PsychoDrama and Benefits of Drama Therapy

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Drama therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses the therapeutic process of drama to explore and resolve emotional conflicts. Drama Therapy can be used to help an individual think about their problems, express themselves in new ways, gain insights into their feelings, work through old memories or traumas that may have been repressed for years, develop coping skills, and more. 

Psychodrama is a form of drama therapy where individuals act out scenes from their lives to better understand them. Psychodrama also allows people to experience the emotions they felt during these events and find resolution through discussion with others who played different parts in the scene. 

Mental disorders can be broadly divided into emotional, psychotic, anxiety, and personality disorders. With the emergence of new treatments developed in addition to traditional psychotherapy, the symptoms of psychiatric disorders have not yet been completely eliminated, but are gradually decreasing.

The possibility that art therapies – art, dance/movement, theater, and music – can help people adapt or recover from mental ailments has attracted the attention of the public over the past few decades. The main idea behind those types of therapies is to add the creative process to psychotherapy. The reason behind this is self-expression and self-consciousness are fueled by creativity, according to many academics. (Crawford & Patterson, 2007) Creative processes increase the psychological well-being of a person.

Do you need some kind of a drama background to get psychodrama?

No, you don’t need a drama background to get psychodrama. However, if you have some experience in theater or acting, that can be helpful. Psychodrama is all about exploring different roles and emotions, and actors are often good at doing that. But if you don’t have any theater experience, that’s okay too. The most important thing is that you’re open to exploring different aspects of yourself and are willing to share your feelings and experiences with others.

This article will give a general idea of ​​how drama and dance/movement therapies are used initially as part of the treatment process for psychiatric disorders. Examples of important concepts and techniques of drama therapy will be discussed. The psychodrama field will be considered as a different type of drama therapy and the important differences and similarities between psychodrama and drama therapy will be outlined. Finally, an example of how drama therapy can be used to treat women harmed by the traumatic experiences of domestic violence will be examined and conclusions will be drawn about the effectiveness of drama as therapy.

Drama Therapy

Drama Therapy is used to help them identify the characteristics of dramatic processes, problematic issues in their lives, and explore alternative ways of dealing with them. Dramatherapy has been applied in many contexts. As well as treating children, adults, addiction, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders and victims of sexual abuse can be treated with this method. (Gersie, 1995; Jennings, 1995; Mitchell, 1995; Winn, 1994; Kedem-Tahar & Kellermann, 1996) It can be done in a group setting or individually and is always under the guidance of a manager or drama therapist. Methods such as storytelling, story creation, role-playing, role changing, improvisation, narration, imagination, stage masks are used to encourage dramatization. 

Jones explains in his book “Drama As Therapy” that the underlying theory of drama therapy is that drama is essentially an imitation of life and is a great way for people to participate actively in the world. While drama and its potential healing powers were recognized for many years, drama therapy did not emerge as a specific professional discipline until the 1930s but took its current form and form thanks to influential leaders in the UK such as Peter Slade, Billy Lindkvist, and Sue Jennings. Drama Therapy emphasizes creativity and spontaneity that allows a participant to journey through the rediscovery of their physical and emotional existence. 

It makes sense in many ways, as the life experiences of the participants are validated through dramatic reenactments and witnessed by others. It is important that participants feel listened to and responded to by other group members. In the field of drama therapy, several dramatic processes are focused on helping participants reach a state of well-being. Jones explains that, through dramatic projection, when a participant expresses his inner conflicts through theater techniques such as reenactment, new perspectives are created and thus change takes place, as inner emotional states are projected to the outside world. (1996, 100-102) On the other hand, distance is important in two different ways. 

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Aesthetic distance (by applying role-playing or imagery in a metaphorical or symbolic way) is a way for participants to explore sensitive issues that may make discussion difficult. (Ruddy & Dent-Brown, 2008) It does this by presenting the secure network of researching the problem in the context of a story. Another aspect of distance is the idea that it helps reflect. Unlike real theater, an actor undergoing drama therapy does not allow himself to be completely transformed into another character. (Brecht, 1964, Jones, 1996, 104) 

They remain an ‘acting’ actor so they can identify and reflect the role they play. In his book, Jones describes the importance of embodiment in theater therapy, or ways of establishing authentic relationships with their own bodies through dramatic processes. (1996, 112-115) The way the body consciously and unconsciously communicates can reveal important issues for the individual and drama therapists to work on. Jones explains, for example, that a particular woman in his group chose to portray a severely debilitated woman who was constantly going back. (1996, 163) 

The woman gets into trouble when she realizes that her character has many similar bodily attitudes to her mother during reflection. She then concludes that she must have her own body to the finest detail, without the influence of her mother. This physicalized way of ‘knowing’ and ‘being’ shows that there are serious differences between the dramatic representation of an issue in drama therapy and the verbal description of a participant’s problem in psychotherapy.

The relationship between fantasy and reality is a recurring theme in drama therapy. This is based on the paradox of “the fictional is also the real” in which real situations and emotions emerge in the fictional scene. (Jones, 1996,10) The reason behind this is that there is a homogeneous connection between life and theater. Participants should incorporate real-life experiences into drama therapy and take their dramatic experiences out of their sessions so that they can use what they learn in the outside life. 

