Psychodrama Explained

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There are many experiential therapies being tried and tested for various mental health concerns. Psychodrama is one of the older forms of these therapies, helping patients gain a new perspective in some of the events in their lives of the past, present, and future. This can be helpful as it takes the individual out of their role and makes them an outside observer. In this way, psychodrama can help aid those in treatment.

History of Psychodrama

Psychodrama was first invented at the beginning of the 20th century by Jacob Moreno. The first session was held in 1921, developed by Moreno’s interests in theater, philosophy, and mysticism. Moreno went on to open Beacon Hospital, which contained a theater specifically built for psychodrama therapy sessions.

Moreno founded the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama in 1942. He died in 1974 and his wife continued his work. More people around the world also implemented psychodrama in their respective countries, causing the practice to grow even more.

How Does Psychodrama Help Treatment?

Psychodrama reenacts situations that may bring distress to individuals’ lives to help them gain better emotional, behavioral, and cognitive understanding. Participants are able to glean a new perspective by taking themselves outside of their own role and watching from the outside or from the perspective of another character in the scene taking place. By seeing the scene from this view, participants are better able to understand how their actions and words affect others.

By building trust between the participants, these distressing situations are able to be acted out in a safe environment that is conducive to healing and learning. This is how psychodrama helps its participants.

How Does Psychodrama Work?

Psychodramas are typically composed of eight and twelve members and serve as a weekly group therapy session.

1. Warm-Up

Lasting around two hours, the participants begin by warming up. This part of the sessions involves the participants building trust with one another, establishing a safe place, and group cooperation. The warm-up is critical to the session because it helps everyone get in the right headspace and develop a bond with each other. Without this, they would not be able to move into the action stage.


The action phase is the main part of the psychodrama session. Here, one individual will act as the protagonist of the story under the direction of the therapist. The scene will be created based on events that have occurred in the life of a member of the group. Scenes are reenacted using various techniques to give the person who the scene is based on a new perspective and outcome. Techniques used include:


During mirroring, the protagonist will take a backseat while the rest of the group will act out the scene in question. By taking an outsider’s perspective, the protagonist can view the scene from a distance, helping them disconnect their feelings from what happened. This can be especially helpful if the protagonist in question has negative feelings attached to the scene being acted out.

Role Reversal

Instead of playing their primary role or taking an outsider’s perspective, the protagonist will play the role of another person in the scene, specifically someone important to them. By doing this, the protagonist may better understand where their loved one’s feelings came from. This will help them understand the scene better, and the therapist will better understand the relationship dynamic between the protagonist and the person they are reenacting.


The audience hears the protagonist’s inner thoughts and feelings pertaining to the scene at hand. The therapist facilitates this, but it can also be done by speaking to a double. This helps the protagonist open up to the audience more.


A double is used to take on the role of the protagonist in the scene. The person taking on this role will express thoughts and feelings that they believe the protagonist has in the scene or about the scene. This is meant to be non-aggressive and constructive, helping to build empathy for the protagonist.

3. Sharing

The next and final stage of a psychodrama session is the sharing phase. The therapist begins to facilitate the discussion about the scene itself. The group begins discussing the scene and its different outcomes that were reenacted, asking what new perspectives were gleaned from the session.

The protagonist is able to explore and discuss what new feelings and perspectives they may have on the event. The audience is then able to ask questions and progress the discussion into related themes in the protagonist’s life.

Who Is Psychodrama Best For?

Based on its techniques and model of the sessions, psychodrama is good at teaching people how to regulate their emotions and view events in their lives from a different perspective. It has been known to treat trauma, depression, loss, relationship problems, eating disorders, personality disorders, addiction, and more.

In general, psychodrama is best for those that need to reevaluate certain events in their lives to gain a new perspective and detach negative memories from them. Psychodrama is considered a holistic or experiential therapy approach and can help anyone that is dealing with complicated emotions related to distressing events in their lives.

Psychodrama has been used since the early 20th century to aid in mental health concerns. Its techniques have been developed over the years to aid in reenacting scenes of distress from the participants’ lives. Sessions normally occur weekly in two-hour increments, with the size of the group consisting of eight to twelve members. The sessions are divided into three stages: warm-up, action, and sharing. Various techniques are used to ensure the participants are able to see the event from several perspectives, either by participating in the scene or watching from the audience. Discussion after the action phase helps the processing of what happened. Psychodrama is best for those that need help regulating their emotions, especially in relation to past events in their lives that caused them distress. If you think psychodrama and other forms of holistic therapy would be good for you, contact Northstar Transitions at (303) 558-6400 to learn more.