Psychodrama and Christian Counseling – Christian User-Friendly Psychodrama

Psychodrama and Christian Counseling – Christian User-Friendly Psychodrama

Psychodrama began in 1921 with J.L. Moreno, a medical doctor who immigrated to the United States from Austria in 1925. Blatner defines psychodrama a method of psychotherapy in which patients enacts the relevant events in their lives instead of simply talking about them. This involves exploring in action not only historical events but, more Importantly, dimensions of psychological events not ordinarily addressed in conventional dramatic process: unspoken thoughts, encounters with those not present, portrayals of fantasies of what others might be feeling and thinking, envisioning future possibilities, and many other aspects of the phenomenology of human experience.

Even before leaving Vienna, Moreno was actively pioneering many of the concepts that most counselors today take for granted: terms such as group psychotherapy, action methods, and warm-up. Psychodrama, in its most inclusive definition, has developed a variety of applications: group psychotherapy, clinical role-playing, supervision, marriage and family therapy2, drama games, play, socio drama, and therapeutic community; and off-shoots, such as Playback Theater, developed by Jonathan Fox. It has influenced many schools of therapy: Fritz Perls (gestalt and the empty chair technique); Virginia Satir (family therapy and family sculpture which Moreno called action socio grams); Eric Berne transactional analysis). Perhaps one of the most brilliant recent developments for Christians is Peter Pitzeles bibliodrama3, rendered as a form of midrash, an experiential form of Jewish/biblical storytelling.4 Why Psychodrama Is Wonderfully Suited for Christian Counseling One of psychodramas biggest draws for Christians is the fact that it can be so Christian user-friendly. 5 Moreno, although born into a Sephardic Jewish family, was sympathetic to Christianity. He once said that Christianity could be considered the most ingenious and powerful psychotherapeutic operation ever invented.6 Morenos appreciation for the healing qualities of religion, a concept that went against the current of most psychological thought in this century, is a thread that runs through all of his works.

Moreno envisaged a religion based upon acknowledging God-likeness in each person and the capacity to bring out the creator in every person. The expression of these religious beliefs would be in action, interaction with others according to principles based on the sacredness of spontaneity and creativity in every individual. He postulated that if we get sick in relationships, we should get well in relationships, a therapeutic service that the body of Christ should offer to all who become members. While most talk therapies emphasize the verbal mode of healing, psychodrama brings the actions of body language, role-play, and behavioral rehearsal into psychotherapy. Since most of what happens to us is a whole experience, much more than just verbal, the techniques of psychodrama allow for the reproduction of life in such way that it can be relived, understood, reaffirmed, reframed, dealt with, and new behaviors rehearsed in a safe and protected atmosphere. Relationships among group members reproduce society as well as their own personal forms of relating in a micro-format within the group, giving us an opportunity to see in loco how members interact, give them feedback, and even work through conflictive relationships in order to acquire new modes of interaction.

The Basic Framework of Psychodrama: The basic framework of psychodrama requires a director (the therapist), auxiliary (co-therapist or group members), a stage (where the action is), the audience (other group members), and the protagonist (group member chosen to work on his or her issue). The beauty of this structure is that it allows the protagonist to project onto the stage whatever she or he wants to work on. The story belongs to the patient and not to the therapist. Anything within a person’s Imagination can be worked on, including metaphorical and religious themes, such as ones relationship with God.9 Once the different objects/persons have been put on stage, the protagonist has a chance to explore at a concrete level their significance and what he or she wants to do with these things. He or she can even try out different ways of doing things with the assurance that if they do not work on-stage, the client can erase them, try again, or go back to the way things were.

There is the added benefit in psychodrama of providing a safe environment where specific conversations can take place. Many patients are encouraged by their therapists to go home and talk to the significant person they feel has wronged them. Sometimes, that person is not available, due to death or distance, or sometimes it is just inadvisable. In contrast, the psychodrama stage offers the unique opportunity to bring those conversations into existence. The healing that is usually accomplished in such situations is permanent and irreversible. Find a therapist to get solution of your problems.

Even if it did not take place with the real person, there was a real conversation and real resolution. Perhaps the gem in Morenos crown of psychodrama techniques is role-reversal. Putting one’s self into someone else’s role results in feeling that persons feelings, peering out from that persons soul, gaining a new insight into what makes the person tick, and possibly discovering what makes the person do what he or she does. It often means dying to opinions previously held about that person and his or her motivation. It is Impossible to return to one’s own role after a reversal and be the same. One knows something one did not know before.10 Perhaps the most superb example of role-reversal is that of God himself when he takes on humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note (as a psycho dramatist, not a theologian) that the redeeming work of salvation culminates in the cross, where God in the person of Jesus Christ reverses roles with humanity, feels our pain, sin, and lustiness, and then dies in our place. Resurrection is the final seal that establishes our access to the Lord. From thence, nothing can separate us from the love of God.

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