bits of information on Psychodrama, Sociometry, Group Psychotherapy, associated subjects such as ro

bits of information on Psychodrama, Sociometry, Group Psychotherapy, associated subjects such as ro
From the Presentation: ACORNography: The Theories of J. L. Moreno and Others

Monday, December 13, 2021


The following comments are related to any group, individual, couple, or family session. 

Too much resistance will destroy any counseling session and will prevent positive actions. You have probably heard that: Resistance is due to an improper warm-up. 

In most cases, I agree. But there are times when I think that may not be true. Some situations that cause resistance can be difficult or impossible to overcome, such as: 

The sponsoring organization, paying your fee, requires each person in the group to work on an issue. This causes the protagonists to select issues in which they will not be involved.

Tell the group that they can work on anything from inability to keep a budget to anything else in their life that causes an issue. Generally, giving people the freedom to select a "simple" issue leads to deeper issues. 

The group selects a protagonist who is not warmed-up.

Once it is realized that the protagonist is not and cannot be warmed-up, let that person take a seat and have the group work on selecting a new protagonist. A poor choice for protagonist indicates your group members don't know each other and are not warmed-up enough to properly choose a protagonist. It is best to do a group warm-up rather than immediately finding another protagonist. 

The protagonist gets involved with the issue but is unwilling to confront their antagonist. And nothing you can do will generate the protagonist's spontaneity.

Ask the protagonist if this has happened somewhere else in their life. With a positive reply, go to that scene. If there is a negative response, end the psychodrama and share. 

The protagonist believes that what they do in a psychodrama must be repeated with their antagonist. 

In the many psychodramas I’ve seen and directed, I have never heard the director (myself included) say that what the protagonist explores in a psychodrama does not have to be done outside the group. I intend on changing that. 

The clear message is: “What you explore in your psychodrama is for learning. It is for you to experience old situations and replace old behaviors with new behaviors. It is your choice to try the new behaviors outside of this group." 

Hopefully, those statements will reduce resistance. I believe there will always be some resistance; that it can never be totally eliminated. 

     (It’s hard for our ego to believe that we cannot warm-up everyone.)

When there is too much resistance, do another warm-up where group members interact with each other and share in-depth personal information. Do not do what could promote transference or anything that could be considered a "game".

And, of course, you can say that all of the above examples are the result of an improper warm-up.

More about resistance, next time, somewhere around the holidays.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Distant Socializing

My wife, Joann, heard a radio commentator say, “'Social distancing' is an incorrect term, it should be called 'distant socializing'”. A thoughtful comment and a clear definition. 

Isolation and the Isolate 
As we are learning to stay away from people to protect others and ourselves from the virus, some say we are isolating ourselves. "Isolation" is becoming a catchword. 

J.L. Moreno wrote a lot about our connections with others and explored that well with principles he named, Sociometry. He defined an isolate as someone who neither chooses nor is chosen by others. I would add that if we believe we are an isolate, then we are. There have been a few times in my life when I experienced that and it was miserable and depressing. Since learning Sociometry, I’ve been conscious to avoid being an isolate. 

The state of isolation may not be related to being an isolate as indicated by Moreno's definition. Perhaps distancing is a better word than isolation. 

As many of you, I miss communicating with others. The number and length of my calls are increasing. So is my email writing. We need to contact others to prevent them from becoming isolates. In so doing, we prevent ourselves from becoming isolates. We can call, write emails and letters, or use video communication for our acquaintances, friends, relatives, shut-ins, and clients. 

A while back, I received the following complete with string from Paul Lesnik that he says is an “unabashed infomercial”. I call it a gift.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Who Selects the Protagonist (or Group Focus)?

Structured or natural warm-ups are essential to generate potential protagonists (or, when not a psychodrama group, a person for the group's focus.) Group members need to hear all volunteers' issues in order to make an appropriate selection. If someone is not clear in expressing what he/she wants to work on, the director helps clarify the issue.

The psychodrama is not for the director. 
The psychodrama is for the group. 

