Friday, August 27, 2010

Laughter is healing too

I have a silly part inside of me -- and I enjoy being silly when I am leading a group. I like being able to let other people know that silliness is OK -- even healthy! I make sure that people know that laughter is permitted. It is a great and tender release, just as much as crying.

A couple years ago I presented an all-day session on laughter and fun for my trainees entitled, "Are We Having Fun Yet?" When trainees arrived, I was already wearing a silly hat. (After all, wasn't it J.L. Moreno who conducted his first public psychodrama in 1921 wearing a jester's cap?)

No outline is close at hand, but our day included:

I used a box of funny hats with people taking the hats and taking the role suggested by the hats and mixing and mingling.

A basket of colorful scarves and clothes were available for dress up.
Later, we integated these actions as part of our group:

Using nonsense languages to talk between each other about a topic.

Talking in a high voice or a low voice.

Making funny faces.

Shaking the body

Playing non-competitive games like Rain. If you haven't seen Rain or ar enot familiar with this fun non-competitive game, see:

Singing silly songs including children's songs like "Old MacDonald Had A Farm."

Playing When The  Great Wind Blows. There are many variations. Here's one: have a circle of chairs, with one less chair than the number of people. One person stands in the center of the circle and says, "The wind blows on people wearing plaid shirts." Then everyone wearing plaid shirts must get up and scurry to another chair. The last person standing says, "The wind blows on people with blue eyes." And the people with blue eyes scurry...

When I trained with Zerka Moreno, we used vignettes on "A Moment of Joy" which were acted as a monodrama or autodrama or a more traditional vignette. These were always fun to do and fun to watch. Sometimes they were humorous too -- I've changed the title sometimes to "A moment of laughter."

Just recently I've been introduced to InterPlay, a model of using play, the body, movement and silliness in a group format.

For myself, I have found that I, as a presenter and trainer, really need to be warmed up to humor. Good warm-ups need to be constructed that open the way to humor and fun for the group.

And Adam Blatner's book with Allee Blatner "The Art of Play" is inspirational and idea-full.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Creativity article in Newsweek has big link to psychodrama (without saying so)

Did you see the article about creativity in the July 19 edition of Newsweek?

It laments the state of creativity in American schools but also gives suggestions about  how to fix the creativity crisis and upgrade that creativity to a new level for the 21st century.

The late E. Paul Torrance – the innovative professor who is mentioned prominently in the article – had met and had been influenced by psychodrama’s developer J.L. Moreno. Torrance wrote about sociodrama and its techniques and was a recognized pioneer in the field of creativity studies.

Later in the article in Newsweek, the author reports that studies show that role playing promotes creativity with children.

Adam Blatner, one of the foremost writers about psychodrama, points out that the “this frontier of our work, cultivating spontaneity and imaginativeness, continues to accrue more of a scientific foundation."

Read the full Newsweek article here, plus take an online creativity test.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Eating, sleeping, sneezing -- and other roles we play

The minute that we are born, we immediately take a number of roles, including eater, sleeper and sneezer.

As we grow older, we are called to play and practice many more personal and social roles, which is how we develop, grow and mature.

Here's a little "Box O' Roles" that explains psychodramatic role theory in a fun and graphic way, courtesy of my psychodramatist colleagues Nina Garcia and Dale Richard Buchanan.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Theatre for healing, as a basis for a reality show? I say yes!

Drama therapy and psychodrama are kind of "cousins" in the world of creative arts therapies.

I like this video from Blair Glaser, MA, LCAT, RDT, a healing teacher and drama therapist in New York, as she pitches her idea for a fun-filled  reality show in which she uses drama therapy with individuals, couples, companies, and with groups in need such as inner city kids and Iraq veterans.

Blair wants to show that using theater for healing can help participants feel "dramatically different" about themselves and their lives after the sessions.  In "her" show, wiewers will learn the value of play, of listening to the various voices we carry inside, of face-to-face contact in a hyper-techno world, and the importance of engaging the body in healing the mind and heart.

I voted for Blair while making a statement that she also include mention of psychodrama in her work. Vote for her too right here.

In the meanwhile, here's footage of a real drama therapy session, including sculpting and body movement, in this video:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Worth listening: online interviews about psychodrama

Investigative reporter Jon Rappoport recently has given some very good air time to the gifts and advantages of psychodrama on his online radio show on the Progressive Radio Network.

His show with Zerka Moreno, the "mother" of psychodrama, is here. It is a rare interview with Zerka T. Moreno, who at 93 years old, is still conducting groups in the living room of her home in a retirement village in Charlottesville, Va. She tells stories about the early years of psychodrama with her late husband, Dr. J.L. Morneo, some of which I've not heard before.

Rappoport's interview with Ed Schrieber, a psychodramatist in Massachusetts and the editor of Zerka's memoirs, is here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Playback Theatre improvises stories of our lives

Playback Theatre is a wonderful derivative of psychodrama that has now made its own fame and boasts its own method. There are groups across the United States and around the world.

