result in an irreversible mistake.


This technique is used in old-time melodramas, when the villain turns to the audience, putting a hand beside his mouth, and says something like, “Little does she know that I have taken the spark plugs out of John Strongheart’s car!” It’s a dramatic device, a variation of what in cinema or television is the “voiceover,” a way to disclose to the audience what would not ordinarily be known to the others in the scene.

The Mirror

When the mirror technique is used, the client steps out of the scene and an auxiliary replays how the client-protagonist was just behaving. The mirror functions like video playback without the technology. The client can stand aside and observe how his style of reacting may have been counterproductive or perhaps learn that his reaction had been entirely satisfactory. (A different use of the term “mirror” in reference to psychoanalytic self psychology refers to the reflecting role of the parent.)

Nonverbal Communications

The mirror technique also serves to bring into sharper focus the importance of nonverbal communications. Nonverbal behaviors can also serve as inner cues that subtly reinforce various attitudes. Pulling back one’s shoulders, thrusting the jaw a bit forward, and making direct eye contact, for example, can shift the whole tone of an interaction, and the interpretation of the event (Blatner, 2002).

Multiple Parts of Self

Here the client names the different inner roles, brings them to the stage, has each one stand or sit in a different chair, and then in turn, presents the concerns of each role. One way to reframe the experience of confusion is to view it as a situation in which many roles are arguing, but interrupting each other so loudly (inside) that one can’t hear one’s own thoughts. This technique teases these various aspects of self out and makes them take turns. The choosing self cooperates with the director to interview, mediate, and negotiate compromises, instead of allowing one role to dominate and repress all the others. This and other techniques may be modified so that they are used mainly in imagination, especially for clients who are reluctant to get out of their chairs. Alternately, they may be used just with one other empty chair.

The Empty Chair

The client imagines someone sitting across from him in an empty chair. The “other” might be a family member or friend with whom the client needs to encounter, or it could be the client when he was younger or older; an inner role or role component, such as his “inner child,” a dream figure, or a spiritual entity.

Role Reversal

Role reversal invites the client to relinquish her egocentricity for a time and imagine what it’s like to be in the role of another person. This technique is an invitation to cultivate empathy, and there is inherent value in the expectation that a patient will learn and exercise this skill. If the other person is not present, there is still an opportunity to imagine what it is like to look at the world from a different frame of reference. In the early parts of the process, what emerges first is simply the client’s projections, but even this process helps people become aware of their biases and subconscious assumptions.

The art of role reversal lies in the therapist-director’s ability to gently warm the protagonist up to the experience of the other’s role, through interviewing the protagonist as if he or she were the other person. This technique may be used to portray the behavior of that other person, with an emphasis on such components as voice tone, pacing, intensity, posture, facial expression, and gesture. At a deeper level, role reversal can be used to help patients understand the feelings or attitudes of the other people in their lives.

It’s helpful for clients to learn to imagine what it might be like to be the other person, even if the client doesn’t get out of his or her chair. Practicing this is the best way to develop empathy. The key is to think more like an actor who’s trying to get the feel of a character during rehearsal, and less like a student who has read a lot about psychology.
In this sense, imagining “what’s it like to be” embodies the ideals of phenomenology and existential psychotherapy.

The Double

An auxiliary plays the role of the protagonist’s inner self, helping to express and clarify one’s unspoken thoughts. The double usually plays a supportive role for the protagonist; however, once a sense of alliance is developed between the two, the director may coach the double to include some mild provocation or confrontation to facilitate the clarification process. The double technique offers interpretation phrased in terms of “I messages” and in words consistent with the patient’s self-system. The protagonist is explicitly instructed to correct any statements by the double that feel inaccurate. This creates a mutuality in which the double helps the protagonist express in an enactment what might never be spoken in the course of an ordinary exchange (Leveton, 2001).
Surplus Reality

This is Moreno’s term for that dimension of psychological experience that transcends the boundaries of physical reality by giving more respect to the potentials of fantasy and imagination. Psychologically, people can and do have relationships with others who are deceased, children who have never been born, God, hallucinatory figures, religious personages, and the like. These are often as important in a patient’s psychodynamics as relations with actual people. In psychodrama, encounters with these significant psychological figures can be externalized and enacted. In this sense, as Moreno noted, psychodrama is the “theater of truth,” because the full truth of a person often encompasses not only what has actually happened, but, equally importantly, what has never happened and perhaps could never happen in reality.

Surplus reality can be utilized in several ways: One example is the technique of act fulfillment, in which the protagonist is helped to experience a corrective emotional experience. Many patients suffer from acute or chronic trauma, which left them with residual feelings of powerlessness, shame, and a secret sense that “this is the way life has to be.” Reenactment of the traumatic situation breaks through layers of denial, allowing for a catharsis of “owning” the experience, replaying the scene with a more satisfactory conclusion may help heal the client. The victim of abuse, for example, is helped to protest, to become empowered to seek effective protection, and then, using the technique of “the reformed auxiliary,” is given a chance to create a more benign relationship with the aggressor.

