Varieties of Encounter

Facilitating interaction was the dictum I used for the first couple therapy I did. I recall, as an untrained social worker in a hospital being asked to work with a couple who had difficulties. The night before I read a gestalt based book on couple therapy and facilitate interaction was the central practical guide I took away. I could have done worse.

I have written on dialogue and encounter in the AANZPA Journal more recently: The Imago Affair. Let me quote a relevant chunck from that paper as I wish to further reflect on encounter.


At their heart, both Moreno’s and Hendrix’s work go beyond technique and are an invitation to a profound experience. The aim of a dialogue is not a specific outcome, nor is it reliant on one method. Here is the section of Moreno’s well known poem that encapsulates the idea of encounter.

A meeting of two: eye to eye, face to face.
And when you are near I will tear your eyes out
and place them instead of mine,
and you will tear my eyes out
and will place them instead of yours,
then I will look at you with your eyes
and you will look at me with mine.

Harville Hendrix introduced the validation step into the Imago structure with an eye to facilitating just such an experience. It is often taught as understanding or making sense. The lead-in line goes like this: “You make sense. And one thing that makes sense is…” The listener is invited to cross a bridge into the world of the other, and to see what they see, and feel what they feel in that world. Note the similarity to Moreno in Hendrix’s idea.

Buber clarified for me that a “Thou” relationship with others required honouring their “otherness” as an “I” distinct from me and any concepts I might have of them. This required a willingness to look at the world of another through his or her eyes.

Linger on the moments of connection described here:

I will look at you with your eyes (Moreno)

look at the world of another through his or her eyes (Hendrix)

Are they the same?

Both Imago and in the work of Moreno there is the idea of a special meeting. Not just any meeting, but something profound, where you become the other…

How to facilitate, or operationalise encounter is different in the psychodramatic sphere than in the I Imago sphere. They use different contexts for their techniques as well, psychodrama: the stage. Imago: the couple in dialogue and Hedy Schleifer has a variation:  Host / Visitor to the other’s world.

There are techniques/concepts in these modalities that are sometimes akin, but differently nuanced, and sometimes unique to the method. There are other modalities and have techniques for interaction, of importance is the variation of Imago developed by Hedy Schleifer and her husband, and the work of Dan Wile.

My friend and colleague Dan Randow and I are working on describing the varieties of techniques for encounter. Here is a beginning.

Here is a list of techniques/concepts:

Doubling: in Psychodrama

Mirroring — Psychodrama

Role reversal — Psychodrama

Doubling in Imago:  Related to the use of lead-lines

Doubling in Dan Wile’s CRT

Mirroring in Imago

Validating,  Imago

Empathy as used in Imago

Dialogue (Imago)

Host, Visitor (Hedy Schleifer)



How does role reversal relate to encounter? In role reversal and in doubling you become the other to the best of your ability. You take the physical position of the other, quite literally in role reversal and by being alongside and slightly behind the other when doubling.

Is it useful to distinguish the inter-psyche from the intra-psyche; what goes on in our subjective world and what goes on between us?  Maybe sometimes, all these encounter processes aim at improving the relationship and healing and growth of the individuals at the same time.



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Dialogues and mirroring – Psychodrama and Imago

In an earlier post I tried to capture a thought I had about dialogues. I was pleased to know someone read it and emailed me to say they were a bit confused. No wonder, I just pour out something I think about late at night — when I should be fast asleep!

I will describe more clearly how I work with couples by unpacking what I think are important ideas in a snippet from the earlier post.

I like to distinguish the words of the initiator of the dialogue, the protagonist, from the response by the person who is listening, the receiver, who I encourage to think of themselves as an auxiliary.

The problem is that I’m using language from two psychotherapeutic modalities. I imagine this makes no sense to anyone really, as there are very few psychodramatists who are also Imago Relationship Therapists. Even to someone who has that background it is still a muddled sentence.

Let me start again. First I’ll use Imago terms and then I’ll describe the same work using psychodrama language.

Continue reading

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Mirroring is a word used in both the Psychodrama and Imago modalities. In a classic psychodrama the protagonist returns to the audience and is companioned by the conductor of the drama, who instructs the auxiliary egos to re-enact the scene. This can be done for a variety of reasons. One is to reveal to the protagonist how their actions look from another perspective. Another reason might be at the end of a drama or role training session for the protagonist to see the new development in their being. The mirroring in the Imago sense shares these purposes though the form different.

I’m finding it helpful to think of two mirror positions.

1. Face to face

2. Spectator

Here is a quote from Moreno highlighting the spectator mode.

The technique of the mirror ‘portrays’ the body image and the unconscious of A at a distance from him so that he can see himself. The portrayal is done by an auxiliary ego, who has made a close study of A. … In the mirror technique the protagonist is a spectator, an onlooker, he looks at the psychological mirror and sees himself. Fig 4(Moreno, J.L., 1959, p. 53).

Here is an example from Peter Kellerman:

“.. Bob presented a scene in which he quarreled with his wife. He stated his case and argued that she did not pay enough attention to him and neglected his needs. A woman in the role of his wife presented the other side of the story, throwing fuel on the already overheated marital conflict. And so it went on in what seemed to be an endless battle of words and accusations. The director used the mirror technique in an effort to break the deadock. He asked Bob to step out of the scene and watch it all from the outside (as if in a mirror), with another man playing the role of himself.

Watching the fight as a spectator, Bob listened carefully to both partners. ” Page 92

Peter Kellerman also gives an example of mirror that is face to face.

A group member to another: When I meet you, I feel enriched. Because you look at me from another perspective. Page 92

The purpose of mirroring

I can see two broad, slightly different purposes of mirroring.

1. Revelation

2. Validation

The first is so the person can see themselves either from a new perspective or how others see them. The second is to assist the person to have a sense of being seen and understood,and having value.

Both types have an existential quality, the person will get a sense they exist.

Mirroring becomes a very broad category we think of the whole field. As the term is used in all these ways within psychodrama and in other modalities I think it is useful to be able to distinguish the various processes that are called mirroring. Most examples of mirroring would fit into one of the following four combinations of form and purpose.

  Face to face Spectator

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Validating Mirror and Evaluative Mirror

I have been reflecting on a while on what appears to be different uses of the term “mirroring’ in various psychotherapeutic modalities. It was useful to come across Peter Felix Kellermann’s distinction between two types of mirroring.

Validating Mirror

“When I look, iam seen so I exist.” – Winnicott

Evaluative Mirror

Learning to see how others see you

Kellermann, Peter Felix 2007, Lets Face it, Mirroring in Psychodrama in Psychodrama Advances in Theory and Practice. Baim, Burmeister and Maciel, Routlidge

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Mirroring & Cybernetics

… the ability to perceive difference is a crucial, perhaps a necessary prerequisite for spontaneity. I saw more clearly one of the purposes of the psychodramatic technique of mirroring, it allows information, potentially lost* to be maximised and responded to.

This is a quote from an article I wrote in 1987! My friend Don said he had something I wrote back then, he dug it out. Wonderful to see it. Thanks Don! I recognised it as something I had written, especially the typeface from my old Brother Golf Ball printer but that was about it, I recalled nothing of the content.

I quite like it though, and here is a link to the whole paper, now scanned and online.

Mirroring & Cybernetics

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