Using Psychodrama for Addiction Treatment

What Is Psychodrama?

Psychodrama a kind of therapy that lets individuals explore issues by acting them out in a safe place. As an experiential form of psychotherapy, it uses techniques like group dynamics and role-playing to help participants understand conflicting emotions and behavior.

How Did It Start?

Romanian-American psychiatrist Jacob Morena combined his love of theater, philosophy and mysticism with the practical concept of psychotherapy to develop the psychodramatic approach. While living in Vienna in the early 1900s, he held his first session. In the 1930s, he founded a hospital with a theater for role-playing and later established the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and psychodrama.

After Morena died in 1974, his wife traveled the world, teaching others and keeping his work alive. Martin Haskell, a trailblazer who worked with Morena in the 1950s, and other pioneers spread the approach across the U.S. and to Europe.

A psychotherapeutic technique that falls under the category of experiential therapy, psychotherapeutic drama is one of several practices that use expressive activities to recall and experience emotional situations from present or past relationships.

Other kinds of experiential therapy include art-assisted, music-assisted, drama-assisted, guided imagery, and animal-related activities. Role-playing is closely related to drama-assisted therapy, but drama-assisted therapy encourages personal expression and is an individual practice.

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How Does It Work?

Instead of talking about their lives, Dr. Morena’s modality gives participants a chance to re-experience emotional memories and work them out in a dynamic setting. Creating a drama allows them to see their thoughts and actions from a new perspective, regardless of whether they come from present or past situations.

Sessions, which last from 90 minutes to two hours, often take place weekly and usually have eight to 12 members. To build trust and feel comfortable with each other takes time. Each drama session concentrates on one participant, and other members play supporting roles.

Included are three phases: warm-up, action, and sharing. The lead, or protagonist, plays out a drama that leads to insight into past and present relationships and offers new ways of dealing with them.

What Happens During the Three Phases?

During the warm-up phase, the group builds trust and a sense of community.

During the action phase, the therapist helps the protagonist develop a storyline that reflects current struggles. Then, the therapist directs the drama, and members play roles or form an audience.

The action portion uses these techniques:

Role reversal: The protagonist switches roles and plays another person, helping him and the therapist better understand a conflicted relationship.

Soliloquy: The protagonist plays a solitary role, expressing inner thoughts and actions to the group.

Mirroring: The protagonist watches while group members act out a scene from his life, providing a detached view of the problem.

Doubling: A member of the group or the therapist stands behind the protagonist and reflects what is being left unsaid, revealing insights into the protagonist’s thoughts and emotions.

During the sharing phase, the therapist falls back into his role as director and helps the group process what has happened. Then, the group shares what they’ve learned. Like group therapy, this form of experiential treatment gives participants an opportunity to build intimate relationships and learn trust.

Cognitive Therapies for Addiction Treatment

Who Does It Help?

What is psychodrama treatment like? Besides giving the protagonist insight into his life, the process helps the therapist and group members visualize specific situations and gain wisdom for coping with them more successfully. Playing out dilemmas in a drama makes it harder to intellectualize or deny unpleasant situations. It also stops participants from talking and thinking about their problems and requires them to take action. 

This approach helps participants express strong emotions, but it can also help group members control intense feelings. It emphasizes feelings and cognitive abilities while stressing the physical body and concrete actions, making it a holistic treatment.

Researchers say it also helps with addictions, difficult relationships, emotional challenges, trauma, and unresolved loss. Because it gives participants a chance to act out painful experiences in a safe environment, it can be useful in the treatment of eating, mood, and personality disorders.

Does Drama Therapy Work With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) started as talk therapy for psychiatric patients. It helps therapists and clients identify false beliefs and replace them with more acceptable ones. Researchers accept the psychodramatic approach as a useful addition to CBT or as an alternative when CBT is unsuccessful.

The psychodramatic approach may also be an adjunct to other kinds of experiential therapies. In treatment centers, ranging from outpatient clinics to luxury alcohol rehab centers, therapists use role-playing to work with alcohol addiction and relapse.

We Can Help

Alcohol and drug use disorders often stem from troubled childhoods or conditions like depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Likewise, the misuse of alcohol and drugs brings additional trauma to the body, mind, and spirit, especially when there is more than one disorder. Co-occurring mental illnesses are common among addicts and make treatment more complicated.

At Defining Wellness Centers, we know you or your loved one needs a non-judgmental, supportive environment to recover and prevent relapse. With an integrated program of proven techniques, we find the ones that work for you. Our treatment centers address everything from deep-seated trauma to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

From medical detox and residential treatment in our luxury alcohol rehab to outpatient therapy and aftercare, we meet you where you are and travel with you on your journey to recovery. Besides counseling and medication-assisted therapy, when needed, we offer trusted experiential therapies, including equine therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and art-assisted modalities.

Call Us Now

Our facility is located in the natural beauty of the Mississippi pine country. Whether you choose walking meditations in our labyrinth, working out in the gym, or soothing your nerves in a yoga class, you’ll find ways to unwind and renew during your recovery. We even have a special program for first responders and veterans. Contact us today, or call 855-637-0867 for more information.