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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