What is Psychodrama?

A Pioneering Group Method

Psychodrama, as conceived and developed by its creator, J. L. Moreno, M.D. (1889-1974), is a method which utilizes guided dramatic action to examine problems or issues raised in a group, or in individual counselling. In a classically structured psychodrama session, there are three distinct phases of group interaction - the warm up, the enactment, and the sharing. The director, a trained psychodramatist, has the responsibility for guiding the participants through each stage. The director uses psychodramatic techniques to elicit maximal participation, understanding and support.

The Warm-Up

The warm-up may involve a general discussion of a structured exercise. The director helps the group members focus on a recurrent theme, or on a particular member's issue. He/she may choose or ask the group to select one of its members as the protagonist for an enactment. Either way, the protagonist's concerns usually bear directly on a sizeable number of group members.

The Enactment

The enactment dramatizes the protagonist's problem. The director initiates interactions between the protagonist and group members selected by the protagonist to play the roles of the significant others in his/her drama. The enactment is likely to continue until the protagonist achieves a shift in his/her perception of the problem and/or a new effective method of approaching it is tested.


During the sharing period, group members communicate the emotions and associations evoked by the enactment. Those who participate directly in the drama also share the feelings they experienced in the roles they played. Often these particular remarks have deep significance for the protagonist. The director has a responsibility to provide each group member with an opportunity for self-expression at a level commensurate with his/her interest and motivation within the time frame available to the group. This is usually achieved in the sharing portion.

Goals of Psychodrama

The principles of psychodrama have evolved to embody the highest goals of social psychiatry, the creative arts and human potential, for growth and fulfilment. Dr. Moreno believed that the role training obtained in microcosm of the psychodrama theatre would influence the wider context of daily human interaction. Practised through the exercise of role reversal in psychodrama, we would become sensitized to others, strengthening our capacity for empathy and effective responsible behaviour. The overall result - a more compassionate and supportive environment, sustained by institutions truly responsive to the human needs they serve.

Where and From Whom?

Psychodramatic methods and techniques are actively used in a broad range of mental health, educational and industrial environments throughout the world. Whether for improving awareness, self-esteem, personal effectiveness or relationships, psychodrama has proven effective with low and high functioning populations. It has been applied, for example, by:

  • Mental health practitioners and trainers
  • Marriage and family counsellors
  • Teachers and students
  • The military
  • Law enforcement personnel
  • Business administration
  • Employers and workers

Psychodrama has been applied for

  • Psychiatric inpatients/ outpatients
  • Psychotherapy clients
  • Alcohol and drug patients
  • The physically challenged
  • Children and senior citizens
  • Eating disorders, phobias, sexual abuse, rape
  • Suicide and accident prevention
  • Police training
  • Effective education

A Psychodramatist's Training

Those who take a psychodrama course from a trainer must undertake to use the psychodramatic and sociometric method in their area of expertise only, such that only registered Mental Health Practitioners can practice in a therapeutic context, while others, such as teachers and lawyers, use the approach in non-therapeutic contexts.