Moreno actively used surplus reality as a vital resource in healing. He once said to Freud, “You analyze people’s dreams. I try to give them the courage to dream again.” (Moreno, 1946). In this sense, psychodrama offers patients an opportunity to envision life with more faith, to reinvest emotionally in the future. (Clients who are demoralized frequently repress their hopes for a pleasant future as much as they repress desires/thoughts in the present and the past.) Moreno developed the future projection technique as a way to encourage patients to become more explicit in their goal-setting. It involves portraying scenes that are hoped for or anticipated. A variation of this is role training, a type of behavioral rehearsal, used to help a patient prepare for an event such as a date, an employment interview, or an encounter with a relative. Using coaching, modeling, videotaped or verbal feedback, and other techniques, the patient repeats the enactment until satisfactory options are developed.


People often talk about others and their feelings, but a great deal of insight and experiential learning can come from the experience of facing and speaking to the imagined other directly. “Tell them, not us,” the director says. Dialogues in the present moment are experienced more vividly. Encounters between different roles or parts of the client’s own psyche can be equally productive. This is especially helpful for clients who complain of confusion. Often this experience can be productively reframed as a conflict in which the different parts of themselves interrupt each other too much. By externalizing internal dialogues and separating voices, the client can better appreciate competing internal demands. Sometimes a client can play both parts in an encounter, using the technique of monodrama, employing an empty chair as the locus of his or her imagined other.


Psychodrama can portray even abstract ideas in more concrete form, so that, for example, if a protagonist complains of feeling “torn apart,” the director might have two auxiliaries come up and each one pull on one of the protagonist’s arms. These kinesthetic cues often help clients get in touch with the deeper feelings involved. Concretization also cuts through clients’ tendencies to avoid their feelings by talking about them, explaining, and using generalities as a defensive maneuver.

Props of various kinds also help to express feelings, alternative identities, and attitudes—pieces of fabric are especially useful in this regard. Chairs, cloth dolls, hand puppets, and other elements also are evocative.

Even if a therapist doesn’t use actual physical enactment, it can be helpful to redirect the client toward more specific images. For example, in doing grief work, the memories brought out should be linked to time, space, and the details in the event. Often these details are emotionally charged, and a single word spoken, a gesture, the color of a shawl, or the smell of the kitchen can be tremendously powerful. Konstantin Stanislavsky, the dramatic producer and trainer of actors, wrote and spoke of sense memory, and encouraged actors to use these specific details in their overall construction of their roles. There are scores of other techniques used in psychodrama that can be modified and adapted for use with diverse populations and in a variety of contexts. However, all psychodramatic approaches aim to involve patients in their ability to imagine, think, and behave in an as if context and to engage in dramatic play as a resource for insight, behavioral practice, the expansion of consciousness, and healing.


Background: Carl (these names are fictional and the details of the case have been changed for the purposes of confidentiality) was a 50-year-old married engineer who came for therapy because of symptoms of low-grade depression. Tina, the therapist, began the evaluation by reviewing Carl’s symptoms, which included insomnia, lack of interest in sex, irritability, and a feeling of vague sadness and emptiness in his life. In the first session, Tina asked about Carl’s general health and encouraged him to make an appointment soon with his family physician to rule out possible organic causes of his symptoms.

One technique that tends to develop a treatment alliance is that of using pencil and paper to diagram the client’s social network, because an exploration of relationships communicates a concern for feelings more than many other questionnaire-style approaches. Tina had Carl draw a kind of map of himself in relationship with others. She noted the number of people, their sex (indicated by little circles for females or triangles for males), how distant or close they were placed compared to the figure for Carl himself, and what he said about the quality of the relationship. Tina asked what he thought the others felt about him, as well as asking how he felt toward them, keeping in mind that a client’s attributions of intentions and feelings to those around him or her are often important reflections of the client’s own state of mind.

Two relationships were especially problematic for Carl: He had a sense of growing apart from his wife, and also from his only child, Stu. Carl agreed to have his wife join him in an evaluation session, and she complained about his avoidance of emotional connections. Carl also related a history of relative shallowness of emotion shown by his parents when he was growing up. Finally, Tina found a formulation that Carl felt was helpful: Carl’s depression was most likely due to a lack of social skills, and this diminished his sense of belonging. Because Carl was able to express his yearning for more closeness, Tina suggested that he join an ongoing therapy group that addressed the dynamics of interpersonal relationships. Over the next year, Carl was able to discover the patterns of avoidance that led to his alienation, and psychodramatic methods served as catalysts for his healing.


In addition to Tina as the group therapist, and Carl, there were six other group members: Al, Ben, Deb, Eric, Fay, and Gail. (Note the alphabetical order of these fictional names.) Of course, their issues were also discussed, but the following vignettes focus on how psychodramatic methods were useful in Carl’s treatment, in catalyzing insight and helping Carl learn new strategies. He is the “protagonist” in the following vignettes and Tina, the group therapist, is using the psychodramatic techniques as facilitating devices.


