Humanistic Psychodrama

Hans-Werner Gessmann

In 1980, Hilarion Petzold classified psychodrama as a method in humanistic psychology. He thinks that psychodrama can be described as the “oldest method of humanistic psychotherapy and that Moreno, as the founder of psychodrama, can be seen as the doyen and most important pioneer of this movement. Moreno already introduced the most important concepts of humanistic psychology in the 1920s and 1930s developed long before ROGERS, PERLS, MASLOW and the many others of the “Third Force” had conceived their ideas and processes. Now it is indeed true that Moreno was a forerunner, stimulus, inspirer for some of the protagonists mentioned. He has However, he never expressly attributed himself to the emerging direction of humanistic psychology. Rather, it was important to him to establish Moreno psychodrama as an independent method of group psychotherapy – above all in contrast to psychoanalysis. He published his pioneering work in psychological group work in 1966 as ” Third psychiatric revolution”. The “third force” was not supposed to be humanistic psychology, but its psychodrama, its sociatry. J. L. Moreno stood in the way of the integration of his thoughts into a psychological movement with his personality and the associated claims to originality and authorship, his prophethood, his egotism. It seems to me that he didn’t want this at all. In his late work he developed a religious, cosmological world view. In 1959 he wrote: “The new values are of a cosmo-dynamic nature. The new life forces will flow to man from his cosmic connection.” (Moreno, p. 8)

Moreno’s classic psychodrama, represented here in Germany mainly by Grete LEUTZ, has meanwhile undergone new and further developments. The Moreno student Heike STRAUB made a first variation of the original setting: She incorporates much more group-dynamic approaches and methods from other psychotherapies into the psychodrama. The methods of psychodrama have been used again and again in psychoanalytic therapies. Adolf FRIEDEMANN in Switzerland and in France Serge LEBOVICI, later from 1950 Didier ANZIEU, BASQUIN, WIDLÖCHER and others. use psychodrama in a partially still orthodox psychoanalytical concept. ERDMANN and HENNE see similarities between MORENOS psychodrama and analytical psychology according to C. G. Jung, especially in the goal of the therapeutic process: One’s own being should be discovered in its entirety, an encounter with one’s own self, an increase in individual autonomy and sociability should be achieved. Social phenomena connect Alfred ADLER and J. L. MORENO, so that Adlerian therapists such as B. ANSBACHER, ACKERMANN, CORSINI and DREIKURS began to practice psychodramatic methods without resorting to MORENO’s theoretical concepts. Behavior therapy role plays were derived from MORENO’s interventional sociometric practice early in the 1940s by ZANDER and LIPITT. Since then, role-playing games have been used again and again to train desired behaviors. Under the influence of cognitive behavioral therapy and the multimodal approach of LAZARUS, role play gains in importance. From 1969, PETZOLD tried to combine psychodrama with behavioral therapy. He sees his “Behaviourdrama” as an expression of the specification of the behavioral therapy elements in psychodrama, just as he endeavors to work freely on the psychoanalytic elements of psychodrama. (Petzold in Völker, p. 211) The tetradic psychodrama is intended to integrate the various psychodrama directions. SCHÜTZENBERGER tries to unite the theories of FREUD, MORENO and LEWIN with the help of ROGER’s humanistic-psychological approaches. Her theoretical formulations remain confused, whereby her efforts to create an integrative psychodrama therapy can be seen. PETZOLD then – as he says – developed building blocks for an integrative drama therapy, thus founding the tetradic psychodrama by combining MORENO’s psychodrama, the therapeutic theater of IILJINE in connection with the gestalt and movement therapy. An initial phase is followed by an action phase, which in turn ends with an integration phase that ends with a phase of reorientation. In fact, he didn’t do more than add a role training phase to the classical drama of antiquity with its phases of protasis, peripeteia and lysis.

