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Psychodrama (from ancient Greek ψυχή psychḗ "soul" and δρᾶμα drā̃ma "action", "process") is a method of psychotherapy , counseling and social research , developed by the Austrian doctor Jacob Levy Moreno (1890–1974) in Vienna and New York . Originally conceived as an action-oriented alternative to psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud , the psychodramatic approach has established itself worldwide primarily as a method of group and individual psychotherapy and counseling and has influenced numerous other psychotherapy schools such as gestalt therapy , transactional analysis and family therapy .

Forms of work

The Psychodrama Procedure in Psychotherapy

Group psychotherapy

Psychodrama emerged as "therapy in the group, by the group, for the group and the group" from impromptu theater and was the first form of group psychotherapy. But: “A psychodramatic session, for example, is far from always being group psychotherapy. It is often only the treatment of a specific individual in the group. ” As the main actor in the psychodramatic play in the here and now of a psychodrama stage, the client ( protagonist ) designs his therapeutic theme.

As a member of the group, the protagonist is given the opportunity, with their permission, to work on their own topic or that of the group with the support of the game master and selected helpers . The spectators let themselves be touched by the game of the protagonist, intervene with the support of the game director and, like all other players, give empathic and, where necessary, critical feedback. However, spectators who are not or hardly integrated into the game can experience a healing shock, a catharsis .

“The aim of psychodrama is to activate and integrate spontaneity and creativity . Constructive, spontaneous action has come about when the protagonist finds a new and appropriate reaction to a new or already known situation. "

- Moreno, 1959, p. 34

This goal is also pursued for the group process as a whole. With the help of the group, the protagonist should free himself from entrenched role structures or role reserves .

We learn social roles which individuals and individual situations cannot do justice to. The more natural creativity - according to Moreno as the “highest nuclear structure in the universe” - cannot be used due to buried “spontaneity”, the more we are attached to fixed role models.

Psychodrama techniques should only be used by appropriately trained specialists who are able to competently respond to the sometimes quite strong emotional effects and guide them in constructive ways.

Individual psychotherapy or counseling

This single form is also referred to as psychodrama a deux, bipersonal psychodrama or - incorrectly - as monodrama . Although psychodrama was originally conceived as group psychotherapy, forms of individual psychodramatic work have also become established, both in psychotherapy and in counseling work (coaching, supervision). The missing players are replaced by objects (chairs, pillows, etc.), and sometimes the counselors or psychotherapists take on roles at short notice. (see Schaller 2009)

Psychotherapy with children and adolescents

The psychodrama-therapeutic work with children has proven to be a particular challenge. It was developed by Hans-Werner Gessmann , Ingrid Sevecke and Stefanie Unsin from 1976 at the Bergerhausen Psychotherapeutic Institute . Working methods that give the role play a clear structural framework have proven themselves here. In the warming-up phase, the children work out which scenario should be explored in a playful way, and the roles are also distributed among themselves. The stage is then set up together. Only then does the game take place, in which special attention must be paid to maintaining the “as if” character. After the game phase, the game is resolved together by laying down the roles and tidying up the stage. A debriefing about the experience is essential. In Austria today, child psychodrama is essentially represented by Alfons Aichinger, Walter Holl and Hildegard Pruckner.

Educational forms of application

Psychodrama in adult education (personnel and organizational development)

Psychodrama techniques can be used effectively in learning in different specialist areas in adult education (see Schaller 2006).

Psychodrama in class (scenic didactics)

Its use in schools has been tried and tested. Methods of psychodrama can be used in school work. As early as the 1940s, psychodramatic methods were used in teaching in schools in the USA. Moreno himself was one of the authors. In 1947 (Hendry, Lippitt and Zander), 1949 (Haas), in Germany in 1994 (Schmitz-Gessmann) and 2006 (Gessmann / Hossbach) there were publications on educational and didactic possibilities with psychodramatic methods that were described by teachers. Schmitz-Gessmann uses a lesson draft and a concrete example to show how the methods of psychodrama can be used didactically and in a guideline-oriented manner in primary school lessons. Gessmann / Hossbach present methods of psychodrama used in lessons in a German lesson of the upper level through video documentation. Neurobiology currently seems to confirm what has long been known: the experience-activating methods of psychodrama open sensory channels to the brain and anchor knowledge.

