Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Action Explorations Explained

Originally posted on July 31, 2017

It seems that psychodrama has two roles in modern culture: (1) psychodrama may be used as “therapy,” or (2) it may be used quite apart from therapy, to serve other goals of consciousness-raising. In business, education, personal development, role training in industry, for conflict-resolution, play, and so forth, what I call “action explorations” applies psychodramatic methods in the service of many other goals. It is not just for the treatment of mental illness! This point should be made explicitly!

Much of the literature in psychodrama has been about therapy, with the assumption that the “patients” are “sick” and psychodrama will help them—which it often does! But Moreno sort of said it in the opening line to his magnum opus on sociometry, Who Shall Survive?: “A true  therapeutic procedure cannot have less an objective than the whole of mankind,” which means that a good tool will find many applications!

Action explorations apply psychodrama-like techniques quite beyond the medical model, as I said: They can be used in business, industry, education at all levels, recreation, and social issues. For example, there are ways that action explorations bridges over to being like Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the Oppressed.”

In action exploration, the group’s purpose may be to explore a topic or theme, not to get someone well nor challenge their delusions. For various historical reasons, much of Moreno’s later years were spent in mainly the medical model. It had more prestige; a noble goal; pitiful victims. Also, psychoanalysis blurred the boundary, so why not psychodrama? However, since the psychopharmacological revolution and other changes in psychiatry, psychodrama as psychotherapy, never very prominent, has shrunk significantly in the United States of America. I don’t want to see action explorations lost as a result of its confusion with psychodrama psychotherapy!

There’s also a gradual encroachment of psychotherapy of all sorts by evidence-based medicine. This has advantages and disadvantages, to be discussed else-where. But attention should be given to applying psychodramatic or sociodramatic methods beyond the medical model—“action explorations.”

Action methods are mainly sociodrama, but with psychodramatic techniques being applied  as needed. (The word “psycho-drama” is problematic in France, as the translation of the word carries negative connotations. Perhaps this is true also in other places. But the real point is that enactment and explorations may be used quite apart from any treatment of “mental illness.” It’s time we said this openly and sought feedback from others. Can we say that Moreno’s work is not only for therapy but also supports efforts quite beyond the medical model?

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