The person most-selected is the protagonist and represents the group theme, I'm opposed to the director selecting a protagonist who may not embody the group's needs.

I believe the director must generate personal
spontaneity to be able to work with anyone.

There are exceptions to the group's choosing, especially when the director has asked for, and received, permission from the group to make the selection. The director's request should be made well in advance, before the warm-up for the psychodrama (or other group activity).

Be aware that the director has a position of power and the group may be afraid to go against what the director wants. An additional problem is that the director may select someone who has no warm-up and will never get one because of his/her anxiety when selected in this manner.

In another situation, when addressing the group, the director can state that people can volunteer to have a psychodrama (or be the focus of the group); on a first-come, first-served basis. This is an excellent test of the director's spontaneity. The director must activate his/her warm-up, have the skills to interview and find an issue, move into action, complete the action, and conduct the sharing. I have great respect for those willing to direct.

Avoid creating a group norm wherein every group member must have a psychodrama (or is the group focus). Often people learn more by watching psychodramas than by being protagonists. Some group members may not have an issue to work on or lack a warm-up due to high anxiety. Trying to force these people to work will likely result in a poor psychodrama. It is very important for everyone to share, especially those who have not had a psychodrama, otherwise they may be isolated or rejected.

The inverse is also a problem. There are psychodrama "hogs". These people are always volunteering to work. They may be psychodrama wise and know just what to say to be selected as protagonist. My wife said, "The first person who cries gets selected as protagonist." And there are people who can turn on the tears in an instant. They are over-selected to the detriment of others in the group. The director must be able to circumvent such behavior so that the group process belongs to all of its members.

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Friday, March 1, 2019

Role Training

At the 2018 ASGPP Conference, I attended a workshop where the presenter said that role training consisted of three parts in the following order: role taking, role playing, and role creating. In my training with Carl and Sharon [now Beekman] Hollander, I was taught the order was role playing, role taking, and role creating. I contacted Sharon and she said that my understanding of the order was the order in which she taught role training.

So why the confusion? I think it relates to the three concepts of role theory:

Sociology says that a role is prescribed and doesn’t include characteristics of people. A particular position is called a role. If a person occupies that position then he/she has that role.

Social psychology talks about people and their position that composes the role. This concept expects a person to exhibit certain qualities while occupying a particular position.

The historical concept was proposed by Moreno and says roles begin at birth, continue to evolve thereafter, and are directly related to tasks. We become who we are based on a certain number of tasks we have. Roles such as mother, teacher, brother, soldier, doctor, etc., are not considered as titles. The role is defined by a grouping of tasks and behaviors that fit within the tasks. For instance, the stereotypical househusband role has tasks of cooking, washing, cleaning, and raising children.

In the above, sociology and social psychology say that if you occupy a position, you automatically have that role. Social psychology also states you must meet certain qualities. Roles in both are titles; if you fill the position you "take" that role and I think this leads to the aforementioned confusion. 

In opposition Moreno says to have a role, you have to work for it. You must meet certain tasks and have certain behaviors. It is impossible in Moreno’s historical definition for a person to take a role, fully formed, without first playing the role and learning the necessary tasks and behaviors required to fit into the role.

The whole of a psychodrama leads to role training. In almost all psychodramas (and maybe all), the protagonists are faced with situations where they are incapable of handling some aspect of their lives. Once the emotional problems are revealed, it shows that the protagonists do not have the skills to deal with similar issues. This is why role training is so important. We must help them find new ways of dealing with old and new situations. Does that sound like a partial definition of spontaneity? Protagonists cannot automatically take a role, they must role-play it.

The way a person role-plays a role is based on prior observation of others in that role, elements of personal experience, and learning in the psychodrama. After role playing has reached a certain level, role taking occurs, or if it does not fit the person, the role is rejected. Once role taking is done, the individual creates in that role, adding new elements and casting out elements that don’t work; making it fit the protagonist’s personality. If role creating does not occur, the role becomes stale and rigid, even dysfunctional. In some psychodramas, protagonists may only experience role playing and, briefly, role taking and role creating. Protagonists are left to complete the role training process in another psychodrama or outside the group.