Because didactic goals are pursued in school and the word psychodrama is alien to teachers, the term “scenic didactics” instead of “psychodrama” is widespread. Scenic didactics has provided a number of examples of how this method can be used didactically and pedagogically (see Koesel and others 1995). The reason for the application of psychodramatic educational work and related methods (for foreign language teaching: Psychodramaturgie Linguistique , from France: Jeux Dramatiques ) in everyday school life is the frequently observed lack of relationships between teachers and students. It is one of the causes of widespread failure, drop-out, and aggression in school. When teachers lose emotional ties with their students, students drop out and lose their curiosity about educational content. Psychodramatic educational work is suitable, on the one hand, to work on the relationship deficit between the teacher (self-image "pure subject teacher" = instruction enforcement officer) and students, as well as uncooperative, conspicuous behavior of children and young people in the group situation of a school class.

The aim of working with psychodramatic methods is, for example, when reflecting on violence, aggression or bullying, to transfer alternative behavior patterns into one's own role. The child or adolescent can get feedback (in the sense of hypotheses) about role behavior and what causes this by doubling up , swapping and changing roles, mirroring from the trained (!) Educator . A role reversal does not take place on the real level. Instead, working on the symbolic level is crucial for the successful application of psychodramatic methods. So it is not the student who takes on the role of the teacher and the teacher plays the rebellious student, but the topic is dealt with through symbols and symbolic actions.

In lessons (politics / economics) or in project weeks, for example, the “ sociodrama ” method can offer these possibilities. By means of alienation in a set scenario (for example schoolyard and violence, playground and disturber, school party and drug consumption, pupils and school management, but also employers and works council) and taking on roles from this scenario, the pupils can act out a type of behavior according to their knowledge . By swapping roles with those who think differently, they are then given a contrary feeling. The role protects them from being meant themselves: they always act out of the role. In this way you can experience people who think differently and empathize with their way of thinking. The teacher will remain an observer or take on roles that do not correspond to the teaching role. For example, as a journalist, he can conduct interviews with the players.

Another field is teaching sequences that use psychodramatic methods. This form brings movement into the lesson and improves the relationship between teachers and students, as they themselves express their thoughts and ideas on the subject of the lesson. And above all: it's fun for everyone involved.

Lesson examples with methods of psychodrama

Listed according to age, origin, place of work, hobby, according to wishes for a class trip, according to room occupancy

Clarification of the distribution of tasks in a project work, orientation when verbalizing project documentation, clarification of relationships in class with other students, establishing relationships among colleagues

Opponents of the current political scene are re-enacted and interpreted in free play. This is followed by a sequence with role changes to the other roles; Finally: sharing and communicating the experiences in the roles ( role feedback )

  • Symbol technology, moving / still sculptures and still images for the presentation of lesson content
    • from electrical engineering: representation of voltage , current ; Charge ratios in the capacitor ; Behavior of the electron flow in the conductor / non-conductor
    • from computer science: playing control structures and algorithms in a path game for robots ; Object-oriented programming : Representation of objects, classes, properties and activities through moving sculptures
    • From economics and politics: representation of an important statement in a lecture with a sculpture or a still image; before a film: Presentation of a suitable term as a warming-up
  • Vignettes for the presentation and discussion of conflict situations

Conflict with boss about desire for vacation; Conflict as a seller with a customer: Getting to know the customer's perspective when ordering products

Psychodrama in other fields of application

Further fields of application in which psychodrama is used are:

  • Gerontotherapy
  • Music therapy
  • Foreign language lessons, so-called Psychodramaturgie Linguistique
  • Qualitative market research
  • Landscape architecture
  • Dealing with historical processes
  • vlg. also bibliodrama for the development of biblical texts

Course of a psychodramatic work unit

The psychodrama consists of three phases:

  • Warming-up phase
  • Action phase (game and story)
  • Integration phase (sharing and feedback by the group)

In the further training and supervision context, this procedure is supplemented by a further phase, the