The Washington Post just featured a group in Silver Spring, Md., which is active with monthly gatherings of 70 people, some of whom volunteer to tell a personal story while a group of actors improvise their story and play it back while everyone watches. Part community building and part entertainment, these presentations may be poignant or humorous, but they are always deeply human.  In February, the topic was "Variations on a Dream" in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.; later in honor of Valentine's Day, the topic was "When We Are Granted Our Heart's Desires." For more on Playback and its trainings, click here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

New book combines psychodrama and the body

As the newest research in neuroscience reframes how and why experiential psychotherapies bring significant healing to the brain and body, a new book, "The Body Alchemy of Psychodrama" by Rebecca Ridge, arrives to show how one practitoner puts these theories into practice.

As a psychologist, psychodramatist and bodyworker, Rebecca combines her knowledge and skills to show how the action method of psychodrama blends very well with the subtle hands-on practices of craniosacral therapy, positional release, reflexology and shiatsu.

Rebecca says:

"Alchemy is a wonderfully expressive term to describe the philosophical, psychological and biological processes that illuminate and transform the body mind in each of us. The body is still and may remain forever to some degree a mysterious universe, no matter how much we might be able to explain the complexities of our body and brain’s physiological intricacies. Thus Body Alchemy involves the mystery and the potential to keep evolving one’s relationship to our body mind."
Rebecca is a Midwest trainer, educator and practitioner who divides her time between Anoka, Minn., and Australia. She explains psychodrama as an embodied form of psychotherapy and includes a historical background of  somatic psychology theories. 

As more pracititoners incorporate some kind of touch in their work, she offers a valuable chapter on the ethics of touch for the group therapist, psychodramatist and psychotherapist so that they may safely apply practices of touch in therapy. Her ideas are now incorporated in my annual experientially based ethics training, "Ethics In Action."

See Rebecca's site, which includes articles and a link to order her book here.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Moreno's psychodrama and Twelve Steps have much in common

There are several remarkable parallels between the philosophies of J.L. Moreno, the physician who developed psychodrama, and the Twelve-Step self-help movement started by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob.

There is the importance of group.

Moreno identified people as the "healing agents" of each other, as early as 1912 when he initiated groups for red-light district prostitutes in Vienna. (We might theorize that many of these women might have had addiction prolbems and possibly were survivors of sexual abuse). He later coined the phrase "group psychotherapy" during a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.

Bill and Dr. Bob discovered the route to sobriety in the 1930s when they came together, simply to talk about their experiences while drinking and their efforts to stay sober. The two men had no therapeutic experience -- they were simply desperate alcoholics with the desperate desire to end the drinking that was destroying their lives. The program emerged from folk wisdom that they gathered as they sat and talked in their living rooms in Akron, Ohio, and learned how to stay sober.

There is the importance of spirituality  -- confirming the idea that healing is not a matter of "fixing" what is broken but embarking on a journey of personal growth and change.

Moreno considered "the godhead" an important part of his method  and often spoke of the cosmos. The balcony on the stage that he designed -- see photo -- was often used to talk to God, angels and other spiritual beings in the protagonist's life. In one of his works, he role reversed with God, creating that intimate relationship with an otherworldly entity.

Bill W. received the now-famous letter from Carl Jung, the great Swiss psychoanalyst, in which he remarked that a "spiritual" experience was a central component to recovery and sobriety.

There is relating from direct personal experience, rather than theory.

In psychodrama, Moreno instituted the "sharing" segment after every dramatic encounter, at which time group members were discouraged from analyzing or critiquing -- but rather recommended to relate their personal experiences to others and the protagonist.

Twelve-Step groups involve participants telling personal stories of experience, strength and hope. People use first names only to keep the tradition of anonymity, and there are no "experts" and no "patients," just people following a structure of growth and change as they take inventory their lives.

Someone "directs" the path but all are able to contribute.

In psychodrama, the director facilitates the action, employing auxiliaries to play roles for the protagonist to create a fullness of experience during an enactment. Everyone co-creates the experience for each other.

In Twelve-Step groups, the leaders are ordinary group members who volunteer to lead a particular meeting as service to their group and the organization. The group co-creates the experience; the steps and the traditions provide the real ongoing leadership.

Relationships teach, inform and connect

Moreno's system of sociometry measured the relationships within any given group. He developed several role play techniques including that of doubling -- having another person speak as a person's inner voice -- to expand awareness of relationship with self during a vignette.