Shortly after joining the group, Carl finds himself the object of one member’s anger.
Ben:     I think you don’t care about what’s happening here. You just sit there and look smug while we spill our guts out!
Carl:     I just don’t have anything to say.
Ben:     Then why the hell are you here?
    (Carl starts to stammer, his face reddens, and he looks down at the floor.)
Tina:     When friction comes up in a group, nobody has to be left without support. I don’t believe in putting people onthe “hot seat.” So, who in the group can imagine what it’s like right now to be in Carl’s shoes?You don’t have to agree with him, but this is an opportunity to learn empathy.
Deb:     (Raises hand) I think I do.
Tina:     Okay, come and sit in this chair next to Carl. As Carl’s double, will you tell us what you think Carl may be feeling, but is not able to say? (Deb nods.)

[Explanation of role notation: In psychodrama people can assume various roles; thus if Ben plays the role of Carl, we indicate this as Ben-Carl.]

Tina:     Carl, you can correct anything that Deb says that isn’t accurate.
Carl:     (Nods. To Deb) Go ahead.
Deb-Carl:     If I were Carl I’d want . . .
Tina:     As a double you are Carl, so say, “I want to . . .”
Deb-Carl:     (Warms up again) I want to jump up and scream at everyone. I’m depressed.
    I don’t know why the hell I’m depressed. You guys are making me feel like shit!
    (Carl sits with head down and nods, then glances at Deb with weak smile. Tina puts her hand on Carl’s shoulder.)
Carl:     (Mumbles) It hurts.
Ben:     I hurt, too, dammit!
Fay:     (Gently) Carl, we’re all hurting, but at least we talk about it.
Tina:     Sometimes it’s really hard to find the words, particularly if they are deep inside you. So that’s how we can help each other talk. Moreno said, in group therapy, everyone is a healer to the others.

The Mirror

In the next session, Carl is accused of being “intimidating.”
Carl:     Now, what the hell does that mean? Intimidating?
Gail:     (Fumbling to explain) I don’t know . . . you just make me feel . . .
Tina:     Wait, let’s do the mirror technique. (Stands up and addresses Carl, who becomes the protagonist.) Carl, come stand beside me and we’ll watch as if it’s a video replay. Could someone play how Carl was responding to Gail? (Eric raises his hand.) Carl, could Eric be you and replay that last interaction with Gail?
Carl:     Yes. (Eric-Carl sits in Carl’s chair and assumes a glowering look.) Tina: Eric, please repeat Carl’s last line, “What the hell does that mean?”
Eric-Carl:     What the hell does that mean?
Tina:     (To the group) Is Eric playing Carl’s behavior accurately or exaggerating it?
Group:     That’s Carl. Yep. That’s the way he looks.
Tina:     (To Carl) What do you see on “Carl’s” face? (Pointing to Eric-Carl).
Carl:     He looks mean.
Tina:     Right. That’s a nonverbal communication. It’s not what you say but maybe the look on your face.
Carl:     That’s just the way I look.
Tina:     No, that’s just a habitual facial expression, and people can change their habits.


The following is a continuing of the psychodramatic exploration just described.
Tina:     Let’s analyze, break down, this facial communication. Eric, will you put on that face again?
Eric-Carl:     Sure! (Having fun with this role, he exaggerates a mean look.)
Tina:     Notice the dropped head, and how he looks out from under his eyebrows.
Carl:     (Trying to see what the therapist is getting at) Yeah . . . So?
Tina:     (To Eric-Carl) Lift your head slightly up to face straight ahead. It’s only a little change. Good. Now go back down.
Carl:     I don’t frown that way.
Gail:     He’s right, it’s just the angle of the eyes.
Tina:     Okay, Eric, relax your face out of the frown, but keep the angle of the eyes. (To group) Is that closer?
Group:     Yes.
Tina:     Thanks, Eric. Now let’s have Carl come back to his chair and assume the face. Try saying, “What the hell do you mean I’m intimidating?” but raise your face so the angle of your eyes is straight on.
Carl:     (With face level, to Gail in the other chair) What the hell do you mean I’m intimidating?
Gail:     (Speechless for a moment, then laughs) Well, now you’re not! (Carl and group laugh.)

