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This poem quoted by JL Moreno is an illustration of the concept of role reversal in Psychodrama.
When someone steps forward and says ‘yes’ to being spontaneous and thereby to being creative, they are open to the possibilities of changing perspectives.
As I’ve directed Psychodramas over the years, I have come to see the Psychodrama Stage as a laboratory where the protagonist experiments with different possibilities and outcomes. Relationships are explored and as role reversal takes place, the protagonist gets to experience the Other and the psyche of the Other that lives in them.
We all have a version of our Mother, our Father, our sibling, our enemy that lives in us. This version when brought on the stage gets concretized (or made concrete/ real) by the use of another group member who takes on the role as an Auxillary. As the protagonist reverses roles and takes on the role of the Other, he or she can then take on the posture, speech style and warm up to being that Other person. Their version emerges and the encounter with the Auxillary playing them takes place. They then reverse roles and the Auxillary (as the Other) will repeat what has been said and the protagonist experiences a dialogue with the Other. This goes on with several role reversals until the Protagonist’s purpose has been achieved with the Director.
This experiencing of a different perspective engages empathy and deepens understanding of the Other. Moreno called this the Encounter.
The poem quoted is from his seminal book “Who Shall Survive”.
Happy New Year from us at Psychodrama Singapore!
As 2018 is rapidly flying by I feel it’s important to look at several aspects of our work at Psychodrama Singapore and some of the groups we have run here in the past 12 months in 2017.
On Going Personal Growth Groups
Well for one, we ran several ongoing groups which has tapped a great thirst for more psychodrama and greater connection with other fellow human beings.
So far 4 ongoing groups have run and each weekly group ran for an average of 6 weeks. These group members have had the opportunity to experience full Psychodramas and to have the experience of being in a group that works towards developing progressive ways of living and being.
I Don’t Wanna, You Can’t Make Me
Another highlight of 2017 has been the training in Singapore by Rebecca Walters TEP from Hudson Valley Psychodrama Institute (HVPI) in October. 18 people from Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Malaysia attended the training. The workshop brought together counsellors, therapists, psychologists, and a psychiatrist to learn some psychodrama tools to better engage resistant clients.
MOE Counsellor Training
We were also engaged to run workshops on using experiential methods in running groups for primary and secondary school students. Counsellors who attended found themselves inspired and equipped with new ideas to capture the attention of their kids.
Workshops for Groups/ Higher learning institutes
We were also engaged to run group building session for some of the classes in La Salle for first year students. It was wonderful to see students come alive. SIT engaged us to run a workshop on communication and NYP had us run training on addictions and families. Using experiential methods especially Psychodrama, Sociodrama, Role training and Sociometry helped anchor the learning in participants as they took it in holistically. We also ran Sociodrama for children living in a shelter for victims of domestic violence. Much fun and laughter as well as deep sharing ensued with people feeling understood and seen.
Our Open sessions for 2017 were well attended and several attendees signed up for the ongoing groups to get a deeper experience of Psychodrama. Our last Open session of the year was ‘Taking Stock’ and was filled with lots of gratitude and new resolve.
As we go into 2018, a time of reflection and refocusing on what is progressive and not so helpful, we invite you to sign up for the First Open session of the year entitled ‘Into Action’. Come get your spontaneity groove on and be with us as we take a look at what 2018 holds for us and our wishes for the new year!
See You around soon in 2018!!
Regards, Sharmini Winslow
Director, Psychodrama Singapore
As I mentioned in my first article, the phrase,”reverse roles” was very much what I heard at my first psychodrama workshop. As this was uttered by the group leader, two people on the stage switched places and began playing the opposite role.
“This is it! “, I thought as I began to think of how I could use it in my work. Get people to reverse roles and voila! Well I was sorely mistaken those many years ago. As I began to explore this fascinating form of group work I discovered several techniques that are used in Psychodrama. Here are two key techniques used and an example of how I used them.
Here the Protagonist says a few words in the role of a particular ‘character’ or entity in their drama. The Auxiliary then says these lines to the Protagonist who is in the complimentary role.
In this technique, objects and people are used to represent the scenario the Protagonist wishes to explore.
A Drama using Role reversal and Concretization
Ken is aged 19, and has a serious problem with drugs and alcohol which he has managed to stop after going to the alcohol treatment centre. He had just come out of Rehab in the United Kingdom and was brought to my practice by his concerned father. His father has tried very hard to help him over the years and has now brought Ken to us at Promises. Ken is worried about going out for dinner with his Father and a family Friend, whom we shall call Andy, because he might be tempted to drink again.
