(A panel presented at the 2010 annual conference of the American Society of Group Psychotherapy & Psychodrama,
Adam Blatner, M.D. (moderator), Amy Schaffer, Dominick Grundy, Leonia Kurgan, & Anath Garber

April 22, 2010   (see below to links to Dr. Grundy's and Dr. Shaffer's papers)

AB: Psychoanalysis has evolved for over a century and has come up with a range of insights about depth psychology and the nature of the helping relationship that can inform the practice of psychodrama. There may be a variety of concepts and techniques developed by Moreno and his successors that in turn might be useful to those who practice one-to-one or group therapy. The two fields are not infrequently mixed in South American and Europe.

Today we'll hear from some people who have had training and experience in both fields.

The historical tension between psychodrama and psychoanalysis has eased with the evolution of both approaches. The presenters have extensive experience with both approaches, and  will address issues such as transference and role reversal, countertransference, self-states and roles, and the function of metaphor. Participants will learn how to incorporate an understanding of these concepts into their theory and practice. Didactic presentations will be followed by discussion.  The panel will include:

Adam Blatner, M.D., TEP, Retired, author of major textbooks on psychodrama
and recipient of the Moreno Award.

Amy Schaffer, Ph.D., has been certiified as a
TEP in psychodrama, and is also a licensed psychologist and a certified psychoanalyst. After a brief career in experimental psychology, she started psychodrama training in 1967. She practiced psychodrama in numerous settings for 20 years while also teaching at Marymount Manhattan College and NYU. She currently teaches and supervises at two psychoanalytic institutes, has a private practice, and leads supervision groups. Faculty & Supervisor, Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy; Faculty & Supervisor, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Study Center. Dr. Schaffer has has published papers on both psychodrama and psychoanalysis.   Email:  <>   
Dominick Grundy,
Ph.D., CGP is a psychologist licensed in New York and is a group psychotherapist certified by the American Group Psychotherapy Association. He received psychodrama training at the Institute for Sociotherapy, practitioner level, in the 1970's. In addition to his psychology Ph.D., he holds a Ph.D. in literature. He has a private practice in Manhattan and, combining his two fields of interest, also leads groups for writers. He is the editor of GROUP, a scholarly journal for group therapists which recently published an issue on psychodrama. Dr Grundy is also the editor of a scholarly quarterly journal for group therapists, titled. GROUP (The Journal of the Eastern Group Therapy Association).Email:  (Website: )   (See below for link to his presentation on another webpage.)
Leonia Kallir Kurgan, Phd., PsyD., CP., is in private practice in Santa Monica, California, she is a member of Los Angeles Institute and Society for Psychoanalytical Studies, also of the International Psychoanalytic Association, and an adjunct instructor who offers them an eight-week class in psychodrama.  She has facilitated psychodrama workshops on “The favorite fairy tale of childhood”  in Cape Town, South Africa; Los Angeles, Berkeley and Seattle. She  presented locally and nationally at ASGPP conferences, and interviewed holocaust survivors in Stephen Spielberg¹s Shoah project. In May of this year she will present at Wright Institute, Los Angeles. The course title is “The
Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma: The Holocaust in Several Generations.”  

Anath Garber, TEP, was trained by JL and Zerka Moreno. She was on the faculty of Moreno Institute in New York City, where sesions open to the public were run nightly. Anath has conducted trainings, workshops and presentations nationally and internationally. She has a private practice in New York City where she offers experiential therapy blending many modalities.  
I’m Adam Blatner, a retired psychiatrist, a TEP, and the author of major books in psychodrama. Plenty about me on my bio wepage.. I want to promote the integration of psychodrama with other approaches.

Dr. Grundy's Presentation: Click Here to Related Webpage on an Imagined Dialogue Between J. L. Moreno and Sigmund Freud.

Click here to read Dr. Amy Schaffer's Presentation on the Integration of Psychoanalysis & Psychodrama

4/7/10: Adam Blatner’s Comments:

Thoughts on Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis has emerged in this last century as a vast field with many facets. I find it impossible to make firm generalizations. For me, its chief value is that it represents a cultural thrust that I call “psychological-ization,” a word I use to describe the penetration of the norm of introspection in culture. Freud was by no means the first to do this, but his approach has stimulated the most systematic approach to this general idea. The key point is to call into question the very fact of consciousness—what you see is not what you get. There are many forms of self-deception operating.