  • Process analysis


The psychodramatic techniques are extremely numerous and difficult to understand. Reinhard Krüger worked out a system that has now become standard in German-speaking countries. In his presentation he differentiates between eight central psychodrama techniques:

  • Scene setup
  • Double
  • Scenic action
  • RPG and mirroring
  • Role reversal
  • Role feedback and interpretation
  • Change of scenery and scenic interaction
  • Sharing and amplification


In the humanistic psychodrama, the double communicates as a group member in an emancipated partnership and at the same time always only with the main actor centered on the protagonist. It communicates with him about his feelings, his ways of thinking and values. The aim is to find similarities and differences in the ideas of protagonist and double. This exchange takes place on the verbal level as well as on the emotional level as well as on the action level in order to give the protagonist trust in relation to the double and the double the insight into the protagonist's ideas. This common process of understanding between protagonist and double is experienced and felt by the other group members and motivates them to continue the double process of their own accord, to add to it, to vary it, as it is beneficial for their own conception formation. This interpersonal and interactional occurrence is an essential socio-psychological dimension of the group therapeutic process (Gessmann, 1996).

This understanding of the double process differs from a more depth psychologically oriented approach, in which the double helps the protagonist to recognize his unconscious or defended motives and feelings. A participant stands behind him and whispers the feelings and thoughts over his shoulder, which he perceives intuitively through empathy and countertransference in the protagonist. The protagonist then checks whether what he has heard corresponds to what he has thought or felt himself. If so, he includes it in his game plot, if not, he shakes his head in the negative.

Feedback: sharing, role feedback and identification feedback

In the sharing , the group members, fellow players and viewers, report which personal experiences of the game they saw and experienced were addressed and recalled. Gessmann (1998) comprehensively describes the importance of sharing for humanistic psychodrama. All forms of analysis of the game, evaluations, advice or tips are not permitted. The sharing serves primarily to restore the aspect of equality between protagonists and group members by sharing life experiences. According to Yalom, an essential beneficial aspect of group psychotherapy is the knowledge that you are not the only person with this fate.

In role feedback, the players report and add to the protagonist and the group what they experienced in the roles. This is often an important step in shedding the role and distancing yourself from it.

In the identification feedback, the viewers report which roles in the game they have identified with and how they have responded emotionally. The identification feedback of the audience corresponds to the role feedback of the other players.

Schools of Psychodrama

Moreno's classical psychodrama is represented today by various therapeutic schools, which differ in their approaches, working methods and theories, such as: B. the behavior drama, the depth psychologically based psychodrama, the analytical psychodrama and the humanistic psychodrama.

Systemically oriented psychodrama

Systemically oriented forms of psychodrama emphasize the solution-oriented aspect of the method or work with scenic implementations of systemic-solution-oriented methods such as scale work, wonder questions , the staging of target scenarios etc. At the same time, however, psychodramatic core concepts such as spontaneity, telephoto, role etc. Background of systemic models of thought made compatible with contemporary thinking. Major representatives of this variety are Anthony Williams (Australia), Jan Bleckwedel, Ulf Klein (Germany), Chris Farmer (Great Britain) and Rory Remer (USA).

Transpersonal psychodrama

The transpersonal psychodrama is more confrontational when it comes to doubling , also uses round tables as a stage and integrates systemic methods. The leader has a slightly stronger role in transpersonal psychodrama than in conventional psychodrama. It is less left to chance and the powers of self-healing (which corresponds to the level of self-awareness), but rather the protagonist is guided into a process of change.

Humanistic psychodrama

The Humanistic Psychodrama (HPD) is based on the human image of humanistic psychology . So all rules and methods follow the axioms of humanistic psychology. It was developed by Hans-Werner Gessmann in the 1980s at the Bergerhausen Psychotherapeutic Institute in Duisburg. The HPD sees itself as development-oriented psychotherapy and has completely moved away from the psychoanalytic catharsis theory. Self-awareness and self-realization are essential aspects in the therapeutic process. Subjective experiences, feelings and thoughts and one's own experiences are the starting point for a change or reorientation in experience and behavior towards more self-acceptance and satisfaction. Dealing with the biography of the individual is closely linked to the sociometry of the group.

