Psychodramatic Relationship Therapy Training


I am writing a guide for trainees with this title and in the process developing my conception of psychodramatic work.

The whole thing is half finished, if that. But the introduction sections are in  first draft, and so is the next section on the relational paradigm. Below are my headings for sections. If there is a link it means I’ve posted a draft on this blog. Comments welcome.

See this post for the following sections:

Psychodramatic Relationship Therapy – Introduction
Psychodramatic Relationship Therapy Training Workshops
Psychodrama & couple therapy
Psychodrama, Sociometry, Sociodrama and Role training
Stage, director, audience, protagonist and auxiliaries


Relational Paradigm: the relationship is the therapy



Making sense of the dance
Relationship life cycle
Directing a psychodramatic relationship therapy session
Warm up
Relationship with each partner and the relationship
Dialogues / Visits
Psychodramatic Techniques
Lead lines
Role reversal
Role Training
The roles of the relationship therapist
Relationship Therapy in Groups
Relational therapy with one party present and with single people
Mental illness
When is couple therapy indicated

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Psychodramatic Relationship Therapy Training – Introduction

This is the opening section (DRAFT Tuesday, 14 June, 2016) of a longer guide to Psychodramatic Relationship Therapy Training – see main post, with more links here.


Psychodramatic Relationship Therapy Training

I am a trainer (TEP) at the Christchurch Institute for Training in Psychodrama and a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist.

This document is a guide for people doing psychodramatic relationship therapy training workshops. I have conducted the workshops once or twice a year since 2011 in New Zealand and on one occasion in San Francisco. I have also conducted conference sessions and shorter training presentations at AANZPA, IAGP and NZ Imago conferences. I plan to offer the workshop regularly.

Psychodramatic Relationship Therapy Training Workshops
The workshops are an introduction to psychodramatic therapy with couples and people with significant relationships. The basis of this work is the philosophy and practice of J.L. Moreno. More recent couple therapy approaches often have their origins in the work of Moreno and have evolved aspects beyond what was possible in Moreno’s lifetime. These modalities can be referenced to enrich psychodramatic work. The approaches include Imago, Emotionally Focussed Therapy, the work of the Gottmans, Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent communication, Dan Wile’s Collaborative Therapy, the work of William J. Doherty and Hedy Schleifer.

Workshops involve a high level of participation, practice and sharing. Developing a philosophy of loving relationships happens as we practice. Workshops are geared to the needs of the participants and attending several events may be indicated to practice competently.

The workshops are suitable for psychodrama practitioners and trainees, people trained in other modalities of couple therapy who wish to enrich their own perspective and to sharpen their work.
The workshops are open people new to couple therapy who can use the training as a starting point. New practitioners will need to consider further training and supervision in relationship therapy.

Couple therapy is usually done with the couple and the therapist. It can also be done in groups. Mostly the training is focussed one couple with a therapist. Groupwork is also covered.
Therapists who work with individuals only will find the workshop useful. It will increase consciousness of the healing potential in the client’s primary relationship and “include” absent partner and their perspective.

Psychodrama & couple therapy
Psychodramatic relationship therapy goes back to the beginning of the 20th century with J.L. Moreno valuing deep and transformative encounters. He was instrumental in creating the first couple therapy. (ref to where the actors became the protagonist and the first began – and it was a drama – nolte?) He spoke of developing a distinct form of interpersonal psychotherapy:

“… an active form of psychotherapy in which the personal and interpersonal problems … are treated at the same time.”

J.L. Moreno, Psychodrama Vol 1 (1977:233)

This was the forerunner of what today we call couple or relationship therapy.
Morenian theory of change is known as the Canon of Creativity. He describes a cycle that moves from a cultural conserve though warm up to spontaneity and creativity.

Psychodrama, Sociometry, Sociodrama and Role Training
The word “psychodrama” is used generically in this paper to include the four specialties defined by AANZPA. Psychodramatic Relationship Therapy is an application and integration of all the specialties. The relevance of each specialty can be seen in this summary:

Role Training aims to develop interpersonal effectiveness through a specific focus on the development of one aspect of a person’s role or role system, or one defined aspect of their personality. Role training utilises the breadth of the psychodrama method while lending itself particularly to brief interventions.

