What is Psychodrama?

Psychodrama is a form of therapy.  Moreno the founder of psychodrama, on page one of his seminal book: “Who Shall Survive?” spoke about a therapeutic procedure.

Clearly a therapeutic procedure that has as its objective the whole of humankind stands out as a special case of psychotherapy.  Psychodrama is a special case…

Psychodrama is a term that can cover any of the following: psychodramatic group work, a scientific approach to relationships called sociometry, group psychotherapy, dramatic explorations of society in a method called sociodrama. In its long history and development other forms were entertained… encounter, improvisation, sociatry, bibliodrama, music drama. What ties the various flavours together is the focus on relationships. Psychodrama may not be the only or best word that could describe the whole field but it has become the best known and most widely used term.

In Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand the Training & Standards Manual for Psychodrama uses the term Psychodrama generically to cover four specialities.

  • Psychodrama (the classical form of group therapy using drama and the stage)
  • Sociodrama
  • Sociometry
  • Role training

These four disciplines are interrelated and are taught to all trainees.  The specialisation that occurs is usually related to the occupation of the trainee.  Some specialties are more suited to psychotherapy and counselling, others to education and others are suited to organisational development and consulting.  All specialities can lead to work in the creative arts.

Clearly psychodrama is more than psychotherapy, it is a form of working with social change in many spheres. Psychodramatic methods have a strong focus on experiential learning and on practical methods that encourage lively expression of thought, feeling and action. Moreno was a deep thinker and prolific writer and theory and philosophy underly the work and can’t be separated from the techniques. Writing that is clinically sound and at the same time inclusive of the experience of the writer is essential to becoming qualified.  A Journal has been published by AANZPA  and is now  in its 26th year. Well over a hundred thesis have been written in Australia and New Zealand.

Psychodrama has theatre as a central mode of practice and theory. (Note how this contrasts with the origin of many other therapies in medical practice. People have used theatre to connect, to tell stories, make meaning and enliven the spirit for many centuries.  Theatre fosters a relational, holistic response to life. Group members take up the various roles of what is happening. There is an opportunity to experience all the thoughts, feelings and actions. Being able to stand back and literally see all the factors that contribute to a situation makes it possible to think, feel and take new actions. There is a freeing up of the old and an entering into new possibilities.

There is a body of theory, philosophy and knowledge that ensure sound clinical work. Here are some key concepts, some have their roots in theatre:

  • Spontaneity (The ability to have creativ and effective responses)
  • tele (the space between people, a concep used in sociometric investigations)
  • role (a holistic way of assessing relationships and human functioning)
  • the social atom (the smallest ensemble that sustains us)
  • the canon of creativity (a theory of change
  • sociometric matrix (the network in groups)
  • a theory of child and adult development
  • catharsis of integration

Psychodrama has a philosophy, a body of knowledge and a method for working
with groups and individuals that brings the complexities, the beauty, the wonder, the struggles
and the depth truth of life onto ‘the stage’.

While it is more than psychotherapy, psychodrama is a solid psychotherapeutic modality. Psychodrama qualification is a pathway to legal registration as a psychotherapist in Australia by PACFA and in Aotearoa by PBANZ.

This chart “History of Development of Psychotherapy” by Lynnette Clayton one of the pioneers in bringing psychodrama to Australia and New Zealand, shows how the work of Moreno is at the foundation of a line of psychotherapy. It has a lineage of its own, that does not go back to the inter-psychic work of Freud. Lynette calls the lineage existential.  Today many would call the method the first in a relational paradigm.  One of the difficulties is that it is was a relational method in a highly individualistic twentieth century. The need to unite in the face a threatened planet means that now is the time for psychodrama to flourish.

(click on the image to see the pdf)

There are psychotherapist and counsellors in all the cities and major towns in New Zealand who are qualified psychodramatists or who have had extensive training in psychodrama in addition to other modalities.

Many people who work with organisations have trained and qualified in sociodrama and sociometry.  Community workers, managers, educators and social worker benefit enormously from  psychodrama training.

May we have good fortune

In a technological era like ours, the fate and future of the spontaneity principle as a major pattern of culture and living may depend on good fortune in tying it up with technological devices.

Moreno Psychodrama v. 1 p. 403


Back online

I had to do a big thing.  The whole of this blog was corrupted.  Nothing.  With long guides about how to reinstall and reconnect to the database I did it.

I was scared of loosing this.  I realise how much I love it when it is gone.  Like Christchurch after the earthquake – I was not really home here in Christchurch till now when it is just a mess.