Role Reversal

A few sessions later, several group members are working on their relationships with their adult children. Carl has by now become comfortable bringing up an issue with his own son, Stu.
Carl:     Boy, if I could get my son to say two words about his work, I’d already be happy.
Tina:     Carl, would you like to have an encounter with your son?
Carl:     Hell, yes.
Tina:     Pick someone to be your son. What’s his name, again?
Carl:     Stu. Al, would you be Stu?
Tina:     Al, come on up here. (To Carl) Where does this encounter happen?
Carl:     My living room.
Tina:     Okay, where are you?
Carl:     I’m in my chair.
Tina:     Pull the chair up into where it would be in the room. (Walking around with Carl) Now where’s Stu?
Carl:     Over here on the couch.
Tina:     (To the group) Let’s put several chairs together for the couch. Now, Carl, help Al to play his role as Stu by coming here and showing how Stu is positioned on the couch. (Carl lies down on the chairs.) Tina: Al, you got it? Carl, go back to your chair. Al is “Stu.” Let’s begin the action.
Carl:     So, how’s your work going?
Al-Stu:     ’Bout the same.
Carl:     Any more layoffs?
Al-Stu:     A couple.
Carl:     Well, hell, is it gettin’ close to you or not?
Al-Stu:     Get off my case, willya!
Carl:     (Drops out of role, turns to Tina) That’s what happens.
Tina:     (To group) What do you see going on here?
Gail:     He’s using that intimidating face again.
Tina:     Carl, this is one of those stressful situations in which you tend to revert to dropping your head a little, so that’s one thing you can change.
Carl:     Okay, but what does he want from me?
Tina:     That’s a good question. Let’s find out by using role reversal. Come over here and be Stu on the couch. Al, you stand behind these chairs and listen. Carl, you’re Stu, and I’ll warm you up by asking you some questions.
Tina:     So, you and your dad are at an impasse. Just between you and me, Stu, and your dad doesn’t have to hear this, what is going on at work?
Carl-Stu:     Some tough times. It’s a dotcom business.
Tina:     What does that mean?
Carl-Stu:     Downsizing. I’m not fired yet, but I’ve had to do the work of some of the guys who were.
Tina:     If I were you I’d be a little scared.
Carl-Stu:     Yeah, it’s gettin’ too close to home.
Tina:     Would you like to talk with your dad about this?
Carl-Stu:     He wouldn’t understand. He’s a success. He went to work for one company and he’s been there for 30 years. He doesn’t know about this start-up business.
Tina:     If he could admit that, would that open things up a bit between you?
Carl-Stu:     Maybe, ’cause he always wants to tell me how I should come to work for his company.
Tina:     But I guess you are part of a different generation?
Carl-Stu:     Oh, yeah, I’m not going to be married to one company all my life.
Tina:     So if you could tell him about the new business world without his trying to get you to come to work with him, do you think you would want to tell him things?
Carl-Stu:     Probably so.
Tina:     Come out of the action, now. Become yourself. Carl, how is this sounding to you?
Carl:     This is already more than Stu has said to me in a year.
Tina:     How does it feel?
Carl:     Well . . . It’s almost a relationship. That’s what I want with him. Just talking.

Future Projection

[Continuing the interaction from the previous section.]
Tina:     Now that we’re getting clearer about what is important to have happen with your son, let’s move on and rehearse how it might go successfully in the future. This next scene is like the old way of talking, at least at the beginning, but Carl, you can use the insight from role reversing to try something new. Al, will you come around, get on the couch, and you’re Stu again. Carl, this time you can try again, and it will be a different approach. You won’t be frowning. (Carl nods in agreement.) And because you’ve empathized with your son through role reversal, you maybe have a hint to what might work between you. So, this is the scene that could happen in the future. And Al- Stu, your line, instead of saying “Get off my case,” is to tell the truth, say instead, “They’ve just added another guy’s workload to mine.” Go.
Al-Stu:     They’ve just added another guy’s workload to mine.
Tina:     (Turns to Carl) Okay, and your response . . .
Carl:     (Turns to Tina, dropping out of the role) I want to tell him to get out of the business. (Takes a deep breath, then turns back to Al-Stu) Shit. What are you going to do?
Al-Stu:     Ride it out as long as I can.
Carl:     (Turns to Tina in exasperation) I gotta tell him to get out while he can.
Tina:     (Moves into the coach role) Try saying, “Tell me more” and don’t frown.
Carl:     (Relaxes face) Tell me more.
Al-Stu:     Well, I’ve got to work longer hours and appear to be able to handle it all.
Carl:     How are you going to do that?
Al-Stu:     At least I’m not married. I’ll work all weekend.
Carl:     Sure is a lot harder than when I was your age.
Al-Stu:     Yeah, I guess 8 to 5 would be pretty easy right now. But this company could really take off.
Carl:     You know, I’m proud you work so hard for something you like. It shows character.
Tina:     Change parts. (Al goes to Carl’s chair, and Carl goes to the couch and takes the role of Stu.) Tina: (To Al-Carl) Give him that last line.
Al-Carl:     I’m proud of your working so hard. You’ve got character.
Carl-Stu:     (Pauses, lets it in) Seems natural to work hard. I guess I got it from you.


Over the next year, Carl practiced these lessons and, in acquiring a broader repertoire of skills in self-awareness, communications, and problem-solving, he was reinforced not only by his therapy group, but also by his wife and son, with whom he began to experience more rewarding interactions. His symptoms of depression were relieved as he felt more competent and alive.


Classical psychodrama requires extra training, but many psychodramatic methods and principles can be easily integrated into individual, family, and group psychotherapy. Simply using the dramaturgical metaphor, talking about problems in terms of the roles being played and identifying how they are defined and renegotiated, makes therapy a more accessible process for most clients, and it’s also a practical language for psychotherapists and counselors of various types. In addition, the skills of role taking, role shifting, and other component activities develop clients’ overall mental flexibility and capacity for empathy. Clients become more resilient and can apply their skills in everyday life (Blatner, 2003). Psychodrama more systematically applies the natural dual-level operating ability to shift between involvement in role (as actor) and then the observing and negotiating, adjusting, investigating, and executive functions of the “meta-role” position (as director-playwright). As a result, the individual can bring more vitality, consciousness, and creativity to life.