Jones defines drama therapy as ‘a living theater genre’ rather than ‘theater as an escape from life’. (1996, 11) Finally, healing transformation is one of the most crucial concepts of drama therapy, as the perception of the participants’ problems is altered by both the dramatic experiences encountered and the relationships established with the drama therapist and other drama group members. (Jones, 1996, 11-12)


“The body remembers what the mind forgets” (Marcia Karp, 1998)

The word psychodrama is derived from the words “psyche” (soul-self-soul) and “drama” (action) and thus means the process of using actions to present the soul. Psychodrama was developed in the early 1920s by Jacob Levy Moreno and the first professional psychodrama community was established in 1942. (Kedem-Tahar & Kellermann, 1996) In many ways, psychodrama uses the same theories and basic concepts as drama therapy. In psychodrama, the main hero is the participant whose concerns will be overcome in that session. 

As in a real drama play, the protagonist acts his/her past, inner conflicts, fantasies, dreams, etc. Other roles are filled by other participants or objects, as appropriate. Bradshaw Tauvon provides a detailed description of the important principles emphasized in psychodrama in his “Psychodrama Handbook” (1998, 33). An example of these principles is the “tele” thought. “Tele” is a way of measuring two-way empathic relationships between people. 

The concept of relationship is particularly important in the context of the “inter-psyche”, where things experienced by two or more people (whether family or friends) together must be reenacted in order to regain the same feelings. (Bradshaw Tauvon, 1998, 38). This demonstrates the importance of a helper ego (a group member who will portray someone who plays an important role in the life of the protagonist) and the network of relationships necessary for the success of treatment. (Karp, 1998, 7; Bradshaw Tauvon, 1998, 38). Moreno believes that the presence of “roles” is of great importance for a person’s psychosocial well-being.

The way a person takes and perceives a role is also a way of influencing others. As in the example that the method by which a mother raises her daughter will change the way the daughter is parenting. Roles are interactive and it has been suggested that having more roles in society (for example, son, father, boss, friend) improves the quality of life due to the increase in the relationships that these roles involve. (Langley, 1998, 266) Psychodrama focuses on this idea and aims to expand, create or change roles. It aims to re-evaluate a person’s perceptions of these new and old roles.

In an article comparing psychodrama and drama therapy, Kedem-Tahar and Kellermann suggested that there is more cognitive integration in psychodrama than in drama therapy. For example, psychodrama focuses on the meaning of an expressed animation, connecting experiences and awareness. Usually direct and confrontational in dealing with the problems of the protagonist. On the other hand, while certain experiences are not always addressed in drama therapy, expressions are allowed to be valuable in themselves. 

Participants in drama therapy can manage their own issues in a much more subtle and indirect way. Psychodrama as therapy relies more on theory and sessions are much more structured. However, in drama therapy, “spontaneity” is encouraged and each session has a degree of flexibility. The interesting point is that while drama therapy provides the dramatic distance of emotions, psychodrama focuses on the protagonist’s emotional involvement in dealing with problematic areas of his life. (Kedem-Tahar & Kellermann, 1996)

Then we can see that the effectiveness of psychodrama depends on the degree of intellectual ability and emotional stability of a person. Drama therapy, on the other hand, has the capacity to benefit participants from all levels of cognitive and behavioral function. Therefore, psychodrama may be more effective in treating alcoholics or addicts with contradictory question methods. On the other hand, drama therapy is especially useful for children, adolescents and people with disabilities. Largely, drama therapy techniques are used as warm-up exercises for psychodrama, and psychodrama explores more personal problems as a complement to drama therapy. (Kedem-Tahar and Kellermann, 1996).

Dance/Movement Therapy

“If you dance with your heart, you can dance” (Sandra Hoban, 2000)

Dance and movement therapy is another form of art therapy that provides “primary means for nonverbal communication”. In the 1940s, Marian Chace was one of the pioneers in dance and movement therapy. (Wennerstrand, 2008) She waltzed with psychiatric patients in the backyard of the hospital and soon discovered the therapeutic effects of dance on patients. Dance and movement therapy focuses on the mind-body connection and ensures that movement becomes a tool that can heal the mind. (Wennerstrand, 2008) 

This therapy is particularly useful in patients who are unable to use words to express their emotions. In dance/movement therapy, techniques such as projection, reflection, and enrichment are applied, and special attention is paid to the spaces and objects around the participants. (Hoban, 2000) 

Wethered, in his book “Drama and Movement in Therapy”, “moving towards a greater awareness” of the field in movement therapy, that objects are used to “emphasize external reality”. (1973, 36-40) Anne Wennerstrand, a dance therapist in the United States, said, “Dance/Movement Therapy can be used to bring the body image closer to reality in people with eating disorders, to support recall and socialization in older people, to increase the functioning of body functions in developing disorders.” (2008). 

As with drama therapy and psychodrama, dance and movement therapy require the participant to fully interact with the therapist and to relate to each other using the movements as a means of communication. In the Maplewood nursing home of Cheshire County in Westmoreland, dance and movement therapy was used as an additional therapy to complement traditional therapy. (Hoban, 2000) It was recognized that dance and movement therapy can initiate meaningful interactions among participants, increase self-esteem, support self-regulation, and alleviate depression. 

In this nursing home, everyone is encouraged to participate in dance and movement therapy, whether they are physically, sensory or mentally disabled. The philosophy of dance and movement therapy is “if you dance in your heart you can dance” (Hoban, 2000). So even the smallest movement was encouraged because an important form of self-expression is still going on.

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Aaron Beck

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About Author

He is studying psychology in Canada. Lucas also volunteers helping elderly people in nursing homes. Lucas, who is especially interested in hypnotherapy, continues his education and research in this field.

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