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.