Compiled by Sarah Gibbs
October 2008
used in Bio 245


Psychodrama is a method of group psychotherapy in which a person enacts the problems and relevant events in their life, instead of just talking about them. This method integrates cognitive analysis with experiential and participatory involvement.  Psychodrama was originated by Jacob Levy Moreno, M.D., in 1921. His philosophy was based on the vitalizing force of spontaneity and creativity in life, which he developed initially from his observations of children at play. Although a contemporary of Freud, Moreno felt the focus of psychotherapy should include not just the self, but the self in relationship to others. He believed that the principles of encounter, group dynamics, action methods in therapy, and spontaneity, along with other approaches he developed, were valuable contributions to psychology, sociology, and philosophy. Moreno also developed the concept of sociometry, which seeks to explore and understand the roles that individuals choose to play throughout their lives. He defined sociometry as "the inquiry into the evolution and organization of groups and the position of individuals within them." He goes on to write "The ...science of group organization -it attacks the problem not from the outer structure of the group, the group surface, but from the inner structure. Sociometric explorations reveal the hidden structures that give a group its form: the alliances, the subgroups, the hidden beliefs, the forbidden agendas, the ideological agreements, the ‘stars’ of the show."


Sociometry has two main branches: research sociometry, and applied sociometry. Research sociometry is action research with groups exploring the socio-emotional networks of relationships using specified criteria, e.g. Who in this group do you want to sit beside you at work? Who in the group do you go to for advice on a work problem? Who in the group do you see providing satisfying leadership in the pending project? Sometimes called network explorations, research sociometry is concerned with relational patterns in small (individual and small group) and larger populations, such as organizations and neighborhoods. Applied sociometrists utilize a range of methods to assist people and groups review, expand and develop their existing psycho-social networks of relationships. Both fields of sociometry exist to produce, through their application, greater spontaneity and creativity of both individuals and groups. Trained in psychodramatic methods, integrating thinking, feeling and action aspects of behavior, sociometrists practice in the fields of psychology, counseling, executive leadership, community and organization development.


Who can benefit from sociometric and psychodramatic therapeutic methods:

            - Adults

            - Adolescents

            - Elderly clients

            - Prison inmates

            - Families

            - Trauma/abuse victims

            - Drug/alcohol addicts

            - Clients with eating disorders and other self-harming behaviors

            - Terminally ill clients

            - Grieving clients

            - Psychotic clients

            - May be difficult to use with younger children.



            - Can be very emotionally powerful

            - Vividly experiential

            - Acting and doing vs. thinking and talking

            - Offers support of group environment

            - Flexible, creative

            - Adaptive to many client populations




            - Can be very emotionally powerful!

            - Proper use requires extensive training and certification

            - Clients may resist

            - Requires multiple participants, not really used with individual clients

            - Limited empirical research on method




ACT HUNGER: The desire to move an action towards completion, often stemming from painful experiences and unfinished business.

includes those present who are not playing a specific role in the psychodrama enactment.

the term for those who participate, other than the protagonist and director in the psychodrama. The auxiliary usually portrays someone in the protagonist's life, the part of a fantasized figure, an inanimate object, an abstract concept or collective stereotype, or acts as a DOUBLE.


CATHARSIS: A purging of emotion, usually triggered by events occurring in the action phase of a psychodrama; that can lead to change and psychic integration. Any member of the drama can have a catharsis: protagonist, auxiliary, audience member.

a group is instructed to repeat certain phrases during the action, like a Greek chorus. This technique can deepen the protagonist's experience or help move him toward a healthier integration.

gives the participants (protagonist, auxiliaries) the opportunity to "de-role" by talking about their experiences and distancing themselves from the role. Can also include audience members.

the process of transforming general issues into a specific scene or metaphors into actualities, i.e. concretizing a "pain in the neck". Helps to convert abstract statements/issues into something more concrete that can be addressed.


DIRECTOR:  Facilitates the psychodrama process; usually the therapist conducting the group.

the auxiliary who stimulates interaction by facilitating the portrayal of the psychological experience to its fullest, and who provides support in presenting the protagonist's position or feelings. The double also serves as vehicle to give more effective suggestions and interpretations to the protagonist.

the group carries on an honest discussion of the protagonist, emphasizing positive qualities only, while the protagonist faces the group and listens.

: an empty chair represents the significant other in an enactment, with which the protagonist may converse or interact. Often used in Gestalt therapy.

the portrayal of life situations in dramatic form and the physical enactment of encounters that have existed only in their memories or fantasies. Enactments can be of the past, the present, the future, dreams, or fantasies.

the protagonist watches while the role he portrayed is replayed by an auxiliary. This is "live" video playback.

the person plays all the parts of the enactment. The benefits are access to the protagonist's viewpoint and it broadens the protagonist's perspective through role reversal. It can also be used in individual therapy.

the person playing the principal role in an enactment.
scenes are reenacted with changes in order to experience more ventilation, a happier ending, a more effective strategy, a desensitized response, etc.

the goal of role playing is usually to work out alternative and more effective approaches to a general problem; often used in business, medicine and education.

the major participants in an interaction change roles. It is effective for demonstrating to the auxiliaries how the role is to be played. It is also appropriate to use in helping the protagonist empathize with the other person's point of view.


