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

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Missing the Protagonist

I know of two times a psychodrama was done when the protagonist was not present and a substitute was used. Huh? Isn’t the protagonist supposed to be there? Isn’t that important? Isn’t the psychodrama about the protagonist’s issue, not about the substitute’s problems?

That would be like doing sit-and-talk therapy with a stand-in client.

This is difficult to explain. At the first instance a therapist portrayed her client (who was not there) as the protagonist in the psychodrama. The therapist was not the protagonist, her portrayal of her client was the protagonist. The second instance: a client portrayed another client as protagonist. Again the portrayed person was not present. How screwed up are these?

In the first instance, if the therapist had problems with the client, then the therapist must be the protagonist.

In the second instance, if the client (A) had problems with another client (B) then (A) should be the protagonist and work on his/her issue when, preferably, (B) is present.

Both of the missing protagonist examples were dismal failures. These so-called psychodramas cannot be supported by any theory. Remember that the psychodrama is a learning experience for the group and the group could not get emotionally involved with these messes. Only frustration and anger were the results. I bet you don’t want those feelings in any group.



  1. Bill --

    I'm wondering whether or not these would really be considered more as "sociodramas." Our trial lawyer group frequently uses story re-enactment to help us understand the emotional underpinnings of our cases. We don't usually have the client or witness present, but we do use what the lawyer already knows about the facts of a case to delve into issues such as what a witness' motivation might be, how a judge would respond to a particular trial tactic, how an injury has affected a client's life, etc, etc, etc.

    The technique of re-enacting scenes is not one taught to lawyers in law school. However, lawyers who have attended the Trial Lawyers College, led by Gerry Spence, routinely use this method to work up their cases. Not all of us may have been in a hit & run accident, but we've all experienced betrayal on some level. Story re-enactment enables the lawyer to uncover different layers of "truth" or perhaps a better word would be "plausible surplus reality." It allows us to arrive at different possibilities of action, motivation and bias that would be hard to get to by staying in our heads and approaching cases from a logical/intellectual perspective.

    I know that many lawyers can attest to getting information from these re-enactments that was very helpful for example, in terms of how they approached a jury about an issue or in terms of understanding a client's losses better. So even though these reenactments may not have a psychodynamic or therapeutic element, they have contributed to a greater understanding of all things human.

    I would be remiss if I did not mention that our lawyers group has used psychodrama to explore our group member/protagonist's feelings of incompetence, worry, anger and loss. Those dramas are in the usual psychodramatic tradition of exploring feelings and possibilities in action, leading to greater spontaneity and understanding of the individual and the group.

  2. LawyerLady:

    Thanks so much for your comments. You asked if the incidences I wrote about would be considered sociodrama. My answer would be "no" because psychodramas and sociodramas require the protagonists to be present. My blog indicated that the protagonists were not present.

    From Moreno's Who Shall Survive?: "Sociodrama has been defined as a deep action method dealing with inter-group relations and collective ideologies." Psychodrama focuses on the individual, sociodrama focuses on the group. Essentially the group is the protagonist in a sociodrama.

    While my wife and I were driving to Yellowstone, I noticed the sign for TLC. I knew of TLC from John Nolte, one of the original psychodrama trainers. We decided to see what it was like and traveled that long bumpy, dirt road. We were warmly welcomed and were introduced as psychodramatists. None of the psychodrama trainers (we know most of them) were there. However, the lawyers were practicing skills learned in the psychodrama sessions. We watched for awhile, and when asked, offered advice. What we saw would be labeled "role play" because the lawyers were not working as a protagonist as in a psychodrama and the group was not working on a common theme as in a sociodrama.

    If the group of lawyers had as a theme (forgive the simplistic example) "anxiety when presenting an argument in court" and that was put into action on the stage with all TLC student lawyers participating—not just giving advice—that would be a sociodrama. The anxiety could be examined with examples such as: presenting before an unfriendly judge, lack of preparation, tiredness, formidable opponents, reluctant client, and other situations.

    Often a person in the sociodrama group identifies an emotional issue that inhibits his/her life. That can later be handled in a psychodrama. For example: A lawyer's issue is that she becomes intimidated when speaking in court. The psychodrama could reveal that as a 10-year-old, she was humiliated by the teacher when doing a presentation to the class. I have personally directed psychodrama with similar scenarios: humiliation of the protagonists by a person in authority.

    When a lawyer does a role play, others analyze the situation. They provide input as to how the client may be feeling which helps the lawyer understand the client's experience and offer suggestions for a better court presentation. TLC is a great education for lawyers and if ever I go to court, I'll hire a TLC grad.

    Another important element of psychodramas and sociodramas is sharing after the action is finished. This is not present in a role play.

    Again thanks for your comments. .....Bill

  3. LawyerLady please contact me at I have some information for you unrelated to this post. Thanks, Bill