Freud likened himself to other paradigm-shifting pioneers such as Darwin and Copernicus, the former suggesting the dynamics of evolution and de-centering humanity as absolutely special; the latter suggesting a sun-centered solar system rather than an earth centered (heliocentric versus geocentric) system, thus de-centering humanity as the center of Creation. Freud de-centers rational, insightful man as the absolute determiner of his fate, and notes that humans are often driven by forces and deceived by defensive patterns beyond their awareness.

Further studies by Freud’s followers expanded on this general theme, even though Freud often perceived these additions as mere rebellions of disaffected sons or deviations. Nevertheless, the field has added to its awareness of the variety of motivations and the variety of modes of self-deception, as well as refined its approaches. I want to add that once this idea took hold, a goodly number of people later on have expanded the idea beyond self-deception: People also manipulate each other, consciously and unconsciously, and this is further done in groups and society in general. Studies on semantics, advertising, propaganda—all mirroring the ancient study of rhetoric, let me point out—all speak to patterns of collective self-deception that deserve a similar process of being called into question, critically analyzed, deconstructed. Further research on semiotics (the power of images), communications and media studies, comparative anthropology and mythology, historiography, and philosophy have all supported this basic general idea: Let’s look more closely at what seems to be common sense and we discover a profound penetration of ordinary awareness with a wide variety of illusions.

In my thinking, a significant part of the challenge of further consciousness evolution involves the continuing identification of subtle patterns of self-deception, artificial inhibitions, oppressions, and other patterns of mental taboo. As has happened in the medical fields of bacteriology and related subjects, the more one knows what specifically can cause problems, the better one is able to counter these potential sources of disease.

Nor is it wise to seek to be free of all illusion. Using an analogy in medicine, it may not be wise to attempt to be free of all infective agents. A certain amount of them keep the immune system in good tone. So the challenge is to fight the more noxious elements while allowing for an ongoing process of low-grade immunization. Translating this metaphor to psychology, I suspect that it is impossible to truly achieve an illusion-less state. Those who pride themselves on seeking this may be suffering from an illusion that such a state is not itself an illusion. Perhaps it’s better to seek a more modest goal, which would be the replacement of destructive illusions with more constructive ones.

Building on this, the act of analysis and deconstruction of patterns of self-deception, the skills of critical thinking applied even to one’s own thinking, while beneficial, should be recognized as only part of the challenge. There are a number of skill-building activities described in recent trends in what has come to be known as positive psychology and a variety of other approaches that further develop the more constructive processes of maturation and the development of optimal health and resilience. These are not specifically addressed in this paper or panel, but deserve to be recognized as being an important part of a holistic psychotherapeutic or life regimen.

Thoughts on Meta-Theory

In a similar vein, while honoring many of the contributions of psychoanalysis, and noting that, comparatively, it offers a more vigorous system of psychological development than many other approaches, it should not be seen as complete or definitive. Adler adds certain elements, as do others. My research into play reminds us that we should include the development of the capacity to prentend, to think of the category of “as-if” as a developmental line. We are increasingly becoming aware of the rich growth of social sensitivity and the depth of relationships, and Moreno added a good many valid insights into the growing pot of ideas.

As I have commented on in an article on meta-theory in a recent anthology of writings on theory in psychodrama, I don’t think it’s necessary or wise to seek to have an overly “tight” theory of human psychology. There are so many aspects to be considered. In medicine—the field of my professional background—there is no single theory of disease, and even physiology is quite varied depending on the organs being described. Some organs function based on physical or chemical principles that are fairly irrelevant to the function of other organs. The key is to appreciate that in psychology, different roles or perspectives might call on different sets of principles, and that’s all right.

