What is psychodrama?

It is a psychotherapeutic method based on theatre. It takes place in a group and is directed by a therapist specialized on the technique (psychodramatist). The psychiatrist Jacob Levi Moreno was the creator and developer of the method.

Psychodrama was developed into a full method after 1925, when Moreno immigrated to America. In 1936 he founded his sanatorium and psychodrama theatre at Beacon, New York, where he lived and worked until his death in 1974.

Psychodrama is not only used as a psychotherapeutic method, but it has also developed as a teaching method and it is generally applied to assist the participants to explore their lives, their relationships, their beliefs and their attitudes further.

Which are the basic elements of the method?

  • The group is the essential element of psychodrama because it is the group which represents the society that all scenes through which the protagonist explores his theme, take place.
  • The protagonist is the person who in a particular psychodramatic session will explore his theme.
  • The director is the trained psychodramatist who will direct the session.
  • The therapeutic contract is what the protagonist and the director agree to work on and is based on the protagonist’s need.
  • The stage is the space in which psychodrama takes place with the enactment of various scenes of the protagonist’s life as if they are happing that very moment.
  • Role reversal is the technique used so that the protagonist teaches the roles to the auxiliary egos and experiences the reality from the perspective of these roles.
  • The auxiliary egos are members of the group who play the roles that exist in a certain scene. They are chosen by the protagonist. The roles that are played can be roles related to real people (mother, brother, etc), or emotions (anger, sadness, joy, etc), or even sensations (uneasiness, withdrawal, etc).
  • Catharsis is the moment where the protagonist expresses some suppressed feeling that has blocked him in his life and makes him feel liberated.
  • Sharing is the last phase of a psychodrama session where the members of the group share their thoughts and emotions from the role they were playing or any personal experience connected to the drama that was enacted.
What is the aim of psychodrama?
  • Helps the protagonist realize the behaviours, feelings and dysfunctional beliefs that feed his problems in the relationships he structures within himself and with the environment.
  • Helps the protagonist see where these behaviours and feelings come from and how the dysfunctional beliefs are settled within him.
  • Gives the protagonist the opportunity to express suppressed feelings.
  • Gives the protagonist the opportunity to re-examine his thoughts and attitudes towards a problem and adopt a spontaneous response.
  • Brings people closer and helps them relate in deep way through the exchange of true feelings of solidarity.

What does Moreno really mean by spontaneity?

Moreno mentions that spontaneity is the catalytic arch to creativity. Spontaneity is:

1. A new reaction to an old situation, instead of an old, stereotype reaction.
2. An adequate reaction to a new situation, instead of a lack of reaction just because the situation is new.
3. An adequate reaction as a combination of the old and the new.

Structure of a typical classical psychodrama session

Warm up: an exercise used to detect material for psychodramatic work.
Selection of protagonist: a sociometric exercise to find the shared theme of the group.
Contract: a therapeutic agreement with the protagonist.
- 1st scene: a recent scene of the protagonist’s life in which the problem exists.
- 2nd scene: an older scene that related to the problem as it has been reframed.
- 3rd scene (locus scene): the scene where the problem was born.
- 4th scene (training scene): re-enactment of the first scene in which the protagonist now tries a new reaction to an old situation.
Sharing: group members share their personal experiences, related to the drama, with the protagonist.
Processing: analysis of the drama and role analysis (only for training psychodramatists).


The psychologist and psychodramatist Dr. Smaroula Pandelis, is directing on going psychodrama groups that meet weekly. She is also organizing and directing one or two day workshops for people interested to know more about psychodrama through their personal experience.