Learning new ways in role training is necessary and can be a vital experience for the protagonist and the whole group. 

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From Ann Hale March 2nd, 2019

My take, as in my book, is that role taking is the beginning, enacting the proscribed role from our culture. Moreno thought of this role taking as a "springboard" to action which comes from imagining the role as different from what has been given...when we begin to warmup to the role in new ways, i.e. role playing. Leaving the cultural conserve (role taking) we build momentum, more and more infusions of spontaneity, and either being thrust into role creating, or retreating to the cultural conserve, not able to play it forward.

I see the cultural conserve as left brain, and the role playing, role creating as right brain activity.

My response to Ann, March 3rd, 2019

Ann, I understand what you wrote. Our differences relate to the way I was trained by Carl and Sharon Hollander and the way I think about role training. For instance, suppose my culture says that my role is a doctor. There is no way I can just take that role. I must first play it and learn what it is about and perform the tasks associated with the role. That learning process leads to role taking, the cultural conserve. Once a significant number of tasks have been completed (I can’t know everything), I take the role. I must then create in it to avoid a rigid cultural conserve.

I want to stress that what I am writing about is a process, role training, and it is used to teach people how to assume and handle a role.

Suppose in a psychodrama, a woman has been tightly controlled by her husband for years and learns that in action. Now she must find a different way of dealing with him. She can’t immediately take the assertive wife role, she must learn about it. We set up a scene that allows her to practice assertiveness. To me that is role playing, not role taking. As the psychodrama progresses, she will learn what tasks are necessary for her to complete before she can take the role. When the tasks are completed she is able to take the role. And, again, to avoid rigidity, she must create within the role.

One of my first self-directed roles was architect. All I knew about an architect was that an architect designed buildings. I couldn’t begin to perform in that role; I couldn’t take it, so I had to play it. I had completed some tasks, such as freehand and mechanical drawing, math, and English that helped me when I studied architecture. However, there were many tasks I knew nothing about: architectural drawing, functional planning, building aesthetics, construction contracts, and structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering. I had to learn them. In the five-year educational process, I worked in an architectural office and learned about that—role playing. Upon graduating, I was still role playing as an architect. I was required to do an apprenticeship for three years and then pass a four-day exam. When I passed the damn thing, I was still role playing because I had no clients who wanted to build a building. A client eventually came and it was then that I took the role. Providing architectural services for a variety of buildings is an example of creating within the role.

The way Carl and Sharon taught role training was acceptable to Moreno. Your definition of role taking seems to fit more with Social Psychology than with Moreno’s historical concept that must include completion of tasks (role playing) before the role is taken.

Your mention of role taking as a “springboard” fits with my explanation of changing a conserve in the section, “The Canon of Creativity Reconsidered”, p. 399-409 in my book. I even used the word, springboard, because Carl used it and I could not think of another word.

You and I know that Moreno changed his thinking a lot and gave conflicting information but did he change to your understanding or to mine or did he accept both?

Shortly after responding to Ann, I received the following from Dale Buchannan: 

