Psychodrama therapy is a complementary form of therapy that can be very beneficial in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. In its broadest sense, psychodrama is a dramatic production in which the participants, who are either actors or spectators, provide the source material, create the production and benefit from the catharsis that the drama may create.
A Brief History of Psychodrama
Jacob Levy Moreno was a Viennese psychiatrist who originally developed psychodrama. He believed that an individual’s capacity for creativity and spontaneity makes them the co-creators of their universe.
He posited that a person’s strength resides in his or her own uniqueness. Therefore, the less we allow ourselves to hide our uniqueness in an effort to conform, the truer we are to our authentic selves, which better allows us to connect with others on a real, deep and authentic level. The process of psychodrama is specifically designed to help bring people closer to this authentic state. That state allows for the spontaneity and creativity that can improve one’s life.
The Theory Behind Psychodrama
Therapists who specialize in psychodrama believe that memories are at the root of a person’s feelings and dysfunction. Each memory is quite different from one person to the next, but usually, they revolve around an incident where the individual was emotionally hurt, ignored or made to feel marginalized, misunderstood, or compelled to act out.
While the memory of the event may remain vivid in a person’s mind, they often lack a full understanding of what occurred and how things might have been different. As such, the memory serves to keep them in their pattern of dysfunction instead of helping them to resolve the issue.
How Psychodrama Works in the Treatment of Addiction
The goal of psychodrama is to give patients a way to develop, practice and adopt new and healthier roles and behaviors. Although the objective is a difficult one, many participants find the experience to be enjoyable. It’s important to note, however, that psychodrama is much more than pretending or playacting.
Since it is an active form of therapy that takes place in real time, psychodrama can be an empowering alternative or complement to traditional talk therapy. Some of the common benefits patients can experience include:
- The opportunity to express their feelings in a safe environment
- Improved self-confidence
- New life skills
- Improved relationships with others
- New and more positive behaviors and thought patterns
- Better communication skills
- Overcoming a loss
The Three Phases of Psychodrama
Warm-up: in this phase, issues and concerns that are important to the group are identified. The protagonist is chosen, either by the group, the therapist or by the participant. The group becomes a safe space, free of judgment, allowing for the spontaneous act of creation.
Action: the protagonist enters the stage in preparation of taking action to address the issue identified in the warm-up phase. The protagonist shares his or her intention with the group and therapist. The action is completely improvised unfolding naturally, as the protagonist goes from one scene to the next. Through this process, spontaneity is developed, allowing the patient to get closer to his or her authentic self, often providing new insights. The protagonist is supported and guided by this therapist throughout the process, injecting techniques such as analysis, verbalization, processing, action, and insight as needed.
Sharing: the protagonist returns to the group once the enactment is done. He or she can rest while other members of the group share their thoughts and feelings that the drama evoked in them. The protagonist can hear other members talk about similar painful experiences and feelings they may have had, giving him or her a sense of acceptance, understanding, and support. In so doing, what was once a private source of shame is now transformed into a public victory for everyone.
Some sessions may include participants reenacting their memories of significant and pivotal events in what is called “the moment”. The moment, in psychodrama, is the concept that everything that is being acted out is happening in the present. The action that takes us back to another place and time where harmful patterns were established. By re-creating the specific present time that surrounded the past event, a participant can become aware of the dynamics of that time; better understand the relationships and the context within which it occurred.
Using the role reversal technique, the participants are provided the opportunity to view their life and addiction from the perspective of an outsider, like a friend, parent or loved one, by taking on their identities.
In a technique known as mirroring, another group member takes on the role of the protagonist to allow the patient to see him or herself from outside.
Through processes like these, new perspectives can be found, different endings can be created and a greater insight can be achieved.
Understanding and Dealing with the Outcome
Some of the insights gained through psychodrama therapy can be very profound and necessitate further inspection. At Beachway Therapy Center, we use psychodrama as part of a more comprehensive addiction treatment process that also includes one-on-one therapy sessions where the findings of psychodrama can further be explored.
Take the First Step Towards Recovery
If you, or someone you love, is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, regaining control and getting back to a sober and healthy life begins with a phone call.
Each addiction treatment plan at Beachway Therapy Center is uniquely tailored to meet the needs and circumstances of our patients. Our treatment programs include one-on-one counseling, group therapy, supplemented by a range of holistic services that include art therapy, music therapy, equine therapy and psychodrama therapy.
At our state-of-the-art and luxurious facility located in beautiful South Florida, our expert therapists and counselors can help you get on the road to recovery. Call us today at 877-284-0353. Our anonymous addiction helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week with friendly and experienced counselors standing by to take your call.