SCULPTURE: The protagonist arranges group members in a physical representation of an aspect of his/her life; can be used with families.


SOCIAL ATOM: a diagram or picture that represents the relationships between the self and all individuals (or issues) with whom we are emotionally related.


(ACTION) SOCIOGRAM: The acting out of an individual's social atom by members of the group.

a form of psychodramatic enactment that aims at clarifying group themes rather than focusing on an individual's issues.

The study of the attractions and repulsions of social interaction. Sociometric exercises can be used as a method of measuring the interpersonal relationships in a group which is used as a warm-up for group interactions.

a method of action sociometry. The group demonstrates how they feel about an issue in the group by placing themselves on an invisible line in the room. It helps in objectifying and clarifying unconscious problems.

the area in which the enactment takes place.

the enactment of scenes that represent hopes, fears, and unfinished psychological business that may be experienced as being almost more "real" than the events of everyday life.


TELE: A form of reciprocal empathy, and according to the tenets of sociometry, the most basic human bond. An unconscious and immediate connection experienced between two people, usually formed without verbal interaction; can be used as the basis for choosing actors in a psychodrama.

techniques used to develop group cohesion, focus a group on its task, or create a special atmosphere, orientation, or theme in a group. Can also lead to protagonist choice. Sample exercises:


- Individuals "introduce" themselves to the group as another person in their life (e.g. "I'm Sarah's sister Liza, and I'd like to tell you about her.") Can also introduce one's inner child to the group. The director may conduct interviews with the introducer or the inner child.


- Have group members pair up and observe each other acting out a childhood event or behavior, followed by sharing of observations and discoveries.


- Guided imagery, spectogram, or creating social atoms, followed by sharing


- Sociometric exercises to promote tele awareness, such as instructing group members to place a hand on the person they feel is most like them, most like a family member, would most like to know more about, etc. Follow with sharing.







Social Atom:

            - A diagrammatic representation of the self in relation to other people and

               life events, as well as the emotional nature of those relationships.

            - A tool for understanding life relationships

            - A basis for exploring sociometric dynamics in groups (psychodrama)

            - Clarifies the present, can create jumping-off point for change.


To notice: erasures, changes, distances, sizes, overlaps, omissions, etc.


Social Atom Notational System:


=      female


=       male





=       non-human organism (i.e. pet), problem, event, obstacle, etc.



=      deceased male


=      deceased female


=       attraction/positive feelings


=       repulsion/negative feelings


=      indifference/neutral feelings















Types of Atoms (as many as you can think up!):


            - Developmental

            - Future/Fantasy

            - Relationship to Food, Drugs, Alcohol

            - Family of origin/historical

            - Parent/child

            - Cross-cultural


Action Sociogram:

            - Group members act out another member's (protagonist's) social atom

            - Brings experience into present

            - Allows for interactions with items of social atom

            - Highlights sociometric relationships and concerns within the group



1. Warm-Up: Individuals create social atoms and share them with the group.

2. Protaganist is chosen by the group (or by volunteer)

            - Often chosen by nature of issues that represent concerns of most group members

3. Protagonist chooses members of the group to represent individuals or items in his or

            her social atom (auxillaries)

                        - Choice is based on sociometric principles such as tele

                        - May choose member to play self

4. Protagonist creates social atom on the stage.

            - Places individual group members at places and distances reflective of social

               atom diagram

            - May give members lines of dialog to speak, or way to stand/move, etc.

5. Action: Enactment of social atom

            - Protagonist may walk through group members, may interact with them

                        - Therapist/Director may utilize techniques such as doubling, role reversal

6. Protagonist "finishes" the "scene"

            - May involve changing parts of the atom

7. Integration/Sharing: Group members share experiences (both those who acted as auxillaries in the scene and those in the audience).





Blatner, A., and Blatner, A. (1988). Foundations of Psychodrama: History, Theory and Practice.
New York: Springer Publishing Co.


Blatner, A. (2001). Psychodramatic methods in psychotherapy. In D. J. Wiener, (ed.), Beyond Talk Therapy: Using Movement and Expressive Techniques in Clinical Practice (2nd ed., pp. 125-143.) Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.


Dayton, T. (1994). The Drama Within: Psychodrama and Experiential Therapy. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.


Karp, M., Holmes, P. and Tauvon, K.B., eds. (1998). The Handbook of Psychodrama. New York: Routledge.



Professional resources:


American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama (ASGPP)

301 North Harrison Street, Suite 508

Princeton, NJ 08540

609.452.1339 (phone)

email: asgpp@asgpp.org

website: www.asgpp.org



American Board of Examiners in Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy

PO Box 15572

Washington, DC 20003-0572