Thoughts About Role Development by Dale Richard Buchanan, March 2019
My appreciation to Bill Wysong who posted a blog on his unique interpretation of role development that goes from role playing to role taking to role creating. His blog motivated and inspired me to write a posting about Moreno’s classical hypothesis that role development proceeds through the stages of role taking, role playing and role creating. 
In my work with Nina Garcia we stress that the four cornerstones of psychodrama are: role theory, sociometry, the theory of spontaneity /creativity and psychodrama/sociodrama intervention constructs. While each can be used independently, Moreno envisioned them as interdependent parts of an organic whole.
As such if we view the constructs of role development though these interdependent cornerstones for example it might look like: role development (role taking, role playing and role creating), social atom, the Canon Of Creativity, catharsis and psychodramatic or sociodramatic role training. 
I will not go though all the complexities of role theory and practice in this posting. However, first I would like to remind everyone that Thomas & Biddle (1966) considered Moreno to be the founder of role theory. He authored and created many of the terms and constructs of role theory long before other fields become aware of and interested in role theory.
As defined by Moreno, roles are the actual and tangible forms that the ego takes. In a functioning person there are always roles that are ascending and descending. There is a learning curve or stages of development for this process and Moreno believed that those stages were role taking/training, role playing and role creating.
There is a learning curve or stages of development for all roles and Moreno believed the arc of this pattern begins with role taking and proceeds to role playing and role creating. Role taking refers to an enactment of the role in a routinized, somewhat stilted way. It is the bare bones of the role and often performed with great anxiety and unease. The cultural conserve of the role is either experienced outside of the individual through instructions given by an employer, teacher, or peer group or internally through that individual’s perception of the role as dictated by family of origin, cultural influences and peers. Role playing is when the individual gains more confidence and ease in performing the role. As the individual plays with the role they will begin to have less anxiety in the new role and begin to embody the role with greater degrees of spontaneity and creativity. Finally, when they have mastered the rudiments of the role and have become comfortable enacting it, they are ready to move into the phase of role creating. Role creating is when the individual infuses the role with such a high degree of spontaneity and creativity they have added new aspects to the role or transformed the role to such a degree that the role enactment becomes a model or cultural conserve for others. Individuals embrace the role creating stage when their peers or social atom acknowledge the role they created as something new or novel and becomes a new cultural conserve for that social atom. Very few people create a role that defines the role for the culture. Those that do are usually public figures often with just one name – Oprah, Obama, Cher and Pele.
For Moreno role development was much broader than what happens in a psychodrama or sociodrama session. Let us look at an example of a new waitperson at an established restaurant. A new waitperson named Pat is told to follow a script when approaching customers, “Hello, Welcome to Mario’s Italian Restaurant. I’d like to tell you about our specials this evening, We have the line caught salmon, the Quacker Duck in Orange Sauce, and an aged Angus sirloin. May I get you a beverage while you look over the menu?” After dinner is served, the waitperson is instructed to ask if the customers would like to look at the dessert tray.
After working their a few weeks the manager tells Pat that they are doing a good job and to keep up the good work. By this time Pat is more confident and comfortable in the role of waiter and begins to add new elements to the role or transforms the role Pat now says, “Welcome to Mario’s Italian Restaurant. I’d like to tell you about our specials this evening. We have the line caught fresh salmon which is absolutely fabulous, and a Quacker Duck in Orange sauce that will leave you quacking for more, and finally our house favorite is an aged Angus sirloin cooked to your specification.” 
Not all waitpersons progress from role playing to role creating, but any excellent restaurant will have more than one role creating waitperson. After a few months, customers who come into the restaurant are asking to be seated in Pat’s section. Pat has added a few more changes. After giving the daily specials Pat adds, “for those of who are vegan or might enjoy a non meat/diary option we have a spectacular field mushroom medley over home made vegan pasta.” At the end of the meal Pat says “I took the liberty to take over our dessert tray – all of these desserts are homemade fresh daily and our cheesecake is legendary. If you are too full to enjoy a desert by yourself may I suggest you get one or two to share with the table.” 
At last the manager notices that PAT is a “star” among other waitpersons. More customers ask for PAT and PAT has the highest average sales of all the waitpersons. New waitpersons are assigned to shadow Pat as Pat instructs and serves as a model for the new waitpersons.
While only the exceptional person may create a new role for our cultural (i.e. Moreno created the roles of psychodrama director and psychodrama auxiliary) each of us has an opportunity to transform or add to existing roles so that they become cultural conserves for our social atom. Your partner may be the “ideal” mate for you, your friend Sally may be the funniest person you know and Sid may make the best-grilled fish that you have ever eaten. In highly functional social atoms it is entirely possible to have many individuals rather than none or just one who excel in role creating the same “generic” role but do so in an exceptional way. In this highly functional social atom you too will be a role creator for others in your social atom. In highly dysfunctional social atoms it is also possible for no one to reach the stage of role creating as this social atom is based on scarcity, fear and anxiety. If this is true it’s time for you to create a new social atom. Psychodrama and sociodrama can help us transform or create new social atoms. These processes were created to help people dream new roles or new ways of being, to find new auxiliaries who will help us sustain and create these new roles, to help persons give birth to these new roles, to help persons nurture and support these new roles and help persons put some old roles to rest (e.g., the perfectionist, the warrior, the cynical and sarcastic doubter), or to transform or “retire” them (the martyr, the savior, Peter Pan, etc.). 
Some authoritarian systems or social atoms are steeped in scarcity, fear, and anxiety and there is only room for one role creator and few people advance beyond role taking. Moreno encouraged us to spread the sociometric wealth. We are fortunate and blessed that, for the most part, our psychodrama community is based upon abundance, love and light. Consequently each of us knows many role creators who have added to and transformed the roles of trainer, educator, clinician, scholar, director, and auxiliary.
Moreno, J. L. (1961). The Role Concept: A Bridge between Psychiatry and Sociology. American Journal of Psychiatry.118, 518-522
One of the clearest articles that Moreno ever wrote. This article describes and discusses the psychiatric role concept; the history of the term role; the definition of role, the constructs of role and the function of role. The article defines and discusses the terms role playing, role perception, role enactment, and role pathology. He also elaborates on the co-unconscious.
Moreno, J. L. (1964). Role Theory and Role Practice. In Psychodrama: Volume I. Beacon, NY: Beacon House, Inc., 153-160.
In this chapter from Psychodrama: Volume I, Moreno discusses the relationship between roles, spontaneity, intelligence and self (ego), and offers several available methods for measuring roles. Two main components of roles, i.e. role perception and role enactment, are analyzed.
Thomas, E. J. & Biddle, B. J. (Eds.) (1966). Role Theory: Concepts and Research. NY: John Wiley & Sons

