Jacob Levy Moreno’s psychodrama: what does it consist of?

Since it began to gain popularity in Europe and the United States in the early 1920s, Jacob Levy Moreno’s psychodrama caught the attention of manye.

This may be due, in part, to the striking psychodrama sessions: a group of people who seem to represent a piece based on improvisation. However, Levy Moreno design these sessions as a psychotherapy tool based on assumptions that go beyond just wanting to have a fun time. Let’s see what the theory behind the psychodrama is and how it shapes the sessions in which it is used.

Who was Jacob Levy Moreno?

The creator of the psychodrama was born in Bucharest in 1889 in a Sephardic Jewish family. A few years after moving to Vienna in 1915, Levy Moreno began an initiative based on theatrical improvisation, which gave way to a psychotherapeutic proposal that he called psychodrama. The psychodrama was based on the idea that expressing oneself through spontaneity and improvisation meant a kind of liberation through creativity, which had to do with one’s own subjective experiences through dramatizations.

In addition, Moreno studied medicine at the University of Vienna and there he came into contact with the ideas of psychoanalytic theory, Which was increasingly accepted in Austria during the first half of art. XX. Although the father of psychodrama rejects many of Sigmund Freud’s assumptions, psychoanalysis has had a marked influence on his thinking, as we will see. Likewise, he experimented with a type of intervention that could be considered a primitive form of self-help group.

In 1925, Levy Moreno moved to the United States of America, and from New York, he began to develop both psychodrama and other elements related to the study of groups, Such as sociometry. He also theorized about forms of group psychotherapy in general, from a heterodox perspective that rejected determinism and advocated the role of improvisation. After devoting much of his life to developing group therapy methods, he passed away in 1974 at the age of 84.

What is psychodrama?

To begin to understand what psychodrama is and what goals it seeks to achieve through it, we first review its appearances: the way one of its sessions unfolds. To understand at least what we will see below, it suffices to understand two things: that the psychodrama sessions are in a group, but that the psychodrama does not seek to address the problems expressed by a group, but uses the presence of many. people to intervene in the problems of the individuals, in turn.

like that, at all times there is a clear protagonist, to whom the session should be directed, While the rest of the people are members who help carry out the session and who at some point will also be the protagonists of their own psychodrama.

Here are the phases of a psychodrama session:

1. Heating

In the first phase of the psychodrama session, a group of people get together and the person leading the event encourages others to perform icebreaker exercises. The goal of the warm-up is to make people uninhibited, aware of the start of the session, and more likely to express themselves through actions that would otherwise be bizarre in another setting.

2. Dramatization

Dramatization is at the heart of psychodrama sessions. In this one, one of the people who attend the group is chosen, and this one explains a little what problem made him attend the session and what is the autobiographical background which is associated with this one. The person leading the session tries to get the protagonist of the dramatization phase to explain how he or she perceives this problem in the present tense, rather than trying to remember the exact details of it.

After that begins the dramatization, in which the protagonist is helped by the other members of the group, who play a role, and all the improvised scenes related to the problem to be solved. However, this performance does not follow a fixed script, but is based on improvisation supported by very little guidance on what the stage should be. The idea is not to faithfully reproduce scenes based on reality, but to offer a similar context to certain essential points; then we’ll see why.

3. Eco group

In the last phase, teveryone involved in the show explains what they heard, The way the performance made them evoke past experiences.

The foundations of psychodrama

Now that we have seen what a typical psychodrama session essentially consists of, let’s see what principles it is based on, what is the philosophy behind it. To do this, we must first start from the concept of catharsis, first explained by the philosopher Aristotle, as a phenomenon by which the person understands himself better after having lived a work that represents a series of facts. It was very applicable to theatrical dramatizations, in which there was almost always a climax that sought to elicit intense emotions in the viewers and deliver a result that represents a process of emotional liberation.

For Jacob Levy Moreno, the idea on which the therapeutic potential of psychodrama was based was that it allowed catharsis to pass from a secondary status, experienced by the spectator, to that of active catharsis, experienced by the protagonists of the dramatizations.

The theory of spontaneity-creativity

And why was this form of catharsis supposed to be better? This idea was based on the theory of spontaneity-creativityDepending on what creative responses to unforeseen situations is the best mechanism for discovering new solutions to old problems that remain entrenched for a long time.

In other words, the inability to see beyond the mental path that we have become accustomed to in analyzing a problem must be broken by participating in unforeseen situations. This way, the process of emotional liberation is born from a creative and spontaneous fact, A little more meaningful to you than a fiction seen from outside the room. In order for this creative catharsis to occur, it is not necessary to exactly replicate past experiences, but it is necessary to bring up the session elements that, in the present, the protagonist considers important and related to the conflict to be dealt with.

The relationship between psychodrama and psychoanalysis

The link between Jacob Levy Moreno’s psychodrama and the psychoanalytic current rests, among other things, on the implication that there is an unconscious instance of people’s minds and a conscious instance.

Some problems are resolved in the unconscious part, causing the conscious part to experience symptoms without being able to access its origin. This is why the problems which one tries to approach psychodrama are conceived as “conflicts”. This word expresses the shock between conscious and unconscious: One part contains representations related to the origin of the problem and struggles to express them, while the conscious part wants the symptoms that produce the unconscious’s attempts to express what it contains to disappear.

For Moreno, psychodrama makes it possible to reproduce the symptoms of the problem by the acts themselves guided by the conscious part of oneself; in a way, the problem recurs, but this time the process is directed by the conscience, allowing to appropriate the stuck conflict and to integrate it in a healthy way in his personality.

Psychoanalysis also pursued the goal that blocked experiences would emerge in consciousness in a systematic way so that the patient could reinterpret them as well as theirs. However, Jacob Levy Moreno did not want this task to be based solely on reinterpreting something, but he stressed the need for the process to also involve the participation of the whole body through the movements which are performed during a role play on a stage.

the effectiveness of psychodrama

Psychodrama is not one of the therapeutic proposals that have scientifically proven effectiveness, As a result, the health psychology skeptical community does not see it as an effective tool. On the other hand, the psychoanalytic foundations on which it is based have been rejected by the epistemology on which scientific psychology is based today.

To a certain extent, the psychodrama focuses both on subjective experiences and on its own meaning processes which are supposed to its results cannot be measured in a systematic and objective manner. However, critics from this perspective point out that there are ways to consider the effects of any psychotherapy on patients, regardless of the subjectivity of the problem.

This does not take away from the fact that psychodrama continues to be practiced, as is the case with family constellations, the sessions may resemble those of the classic psychodrama by Jacob Levy Moreno. This is why, in the face of problems related to mental health, we opt for alternatives with proven effectiveness in different types of problems, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

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