The field of psychotherapy continues to grow by incorporating new approaches.
Furthermore, the full potential of some of the oldest approaches has only begun to be recognized and utilized—especially hypnosis, imagery, body work, and spirituality. Psychopharmacology also can be used as an important adjunct to therapy, when used with good judgment and not treated as a panacea. Psychodrama has been used in conjunction with all of these treatments and is itself an early example of eclectic therapy. Controversies will continue and new dialectical processes will unfold—this is a vital part of the creative evolution of our art and practice.

Whether or not role dynamics is accepted as a user-friendly lingua franca for this endeavor, it at least stands as a challenge for other candidates. Developing a language that clients can easily understand is critical to the field’s progress. Similarly, the values of the other elements of psychodrama’s associated personality theory and therapy offer significant additions to our thinking about psychology.

Psychodrama offers an experiential method for learning how to integrate the best insights of psychology into life. There’s a mental flexibility that comes with the ability to take roles, shift roles, and more consciously create ongoing role relationships. Once people learn to recognize and respond to a greater range of possibilities, they evolve to a new type and level of consciousness. It was the vision of this potential that motivated Moreno to say at the beginning of Who Shall Survive? “A truly therapeutic procedure should have as its objective nothing less than the whole of mankind.”


Blatner, A. (1996). Acting-in: Practical applications of psychodramatic methods (3rd ed.). New York: Springer.
    This is the easiest-to-read introduction to psychodrama. The book, first published in 1973, has extensive references (up to 1995), and is aimed at the beginning student, but it is also useful for anyone wanting to learn psychodrama. This book provides the “nuts-and-bolts” instructions not found in Moreno’s books. It also addresses common pitfalls, areas of application, and training as well as technique. Because of its clarity, Acting-in has been revised and updated twice and translated into many languages. The subtitle emphasizes the idea that the methods themselves can be applied, and that one need not feel that only classical psychodramas may be conducted. This fits with the point, repeatedly made in this chapter, that these approaches are meant to be integrated with other methods in an eclectic practice.

Blatner, A. (2000). Foundations of psychodrama: History, theory, and practice (Revised 4th ed.). New York: Springer.
    This book explains how and why psychodramatic methods are effective in psychotherapy. Many of the principles discussed are applicable in therapy even if the reader doesn’t use action techniques. Perspectives on psychological theory are backed up by chapters on philosophy. The book addresses psychodrama’s history, the dynamics of catharsis, and the place of skill-building, self-expression, and other general principles in treatment. The book contains many references and an extensive bibliography.

Blatner, A., & Blatner, A. R. (1997). The art of play: Helping adults reclaim imagination and spontaneity (Revised 2nd ed.). New York: Brunner-Routledge/Taylor & Francis.
    This book includes the best introduction to role taking, explaining how to develop the capacity to move into and among different roles—a basic skill for not only psychodramatic work but for empathy itself. The book also explores the need for play, imaginativeness, and spontaneity in life and considers the cultural factors that inhibit these elements, thus addressing a generally underestimated if not overlooked but highly relevant factor in psychology. An actual method for practicing role taking is presented along with the idea that these activities constitute a valid form of recreation. Finally, a number of areas of application are noted, including an especially important chapter on using these approaches in education.

Dayton, T. (2004). The living stage: A step by step guide to psychodrama, sociometry and group psychotherapy. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications.
    This user-friendly guide decodes the experiential process of psychodrama. The middle parts emphasize applications in working with trauma, grief, anger, and other special issues. The third part offers a psychoeducational approach to treating addictions. This book includes many warm-up techniques and sociometric procedures.

Fox, J. (Ed.). (1987). The essential Moreno: Writings on psychodrama, group method, and spontaneity, by J. L. Moreno. New York: Springer.
    This book offers a selection of Moreno’s writings, including some early, hard-to-find articles from his journals as well as his books. These selections will provide a sense of his writing style and the scope of his interests, as well as a number of transcripts of sessions. A chronology and supplementary bibliography enhance the value of this volume.

Leveton, E. (2001). A clinician’s guide to psychodrama. New York: Springer.
    This little book introduces the subject nicely and elaborates on a number of techniques, such as doubling, the magic shop, and the use of masks. It is rich in other specific suggestions for using the various techniques and addresses the important problem of dealing with resistance.


Blatner, A. (1999). Psychodrama. In D. Wiener (Ed.), Beyond talk therapy (pp. 125–143). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Psychodramatic methods are used to help a client work out inner conflicts and do some grief work.

Blatner, A. (2001). Psychodrama. In R. J. Corsini (Ed.), Handbook of innovative therapy (2nd ed., pp. 535–545). New York: Wiley.
Includes an example of an extended psychodramatic work with a woman who is exploring the roots of her timidness, and illustrates the “reformed auxiliary” technique used to provide a corrective emotional experience.

