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Psychodrama is an essential component of Mirasol's integrative eating disorder treatment program — especially our Family Therapy Program. Psychodrama uses guided dramatic action and role-playing to examine issues that emerge during individual or group psychotherapy. Often described as "psychology meets theater," psychodrama typically takes place is a group setting where a client (the protagonist) acts out a situation or event incorporating specific memories. The facilitator and group members help the protagonist dialogue their internal processes.

Elements of Psychodrama

The elements of psychodrama include:

  • The protagonist: A person chosen to represent the theme of the drama.
  • The auxiliary egos: Group members who assume the roles of significant others in the drama.
  • The audience: Group members who witness the drama and represent the world at large.
  • The stage: The physical space in which the drama is conducted.
  • The director: The trained psychodramatist who guides participants through each phase of the session.

Psychodrama Phases

A typical psychodrama session includes three phases: the warm-up phase, the action phase, and the sharing phase. The goal of the warm-up phase is to establish trust, group cohesion, and safety. In the action phase, the protagonist — with the therapist's help — creates a scene based on significant events in the protagonist's current life. The therapist directs the session, while other group members serve as auxiliary egos, or individuals from the protagonist's life. The rest of the group members act as an audience.

Psychodrama Techniques

  • Role reversal: The protagonist steps out of their own role and enacts the role of a significant person in their life. This action can help the protagonist understand the other person's role and help the director (therapist) better understand relationship dynamics. Doing so may also help increase the protagonist's empathy. 
  • Mirroring: The protagonist becomes an observer while auxiliary egos take up the part of the protagonist, acting out an event so the protagonist can watch. This technique can be helpful when a protagonist is experiencing extremely negative feelings or is feeling separated or distanced from feelings or emotions about the scene. 
  • Doubling: A group member adopts the protagonist's behavior and movements, expressing aloud any emotions or thoughts that member believes to be the protagonist's feelings and thoughts. This technique can be used to build empathy for the protagonist or to challenge, in a constructive and non-aggressive way, some aspect of the scene or the protagonist's actions.
  • Soliloquy: The protagonist relates inner thoughts and feelings to the audience. This may be done when speaking to a double, or at the encouragement of the director (therapist). 

Why Incorporate Psychodrama in the Treatment of Eating Disorders?

  • It can help the client gain perspective and insight, connect with emotions, and validate experiences.
  • It allows for emotions to be released safely.
  • Psychodrama highlights distorted cognitions about self and interpersonal relationships and their connection to eating disordered patterns of behavior.

For more information, visit The American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama.