About sociodrama – how did it start?
J.L. Moreno was the founding father of sociodrama, psychodrama, sociometry, action methods and role training. Working in the first half of the twentieth century, he was passionate about promoting creative living, learning and action, believing that:
– Spontaneity and creativity power human progress
– Encountering kindness, sharing and trust is what really matters, helping us build communities where we can learn, grow and heal together
– By following our natural curiosity and imagining ourselves into other viewpoints and possibilities, we can change both our external and internal worlds.
Moreno passionately believed his approach should be shared with the ‘whole of humankind’, developing his work with people from all walks of life – including traumatised soldiers recovering from wars, maximum security prisoners in New York’s toughest jail, and prostitutes in Vienna.
Spontaneity and creativity
Today, sociodramatists also use Moreno’s dynamic and empowering, democratic techniques with a wide range of groups and communities. Sociodramatists have a unique take on the world, embracing spontaneity, creativity and openness, celebrating the wide range of solutions people have evolved in response to the world they’ve found themselves in. We are curious, compassionate and playful. We respect every voice, and are open to learn and grow together. Just as Moreno was more than a century ago when he tried and learned from his first sociodrama in Vienna (in a moment of the social crisis of disintegration of Austro-Hungarian Monarchy), inviting people on stage to play the king for a while and say what they would do to save the country.
Participants have described sociodrama as, ‘cathartic, intensely vivid and alive, liberating, energising, empowering, non-threatening’. In such a dynamic environment the sharing of perspectives creates strongly empathetic human bonds. People can discover and practice new roles and approaches, releasing ‘held’ emotion, freeing them up to respond more creatively, spontaneously and authentically to similar situations in future.
Personal and systemic change
Sociodrama is used as a form of ‘action research’, providing a powerful diagnostic and problem-solving instrument. Groups can explore social and systemic issues from a variety of viewpoints through spontaneous improvisation which creates deep understanding of the social systems that shape us individually and collectively, and their influence on our personal and group roles and relationships.
Above all, sociodrama is about building connection – with ourselves and our own potential, with each other and with our communities. By exploring different viewpoints we can see and re-shape the systems we’re part of to help us all live healthy, fulfilled and happy lives together, sharing our progress and dreams.
During the past century sociodrama experts formulated different definitions to describe the method.
According to these definitions sociodrama is…
“…the group approach … of analysing and treating social problems ” (J.L. Moreno)
“… an experiential group-as-a-whole procedure for social exploration and inter-group conflict transformation” (P. Kellerman )
“… a group method of education. It gives us the opportunity to use our imagination to practise living in the sociodrama group without being punished for making mistakes as we might be if we did the same thing in everyday situations. The sociodramatic method provides a training group for collective action and education” (K. Sprague)
“… a social learning activity based in a group setting. … A sociodrama has three primary aims:
– an improved understanding of a social situation
– an increase in participants’ knowledge about their own and other people’s roles in relation to that situation
– an emotional release or catharsis as people express their feelings about the subject” (R. Wiener)
“… a learning method that creates deep understanding of the social systems that shape us individually and collectively. Through sociodrama we can experience and come to understand the nature of our social systems and their influence upon our personal and group roles and relationships. With this understanding we can better address some of the collective issues that face us.” (R. Browne)
“Sociodrama stands for the work with “natural” groups in crisis (families, job teams, institutional boards), whereas axiodrama labels interventions designed for the community as a whole” (M. Aguiar)
“Sociodramatic workers have the task to organise preventive, didactic and reconstruction meetings in the community in which they live and work; to organise, upon call, such meetings in problem areas everywhere; to enter communities confronted with emergent or chronic social issues, to enter mass meetings of strikes, race riots, rallies of political parties, and so forth, and try to handle and clarify the situation on the spot.” (J. l. Moreno)
The Performers Project
is about creating space for different sociodrama practices and their reflection!
Our aim is to bring sociodrama practitioners and trainers together to learn together how we are using sociodrama to help people in our different countries, and what sociodrama looks like across Europe. Working in health-care, social services, education and supporting organisational development, we are committed to using sociodrama to help foster inclusion, celebrate diversity and make the world a better place for all those living in it.
Please read what our experts are saying about sociodrama:
What is Sociodrama? by Judith Teszáry
Sociodrama is an action method using the techniques of doubling, mirroring, soliloquy to explore social issues, political and other conflicts between groups and societies. Unlike psychodrama, sociodrama involves people in their social roles in a special social context.
For example, in a ward team the representatives of the different job categories such as psychiatrists, nurses, administrators, psychologists, psychotherapists can work through their different views and interventions in their work with the patients. Controversial issues can be expressed and solved verbally or in action. The different subgroups can change position with each other and gain a better understanding of the other categories’ professional approaches, way of thinking and in general, gain insight into their different aspects of the same situation.
Sociodrama is a method to cure society, which J L Moreno, the inventor of the method calls Sociatry.
Sociodrama is also a diagnostic and problem solving instrument on group level. Its focus can be put on a subject the groups wish to get a broader view of. For example, the refugee question can be explored by taking the position of the refugees, the inhabitants of the village or the island where the refugees arrive, the social authorities, the municipality, the volunteers, the families left behind and all other groups involved in the issue. Through representation of the different social categories, the values, wishes and experiences can be played out by spontaneous improvisation. After a sociodramatic enactment the group can study and analyse the global picture the members experienced from within.
Sociodrama can also evolve out of the actual group dynamics of a certain group
( Sociodrama in situ).
Sociodrama involves role theory, systemic theory, problem solving theories, conflict theories, action research and action methods.
It can be used to build up future social structures, organisational management, role training and role development.
Sociodrama can be carried out by one or more sociodrama leaders helping each other and the group to spontaneous play as catalyzers of the process.
Sociodrama is a democratic method in practice where the voices and opinions of all participants are equally count. The expert of the solution of a problem is the group itself.
What is Sociodrama? by Margarida Belchior & Manuela Maciel
Moreno, the creator of Psychodrama, Sociodrama, sociometry and sociatry, said:
“A truly therapeutic procedure cannot have less an objective than the whole of mankind. But no adequate therapy can be prescribed as long as mankind is not a unity in some fashion and as long as its organization remains unknown.” J.L. Moreno, Who Shall Survive? (1934)
Blatner (2011), an American sociodramatist with worldwide recognition, writes: “Sociodrama was Moreno’s extension of psychodrama, applying this approach to the problems of groups who have role conflicts.” (p. 47)
Maciel (2011) says: “Psychodrama deals with intra and interpersonal conflict, where Sociodrama deals with social conflict, while axiodrama deals with cultural conflict” (p. 288). This means that “the focus is on the group in its collective roles and not the individual or private roles.” (p. 288)
Even if our social and collective problems come from different social and cultural contexts, they are interrelated. Zuretti (2011), from Argentina, learned from Moreno that the individual and its environment are interrelated, too. She created the Sociopsychodrama “to understand in both directions the individual process within the wider social structure and also to understand the social structure from the minimum atom of its constitution, the persona.” (p. 61)
Sprague (2005), referring to Wiener (1995), mentions that sociodrama has three aims: “an improved understanding of a social situation, an increase in participants’ knowledge about their own and other people’s roles in relation to that situation, and an emotional release or catharsis as people express their feelings about the subject” (p.249).
So sociodrama can help:
- To train general spontaneity, by helping people to improvise their thoughts and their behavior;
- To learn how to deal with non-verbal communication: how people can use their body, their face and action to express themselves in a congruent way or to help people to identify others’ incongruity;
- To train assertiveness: to learn different forms of bonding and to get others’ attention in a modular way;
- To train empathy, by role reverse with others, to understand them better;
- To train and analyze roles by participating in others’ scenes, by doubling and by sharing, by exploring social roles which they are not familiar with; to learn how to behave in a job interview or how to present yourself in new social situations;
- To learn how to solve conflicts, how to get support, how to clarify or how to negotiate;
- To promote self-knowledge, by using technics as soliloquy, mirror, double and other techniques. (Batista & Regala, 2013)
Sousa et al (2014) mentions that from an educational point of view Sociodrama is a process of learning in group, which brings participants closer to each other relying on common features of human experience. It does so encouraging openness to express thoughts, feelings and hopes of the participants and it also gives them the opportunity to learn more about themselves, about the world and about their role in it. Sociodrama also gives participants the possibility to live the joy of playing the role of the other, as well as the chance to expand their own life roles, in a liberating and nonthreatening way, without judgements.
Mentioning Moreno (1953), Sousa et al (2014) assumes that Sociodrama is thought to be educative, clarifying, and to provide energy to all group members, so that it can stimulate spontaneity and creativity, love and empathy.
Referring to Sternberg & Garcia (2000), Sousa et al (2013) also says that Sociodrama is a unique and effective methodology, which provides an experiential and cognitive learning, easily adaptable to several educational backgrounds and different populations. Using Sociodrama, participants – instead of listening to a speech – can find the answers to their problems or questions by themselves according to their specific phase of development.