See also


  • A. Aichinger, W. Holl: Psychodrama children group therapy. Grünewald, Mainz 1997, ISBN 3-7867-2001-0 .
  • A. Aichinger, W. Holl: Children's psychodrama in family and individual therapy, in kindergarten and school. Grünewald, Mainz 2002, ISBN 3-7867-2413-X .
  • F. v. Ameln, R. Gerstmann, J. Kramer: Psychodrama. 2nd Edition. Springer Verlag, 2009, ISBN 978-3-540-89912-9 .
  • J. Fürst, K. Ottomeyer, H. Pruckner: Psychodrama Therapy. Facultas, 2004, ISBN 3-85076-663-2 .
  • E. Koesel: Personality development in professional fields on the basis of psychodrama. Freiburg 1989.
  • E. Koesel and others: Psychodrama in the classroom. Examples of subject-oriented didactics. In: Journal of Pedagogy. Issue 11, 1995.
  • E. Koesel: Psychodrama in school and in class. In: V. Buddrus: Humanistic Pedagogy. Bad Heilbrunn.
  • Reinhard Krüger: Creative Interaction. Depth psychological theory and methods of classical psychodrama. 1997. (online)
  • JL Moreno: Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama. Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart 1959.
  • H. Pruckner: The game is the silver bullet for children. inScenario Verlag, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-929296-10-1 .
  • Journal of Psychodrama and Sociometry. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden, ISSN  1619-5507
  • International journal for humanistic psychodrama. Duisburg: Verlag des PIB, ISSN  0949-3018
  • Zeitlinger-Hochreiter: Compendium of Psychodrama Therapy. In: Scenario. 1996.
  • D. plasterer, S. Kunze: cats in the rain. The drama with the psychodrama. Edition Zebra, Hamburg 1989.
  • H.-W. Gessmann: Humanistic Psychodrama I – IV. Verlag des PIB Duisburg, ISBN 3-928524-23-2 .
  • H.-W. Gessmann: Empirical investigation of the therapeutic effectiveness of the double method in humanistic psychodrama. In: Humanistic * * Psychodrama IV, Verlag des PIB, Duisburg 1996, ISBN 3-928524-31-3 .
  • H.-W. Gessmann: Empirical contribution to testing the effectiveness of psychodramatic group psychotherapy in neurosis patients (ICD-10: F3, F4). In: Journal of Psychodrama and Sociometry. Special issue. Empirical research. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2011.
  • M. Sader : role play as a research method . Westdeutscher Verlag, 1986, ISBN 3-531-11786-6 .
  • M. Sader: Psychodrama and Psychology. In: Jahrbuch für Psychodrama, psychosocial practice & social policy 1994. 1995, ISBN 3-322-95986-4 , pp. 7-30.
  • R. Schaller: The big role play book. 2nd Edition. Beltz 2006, ISBN 3-407-36434-2 .
  • R. Schaller: Imagine you are ... The one-person role-play in counseling, coaching and therapy. Huber 2009, ISBN 978-3-456-84670-5 .
  • P. Soppa: Psychodrama - Practical Handbook. Leske + Budrich, 2001, ISBN 3-8100-2903-3 .
  • Ch. Stadler, S. Kern: Psychodrama . An introduction. VS, Wiesbaden 2010, ISBN 978-3-531-16539-4 .
  • A. Ploeger, K. Greven, L. Gührs, B. Schmidt: Depth psychologically founded psychodrama therapy. Kohlhammer Verlag, 1983, ISBN 3-17-005615-8 .
  • G. Weiss: Child psychodrama in curative and social education. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-608-94495-2 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. On role play in social research see Manfred Sader : role play as a research method . 1986.
  2. ^ Moreno after Leutz: Psychodrama. Volume 1, Springer, 1974.
  3. Moreno 1947, quoted from Hutter, Schwehm: J. L. Moreno's work in key terms. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2009, p. 415.
  4. H.-W. Gessmann: Child Psychodrama Therapy. Documentation about the beginning of the therapy form. Publishing house of the Psychotherapeutic Institute Bergerhausen, Duisburg, 2011.
