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Advanced Psychodrama Directing

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Part of the Psychodrama in Counselling, Coaching and Education book series (PCCE,volume 1)


Advanced psychodrama directing techniques are presented in this chapter. These advanced interventions offer a depiction of the level of clinical sophistication demonstrated by expert psychodrama directors. The awareness of group sociometry within the psychodrama enactment is described while portraying the multiple layers of object relations activated for participants in a psychodrama session. Advanced techniques for involving audience group members and deepening the emotional involvement of auxiliary role players are discussed. Also included in this chapter are an overview of clinical role assignments, facilitating moments of multiple protagonists, and constructively using projective identification in the group process. Content from the Therapeutic Spiral Model is offered, specifically the practice of prescribing strengths-based roles and considerations for safely facilitating scenes with trauma-based roles. Multiple strategies are offered for de-roling when more emotionally charged roles are played by group members.


  • Psychodrama directing
  • Trauma-focused psychodrama
  • Psychodrama de-roling
  • Clinical role assignment
  • Projective identification

In this chapter, we will move beyond the basics of psychodrama directing and explore some advanced concepts for experienced psychodrama directors. Each subsection of this chapter will offer different methods for engaging the group-as-a-whole during the protagonist’s psychodrama. The following advanced directing skills prevent the psychodrama process from becoming an individual therapy session within a group setting. The use of active sociometry within the psychodrama process will be outlined to keep the audience or group actively engaged and identified with the protagonist. The skillful weaving of group members’ stories will be depicted through the use of surplus reality and clinical role assignments at the director’s discretion. The use of clinical role assignments for both strengths-based roles and other roles will be explored. Psychological safety will be emphasized extracting elements of the Therapeutic Spiral Model’s clinical map—the Trauma Survivor’s Intrapsychic Role Atom (TSIRA) (see Sect. 7.8). Complexities related to the multiple layers of object relations, role relations, and interpersonal relationships in a psychodrama group experience will be depicted. This section will also portray the use of projective identification in the psychodrama process in service of the protagonist, the scene, and the group-as-a-whole. Brief interventions that explicitly expand the role of protagonist from the individual to the group will also be demonstrated.

14.1 Sociometry Within a Psychodrama

Sociometry and psychodrama are different parts of Moreno’s triadic system, albeit they have an intimate relationship to each other. As a director, it is important to maintain sociometric awareness throughout the psychodrama process (Gershoni, 2016). Each participant exists at the intersection of multiple systems, including their nervous system and other somatic systems, psychological systems, family systems, the group system, social systems, political system, cultural systems, and economic systems (Holmes, 2015). A psychodrama enactment and the roles within it interface with multiple systems and can only be fully understood through the lens of each of these systems. In social work, we describe this as person-in-environment or the biopsychosocial approach. This perspective of various systems intersecting offers insight into the overlapping systems of sociometry and psychodrama within a group psychotherapy session.

The sociometric warm-up is the first phase of a psychodrama group. Nevertheless, the sociometry of the group is useful to both be aware of and to actively utilize throughout the psychodrama enactment (Moreno, 1972). Although participants are being asked to play various psychodramatic roles in the scene, the interpersonal relationships between group members are inevitably still present during the process (Giacomucci, 2018; McVea, 2013). Knowing the nature of relationships between the group members may shed light on the nature of the role relationships in the scene. This often cultivates positive role relationships as the protagonist is likely to choose role players that they have positive relationships to. But the sociometry in the group can also be counterproductive to the psychodrama at times. For example, in the middle of a psychodrama, the protagonist might be asked to choose a group member to play the role of their younger self. If there is only one remaining audience member available for roles, they will not have a choice. If that remaining group member is someone who the protagonist has a negative relationship with, it could impact their ability to engage with the role of their younger self in a compassionate manner. The image below depicts the complexities of interpersonal relationships between group members, the role relationships between the psychodramatic roles they are playing in the scene, and each individual group members’ relationships from their social atom that may be activated during the psychodrama process due to the role dynamics and role reciprocity of the scene.