Sociodrama is used in many fields of human activity as a very flexible and powerful technique. It is a group method of education, which gives us the possibility to use our imagination and to practice living in the sociodrama group without being punished for making mistakes as it could happen if one did the same thing in everyday settings (Sprague, 2005).
The 1rst International Sociodrama Conference was held in Portugal, in 2007. It was organized by a group of supervisors in sociodrama, whose chairperson was Manuela Maciel.
In the global world, where we all live now, we can no longer live alone and we are all part of networks which we contribute to. We share our knowledge and our “how-to-do”, but we also learn from each other’s experiences. That’s why Sociodrama can be so helpful to face the serious problems humanity needs and answer for.
Batista, V. V., & Regala, M. J. (2013). A arte em ação: técnicas psicodramáticas em contexto educativo. Imaginar, 56, 50-57.
Blatner, A. (2008). “Mais que meros atores”: aplicações do psicodrama na vida diária. In Psicodrama no século 21: aplicações clínicas e educacionais, 119-131. São Paulo: Ágora.
Blatner, A. (2011). Reflections on Sociodrama. In Wiener, R., Adderley, D., Kirk, K. (Eds.) Sociodrama in a Changing World. UK: Lulu Ed., pp. 47-60
Maciel, M. (2011). Sociodrama in Portugal: an overview. In Wiener, R., Adderley, D., Kirk, K. (Eds.) Sociodrama in a Changing World. UK: Lulu Ed., p. 287-290
Moreno, J.L. (1934). Who Shall Survive? ASGPP, online Edition: http://www.asgpp.org/docs/wss/wss.html, accessed on the 16th February 2017
Sousa, S., Queirós, C., & Marques, A. (2014). Programa de b-learning (sociodrama & e-learning) na diminuição do auto-estigma na esquizofrenia: «Curso de Educação e Formação para a Vida Ativa – CEFVA». In Prista Guerra, M., Lima, L. & Torres, S. (Eds.), Intervir em Grupos na Saúde (pp. 255-297). Lisboa: Climepsi
Sousa, S. (2012). Auto-estigma na doença mental grave: desenvolvimento de um programa de intervenção com recurso ao sociodrama e ao e-learning. Phd Thesis. Faculty of Psychology. University of Porto.
Sprague, K. (2005). Permission to interact. A who, how and why of sociodrama. In Karp, M., Holmes, P., Tauvon, K. (Ed.), The Handbook of Psychodrama. UK: Routledge, pp. 247-262
Zuretti, M. (2011). Sociopsychodrama – a vortex for understanding relationships. In Wiener, R., Adderley, D., Kirk, K. (Eds.) Sociodrama in a Changing World. UK: Lulu Ed., p. 61-70
What is Sociodrama? by Diane Adderley
Sociodrama is a flexible, creative, spontaneous way of working with groups, both large and small, to explore the systems we live in and which impact upon us.
Originally part of J.L. Moreno’s teaching, sociodrama is used across the world in endeavours such as: conflict management, school and higher level teaching, team building, cross-cultural exploration, problem-solving, change management, role training, community and organisational development, consultancy, story-telling, understanding the news, future planning, political change and much more.
What is Sociodrama? by Sofia Symeonidou
Psychodrama and Sociodrama are the most popular methods introduced by psychiatrist J.L. Moreno. They utilise techniques for support and development of the person and society based on an existential orientation. In Psychodrama, as a form of group psychotherapy, the focus is on the person through the role of the “protagonist” while in Sociodrama the “protagonist” is the whole group that works for its interest and, in a wider sense, for the interest and the well – being of the entire society.
More accurately, Sociodrama is an experiential group action method that can be implemented either in small or large groups. In Sociodrama spontaneity and creativity coexist with role theory, as fundamental terms and principles. It is used for the exploration and transformation of possible conflicts that emerge between (different types of) social groups. As a method it offers the possibility of understanding in depth the nature of social systems and their influence on the members of the society. It does so by looking into the relationship between personal and social roles.
The benefit of participating in sociodramatic interventions – where the group is perceived as one body, one organization – is the penetration of the social factors, stereotypes and the issues that concern each social group in relevance to itself and other groups. This penetration leads to a deep conscience (understanding) of all these factors and reinforces the healthy elements of the group for a more effective confrontation of its problems. Finally, through this process sociodramatic interventions can promote democracy, social participation and social awareness.
Sofia Symeonidou – Psychodrama psychotherapist, Psychodrama trainer.