Pleased to see my post about wisdom & consciousness come up.  How against the grain that is!  I wonder why so may of the people I know who are “idealist in the philosophical sense” don’t dispute my outrageous claims against the received wisdom that is the engine that drives psychotherapy and pretty much all of self help and liberal politics.

Never mind…  I’m saying nothing original, just marxism and Moreno stuff that no-one seems to get.  I’m curious…  is this important?   I don’t think liberal tolerance of liberal ideas is a healthy thing.  But then it does not really matter… that is the point, reality will win out no matter what stories we tell.

Bear with my reflections…

The ideology does not matter, but being in touch with what reality is up to…  that does matter.  Who can really figure What is to be done at this time? Wishful thinking wont help much.


Anyway, pleased the blog is back

Later, Tuesday, 17 October, 2017

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”


“It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”


… every culture is characterized by a certain set of roles which it imposes with a varying degree of success upon its membership.

Moreno Who Shall Survive? p. 88


Two forms of the cultural conserve are referred to in my writings: the technological conserve, as books, motion pictures, robots, and the “human” conserve, the conserve which uses the human organism for its vehicle.

Psychodrama v. 1 p. 123


Disturbing motives

Love the work of Austin Kleon – this is an image from his 2018 Calendar 

If  “the focal conflict model” could be described in a picture, this is it.   The black abyss shows the depth of the concept, and “We” that it is often something we share.  The group is larger than the sum of its parts and can have its own disturbing motives.

Here is a link to the original analytic paper about these matters.

Guilt, Shame, and Other Reactive Motives — Thomas M. French

Pace Layer Thinking : Theory of Change

Pace Layers Thinking: Paul Saffo and Stewart Brand @ The Interval — January 27, 02015

Wonderful podcast. Great exposition of an idea that came through looking at houses and then could be generalised.

The thinking applies to design as well as social change.

The image gives the idea:


I think of other theories of change:

Needs more explaining but has broad application W = warm-up


And then there is Dialectics. Not to be dismissed. Hegelian and then Marxist.


Just listened to Plato’s Republic podcast on BBC,  In out TimePlato’s Republic MP3

Got me thinking about the story of the cave. Ordinary people are fooled. Only certain elite trained people can see the world properly. They are enlightened. At one point they mention that knowledge (according to Plato) is not “bits” but that at a certain point there is a whole shift to a new mental state. It reminds me of spiritual enlightenment. They use the word ‘enlightenment’ in the podcast.

I think a qualitative shift in knowledge is possible. But it is not in the state of mind, that makes the shift. Something has been discovered, it is based on evidence.  It can be  taught, e.g. The world is round – species evolve. That is not a new state of mind, anyone can learn these things. There is “common wisdom” (maybe as old as this stuff in Plato) that ordinary learning won’t do the trick, that we need to go through some spiritual process of cleansing, saving or sitting and that there are special teachers. Plato certainly raises the right question – what is knowledge and what is belief, but his answers are not convincing, and maybe pernicious.

“We need a new state of consciousness before the world can change.” I hear that a lot. This spiritual answers seem wrong, yet Marx also talked of class consciousness. Certainly we need thorough study and knowledge. But the paradigm shifts don’t happen to “us” they happen as science, and social science discovers more about the way the things and people work. Then people need to be taught that stuff.


Listened to another rather wonderful podcast Kim Hill interview with Ken LoachKen Loach – Life and films MP3 One moment I liked was where he says that class struggle in capitalism is not a belief of some kind. Once you have learned about it, like evolution, it is how it is.

Ken Loach:



I quoted blogger Tim Boucher back in 2010 in this blog.

The link in that post to Tims page is only available on the Wayback Machine.

I dug it up today as I was thinking of mentors and heroes. I look back and see how admired them, I fell in love with some and idolised some. I still do! They are all different, they teach different things some are enemies of the other. I’m thinking of them as people I have learned from. Mentors might be the right word.

I still like what I wrote:

“I like to think I am not into having heroes but most of these from tb are my heroes. I’d add a few: J.L. Moreno, James Hillman, Jim Rough, Karl Marx, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Kurt Vonnegut, Peter Pinney… of course they are all a bit flawed, but that is where the light gets in… I’ll add Leonard Cohen, and there are a lot of non-famous real people who have had a bigger impact!”

And Tim replied:

“it’s not that your heroes need to be perfect, so much as it helps to have ideal images after which to model oneself. its a lot easier to build a car if you know what a car looks like, how it feels, how it operates!”

I’ll make a list, with some quotes and links. Maybe in rough chronological order of then coming into my life. I’ve begun the list!