Sociometry highlights the two-way relations between individuals. It holds within its view both formal and informal relationship networks. Value is given to the investigation and assessment of visible and invisible links, the strength and weakness of these links, and the personal and cultural factors associated with attraction, neutrality and rejection in relationships. The aim of sociometry is to bring about a greater degree of mutuality between people, furthering group objectives for collaboration.

Sociodrama opens up new perceptions of organisations and groups and involves practicing new solutions to group and intergroup conflicts. It focuses on the identification of values and relationship dynamics expressed within group and wider cultural settings. It aims to stimulate greater social awareness, individual flexibility and creative relationships.

Psychodrama explores universal themes as expressed in the life interests and concerns of individuals. Emphasis is given to strengthening the abilities of an individual. This may involve repair and rejuvenation of relationship dynamics established throughout life. Psychodrama actively explores real-life situations using dramatic enactment, analysis of the roles of the system presented, and enables more adequate, flexible and creative interactions for the future.

Psychodrama Australia, Melbourne Campus Handbook

Stage, director, audience, protagonist and auxiliaries
Moreno’s distinctive contribution is to use theatre as the laboratory for investigation and change. This ensures an experimental and holistic approach where people are in the context of life itself. People interact in roles that include thinking, feeling and action. The theatrical approach brings in the concepts of stage, director, protagonist, auxiliary and audience.
The “five instruments” of psychodrama are applicable to psychodramatic relationship therapy. In a session with the couple and a therapist it is useful to be conscious how these instruments apply and how the functions shift between the three individuals present.

When is one person a protagonist for the relationship?
How can the other be an auxiliary?
When is couple therapy more like a sociodrama, with the relationship as the protagonist?

Thinking of the relationship as a drama is fitting. In two ways. One, all relationships have a life cycle from romance, through a power struggle and impasses to a resolution to a new level of love. Secondly, each therapy session is a drama, with warm up, action and sharing. Learning new roles is part of the relationship work.

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Psyche, role relationships & the relational paradigm

This relational paradigm changes everything.

This post follows an earlier one: Psychological Eclecticism and Nothing And that posts is part of a series on a theme – that the psyche is a form of surplus reality created by language. This relates to the relationship between modalities, each one a shining a light on something ephemeral, the psyche.

However I’ve evolved my thinking. The language must be co created and that act transforms the relationship.

Naming roles has a measure of objectiviy when there is a consensus, but to reach that consensus means we really need to understand each other.

No role naming without role reversal.

I must tell the story of the High Priestess of Abundance.

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From Eclecticism to specialisation and beyond

Just deleted this from a paper I’m writing where it is not relevant. But I want to keep the paragraph.

Years of involvement in psychodrama equipped me well to work with couples. However in the last decade or so I found myself doing more effective work helping people learn the art of loving as I learned from other modalities. Much reflection and exploration in practice led me to a new understanding of psychodramatic relationship therapy. Through engagement with Imago I learned to love and understand psychodrama afresh. (Logeman, 2009) How can we as psychodramatists best think of our relationship with other modalities? I have rejected eclecticism as it leads to a loss of focus. Marriage or integration does not for philosophy. I have tried translation; I challenged myself to use psychodrama concepts to make sense of what I have learned by being eclectic, but that does not honer some views and practices that simply are not present in psychodrama. I am satisfied to think that psychodrama can be enriched. Psychodrama has cosmology and a holistic view of human nature. At heart it is a theatrical method and anything can be put on the stage, including new ideas and methods.

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Reclaiming Conversation

photo jeanbaptisteparis

How Smartphones Are Killing Conversation

A Q&A with MIT professor Sherry Turkle about her new book, Reclaiming Conversation. – Amazon

Sherry Turkle has been a thorough investigator of the media – and I like her experiential – ethnographic approach in her first book Life on the screen – Amazon

We are in the early days of technology. Can we develop etiquette – a new norm in the way we have about things like eating with your mouth full. Will parents say, “Don’t put your phone on the table while we are eating.” ? It could happen. We changed norms around smoking. Around sexism. This interview begins to articulate new norms without being anti tech,

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Notes on Gordon Wheeler’s Book: Beyond Individualism

Somehow I found this book and purchased the Kindle edition It exactly relates to what I’m thinking about about the moment.