Blatner, A. (2003). Psychodrama. In C. E. Schaefer (Ed.), Play therapy with adults (pp. 34 – 61). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Presents a client in psychodramatic group therapy who discovers the roots of her lack of self-assertion.

Karp, M., Holmes, P., & Bradshaw-Tauvon, K. (Eds.). (1998). Handbook of psychodrama. London: Routledge– Taylor & Francis.
This anthology is rich in brief vignettes that illustrate many of the phases and aspects of psychodrama. The authors, who are mainly British, have all been trained in classical psychodrama by the first editor.

Oxford, L. K., & Wiener, D. J. (2003). Rescripting family dramas using psychodramatic methods. In D. J. Wiener & L. K. Oxford (Eds.), Action therapy with families and groups (pp. 45–74). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. [Reprinted in D. Wedding & R. J. Corsini (Eds.). (2005). Case studies in psychotherapy. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.]
This chapter shows how action methods can be integrated with a narrative-constructivist approach in family therapy, with an extended example.


Baim, C., Burmeister, J. & Maciel, M., (Eds). (June, 2007). Psychodrama: Advances in theory & practice. London: Routledge. (This anthology has some of the most current thinking).

Bannister, A. (1997). The healing drama: Psychodrama and dramatherapy with abused children. London: Free Association Books.

Blatner, A. (1994a). Psychodramatic methods in family therapy. In C. E. Schaefer & L. J. Carey (Eds.), Family play therapy (pp. 235–246). Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.

Blatner, A. (1994b). Tele: The dynamics of interpersonal preference. In P. Holmes, M. Karp, & M. Watson (Eds.), Psychodrama since Moreno: Innovations in theory and practice (pp. 281–300). London: Routledge.

Blatner, A. (1995). Drama in education as mental hygiene: A child psychiatrist’s perspective. Youth Theatre Journal, 9, 92–96.

Blatner, A. (1996). Acting-in: Practical applications of psychodramatic methods (3rd ed.). Springer.

Blatner, A. (2000a). Foundations of psychodrama: History, theory, and practice (4th ed.). New York: Springer.

Blatner, A. (2000b). Psychodramatic methods for facilitating bereavement. In P. F. Kellermann & M. K. Hudgins (Eds.). Psychodrama with trauma survivors: Acting out your pain (pp. 42–51). London: Jessica Kingsley–Taylor & Francis.

Blatner, A. (2002). Nonverbal communications. Retrieved from:

Blatner, A. (2003). Not mere players: psychodrama applications in everyday life. In: J. Gershoni, (Ed.), Psychodrama in the 21st Century. New York: Springer, pp.103-115.

Blatner, A., (March-April) (2005a) Beyond Psychodrama. New Therapist, No. 36, 15-21.

Blatner, A. (2005b). Using role playing in teaching empathy. British Journal of Psychodrama & Sociodrama, 20 (1), pp.31-36.

Blatner, A. (2005c). Perspectives on Moreno, psychodrama, and creativity. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 1 (2), 111-121.

Blatner, A. (2006). Current trends in psychodrama. International Journal of Psychotherapy, 10 (3), 43-53.    

Blatner, A. (2007a). Psychodrama, sociodrama, and role playing. In A. Blatner, with D. J. Wiener (Eds.), Interactive and improvisational drama: Varieties of applied theatre and performance. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse. (
    This chapter helps integrate psychodrama within a broader field that has been    emerging in the last decade, one that uses nonscripted drama processes in     education, community building, personal and social empowerment, and even     recreation, as well as in therapy. The book is an anthology of over 30 of these     approaches. Website:

Blatner, A. (2007b). On meta-theory, and Applied role theory–two chapters in Baim, Burmeister & Maciel (see above).

Blatner, A., (2007c) Information on Where to Obtain Psychodrama Books, Videos, DVDs, and so forth. May be found on website:  This is periodically updated, and they describe also the books’ prices and where to order them: Also on this website are many other papers about psychodrama, references, photographs of Moreno and other pioneers in the field, and other materials!

Blatner, A., (2007d) Books on drama therapy, expressive therapies, warm-ups. Available from:

Blatner, A., & Blatner, A. (1997). The art of play: Helping adults reclaim imagination and spontaneity (Revised 2nd ed.). New York: Brunner/Routledge–Taylor & Francis.

Carnabucci, Karen. (2006). Psychodrama: Still growing and evolving after all these years (Chapter 26). In, S. L. Brooke (Ed.), Creative therapies manual: a guide to the history, theoretical approaches, assessment, and work with special populations of art, play, dance, music, drama, and poetry therapies.  Springfield, IL: C.C. Thomas.

Casson, J., (2004) Drama, psychotherapy and psychosis. New York: Brunner-Routledge.

Corey, G. (2008). Psychodrama (Chapter 8, pp. 185-215). In : Theory and practice of group counseling (7th Ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole-Thomson Learning.

Cossa, M. (2006). Rebels with a cause: Working with adolescents using action techniques. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Dayton, T. (2000). Trauma and addiction: Ending the cycle of pain through emotional literacy. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications.

