Friday, April 13, 2012

What's in the word "psychodrama"?


The psychodrama discussion list known as Grouptalk has been having a lively discussion lately about how to language the word "psychodrama."

Some wonder if the word is too loaded or too old or too strange for use in the 21st century. The word is the name of a musical group and frequently media persons use the word to denote an emotionally intense movie, book or politically charged situation.

We are sure to have more discussions on this topic when we meet next week in Jersey City, N.J., for our 70th annual conference of the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama.

From time to time, I have used a variety of word, including psychodrama and action methods to experiential therapy and interactive therapy – not to mention the phrase imagination activities. I like Adam Blatner's idea of “action exploration,” too However, whatever verbiage we employ, it is important that we know the background and history of this method and are able to explain it to our clients, trainees, students, visitors, web readers and others who are curious, including “why” it is called psychodrama and what it is good for. This keeps the method grounded in a context and theory, not just a bunch of cool and interesting techniques.

Note to the interested: Dr. J.L. Moreno named his method "psychodrama," as a counter to Sigmund Freud's "psychoanalysis." Moreno often compared his method to  Dr. Freud's work, claiming his was superior because it added drama -- action -- to personal exploration. In fact, psychodrama refers to "psyche in action." Psyche, of course, is the Greek word for soul.

As for the language, when I trained with Zerka Moreno, she was insistent that psychodrama was a method, not a mere therapy.

But she also frequently said, “There are lots of ways of doing it,” meaning many directions to go within a drama and many ways to direct a drama. So let's say that there are many directions to go in the language-ing of the method as well.