What Does Psychoanalysis Have to Offer Psychodrama

I think psychodrama as a field should be open to the theoretical and sometimes practical or therapeutic techniques developed in other areas. There is a danger that comes from being aware that one knows certain things that aren’t taught in other approaches: One can slip pridefully in thinking that one knows more than is in fact true. It is wise to keep an open mind, a curious attitude that seeks to wonder what we might find useful as we develop our own expanding understanding of human nature.

For me, I find the descriptions of the defense mechanisms as forms of self-deception particularly informative. Once this general idea and some examples are appreciated, it’s possible to notice variations and subtle alternatives that psychoanalysts may have overlooked. I describe some examples in a related paper and my presentation at the panel. Basically, imagining these maneuvers to be tempting little voices, sabotaging sycophants, roles that can be played, leads one to hear and identify their underlying deceptive dynamics. Knowing more of how they work, how they mix and match and cleverly combine with each other, a trained auxiliary or double can employ them to bring forth more of the authentic texture of personal conflicts in psychodramas.

What Does Psychodrama Have to Offer Psychoanalysis

The list here is significant: Making creativity a core value and promoting spontaneity as an associated ability seems especially significant and an expression of a humanistic edge in psychology. Moreno further considered the dynamics of spontaneity and noted the need for warming up, itself a multi-faceted and complex process. The whole business of sociometry opens up the rich vein of feelings associated with liking, being liked, fears of not being liked enough, mixed feelings about being liked for qualities peripheral to one’s values, feeling hurt that someone likes others, being unclear about what liking is even about, and on and on. I consider it a dimension of depth psychology as rich as Freud’s thoughts about psycho-sexual development.

Moreno was also aware more sharply of the degree to which humans are socially embedded, and in effect challenged the prevailing world view that over-emphasized the autonomy of the individual. That re-balancing still is needed today. His theories of group dynamics were also a challenge to the subtle residues of authoritarianism that pervaded medicine and psychiatry as well as the rest of culture.

Moreno’s ventures into theology as a young man have further emphasized the inter-disciplinary nature of his work. Psychodrama is only one focused manifestation. He anticipated in a way several aspects of contemporary transpersonal psychology, including the healing power of authentic dialogue (he called it encounter), and the recognition that in discovering our own creative potential we also partake in the spiritual realm.

There are other contributions, also, but it suffices to note that as rich as psychoanalysis has been as field, there are other fields that are also surprisingly rich. My own inclination is to keep learning what others have to say. As in the history of medicine, breakthroughs often come from people outside of the mainstream.

Doubling the Defenses: (What Adam Blatner presented on the panel:)

Moreno unfortunately and unnecessarily devalued psychoanalysis because he wanted to contrast his active method with the technique analysts in his era used—the lying on the couch. There were other points of disagreement, also, but what is being presented here is that the two fields really have the potential for creative synthesis and cross-fertilization.

One example of this is a category of understandings that I personally have found to be among the most useful ideas I get from psychoanalysis: the so-called defense mechanisms, such as repression, identification with the aggressor, and so forth.

Calling them “mechanisms” tends to depersonalize them, though: Applying role theory, a role is anything that can be portrayed dramatically, and I easily imagine a character—say a somewhat humanoid elf or imp—being a sort of seducer, sitting like a devil on the left shoulder of a person—as in a certain genre of cartoon—or played out by the comedian, the late Flip Wilson, when the Devil would seduce his character of Geraldine into a store to buy a hat she couldn’t afford.

I think knowing about the various defenses—the inner manipulations, the adjustive maneuvers, the games people play in their own minds—might really help in the training of auxiliaries, those who might learn to double more effectively. What do people say to themselves? Well, lots of things, but working from cues, and knowing about the defenses that will be mentioned below and many others, protagonists can be helped to realize the various ways they avoid, rationalize, or in other ways cope with uncomfortable feelins or perceptions.

Consider that all the defenses can be brought to life, dramatized, as roles, perform-able roles. Repression, suppression, projection, de-realization, and so forth.

On my website under the section on psychology there is a paper called “self-deception” that lists all these defenses.