Dougherty, M. J. (2002). Client satisfaction survey of inpatient trauma and dissociative disorders program. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 3, 91–103.

Farmer, C. (1995). Psychodrama and systemic therapy. London: Karnac Books.

Figusch, Z., ed., (2006) Sambadrama: the arena of Brazilian psychodrama. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Fonseca, J., (2004) Contemporary psychodrama: New approaches to theory and technique. New York: Brunner-Routledge

Fox, J. (Ed.). (1987). The essential Moreno: Writings on psychodrama, group method, and spontaneity by J. L. Moreno. New York: Springer.

Gass, M. (1997). Rebuilding therapy: Overcoming the past for a more effective future.Westport, CT: Praeger.

Hare, A. P., & Hare, J. R. (1996). J. L. Moreno. London: Sage.

Hayden-Seman, J. (1998). Action modality couples therapy: Using psychodramatic techniques in helping troubled relationships. Dunmore, PA: Jason Aronson.

Hoey, B. (1997). Who calls the tune? A psychodramatic approach to child therapy. New York: Routledge–Taylor & Francis.

Hudgins, M. K. (2002). Experiential treatment for PTSD: The therapeutic spiral model. New York: Springer.

Johnson, D. R. (2000). History of drama therapy. In P. Lewis & D. R. Johnson (Eds.), Current approaches in drama therapy (pp. 5–15). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Kellermann, P. F. (1992). Focus on psychodrama: The therapeutic aspects of psychodrama. London: Jessica Kingsley–Taylor & Francis.

Kellermann, P.F. (2007). Sociodrama and Collective Trauma. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Kellermann, P. F., & Hudgins, M. K. (Eds.). (2000). Psychodrama with trauma survivors: Acting out your pain. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Kipper, D. A. (1986). Psychotherapy through clinical role playing. New York: Brunner/Routledge–Taylor & Francis.

Kipper, D. A. (2001). Surplus reality and the experiential reintegration model in psychodrama. International Journal of Action Methods: Psychodrama, Skill Training and Role Playing, 53, 137–152.

Kipper, D. A., & Ritchie, T. D. (2003). The effectiveness of psychodramatic techniques: A meta-analysis. Group Dynamics: Theory Research and Practice, 7(1), 13–25.

Leveton, E. (2001). A clinician’s guide to psychodrama (3rd ed.). New York: Springer.

Marineau, R. F. (1989). Jacob Levy Moreno, 1889–1974. (A biography). London: Routledge.

Moreno, J. J. (1999). Acting your inner music: Music therapy & psychodrama. St. Louis: MMB Music.

Moreno, J. L. (1931). Group method and group psychotherapy (Sociometric Monograph No. 5). Beacon, NY: Beacon House.

Moreno, J. L. (1934). Who shall survive? A new approach to the problem of human interrelations. Washington, DC: Nervous & Mental Disease Publishing.

Moreno, J. L. (1946–1969). Psychodrama (3 vols; last two with Z. T. Moreno). Beacon, NY: Beacon House.

Moreno, J. L. (1971). The words of the Father. Beacon, NY: Beacon House.

Moreno, J.L. (1989, 2004). The Autobiography of JL Moreno, M.D. (Abridged), originally published in two installments (numbers) of The Journal of Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama and Sociometry, reprinted, plus a few extra pictures.  (The words are by Moreno, but edited by his son Jonathan D. Moreno.) There is in addition a short piece written by Dr. Lewis Yablonsky about his recollections of time spent with this historical figure. See

Moreno, Z. T. (2006). The quintessential Zerka: writings by Zerka Toeman Moreno on psychodrama sociometry, and group psychotherapy. (Compiled and edited by Toni Horvatin & Edward Schreiber). New York: Routledge.

Moreno, Z. T., Blomkvist, L. D., & Rützel, T. (2000). Psychodrama, surplus reality, and the art of healing. London: Routledge–Taylor & Francis.

Pesso, A. (1997). Pesso System/Psychomotor Therapy. In C. Caldwell (Ed.), Getting in touch: A guide to body-centered therapies (pp. 117–152). Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House.

Raimundo, C. (2002). Relationship capital: True success through coaching and managing relationships in business and life. Australia: Pearson Education.

Razza, N. J. & Tomasulo, D.J. (2004). Healing trauma: The power of group treatment for people with intellectual disabilities. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association Press.

Røine, E. (1997). Psychodrama: Group psychotherapy as experimental theatre. London: Jessica Kingsley–Taylor & Francis.

Sacks, J. M., Bilaniuk, M. & Gendron, J. M. (2007). Bibliography of psychodrama: Inception to date. Now integrated into (Has over 7000 items in mid-2013. This website has a search engine, and is updated on an ongoing basis.)

Scategni, W. (2002). Psychodrama, group processes and dreams: Archetypal images of individuation. (Translated from Italian). New York: Brunner-Routledge/ Taylor & Francis.

Sternberg, P., & Garcia, A. (2000). Sociodrama: Who’s in your shoes? (2nd ed.). Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Tomasulo, D. J. (1998). Action methods in group psychotherapy: Practical aspects. Philadelphia: Accelerated Development.

