Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Applying Moreno’s Ideals More Widely

Originally posted on June 21, 2013

Psychodrama has evolved, and it now has a number of “cousins,” including:
   – theater artists, actors and directors who realize that improvisation has its own aesthetic, and beyond that, practical applications beyond the goal of entertainment—i.e., the applied improvisation network
   – drama therapists who emphasize the healing power of creating something aesthetically compelling and somewhat complete
   – expressive therapists who emphasize that music, art, dance, movement, poetry, creative writing, costume or fabric, and the like, all have power to accelerate insight by drawing on the powers of several other media
   – biblio-dramatists who note that life lessons can be deepened when, in unpacking a well-known text in a culture, spiritual, legendary, or historical,  varying degrees of improvisation and expression of the deeper and unspoken thoughts of the characters
    – practitioner of Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed and other forms of applied theatre
    – practitioners of Salas & Fox’s Playback Theatre
    – practitioners of David R. Johnson’s Developmental Transformations
    – teachers and dramatists in education who use elements of improvisation and enactment to challenge the creativity of students and also promote a more experiential mode of learning
    – sociometrists who consult in business and use role theory to explore challenges in how organizations can become more adaptive
   – people working with simulations to develop enhanced professional skills
   – those working with spontaneity development through drama and other arts forms such as dance-movement, creative writing, music, art, poetry, mixed expressive media
   – people working in the arena of creativity enhancement, teachers, coaches, consultants
… these and others may spread the benefits of insights similar to Moreno’s. It’s not as if we must be committed as purists. The need for that kind of competing orthodoxies, modeled, alas, by the Freudians at mid-century, is quite obsolete. It is based on an either/or, “no, but” mode of thinking rather than, as they say in improv, a “yes and.”

It is important to be inclusive, as many of these approaches may well have elements that can enrich psychodrama even as psychodrama may have some elements that enrich their work. It is often at the interface of similar-but-different approaches that creative syntheses may happen.

Psychodrama is most closely identified with psychiatric or psychotherapeutic treatment, and by association, the medical model and the sick role. Indeed, this has been a dominant application of Moreno’s ideas, but I think that in the long run the underlying concepts that integrate collaborative creativity, improvisation, enactment, and the goal of true understanding may have applications in many other aspects of culture—business, education, religion, recreation, and so forth.

Next year, at the 2014 conference of the American Society for Group Psychotherapy & Psychodrama, the theme is “Psychodrama: Many Faces, Many Places (April 3 – 7, 2014). It will be held in Oakland, California, across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco. Because of earthquakes in the past (and perhaps more to come), they are building another part of the bridge. I find the idea of “bridge-building” to be a metaphor for the forthcoming conference.

At this year’s (2013) conference in April, I spoke about the many applications of psychodrama beyond psychotherapy, and this present article also wants to note some related elements:
– In the last decade or so, theatre artists have begun to apply improvisational principles to the task of promoting innovation in organizations and business (Google “Applied Improvisation Network”).
– Begun in the 1960s through the 1980s in England and Australia, mainly, the field of Drama in Education has carried forth the work of Richard Courtney,Dorothy Heathcote, Gavin Bolton, O’Toole, and others.
– Drama Therapy as a field has grown considerably in the last thirty years and there’s enough overlap so that anyone studying psychodrama should also become familiar with the writings in that field.
– Sociodrama, extending Moreno’s methods to non psychiatric contexts, may be one of the more promising frontiers. This involves a number of people in this country and internationally.
– Another field, the “Expressive Arts Therapies,” often integrate psychodrama with other approaches. Leslie College and centers in Israel are notable in this regard.
-  Simulations or role playing to develop interpersonal skills and empathy has been promoted by some lawyers and physicians.
– Some people are applying sociodrama to the task of religious study, “bibliodrama,” and others use it for reaching more into literature.
  – Psychodramatic and other warm-ups are used for spontaneity development and vitality enrichment for adults and elders.

This article is really a call to our colleagues in the field to feel free to branch out and speak to the wider application of psychodrama in the world. (I do not overlook the idea that these are also economic niches, sources of potential income.)

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