By Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP
There is psychodrama, and there is sociodrama. Sociodrama is the less-known method of the two action methods, although it offers great opportunities for action explorations in many settings.
In psychodrama, we explore a personal issue; for instance, the protagonist, as the client is called, may wish to look at a difficult relationship with a boyfriend, a long-standing conflict with mother, a repeated nightmare or a rehearsal to ask the boss for a raise. The idea is to address a personal problem with the help of “auxiliaries,” the other group members, to enact the roles in the drama to arrive at a conclusion that feels enlightening, satisfying and healing.
In sociodrama, there is no protagonist. Instead, the group identifies a social or cultural issue of common interest and each person in the group takes and plays out a role that relates to the issue or problem.
The social and cultural issue may affect a group, culture, country or globe For instance, the group may decide to look at the nation’s opioid epidemic, taking generic roles of the drug addict, the prescribing physician, the pharmaceutical industry, the law, the police, the nation’s drug policy, the addict’s family. Or the group may settle on a topic like migrant children detained at the U.S. border, identifying roles of migrant child, migrant parent, ICE agent, border wall, U.S. citizens and the like.
Sometimes the group decides on the topic, deciding from an array of themes. At other times, the director – as the group leader is called – may advertise a specific theme prior to the group, drawing participants interested in that topic.
In both instances, the director will make use of warm up to develop cohesion in the group and use the common psychodramatic techniques of role reversal, doubling and soliloquy to advance the action. At the conclusion of the sociodrama, the participants step of out of their roles to share about the experience and how they personally relate to the drama.
Rosalie Minkin, a psychodramatist and sociodramatist in Philadelphia who is an elder and active member of the Delaware Valley Psychodrama Collective, says sociodrama encourages creativity by offering opportunities to activate, explore and develop characters and establish roles in relation to the social themes and issues.
Through the years, she has presented to police departments, elder centers, schools and at conferences. Her self-published book “Sociodrama For Our Time: A Sociodrama Manual,” tells the importance of sociodrama and the steps in directing a sociodrama. She expects to teach a four-session training in Philadelphia starting in September to remind aspiring psychodramatists of all of their enactment choices.
Nina Garcia, the co-author of the classic “Who’s In Your Shoes” with the late Patricia Sternberg, says sociodrama provides an exciting action forum for problem-solving and values exploration. Her book shows the reader how to structure sociodrama sessions, how to facilitate the accomplishment of group goals through action, and how to avoid some of the pitfalls of sociodrama directing.
Eva Leveton also wrote about sociodrama and drama therapy in her book Healing Collective Trauma Using Sociodrama and Drama Therapy in 2010, with a focus on combining expressive therapies.
Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP, is an author, trainer and psychotherapist who promotes, practices and teaches experiential methods including psychodrama, Family and Systemic Constellations, sand tray, mindfulness and Tarot imagery.