Verhofstadt-Denève, L. (1999). Theory and practice of action and drama techniques: Developmental psychotherapy from an existential-dialectical viewpoint. London : Jessica Kingsley–Taylor & Francis.

Wiener, D. (1999). Beyond talk therapy: Using movement and expressive techniques in clinical practice. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Worrell, J., & Remer, P. (1992). Feminist perspectives in therapy. New York: Wiley.

Yalom, I. (2002). The gift of therapy. New York: Harper & Row.

Young, M. E. (2001). Learning the art of helping: Building blocks and techniques (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Major References:

Blatner, A., (2004) Psychodrama (Chapter 13) (what you're reading now since it hasn't been kept in that series.). In R. J. Corsini & D. Wedding (Eds), Current psychotherapies 7th ed., Belmont, CA: Thomson / Brooks /Cole. Updated to 2007 and a little from 2013.

The Journal of Psychodrama, Sociometry, and Group Psychotherapy. This title has been re-named from what was titled from 1982 - 1997 and 2003 - 2007, The Journal of Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama, & Sociometry. Published by Heldref, 1318 18th St, Washington, DC 20006.   (From 1997-2003 this journal was named The International Journal of Action Methods, but is returned to its old name.)

The American Society for Group Psychotherapy & Psychodrama (ASGPP) offers information about psychodrama and related subjects at their website:   or email:

For information regarding the criteria for certification and examination procedures, write:
    The American Board of Examiners in Psychodrama,  Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy, P.O. Box 15572, Washington, DC 20003-0572       
    Telephone: 202 483-0514    or email to:  
    (Also, they plan to have a website soon!)

Further Recent Books in Other Languages:

Herranz, T. (2004). Psicodrama clínico: teoria y tecnica. Madrid: Ediciones de las Ciencias Sociales. (Spanish)

In German:
Buer, Ferdinand (Hrsg.) (2001): Praxis der psychodramatischen Supervision. Ein Handbuch. Opladen: Leske + Budrich.

Fürst, Jutta; Klaus Ottomeyer, & Hildegard Pruckner (Eds.). (2004): Psychodramatherapie. Ein Handbuch. Wien: Facultas Verlag.

Hutter, Christoph (2000): Psychodrama als experimentelle Theologie. Münster: LIT-Verlag.

Pruckner, Hildegard (2001): Das spiel ist der Königsweg der Kinder. Psychodrama, Soziometrie und Rollenspiel mit Kindern. München: inscenario Verlag.

von Ameln, F., Gerstmann, R., Kramer, J. (2004): Psychodrama. Berlin: Springer.

Schacht, Michael (2003). Spontaneität und Begegnung. Zur Persönlichkeitsentwicklung aus der Sicht des Psychodramas. München:  inscenario Verlag.  (ISBN 3-929296-13-6)
   A summary of the author’s work on developmental theory with an emphasis on the dynamics of spontaneity-creativity.

 For more books please check the online-shop of,

    Psychodrama Institute fur Europa:, mainly in German, has references and links to associated national organizations and training institutes in Greece, Poland, Lithuania, Norway, Romania, and Ukraine. (They are planning an international meeting in Berlin in September, 2007!)
    The International Association of Group Psychotherapy–Psychodrama Section:   – many links, information.
The author’s website has many papers, photos, about psychodrama and papers also about other topics in psychology, philosophy, etc.:   

Zeitschrift Fuer Psychodrama Und Soziometrie – in German. Published since 2002.

The British Journal of  <> Psychodrama and Sociodrama (English)    

Catarsis: Brazilian Journal of  <> Psychology (Portuguese)    
EmCena: Publicaçno da FEBRAP (Portuguese)

Humanistisches Psychodrama (German)    

The International Forum of Group Psychotherapy (English)     
International Review of Jungian Psychodrama (Italian)          

The Japanese Journal of Psychodrama (Japanese)    

Journal of the Australia-New Zealand Psychodrama Association (English)    

Journal of the Hungarian Association of Psychodrama (Hungarian)    

The Korean Journal of Psychodrama (Korean)
Mercurius: Tidskrift for Norsk Psykodramainstitutt (Norwegian)
Psicodrama: <> Revista da Sociedade
Portuguesa de Psicodrama (Portuguese)     

Psicodramma classico (Italian)

Psykodrama-Nytt (Swedish)    

PSYCHODRAMA- Zeitschrift fur theorie und Praxis von Psychodrama, Soziometrie und
Rollenspiel (German)    

Revista Brasileira de  <> Psicodrama

The Theater of the Minds: Newsletter of Korean Association for Psychodrama
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Biographical Information:

    Adam Blatner, M.D., is a doubly-Board-Certified adult and child-adolescent psychiatrist and the author of some of the most widely-used books about psychodrama, along with numerous articles and chapters in other texts. He lives in Georgetown, in central Texas. Though retired from active practice, he is active in writing, editing, and teaching, and is interested in promoting “psychological literacy” as a form of general popular education and mental hygiene. His email address is:

For responses, email me at

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