Monday, September 10, 2018

Monodrama (Autodrama)

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In my book, The Psychodrama Companion, I briefly described a monodrama, (also called an autodrama). It is in the "Warm-up Expanded" chapter and suggests its use as a warm-up, which can lead to a psychodrama enactment. It can be done with an audience or alone.

In a monodrama, the protagonist plays all roles; self, the director, the double, and the auxiliary egos. No other person is used on stage. The protagonist calls for role reversals, uses props, does self-presentations, and speaks when in double and auxiliary roles. This is especially good to use in training sessions to test the spontaneity of the trainees.

While in training, I did a personal monodrama that examined how my father's death inhibited my moving forward in life. While soliloquizing I pulled a heavy duffel bag around the stage to indicate how his death impeded my progress.

A second personal monodrama dealt with my smoking habit. It explored the comforting, relaxing experience when smoking and also the harmful effects. In a final role reversal when I said I wanted to quit, my cigarettes told me to go to hell. That angered me enough to quit. It's strange how anger is so motivating.

I've had clients do monodramas in relation to how they fit into their family, workplace, and social situations; in short, their social atoms and sociometry.

This warm-up/intervention/enactment is quite versatile; provides psychodramatists with a lot of information; and can lead in many directions whether in a group, individual, couple, or family session.

It's important for group members to share 
with people who have done a monodrama.

For ordering information about The Psychodrama Companion see a blog several postings below or contact me:

Discovering New Worlds: Transformational Advances in Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy -

Please join us for our 77th Annual Conference, on May 2-5, 2019 at the Manchester Downtown Hotel, Manchester, NH. Visit for more information.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Hidden Twins

Olivia Lousada, a psychodrama friend of mine in London has created a website, It includes a video of a modern dance choreographed by her. The dance represents and communicates the relationship between opposite sex twins. She has also written a book about that relationship.

This presents a different form of a psychodrama. As creativity and spontaneity are explored, I am continually struck by the beauty, expansiveness, and wonderful differences of the modality.

You can use dance as a warm-up. Have group members use movement and "dance out" something from their life. To help those with no rhythm, have everyone dance at the same time, which gives the dance-challenged encouragement and helps them hide a little. The important element is for people to re-experience something from their lives.

