Psychodrama as a Social Work Modality

By Konopik, Debra A.; Cheung, Monit | Social Work, January 2013 | Go to article overview

Psychodrama as a Social Work Modality


Konopik, Debra A., Cheung, Monit, Social Work


Developed in the early years of the 20th century by Viennese psychiatrist Jacob L. Moreno, psychodrama is an experiential method of group psychotherapy that uses action techniques to explore the root of psychological and social problems (Moreno & Moreno, 1969). Psychodrama is the process of enacting and reenacting past concerns and imagining the situation reoccurring in a present form, allowing patients to uncover thoughts and feelings that may not be accessed solely through talk therapy. Psychodrama enhances problem-solving insight and facilitates personal growth on cognitive, affective, and behavioral levels (Avrahami, 2003). The acting method aims to encourage communication, clarify issues, enhance physical and emotional well-being, and foster skill development. As an action-oriented technique or a clinical role-play, psychodrama provides a context in which individuals examine habitual patterns of reacting to certain problems and discover alternative ways to respond in a safe, supportive environment.

Psychodrama is applied to diverse age and treatment groups, from children to older adults, and from chronically mentally ill or cognitively impaired people to those who desire improved functioning with their families or in work settings. Psychodrama should not be viewed as a separate school of thought; rather, it represents an integrative approach to treatment, incorporating methods from various theoretical approaches such as cognitive, behavioral, gestalt, empowerment, psychoanalysis, and other individual and group treatment modalities. Because of psychodrama's experiential nature, clinicians can use it as an educational method to observe and practice clinical skills. It appeals to social workers because of its utility in a variety of settings; its strengths-based, transtheoretical approach to practice; and its application of a contextualized framework through consideration of the client's perspective. Although research on psychodrama tends to validate specific techniques through case demonstrations (Kipper, 2005), there is a body of empirical studies with data to support the technique applications of psychodrama and its outcome-based effectiveness, utility in social work, and educational function.

APPLICATIONS OF STRENGTHS-BASED TECHNIQUES

Psychodrama techniques are person focused, aiming at bringing out the client's positive outlook on life. A meta-analysis conducted by Kipper and Ritchie (2003) found four reviews of psychodrama research over a span of 23 years. These four reviews served as the initial research on doubling (that is, another group member imitating the role and actions of the protagonist) and role reversal (that is, the protagonist playing the role of the person of concern) as techniques in psychodrama. In another analysis, Kipper and Hundal (2003) studied 34 case illustrations of psychodrama to demonstrate its client-focused nature. A third empirical study, conducted by Rademaker, Vermetten, and Kleber (2009), highlighted the value of psychodrama as a group technique to help 22 veterans release somatic, depressive, and other posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. A more recent study on six psychiatric adolescent patients (mean age, 16.67 years) found that qualitative and quantitative data could be captured in the observatory process to identify symptom reduction after a weekly 12-session analytical group psychodrama program (Gatta et al., 2010). These studies identified the strengths of psychodrama as a method for aiding clients in the discovery of their issues and the subsequent identification of solutions.

A major component of psychodrama is the use of the here-and-now technique that focuses on the current feeling in the present moment, aiming to express unpleasant emotions that were stuck in the past. One study on the resolution of interpersonal situations among 16 female undergraduate students found that psychodramatic doubling helped break client "resistances," yielding "revealingness" as an outcome of moving forward after revealing past feelings (Hudgins & Kiesler, 1987, p. …

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