As I’m grappling with psychodrama and the relational paradigm, it is good to find someone who has grappled with this in Gestalt. Gestalt is in some ways born out of psychodrama, though it has from my experience been far more “individualistic”, it is individual therapy in the group, and then there is that Prayer by Perls! I have no doubt that Moreno pioneered a relational conception of reality (see Zerka Moreno on Doubling and Tele and The Locus of Therapy – Moreno, but that it was still somewhat rooted in the individual paradigm. Perhaps Wheeler & Harville Hendrix came to this specific consciousness separately?

History of the old paradigm

I’m reading it slowly and want to catch the nuances of his version of the relational paradigm. The first section is about the history of the old paradigm – and summed up in the quote below. (Wheeler, 2000, pp 52-53)

Is there no individual at all? Or is it a figure ground thing? Is the old paradigm absorbed in the next? What does he make of Buber? How does his perspective impact on practice?

The Individualist Paradigm

All this is the expression of what we have already begun calling here the paradigm of individualism, a complex and interlocking set of underlying assumptions and hidden presuppositions that has a 3000-year pedigree in the West, running straight back to the Greeks and then forward in a largely unbroken line down through the Hellenized Hebrews, the Christian synthesis and its medieval flowering, the Renaissance with its rediscovery of humanism, the Enlightenment, the 19th-Century age of scientific materialism, and right on down to our own post-modern times. In the process this paradigm serves to unite thinkers and movements as otherwise diverse as Plato and the Hebrew Prophets, Galileo and the Church, Freud and the Behaviorists, or Carl Jung and Karl Marx, all of whom may disagree vehemently and sometimes violently with each other about the dynamics and determinants of human behavior, the direction of history, the motivation and purpose of life, and so on — but all of whom are united at this deeper level by underlying assumptions, taken for granted but seldom articulated, about the nature of the individual self, which is to say, who those individual human beings are who are living that life, and having or creating or submitting to those experiences.
The fundamental propositions of that paradigm, as we have already seen and as we lift them out now for examination, are: 1) that the individual is prior to relationship, and exists in some essential way apart from relational context and connection, and 2) that relationships themselves are therefore secondary, and in some sense less real than the individuals who enter into them, who after all were already there, fully formed, and can come and go from one relationship to another as their own needs and circumstances dictate, presumably without altering their own essential nature. To Plato, as we have said, these propositions must have seemed incontrovertible and probably too obvious to bear mention — as indeed they may seem to us, on some purely logical level anyway, even if we do feel some nagging discomfort with them when they’re presented in this bald way — a hesitation growing perhaps out of living or working with infants and children, out of spiritual concerns or experiences we may have had, from intimate relationship and deep commitments, or just from our everyday experiences of living with and caring for other people. The fundamental separation of one individual’s experience from that of another, which follows directly from these assumptions, would likewise have seemed obvious to Plato — as would Descartes’s classic separation of mind or self from body, which was essentially unchanged from the Greek view, only some two thousand years later. The soul, which is the essence of the person, is individual, eternal, and unchanging — and of course separate from this material world, again by creation, which again closes off developmental or relational questions.
Wheeler, G. (2000). Beyond individualism: Toward a new understanding of self, relationship, and experience (1st ed.). United States: Analytic Press,U.S.

I’ll Make more notes as I go.

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Guide to blog posts about encounter

Here are links some blog posts on encounter, including relationships, dialogue and the relational paradigm. I’ll keep adding to the list, there are plenty more not yet summed up. The idea is that I can see a brief summation, not avilable in the usual searches. They are in chronological order (latest on top).

Creativity Encounter June 27, 2009 – Added material Sunday, 6 December 2015
This is worth emphasising: relationships produce creativity. I added a bit today about the purpose of dialogues – when what is indicated. This can be distilled for the encounter manual (work in progress).

Doubling, Spontaneity, Creativity and Encounter December 1, 2015
This has a link to a short article I wrote – here is the link again: Article in docx format

Evolution and human behaviour and culture. December 21, 2014
This is the one with the long list of books to read, many relating to love & marriage. It has the hypothesis on evolution.

★★★★ Zerka Moreno on Doubling and Tele September 10, 2011, with updates on Saturday, 6 October, 2012 and
Sunday, 29 November 2015

This is the post I was looking for when creating this guide. It is not from Moreno but Zerka. “the space between people, that is the foundation of his and our work.” Quite a summation! It is also the one on difference between empathy and doubling.

History of the Relational Paradigm October 12, 2012
It is really a few thoughts and quotes about Jung’s participation mystique.