Twelve-Step groups recommend a sponsor, one who is more advanced in the recovery process, to mentor a newcomer to the group and guide the newcomer through the 12 steps. 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Authentic footage of psychodrama's founder J.L. Moreno

Here's real historical footage of J.L. Moreno, the developer of psychorama and sociometry, conducting a psychodrama session.This film was shot in Paris during the First International Congress of Psychodrama in 1964. Moreno directs a psychodrama with a married couple, Paul and Michelle. Michelle is an old Parisienne, and Paul an unhappy American living in France because of his marriage. Moreno uses psychodramatic techniques to lead the couple to explore their conflicts.

Psychodrama has greatly evolved since Moreno -- a brilliant but rather over-the-top kind of guy -- first started putting groups of people on stage to act out their troubles.

Now psychodrama is much more nuanced and specialized. I had the great good fortune to study with his collaborator and widow, Zerka Moreno, for many years in Highland, N.Y.; one of the most effective sessions she directed involved no "drama," just a tiny flinch-like movement from the protagonist that proved to offer a tremenous shift in the woman's perspective and problem.

Enjoy this historical treasure:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Psychodrama helps train law enforcement

Every day, as people in Washington, D.C., go about their lives, the FBI, CIA, Capitol Police, Secret Service and U.S. Marshals Service stage covert dramas in and around the capital where they train. Officials say the scenarios help agents and officers integrate the intellectual, physical and emotional aspects of classroom instruction. Most exercises are performed inside restricted compounds. But they also unfold in public parks, suburban golf clubs and downtown transit stations.

Psychodrama assists in the training of these officers and agents, and Barry Spodak, LICSW, TEP, discusses the schizophrenic, bipolar and paranoid characters that he created to help law enforcement agents assess threats on the lives of presidents, Supreme Court justices and other VIPS in The Washington Post article Threat Theater: For The Actors, It's A Living. For The Officers, It's A Test Of Nerve. Also available, a video.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Rene Marineau talks about discovering the life of J.L. Moreno

Rene Marineau, the main biographer of J.L. Moreno,  talks about his experiences in documenting the life of the developer of psychodrama, and his first meeting with him in 1971 in this video.

"We learned with our feet, rather than our brain," he says of this seminal action method although he confesses that he was not impressed with the "doctor" upon his first meeting. Gradually, he followed the threads of interest to find the truth of Moreno's life, as well as Moreno's gifts of imagination and symbolism.

Marineau, a professor, psychologist and psychoanalyst from Quebec, Canada, is a former president of the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama. More about his book here, plus an excerpt here.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New books combine psychodrama, art, somatic therapies

Two psychodramatists have published books on combining psychodrama with their specialties.

Rebecca Ridge has published a new book on the integration of psychodrama and somatic therapies entitled, The Body Alchemy of Psychodrama." Ridge, a psychodramatist and body therapist, divides her time between Drummoyne, Australia, and Anoka, Minn., and teaches craniosacral therapy and various body therapies for the Upledger Institute. Her book discusses how she has integrated psychodrama, somatic therapies and Chinese medicine. Find more information here.

Satya Winkelman. psychodramatist and artist in Sarasota, Fla., has  written "Through The Fire -- A Woman's Guide To Transformation" which takes the reader on a journey of the feminine cycles of change and provides activities for personal growth.  She been a communication trainer and consultant for Fortune 500 companies, schools, churches and businesses in the United States and internationally for more than 25 years. Read an excerpt here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year's invitation to self care

Today's post is a guest blog from Connie Lawrence, a licensed clinical social worker and certified experiential therapist in Cleveland, Ohio, who uses psychodrama and other experiential activities in her practice.

This is an invitation to join me in a playful exercise in forming a whole new relationship with self care. Rather than the grim New year's crackdown of "I'm going to stop (eating, drinking, smoking, etc.)", how about an uplifting approach? How about indulging in an unlimted supply of whatever your soul really craves?

Here is the question:

"If I could have an unlimited supply of something in 2010, what would it be?"

Two years ago my answer was MUSIC. That year I bought my iPod and discovered a deep-sea underworld of rhythm, culture, healing and ideas springing forth of what people can do with the right music. I began germinating the concept of "Rock the House!" to build connection and spontaneity through music, which has led me to people around the country and inspiring activities. It opened up a whole new world of creativity.

Last year my soul's answer was SERENITY. I can have as much serenity as I want, whenever I want. I can stand up for it, protect it, and I deserve it. It led me to a new frontier of boundary-setting I didn't know was available.

Here's how I do this:

Once the answer bubbles up from my soul, I find a way to concretize it. Last year SERENITY was small box with a clear blue stone on it. It can be anything -- a drawing, a stone, a box, an art project, a simple note. Then I have some dialogue with it.

What would I like to ask Serenity?
What would Serenity say back?

Just as I sat down the write this message, I opened the Serenity box and found this note, "You can have as much as you want in 2009. Close your eyes, breathe, and I will be here. You deserve it. You've already set the boundaries -- and you can set more. Dive in."

So this is my invitation: let's indulge ourselves in good care. It's soul food that doesn't go to your hips. Please join me in the adventure.