I encourage him to enact a scene at dinner with his father and Andy, playing out what he expects to happen. He sets out the chairs and chooses two people in the group to be his Father and Andy. As he greets the two older men rather lethargically, his shoulders slouch and he speaks in a flat voice.
Reversing roles, Ken now plays the part of Andy. He perks up now, smiling and full of energy. ‘Andy’ says, “The last time I saw you Ken, you were a small boy. My how you’ve grown!” Playing the role of his tempter, he urges Ken to “have a drink now as a real man” holding a glass towards him.
Back to being himself after another role reversal Ken’s face reddens and he clenches his fists in agitation. He speaks to me as the Director, saying that he is afraid he might have a relapse. I immediately ask him to take on the role of his father.
As his father, he sits with his arms crossed and says through clenched teeth, “It’s Ok, you don’t have to drink. I don’t want to cause a relapse.” As himself, Ken is at a loss for words. I ask the other audience members to do some modeling and try different responses in the role of Ken as he watches.
Ken cheers up as he sees the other group members rising to the occasion. Everyone is animated as they get a chance to act the part and try to tell Andy off. There is much laughter and hilarity as people do and say whatever they think might work. A sort of role training session is underway.
Ken is noticeably inspired by the group and he chooses one response. He stands tall with a cheeky smile and says to Andy, “I’m not drinking today, and I wonder why you are so determined to force alcohol on me!” In role reversal as Andy, he changes the subject and backs down, no longer the magnanimous host. The drama ends. Ken is no longer a deflated doomsday worry wart. Instead he is positive about going out for dinner and knows what he can do later that night at dinner. The group has come to his aid and I once again marvel at the magic of Psychodrama.
In future articles, I shall illustrate more psychodrama techniques with dramas I have directed. It continues to be a privilege to be allowed into the lives of group members and I am continually amazed at the transformations that happen.
This is the first in a series of articles about the Action Method of Psychodrama by Sharmini Winslow.
“Reverse roles!”, the group leader shouted, and two people switched roles on stage and began enacting the opposite part. I was in the middle of my first Psychodrama workshop and all seemed chaotic and yet pleasantly therapeutic. What was going on? My desire to explore psychodrama had brought me here to a large room with a group leader and several very friendly people. Soon I was learning the ropes and I tried to make sense of things. 7 years later, I am still held captive by the magic of psychodrama.
Often people ask me,”what is Psychodrama?”, and I ask if they have 10 minutes to listen. It is a therapeutic action method that usually is done in groups. So here is a short description that will suffice for now.
Psychodrama, is the brainchild of Dr J.L. Moreno. It comes from two words, Psycho and drama. Psycho (not like in the movie where someone slashes you in the shower with a knife), is derived from the word ‘psyche’ which means the mental or psychological structure of a person. Drama refers to the enactment or action that happens in the session.
There are 5 instruments in Psychodrama
In the group, the therapist or group leader takes on this role and keeps the action flowing and gives structure to what evolves on the stage.
This can be any space set aside for the enactments to occur. In a group, the stage is the space apart from where group members are seated. Moreno built a stage in New York specifically for psychodrama which had the audience seated at a different level. I had the privilege of directing a drama on the original stage.
These are the group members who are not involved in the drama but who act as witnesses and can respond to the action on stage as a normal audience would, often yelling encouragement to the protagonist.
This is the person who represents the main concerns of the group. Usually chosen by the group, the Protagonist gets to put into action a concern, a challenge or an event that they would like to have turned out differently. In psychodrama, past, future and present can coexist in the Here and Now.
The Auxiliary or sometimes called the Auxiliary Ego is the group member chosen to be a certain element or person in the drama, for example the protagonist’s Sister or maybe their addiction.
Each session has a warm up, an enactment phase and time for sharing. In the sharing segment, group members get to share something about their own lives that is connected to the drama.
So in Psychodrama the protagonist’s inner world gets “‘concretized” or made real, and the Director helps the Protagonist explore and work spontaneously to create new ways of being that are more helpful in living with whatever challenge was enacted. New perspectives are discovered; insights and conclusions made that bring healing and newness. The Protagonist and group members experience the wonder of being spontaneous and are positively energized!
*Psychodrama is used in group sessions run by Sharmini as part of her practice at Promises.