In the following image, the rectangles represent the roles within John’s psychodrama scene with his father, grandmother, and grandfather. Lines are used to connect each of the rectangles to the other rectangles indicating their role relationships to each other. The adjacent circles represent the actual group member who is playing that role with lines again used to depict the interpersonal relationships between each group member. Furthermore, each auxiliary role has another connective dotted line that leads to a portrayal of that group members’ relationships to others in their social atom that may be activate due to the role they are playing and the role dynamics within the psychodrama scene. The larger square with dotted lines shows the boundary between the psychodrama being enacted by group members and the related roles from each group members’ social atoms that may (consciously or unconsciously) influence their experience in the role they are playing (see Fig. 14.1).

Fig. 14.1
figure 1

Multiple layers of object relations and role relations within a psychodrama enactment

Many psychodrama groups involve many more than four roles, so the depiction above is simple compared to most real psychodramas. Furthermore, the image above only portrays the web of relationships without depicting the positive, negative, and neutral relationships within each layer of sociometry. This image is a good depiction of the multiple layers of sociometry or object relations that are engaged in any psychodrama enactment. An advanced director attempts to maintain awareness of these various layers of sociometry and use psychodrama interventions to skillfully weave in and out of these layers to provide optimal therapeutic effect for each group member—not just the protagonist.

In the role dynamics depicted above, a director might be aware of Jane’s own conflictual relationship with her grandson and emphasize conflict resolution in the psychodrama role dynamics. Or the director might be aware that Anthony struggles with his marriage and could underscore the healthy marriage between John’s grandparents in the process. Or the director might know that Tim’s father died recently, so the directing of Tim as an auxiliary in the role of a father could be accentuated. In this way, the director carefully weaves the layers of sociometry together in a way that offers role training, catharsis, insight, and corrective experiences for each group member. A skillful director can facilitate a psychodrama for the protagonist where the other role players are also protagonists doing their own work.

14.2 Advanced Directing of the Audience

The simplest use of sociometry interventions with the audience in a psychodrama is to invite group members to raise their hand if they identify with specific elements of the scene. Offering this simple sociometric intervention at various points in the psychodrama reminds the protagonist of the connection and peer support in the room while also encouraging continued engagement from audience members. It enhances the sense of shared experience, universality, and group-as-a-whole experience while the protagonist’s scene is enacted. Another simple sociometry intervention during the psychodrama process is to invite audience members to repeat significant statements from various roles when they relate to them (Blatner, 1996). This creates an echo of important message and a sociometric connection through sound. Through this intervention, the protagonist becomes the double of the audience who are repeating messages that they connect with from the protagonist’s psychodrama.

Another use of the sociometry is to invite audience members to stand behind or put their hand on the shoulder of the role that they feel most identified with—or a role that they feel they need to speak to. Essentially, this is a locogram or hands-on-shoulder sociogram using the roles of the psychodrama as the options for choices. This can be used to cluster participants into a role—having multiple people play one role for more impact, to warm up to psychodrama sub-scenes with the various roles, and/or to promote sharing. This process can be used in a simple, contained manner by inviting participants who identify with the protagonist’s experience to stand behind the protagonist for support during the climax of the drama.

14.3 Moments of Multiple Protagonists

Traditionally, a psychodrama has one protagonist and other group members play auxiliary roles needed for the scene enacted by the protagonist. An advanced psychodrama director begins to weave together the story lines of group members with both implicit and explicit interventions. One explicit intervention that accomplishes this is to direct moments where role players briefly step out of their psychodrama role and interact as themselves with another role in the psychodrama. Everyone is invited to become the protagonist for a moment and speak to whoever or whatever the roles represent for them in their life. This needs to be done in a way that is quick, contained, and does not interfere with the protagonist’s scene or warm-up process. When done well, it can enhance the protagonist’s experience by highlighting and enhancing group members’ investment and identification with the psychodrama scene’s roles, dynamics, and themes.

Using the psychodrama scene from the image above as an example, let’s say the that John is revisiting a difficult, but meaningful moment with her grandparents sharing with him about their immigration story characterized by trauma, loss, and resilience. John’s father was with him during the conversation for support. In the original, real-life scene John was overwhelmed hearing his grandparents’ story for the first time and didn’t know how to respond. Instead, he froze and shut down emotionally, unable to express his pain, sadness, shock, gratitude, love, and admiration for his grandparents after hearing the details of their experience. His goal in this psychodrama was to revisit this moment in time, get unstuck, and be able to express the complex feelings that emerged for him. With the help of the group, he was able to do so in the psychodrama and had powerful catharsis letting out his sorrow for the trauma his grandparents experience and his anger towards those who discriminated against his ancestors. After releasing his anger and sadness, he was able to articulate his newfound appreciation, respect, and love directly to his grandparents. After John has thoroughly expressed his feelings, the director invites audience members to stand behind John, stepping briefly into the protagonist role and to state a sentence or two to the grandparent roles as if they were their grandparents (or whoever else they might represent for another group member). One at time, group members step forward next to John and offer statements of gratitude to their own grandparents or other grandparent-like figures from their own lives. As each group member takes their turn, John and the rest of the group drop into a deeper appreciation for each other and the shared experience of the psychodrama.

This moment of multiple protagonists provides John and the rest of the group with a concretization of the universality of the psychodrama topic and the role dynamics within. It reminds John that he has been a representative of the group while reminding participants of their own work related to the topic. This intervention allows the director to explicitly work with the group-as-a-whole and operationalizes the perspective of the group as the protagonist. In this way, group members not only see themselves in the protagonist, but also get to step into the protagonist role briefly. Audience involvement is maximized providing avenues for catharsis and integration to satisfy act hungers. In the example above, the intervention of a moment of multiple protagonists also served to cool down the protagonist after the scene climax and to move toward closure of the scene. This intervention can also be used in other phases of the psychodrama when deemed appropriate.

14.4 Clinical Role Assignments and Advanced Auxiliary Directing

While the protagonist usually is empowered to choose who they would like to play each role, there are times where the director might make use of clinical role assignments to enhance the experience for the group (Giacomucci, 2019). The practice of clinically assigning roles to participants based on the director’s understanding of their personal/therapeutic goals or needs can be traced back to Moreno’s original work around actor catharsis with the Theater of Spontaneity and Impromptu Theater (Garcia, 2010; Moreno, 2019). Clinical role assignments are most applicable when working with ongoing therapy groups where the director is familiar with each participants’ stories. Although a director might be working with a group that they are not familiar with participants’ back stories, information offered through the warm-up process and the protagonist selection can also be used to guide clinical role assignments. A simple way of using this is by incorporating the other group members who had volunteered as protagonist into the psychodrama in a role that allows them to do their own work in service of the protagonist’s psychodrama. This is not always possible, but in most cases, it can be done without taking away from the protagonist’s experience. An example of this is depicted below:

Four group members volunteer as protagonist offering the following topics: worthlessness and self-worth by Lindsey; letting down defenses to trust others by Frank; hope for the future by Steven; and guilt, shame, and self-forgiveness offered by Jake. Jake’s topic is sociometrically chosen by the group. As the psychodrama begins to unfold, Jake agrees when the director inquires if the role of a positive inner voice might be helpful for the scene. The director suggests Lindsey could play the role based on her proposed topic of self-worth. Through playing the role of Jake’s inner supportive voice, Lindsey is able to achieve her own goals that she had hoped for as protagonist. Not only does she benefit from it, but because she is substantially invested in the role for her own gain, Jake benefits from having her as a strong auxiliary. Next in the psychodrama scene, Jake begins to share about his uncertainty about ever being able to forgive himself. Jake describes his negative beliefs about himself and his habit of pushing others away because he feels ashamed. At this point, the director suggests that Frank enter the role of the negative beliefs and behaviors that block Jake from self-forgiveness and connection. Frank is able to play the role without any role training based on his own warm-up to his topic. When role reversed with Jake, Frank (as Jake) gets to work on his topic through the interaction with Jake’s negative beliefs/behaviors. As Jake renegotiates his relationship to these negative beliefs, he begins to warm-up to the potential of a future with self-forgiveness. Noticing the connection with Steven’s topic of hope for the future, the director clinically assigns the role of future self to Steven after checking it out with Jake first. Steven steps into the role of Jake in the future having attained self-forgiveness and a positive relationship with himself. In the back and forth dialogue and role reversal between Jake and his future self, the director facilitates Steven’s work at the same time.