Humanistic psychodrama is a new form of psychodrama. After a return to MORENO’s original thoughts, after taking seriously what he wanted, a reformulation of ideas and theories began in Humanistic Psychodrama. It refers both to MORENO’s concepts and to new knowledge gained from the very intensive practice of humanistic psychodrama from 1980 to the present day. The integration into Humanistic Psychology made it necessary to re-evaluate and re-describe the goals and methods.

The focus has shifted to the individual responsibility of man for himself and for the community. The goal of self-realization of the individual is pursued together in the group and with the help of the group.

The human image of humanistic psychology is adopted:

• The belief in the possibilities of self-development and self-realization of the individual,

•  the own acceptance and the acceptance of the other group members,

• Hope and responsibility for a more humane life in this world,

• Renunciation of absolute claims to truth and authority.

Here every person is autonomous and at the same time socially integrated, he is responsible for his life.

For therapy in humanistic psychodrama, this means that the individual is called upon and able to learn and change in their social environment. It also means that he cannot be relieved of responsibility by the therapist by “treating” him from the outside, but can be encouraged to explore himself, to define his goals and to work towards them. The responsibility remains with the client. In the therapeutic process, the client experiences that he makes conscious choices and decisions and accepts sole responsibility for them. He makes the choice, for example, which topic he would like to work on in the group, in which scene his topic is represented and with which group members he would like to carry out the therapeutic work. Also, each member of a humanistic psychodrama group chooses the degree to which they bring their concerns into the group and work on them. The therapist has the professional competence to promote the change process. Since psychodramatic work is the expressive work of the individual in and with the help of the group, the group – like the therapist-client relationship – is of great importance, as it enables and shapes the expressive work as an auxiliary ego or double.

With the help of the therapist, the protagonist sets up a game scene in which the conflictual way of experiencing and processing situations becomes particularly clear. With his topic, the protagonist also represents thematic parts of the other group members. The warming-up phase at the beginning of a group session, which precedes the protagonist play, initially enables each group member to find their topic and bring it into the group process, so that a common expression can develop within the group. The warming phase is completed by the sociometric choice. The group chooses their protagonist. The choice of protagonists as a sociometric and thematic crystallization is determined by more or less known thematic shares of the group members. It manifests the thematic and sociometric links that took place during the warming phase. The group process focuses on a common work topic that is tied to a group member, thereby focusing the group’s attention. The choice of protagonist is thus a crystallizing compression of certain thematic parts of the group members. The protagonist game that follows represents an intensive form of communication with the group and is thus a component of the development of congruent relationship structures within the group. The portrayal and design of the protagonist is always a descriptive “conversation” with the group. The group participates in this “conversation” in a game-immanent manner through doubling and auxiliary I-play as well as in the concluding sharing. It is important which of the group members is selected by the protagonist as the auxiliary ego. The choice of the auxiliary ego is not arbitrary, but is based on a relationship that is emotionally and in terms of content a connection between the biographically present emotional state of the protagonist and sociometric topicality in the group. This means that the relationships in the group are not only to be understood as the foundation of the role play, but they also go into the role play.

The other players and the therapist support the protagonist in the psychodrama game in presenting his subjectively experienced truth and world of experience. It is not the task of the players to improvise in their roles as auxiliary egos or doubles, but they should take over the imaginary world of the protagonist by swapping roles and shape it in his interest, in his role design and role interpretation. The protagonist specifies the role by first concretizing the role of the auxiliary ego in a role reversal. The other players are introduced into the protagonist’s imaginary world as an auxiliary self, in order to then shape it in an empathetic way. For the protagonist, this gives rise to the unified feeling of being able to fulfill themselves to an ideal degree. He becomes the center, the most important person in his own world, he creates his own authority and competence. He begins to act freely, to structure his world creatively more effectively. Not only people from the social environment of the protagonist, but also thoughts, ideas and feelings can be represented by group participants in their role as auxiliary ego. This enables the protagonist to look at them from outside, to get to know them better, to deal with them, to modify them or to distance themselves from them.

By creating his world on stage, the protagonist discovers new aspects of his life situation,