  5. Mariele Schmitz-Gessmann: “I'm fat, round and a little sticky.” - Teaching with psychodramatic methods. In: Hans-Werner Gessmann (Hrsg.): Humanistic Psychodrama 2. Verlag des Psychotherapeutisches Institut Bergerhausen, Duisburg 1994, pp. 137–171.
  6. H.-W. Gessmann, H. Hossbach: Peter Härtling - grief and consolation. Development of a literary text using scenic methods from humanistic psychodrama. Publishing house of the Psychotherapeutic Institute Bergerhausen, Duisburg 2006.
  7. z. B. Hans-Werner Gessmann, Christel Viethen: Humanistic psychodrama with older and older people. Marienkloster 2009. Publishing house of the Psychotherapeutic Institute Bergerhausen, Duisburg 2009.
  8. z. B. Heidi Fausch-Pfister: Music therapy and psychodrama. Reichert-Verlag, Wiesbaden; Joseph J. Moreno: Acting your inner music. Music Therapy and Psychodrama. MMB Music, Saint Louis, MO, USA 2011.
  9. z. BE Haimerl, U. Lebok, D. Leuschner: Role play and psychodrama as instruments for market research with children and adolescents. In: GfK yearbook of sales and consumption research. 49th volume, 1/2003, pp. 27-44.
  10. E. Haimerl, R. Roleff: role play and psychodrama as market research methods. Integration of observation, questioning and experiment. In: Yearbook of sales and consumption research. 3/1996, pp. 266-280.
  11. z. B. Peter Jüngst, Oskar Meder: Experiments on the scenic-spatial dynamics of group processes. Territoriality and presentative symbolism of living and working worlds. (= Urbs et regio. 54). Comprehensive University, Kassel 1990.
  12. z. B. Agnes Dudler, Rainer Bosselmann: Sociodrama in large groups - sociodramatic historical research and use of sociodrama in various large group proceedings. In: Thomas Wittinger (Ed.): Handbuch Soziodrama. The whole world on stage. 1995, pp. 17-38.
  13. Reinhard Krüger: Creative Interaction. Depth psychological theory and methods of classical psychodrama. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1997, ISBN 3-525-45794-4 . (on-line)
  14. ( Memento of the original from March 9, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  15. H.-W. Gessmann: Sharing in Humanistic Psychodrama. In: International Journal of Humanistic Psychodrama. 4th year, issue 1, June 1998, Verlag des Psychotherapeutisches Institut Bergerhausen, Duisburg, pp. 42–63. ISSN  0949-3018
  16. ^ Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy: A Textbook. (= Learning to live. 66). 8th edition. Pfeiffer, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-608-89624-4 .
  17. Grete Leutz: The classic psychodrama after JL Moreno. Springer Verlag, Berlin 1974
  18. Hilarion Petzold: Dramatic Therapy. Hippocrates, Stuttgart 1982
  19. ^ Andreas Ploeger : Psychodrama therapy based on depth psychology. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1983
  20. Michel Basquin: The psychodrama as a method in psychoanalysis. Junfermann Verlag, Paderborn 1981
  21. Hans-Werner Gessmann: Humanistic Psychodrama. Volumes I-IV, Verlag des PIB, Duisburg 1990
  22. H.-W. Gessmann: Humanistic Psychology and Humanistic Psychodrama . In: Humanistic Psychodrama . Volume IV, Verlag des Psychotherapeutisches Institut Bergerhausen, Duisburg 1996, pp. 27-76.
  23. H.-W. Gessmann: Humanistic Psychodrama. Volume I – IV, Verlag des Psychotherapeutisches Institut Bergerhausen, Duisburg 1990, ISBN 3-928524-21-6 , pp. 22–4, 23–2, 31–5
  24. H.-W. Gessmann: First considerations for overcoming the catharsis concept in humanistic psychodrama. In: International Journal of Humanistic Psychodrama. 5th year, issue 2, Dec 1999, Verlag des Psychotherapeutisches Institut Bergerhausen, Duisburg, pp. 5–26, ISSN  0949-3018
  25. H.-W. Gessmann: Humanistic Psychology and Humanistic Psychodrama. In: Humanistic Psychodrama. Volume IV, Verlag des Psychotherapeutisches Institut Bergerhausen, Duisburg 1996, ISBN 3-928524-31-3 .