It is good to help clients and in the training of therapists to recognize these roles—they’re more personal than mere mechanism. One cannot simply know about them—it is better to encounter them, because unlike mechanism, they can be spontaneously varied. The subconscious mind is trying to get its way, trying to manipulate the conscious mind to collude in its desire to avoid, numb, deny, counter, and in other ways generate a variety of illusions that protect its nefarious aims.

The unconscious is to some degree ruled by the ego in service of the id, in service of avoiding superego, or rational analysis. Sometimes it serves superego, interestingly enough, trying to generate illusions that will mollify superego demands.

This part of the ego is at once very very clever and at the same time operating from the mentality of a child. Life is too difficult to think out rationally, categories are simply either-or, and other people are too simple—either bad, and deserving of manipulation, or good, and worthy of expecting that they can read your mind. The idea of having to “use your words” to negotiate, to role reverse, to encounter and consider their point of view—all that is too grown up. There’s been little modeling or opportunity to practice such skills for many people, so they use what primitive coping techniques they can.

So imagine the various “defense mechanisms” as a retinue of servants who, like the secret service does for the President, steps up to “take the bullet.”

I only have a few minutes and more of this talk can be found on my website—details about how the various defenses may be framed as roles.

Just a couple of points. First,  about avoidances, avoiding maneuvers, defense mechanisms, is that these are mental adjustments that everyone—yes, even Zen Buddhist masters—use, if only a tiny bit. It’s not just for those who are in the patient role.

Both Freud and Moreno are complex characters and they elaborated hundreds if not thousands of ideas. They also lived complex lives. Complexity means that it’s entirely possible that a person and his or her ideas can be so varied that some are brilliant and astute, some are mid-ranged, and some are mistaken or foolish. That one can be right about some things doesn’t mean that he can’t be wrong about some things.

Of all the things I think Freud was right about, his right-ness peaks about the following: Everyone, every single person, is laced with irrational patterns of behavior. In more healthy people, these patterns have less influence on their outward behavior—but they continue to operate in the background. Part of health, indeed, involves having a sort of spam-guard, a virus-protection system—using computer metaphors. The childish unconscious, the inner brat, will try to assert itself. In healthier people, it’s relatively well contained, but by no means moribund. Knowing that it’s there as at least a potential inner saboteur is a hallmark of self-awareness.

Saying it another way, when you know that there is deceit, manipulation, con-artists, hypocrisy, and other pitfalls in the world, it need not lead to a loss of deep faith, but it does require a relinquishment of the type of superficial and naive faith that relies of what Blanche Dubois in Streetcar Named Desire called “the kindness of strangers.” One needs to recognize this operating within oneself, too.

The Victorian mind didn’t recognize that people could be good and noble and also depraved— both. Well, Stephenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sort of suggested this, but it wasn’t in the popular worldview. Freud affirmed this, and because of all his other theories and the language and structure they’re embedded in, it’s often difficult to appreciate this simple truth. We all not only have issues, but we’re tempted to use a raft of immature modes of thinking and reacting to cope with them. Health involves knowing about these temptations and knowing how to detect, identify, and resist them. It also involves learning a number of alternative healthy responses so that one doesn’t need so much to fall back on the neurotic ones.

On my website are various papers that speak to defenses, such as
   – The five levels of awareness
   – The inner brat
   – Self-deception.    These are in the section not on psychodrama but on psychology or psychotherapy. Point is that they can be demonstrated and learned better using role playing.

Other Notes by Blatner: Psychoanalysis should be recognized as a very multi-faceted development. Freud himself in his later years  was not always consistent with his earlier writings. The basic theory has been revised by significant sub-groups, so that a number of trends emerged. More recently, the sub-field called “relational psychoanalysis” has recognized that there are good perspectives in each of these developments and that they may be entertained within a broader theoretical construct that includes the potential for integration. Ego psychology focused on the defenses rather than the drives, and the elucidation of ways we deceive ourselves offers a rich matrix of insight that I find particularly useful.

