Academic journal article Alcoholism

Group Therapy Using Pantomime Play

Academic journal article Alcoholism

Group Therapy Using Pantomime Play

Article excerpt

Summary - This paper presents some of our pieces of experience with the psychotherapeutic method of treatment by means of pantomime according to the method introduced by Horetzky. We applied pantomime to various psychiatric patients and addicts, especially to alcoholics and drug addicts. The specific quality of alcoholism points to the need of using special notions. The results of this adjuvant method are encouraging due to excellent stimulating and creative effect in the context of a therapeutic community. (Alcoholism 2006; 42: 79-84)

Key words: Pantomime; Group therapy; Addiction


Pantomime play as a psychotherapeutic technique was applied first by Prim. Dr. Otto Horetzky in 1949 at the Psychiatric Ward in Podsused - Zagreb.1 He demonstrated this technique in the course of the following ten years at many international seminars in this country and abroad.2 He also published several significant discussions in domestic and foreign magazines.3 Invited by Professor Moreno to the International Congress in Milan in 1963, Horetzky presented his group-therapy method, which Prof. Moreno called a "creative method" forecasting its wide application.4 Unfortunately, as it can be noticed from Horetzky's presentation at the Physicians' Council of Croatia in 1972 and in spite of the acceptance of this method abroad, the group therapy by means of pantomime play did not take root in this country. Nevertheless, thanks to the initiative of Breitenfeld, the group psychotherapy by means of pantomime play was resumed and started to be applied again at the University Department for Psychiatry within the Sestre milosrdnice University Hospital, Zagreb from 1975. Breitenfeld gathered works and discussions, both published and unpublished ones, of late Horetzky.

The pantomime play is being tried out and applied as a relevant psychotherapeutic part in the treatment of alcoholics and addicts.


The concept of pantomime is of Greek origin and it denotes a scenic performance, where feelings, thoughts and actions are presented only by movements of the body and mimicking. It can therefore be described as a kinetic speech, as a means to express psychic conditions for the purpose of interpersonal communication. It is known namely, that there is no speaking without gestures - a live spoken word produced by movements of the speech organs is always accompanied by nonverbal communication signals - gesture and mimicking. When we send the verbal messages, our intention is obvious, because the verbal speech is under our conscious control. On the other hand, non-verbal behaviour is under our control only partially, so we are often in a dilemma whether such behaviour is an accidental reaction or a directed and deliberate act of communication.

Therefore, the non-verbal communication is manifested as an ideal ground for what is partly said but portended. For instance, a speaker who explains the contents of his speech through mimicking and gestures gives a hint with his movements to the audience for a possible change in the contents of his thoughts or attitudes. Gestures and mimicking always accompany verbal speech and thus they point out and support its emotional side. Pantomime, as a non-verbal communication act, is also manifested as a kinetic speech of the group in the course of the phylogenetic and ontogenetic development of the human race - it is the emergency exit when the possibility or capability to use the verbal speech fails. We modify pantomime somewhat in group psychotherapy: namely, we demand that a patient or a participant in the group psychotherapeutic game expresses a verbally formulated thoughtful content, with roots in his psychic troubles, through a pantomimic performance. While inhibiting the movements of the speech organs, the patient has to demonstrate the given word, sentences or phrases through movements of his face, hands or whole body. The group cooperates here in two ways: some, who do not know the contents of the assignment, guess it from the pantomimic presentation whereby they verbalize loudly, while the others who know the contents keep silent and think how they would present it by means of pantomime. …

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