The dance warm-up can be expanded. Ask for volunteers (protagonists) to dance out a part of their life. Auxiliary ego and double dancers can be added. Use role reversals and other psychodrama interventions. Direct it as with any psychodrama. You can do a director's interview to determine the gist of the dance; it's time, place, circumstance, and auxiliary egos. It's important to either dance in silence or with words and sounds.

            I'm sure you will enjoy the video mentioned in the first paragraph. 
                                            Moreno would approve.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

All Done By Kindness

The following poster was one used by David Devant, perhaps England's greatest 20th Century magician and one of the world's best.

It may be hard to read but below Devant's name is a slogan, "All done by kindness."

That brought to mind what my primary psychodrama trainer, Carl Hollander, said: "Be kind and you will have a good psychodrama."

Carl was not talking about being soft. He knew the director must impel protagonists to expose their deepest issues, purge them, find understanding, integrate the experience, learn new ways of dealing with the issues, and move on in life.

We show kindness by being tough, not mean. That may require that we make the protagonists uncomfortable. A catharsis is not comfortable and many of our protagonists need to reach the catharsis of abreaction in order to break out of the morass of the past.

We fail our protagonists if we are not tough enough to help them through their psychodramatic process.

(A larger image of the Devant poster can be found online at

Sunday, April 2, 2017

About Groups: Election Results

J.L. Moreno observed the following sociometric principles of groups. With this information you can determine why Donald Trump won the election and why Hillary Clinton lost. However, this blog is not about politics, but is an analysis of groups. It is not meant to be a forum for political beliefs. These principles were included in my new textbook, The Psychodrama Companion, now available (only in the U.S.) at

Sociodynamic Effect
People in power will find others to add to, or maintain, their power. 
Essentially, “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” Just observe the political process, corporate environment, or motorcycle gang. Clinton attracted a certain constituency to add to her power but ignored others. Trump added those others to his power.
Law of Social Gravitation 
People move toward others who generate their spontaneity. 
Those who generate our spontaneity have roles or counter-roles that we want. Think about people who attract you and analyze the situation based on this law. Your spontaneity will attract others but you must generate their spontaneity if you wish to keep them. Trump generated the spontaneity of people who felt disenfranchised.
Sociometric Cleavage 
A group out of power will disrupt a group in power. 
When the Sociodynamic Effect reaches a certain point, people at the “bottom” will revolt if they are not heard, if the group is going in an undesirable direction, or if there are too many rules. The group will then split into factions and each will try to take over the leadership. Not only did the people out of power disrupt those in power, they took the power.

These principles can happen on a smaller scale, for instance, in your groups. That is why the knowledge of Sociometry is so important.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Thoughtful Thoughts To Think About

Perhaps the empty chair should be called the "projection chair." We imagine someone in the chair and project that image upon the chair. The primary mechanism of transference is projection. Does that mean we in transference with a chair?

I recently finished reading John Nolte's book, The Philosophy, Theory and Methods of J.L. Moreno: the man who tried to become God. It is excellent and I can't recommend it highly enough. I believe it is the best book written about the subjects of the title.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Cornerstone of All Forms of Group Psychotherapy

Moreno wrote in Who Shall Survive? (1934, page xxx; revised edition 1953) the following that are divided into several parts for your contemplation:

"Four aspects of group psychotherapy struck me already then; they became later the cornerstones of all forms of group psychotherapy:
1)   the autonomy of the group;

2)   that there is a group structure and the need for knowing more about it, group diagnosis as a preliminary to group psychotherapy;

3)   the problem of collectivity; prostitution represents a collective order with patterns of behavior, roles and mores which colors the situation independent from the private participants and the local group;

4)   the problem of the anonymity. When a client is treated within the framework of individual therapy, he is alone with the doctor, his ego is the only focus, he has a name, his psyche is highly valued private property. But in group psychotherapy there is a tendency towards anonymity of membership, the boundaries between the egos weaken, the group as a whole becomes the important thing."

Who Shall Survive? is available on line at Click on "RESOURCES". The following screen has a title, "Books". There you will find Who Shall Survive? and    many other titles.