Through the use of clinical role assignments related to the other volunteers for protagonist, the director is able to provide a group-as-a-whole experience for participants while meeting the therapeutic goals and needs for the maximum number of group members (Buchanan & Dubbs-Siroka, 1980). While the role relationships in the protagonist’s psychodrama are always given priority, each participant is seen as a protagonist just below the surface of the psychodrama roles. The director often reminds role players that as they are speaking to Jake, they are also speaking their messages to themselves—as they are playing the role for Jake, they are also playing the role for themselves (Giacomucci & Stone, 2019). In this process, it is also important to consider the sociometric relationships between the protagonist and the other group members before making a decision to assign a role. If Jake had a negative relationship with Steven playing the role of himself in the future, it could have jeopardized the success of his psychodrama. However, at the same time, a negative relationship between Jake and Frank playing the role of his negative beliefs and behaviors may have actually been helpful and even transformative for their interpersonal relationships as it would have provided an opportunity for conflict, catharsis, anger, rejection, and change with the aesthetic distance of the roles. The skillful use of clinical role assignments makes for a more engaged, vulnerable, and fruitful psychodrama for everyone involved.

In a basic psychodrama enactment, the auxiliaries are simply playing roles for the protagonist’s scene based on direction from the protagonist and/or director. An advanced director can encourage auxiliaries to bring themselves to the role they are playing using emotional content from their own connection to the topic or role dynamics (Blatner, 1996; McVea, 2013; Moreno, 1946). Drawing upon the awareness of the auxiliary role player’s own social atom, the director can direct them to warm up to the role they are playing by accessing emotions related to how their own lived experience of this role. This type of directing for auxiliaries can be used at any time and is especially relevant for auxiliaries that have been enrolled through clinical role assignments. It is also important to note that while clinical role assignments are one way to enhance the connection of participants to the psychodrama, the same group members are likely to be chosen for the roles based on the active tele between the protagonist and their peers (McVea, 2013).

14.4.1 Projective Identification

The here-and-now experience of group members is another source of information that can guide clinical role assignments. Using the same psychodrama example above, let us say that Tiffany is an audience member observing the psychodrama process with tears in her eyes, feeling vulnerable. Jake had referenced a desire to practice more vulnerability and be open with his emotions rather than defensive. With Jake’s permission, Tiffany is integrated into the scene in the role of vulnerability where she is encouraged to use the emotions she is experiencing in service of the psychodrama scene while representing the strength of vulnerability for Jake.

The example of Tiffany used above is conceptualized in the Therapeutic Spiral Model as the use of projective identification in the group process (Hogenboom, 2020; Hudgins & Toscani, 2013). TSM teaches that the protagonist is projecting parts of self or emotions out upon group members who will at times identify with a projection and start to play out that role or emotion unconsciously. It is the role of the director and/or team members to be aware of the potential presence of projective identification and incorporate audience members who have identified with projections into the psychodrama scene so the protagonist can reintegrate the split off part. The first instinct of a therapist might be to ignore Tiffany or allow her to leave the room to contain herself, but it is worth considering if her emotional experience might be one of the projective identification and useful in the psychodrama scene. This process of projective identification in group therapy has also been described as it relates to group roles in traditional group work (Moxnes, 1999) and classical psychodrama groups (Holmes, 2015). The Therapeutic Spiral Model uses projective identification in service of this group-as-a-whole experience. Although we start with one protagonist, everyone becomes a protagonist. Although we start with one narrative, everyone’s narrative joins into a collective narrative. And although on the surface, we are concerned with the protagonist’s inner role atom; each individual group members’ role atoms begin to emerge in alignment with the drama. The layers of object relations form a symmetrical union—Moreno termed this as this the organic unity of mankind (Moreno, 1953). The group mind emerges and accesses the autonomous healing center within (Giacomucci, 2019).

Holmes (2015) also describes the influence of projective identification on role players within classical psychodrama. He writes that the protagonist, in their interaction with a role on the psychodrama stage, is projecting that role and their experience of that role upon the role player who often identifies with the projections. It could be argued that projection and projective identification are the parallel mechanisms underlying the experience of role reciprocity. Projective identification may also be underlying the process of doubling of the protagonist from other group members. In both cases, the projections from the protagonist are able to be held, articulated, and reintegrated by the protagonist in action.

14.4.2 Prescribing Roles

Another use of role assignment comes from the director’s clinical judgment of roles that are missing in the psychodrama scene itself. A common use of this type of role assignment comes in the form of prescribing strengths-based roles or supportive roles when working with trauma or addiction (Dayton, 2005; Hudgins, 2002). The Therapeutic Spiral Model (TSM) offers a comprehensive clinical map that includes eight different prescriptive roles (see Sect. 7.8.1) with the functions of containment, strength/restoration, and accurate observation (Giacomucci, 2018). When working with trauma, these roles are prescribed by the psychodrama director into the scene to ensure safety. Some different examples might include prescribing the role of a body double to a protagonist struggling with body image; interpersonal support for a protagonist struggling to ask others for help; courage or willingness for a protagonist intimidated by the process; self-love for a protagonist struggling with self-hatred; boundaries for a protagonist struggling with healthy boundaries; a manager of defenses for a client struggling with maladaptive defense mechanisms; or a compassionate witness for a protagonist struggling with accurate labeling or self-judgment. As noted previously, the prescriptive roles enhance the sense of safety and spontaneity in the psychodrama scene, especially when working with traumatic material and trauma survivors. In many cases, without the presence of strengths-based roles, a protagonist risks repeating or reenacting maladaptive behavior patterns or trauma in the actual psychodrama scene. If nothing changes, nothing changes. Regardless of the psychodrama enactment, it is also important to balance the use of clinical role assignments and prescribed roles with the protagonist’s own choice of roles and role players. It can be helpful to think of the psychodrama process as a co-created scene between the protagonist, the director, and the group.

14.5 Trauma-Based Role Considerations for Safety

As noted in Chap. 7, psychodrama can be potentially re-traumatizing with trauma survivors which has both impacted its reputation in negative ways and led to the development of different trauma-focused psychodrama models (Dayton, 2015; Giacomucci & Marquit, 2020; Hudgins & Toscani, 2013). Essential for any psychodrama director is a basic understanding of role considerations related to safety for trauma survivors. When facilitating trauma-related scenes, the director is ultimately responsible for the safety of the process and preventing any harm from being experienced by participants. The previous subsection outlines the use of prescribing strengths-based roles with attention to safety which offers an alternative to reenacting one’s trauma scene.

When working directly with trauma-based roles such as perpetrators or victim roles, there are some clinical factors that the director should consider (Giacomucci, 2018; Hudgins & Toscani, 2013; Nolte, 2020; Toscani & Hudgins, 2013). One such consideration is that of the individual ego strength of the protagonist, each participant, and the group-as-a-whole. It is not uncommon for group members to have varying levels of ego strength and different windows of tolerance. Consistency in this area is best cultivated through thorough assessment prior to group sessions. In some cases, the protagonist may have the ego strength to encounter a trauma-based role in the psychodrama, but the rest of the group might be unable to tolerate the level of intensity that comes by observing the scene. Or the group may have chosen a topic that involves a trauma-based role only to find that the protagonist who volunteered the topic does not seem to have the stability to go there. When there is concern about lack of ego strength and stability to encounter trauma-based roles, it would be wise for the director to either focus the scene on building up strengths, internalized trauma roles, and/or using metaphorical roles. Another option is to utilize an empty chair to hold the trauma-based role instead of another role player which will limit the power of the role.

When facilitating psychodramas focused on trauma, another foundational understanding for the director is around common defense mechanisms and trauma responses (Giacomucci, 2018). A director working with trauma needs to be able to identify and intervene when a group member is experiencing dissociation, common trauma responses (fight, flight, and freeze), flashbacks, hyperarousal, difficulty with physical touch, body memories, regression, and symptoms related to dissociative identity disorder. Many of these defenses or symptoms can appear to be resistance, defiance, disinterest, unrelated to trauma, or even a form of role playing to the untrained eye when in fact they are often related to traumatic symptoms or defenses. An understanding of defenses and trauma responses becomes necessary to adequately respond with spontaneity to a protagonist or group members (Toscani & Hudgins, 2013). Recognizing the importance of defenses and their role as a psychological attempt to establish safety or reduce threat/anxiety allows the director to honor them and help a protagonist honor them when they involuntarily emerge in the drama.

In classical psychodrama, a protagonist often is immediately role reversed with a role to provide role training for the auxiliary before interacting with the role as one’s self. When working with the victim or perpetrator roles, it is advisable to have the protagonist first demonstrate their ability to interact with these roles from their adult ego state prior to directing them to role reverse into the trauma role (Toscani & Hudgins, 2013). This provides the director with an assessment of the protagonists spontaneity and ego strength, while also evaluating their ability to differentiate themselves from the trauma-based role, to access adaptive information in the trauma-based role dynamic, to nurture or validate the victim role, and to confront the perpetrator role in appropriate ways. Only once a protagonist has sufficiently demonstrated their capacity to appropriately nurture the traumatized parts of self would it be safe to role reverse them into that role. Otherwise there is a risk of the protagonist being unable to role reverse or de-role back to their original role due to the vortex of the trauma and regression. Similarly, with the perpetrator role it is important to have the protagonist first demonstrate their ability to encounter the role before the role reversal. If this is not done, we risk overidentification with the perpetrator or the role training of violence. The practice of immediately role reversing protagonists into new roles seems to be a newer pattern in psychodrama directing as the Morenos did not immediately use role reversal and sometimes directed scenes without any role reversals.

A reminder that the role reversal is the final stage of development in Moreno’s theory can be useful here. Using the developmental theory as a guide, a director would start with the interventions of the double and the mirror before role reversing. Encountering a trauma role in a psychodrama with adequate doubling provides the protagonist with stability, support, expression, and the labeling of non-verbal traumatic content. Instructing the protagonist to first experience the trauma-based role interaction from the mirror position would provide distance, safety, and the ability to accurately label the experience while warming up to necessary changes in the scene (Yablonsky, 1976). Once the functions of doubling (stabilization, expression, and labeling inner experience) and mirroring (differentiation and accurate sense of self) have been achieved, then it is safe to role reverse the protagonist into a trauma role. The role reversal with a trauma-based role, when used safely, provides further differentiation, understanding, catharsis, integration, and empowerment (Nolte, 2020; Roine, 2000; Toscani & Hudgins, 2013).

After a scene involving trauma-based roles, it is important that the director gives special attention to the integration process, closure, and de-roling. The director needs to remember that catharsis alone does not create change. It must be followed with integration, transformation, meaning making, growth, and/or future role training. In trauma-focused psychodramas, an enactment involving catharsis but no integration is simply a trauma reenactment and may only serve to increase the imprint of the trauma. Trauma scenes in psychodrama are often followed up with scenes for corrective emotional experiences, developmental repair, and/or unmet needs being fulfilled (Giacomucci, 2018, 2020; Giacomucci & Stone, 2019; Hudgins, 2002).

14.6 De-Roling Difficult Roles

There are times when de-roling can become difficult for auxiliaries and group members, especially related to trauma-based roles (Burmeister, 2000). It seems that the experience of playing a role for someone else that relates to a role that one has unresolved business with, especially trauma, increases the likelihood of an auxiliary getting stuck in the role and having difficult de-roling. There are multiple layers to the de-roling process which are important to consider, especially when working with antagonist and trauma-based roles. The de-roling needs to occur for the role player de-roling self in addition to the group, the protagonist, and the director seeing the role player as de-roled. While a role player might privately de-role, the rest of the group could continue to project the role upon them. This has the potential to lead to transferences between group members and even countertransference from the director.

When it comes to audience members, it can also be beneficial to invite them to de-role from the audience at the end of the psychodrama. This promotes action and engagement from audience members as the rest of the group de-roles and integrates back into the here-and-now group. It is certainly possible for audience members to get stuck in the role of audience even after the enactment is complete. When this happens, they are less likely to share in the next phase of the group and might feel disconnected and distant from the process.

It is also possible for the protagonist to role reverse with a difficult role and have trouble reversing out of that role again. This becomes especially evident when working with trauma-based roles and needs to be considered. As outlined previously, a good rule of thumb is to make sure protagonists can interact appropriately and spontaneously with the trauma-based role as themselves before directing them to role reverse (Hudgins & Toscani, 2013).

When encountering a group member who needs extra attention to de-roling, there are multiple avenues to further the de-roling process. The auxiliary could be asked to use additional body movement to shake off the role with spontaneity or be asked to make statements about how they are different than the role they played in front of the group. For example, a group member after playing the role of an angry demanding mother might further de-role by stating, “I am not the angry demanding mother because: I don’t have any children; I am loving and forgiving; and I am patient and understanding with others”. Another playful way of de-roling is to use surplus reality to set up a de-roling station where role players are washed from their roles, unzipped from their roles, or transformed back into themselves with other creative and imaginary processes. One further method of de-roling difficult roles is through the use of a mini empty chair dialog between the role player and the role in front of the group. The role player is asked to separate themselves from the role by putting it into the empty chair. Then, they are directed to speak to the role with a focus on differentiation. This provides the role player and the group with a visual, emotional, and cognitive experience of separating the group member from the role they played in the scene. When de-roling in this way from an antagonist or trauma-based role, this also provides the role player with a chance to demonstrate safe, compassionate, insightful, and grounded statements or action in front of the group after playing a role that may have been angry, dismissive, or antagonistic.

The aforementioned de-roling interventions can also be useful in any therapeutic process when it is identified that one participant is projecting upon another or in the midst of transference with another. The same de-roling methods can be used to help participants explore transference and projections to better relate to each other in the here-and-now. In this way, de-roling provides an avenue to transcend transference to engage with tele.

14.7 Conclusion

This chapter outlines various advanced psychodrama directing competencies and interventions focused on providing a group-as-a-whole therapeutic experience through the skillful interweaving of client stories and sociometric layers. The outlined interventions in this chapter are often too complex for one facilitator to track while also holding the other roles of director. It can be advantageous to work on a team of trained psychodrama professionals to share the responsibilities and directing functions (Cho, 2013; McVea, 2013). Outlined considerations for trauma-based roles and integrating strengths-based roles ensure the presence and maintenance of a sense of safety for the group. The use of active sociometry, clinical role assignments, and moments of multiple protagonists provide maximum emotional involvement for the audience and auxiliaries during the psychodrama process.


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Giacomucci, S. (2021). Advanced Psychodrama Directing. In: Social Work, Sociometry, and Psychodrama. Psychodrama in Counselling, Coaching and Education, vol 1. Springer, Singapore.

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