Creativity Encounter June 27, 2009 – Added material Sunday, 6 December 2015
This is worth emphasising. I added a bit today about the purpose of dialogues – when what is indicated. This can be distilled for the encounter manual.

Coevolution, invention, creation of the psyche – the relational paradigm October 7, 2012
Coevolution is a profound idea, and I quote a few sources on this.

★★★★The Locus of Therapy – Moreno April 18, 2009
Ah this is the one I was looking for – confirms the Zerka post above, I was looking for both of them! Long Moreno quote – excellent on relational paradigm.

Hippocratic oath will have to be reformulated

In a particular group a subject may be used as an instrument to diagnose and as a therapeutic agent to treat the other subjects. The doctor and healer as the final source of mental therapeusis has fallen.

Encounter, Buber & Moreno April 11, 2009
A couple of paragraphs quoting Marineau

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Roles Create Roles

” a role is the functioning form the individual assumes in the specific moment he reacts to a specific situation in which other persons or objects are involved” (Moreno, 1977, p IV)

Lets take a list of roles, these are from Max Claytons article (Clayton, 1994),  it is a convenient list, and it is the one that got me to think about this:

Playful funlover
Frightened, abandoned orphan
Anxious and suspicious fantasiser
Angry controller
Condemning critic
Good listener

For each of these there is as Moreno puts it: “a specific situation in which other persons or objects are involved.” We can grasp them from the role.

Playful funlover
Frightened, abandoned orphan
Anxious and suspicious fantasiser
Angry controller
Condemning critic
Good listener
Art Materials or Audience
Wilderness, the unknown, adventurer
Compliant Follower, Sucker, victim
The Void, Black dog, Stubbor controller
Absent Parent, Threatening bully
Challenging person or situation
Helpless follower
Self doubter

Creating Change in a Role Relationship

These role pairs will change as one of the roles changes:

The teacher can’t teach without the student

Lovers need lovers

If the manipulatee ceases to be duped and becomes assertive the manipulator can’t manipulate.

If there is no speaker, become a good listener.

If there is no artist, become an appreciative audience and contribute materials

Be loving and love may come your way.

Stop criticising, appreciate and praise and you won’t be with a self-doubter for long.

Role relationships

There are different types of role relationship. Max talks of complementary roles and symmetrical roles.

“The diagrams made it easier to be aware of the complementary and symmetrical role systems that developed with other people and of the fact that there was an increase in complementary role relationships. As ability to analyse, plan and enjoy life came to the fore, so those roles pertaining to intimacy increased. There was a welcoming of closeness and an interest in complementing what others were doing. The aggressive approach to others diminished and along with this a lessening of symmetrical role relations and of the competitive dynamic that is associated with these. There was also a development of a real sense of being a role creator. Previously there had been much more of a sense of being a mundane person. A look at the diagrams also confirmed the ability to create forms of expression through which life purposes could be fulfilled. The experience of being a role creator was accompanied by an increase in motivation.”

An example of complementary role might be speaker / listener – and this would increase intimacy, as max suggests.

Symmetrical roles can escalate and be competitive e.g. Talker / talker can become shouter / shouter.

But some symmetrical roles can be intimate lover/lover gardener/gardener

Note Max’s paper from the book may differ from the one in AANZPA

Google search found the book online Note I have a physical copy.


Clayton, G. M. (1994). Role Theory and its Application in Clinical Practice. In P. Holmes, K. Karp, & M. Watson (Eds.), Psychodrama Since Moreno (pp. 121–144). London: Routledge. Retrieved Tuesday, 9 February, 2016 from
Moreno, J. L. (1977). Psychodrama Volume One (Fourth ed.). Beacon, New York: Beacon House.

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Doubling, Spontaneity, Creativity and Encounter

Just added this to my Writing page.

Doubling, Spontaneity, Creativity and Encounter (docx) — Out of date (Saturday, 7 May, 2016)

Now working on a draft here in Google Docs

This is an article I’ve been working on since I presented something along these lines at 2014 AANZPA conference.  Its about the value of doubling what is adequate in the protagonist. Doubling is not coaching, but assisting the protagonist to say what is in them in a way that it can be heard.

It takes further the ideas I came away with from the Dan Wile workshop. He says something like this: I assist the couple to heave the conversation they would have if they were not fighting.

See additional notes from 6 October 2012 Zerka Moreno on Doubling and Tele

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