The object relations school of psychoanalysis emerged in the 1950s, based on other work, gained strength, and became dominant in the mid-1970s. At that time, Heinz Kohut was elaborating and developing self-psychology. For a while the two approaches competed with each other, but I find them complementary and capable of including also other approaches. The object relations school notes that the need to establish and maintain a sense of adequate social connectedness was pretty basic; the self psychology school noted that the need to establish and maintain a sense of self as coherent and valued is equally basic. I’m not certain that there’s much value in making a hierarchy of basic needs—it seems to me that some folks need certain things more than others.

Other recent developments have broken out of the classic psychoanalyst-as-silent role and made the interaction more mutual. “Inter-subjectivity” applies to the activity of looking at how two people experience the same situation or interpret a given behavior. This has brought psychoanalysis more into the interpersonal. Some analysts have also speculated on and worked with group dynamics, the point being that depth psychology is venturing beyond the intra-psychic into the more complex social field.

I think sociometry addresses a group of dynamics that needs to be recognized as being as relevant and powerful as sexual dynamics. The point is that these themes should become part of the teaching of any depth psychology. The formal method of sociometry may not be required any more than therapy must utilize a couch, but its subject matter—feelings of attraction, repulsion, and associated feelings of guilt, shame, vulnerability, wanting, confusion, etc.,  should be attended to.

(This is very provisional and just to give you an idea of what we might post here: Your thoughts, what you'll be saying, and also more than you can say. This is a good place to post references you'd like people to know about.)

Oppression, Depth Psychology and Cultural Repression

I define oppression as a social system in which a fair number of people are unfairly disadvantaged while others are privileged; and few people involved are aware that the system does not have to be structured this way.

One interesting definition of Passover that makes it relevant for our time is that it addresses the slavery in Egypt as being a symbol of the degrees to which we allow ourselves and our minds to be enslaved by any idea, person, group, task, etc. The concept of the “slave mentality” has great relevance for our era. In many cultures, slaves come to accept their status, and there’s an interesting exchange: Sure, there are many disadvantages, but there are certain advantages. One need not have to struggle to “find oneself,” make the “hard choices” of what to work at, how hard to work, when, where to live, etc. There’s a certain comfort in a degree of passivity.

In truth, many roles in our lives work this way: Having accepted or even decided on certain courses, we often buy into whatever seems to be required to play that choice out, never thinking about questions like, “Is this relevant?” “Is this needed?” “What is the purpose here?” and so forth. Rather than clearly being slave or free, people play many roles, and some of them seem free, but in certain respects there’s a repression or denial of constraints that may not be fixed—though it seems that way.

In oppression, most people think it just is that way, it has always been that way. It’s moderately inconceivable to imagine an alternative. As time passes, trouble-makers raise provocative questions, and in time what is a system of oppression becomes controversial. These controversies may be laced with episodes of harsh revolutions and suppressions, but in time controversies come to emerge as a new idea and re-establish some equilibrium. I’m thinking of the more obvious forms of oppression in history such as the tyranny of absolute kingship and aristocracy, slavery, torture as a part of judiciary practice or punishment, the subjugation of women, gross and then more subtle forms of racism and other types of prejudice, and so forth. I’m also noting that as the concept of oppression is broadened, there may be a much wider range of what I call subtle oppressions and even arguable oppressions—the latter referring to when many of those who are said to be oppressed would deny it and claim that they are freely choosing their status.

I am not insistent on the need to be right or to have the authority to decide. It is enough to get the conversation started, to explore cultural taboos, whether various forms of “common sense” really do make sense, to revise social norms, weighing all sides. (It’s an obvious theme for sociodrama.)

Regarding depth psychology, let me note that many issues today aren’t repressed so much as simply haven’t been within the cognitive field previously. When I was young, homosexuality was a marginalized category and I really gave it hardly any thought. Civil rights for homosexuals was a non-issue. Becoming aware of this or any number other social, ethical, and political issues introduces a de-stabilization of our schema, our map of what the world is about and how it should be. For this reason, culture change and oppression is relevant to psychotherapists, especially in the postmodern era.

This is just a beginning. Please suggest other questions and your answers. If I use them, and with your permission, I'll append your name to the answers. If you'd like to modify or revise my answers, please let me know. If your critique is cogent and I use it, again I'll mention your name if you like.  Email me at  

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