Psychodrama Archives - Promises Healthcare
ENQUIRY
What is psychodrama and does it help anxiety?

What is psychodrama and does it help anxiety?

Since 2011, Sharmini Winslow has been a pioneer of psychodrama in Singapore and holds sessions with Promises Healthcare. After pursuing a career in dance and choreography, and founding her own Pilates studio, Sharmini discovered her natural affinity for forming connections with people – notably her close bonds with her Pilates students. Facing anxiety and feeling burnt out by the trials of running a business, she took a degree in counselling and eventually discovered the concept of psychodrama, where she found her own inner breakthroughs.

Here we find out more about this unique form of therapy and how it’s helped people with depression, anxiety and other issues.

Promises healthcare Sharmini Winslow anxiety help with psychodrama
Sharmini Winslow

Can you explain to us what psychodrama is all about?

Psychodrama is not drama therapy. Psychodrama has its own canon of theories and philosophies – it has a very coherent methodology. Jacob L Moreno was the psychiatrist who founded psychodrama and came up with a theory of personality, philosophy and methodology. It’s a very comprehensive way of working with clients that can also be adapted to work with other theories.

Psychodrama is basically taking whatever is in your psyche (“psycho-”) and putting it into action (“drama”) in the therapy room. We use objects and people to represent things or people from your life that you can interact with on the stage. In psychodrama, you can explore issues you want to deal with and the feelings that are coming up.

Can you give an example of what happens in a psychodrama session?

We begin with warm-ups to help participants connect and feel comfortable with each other and the director. A protagonist is chosen either as a volunteer or by the group. The protagonist is the group member who wishes to explore a situation in their life. A scene is set and group members are chosen as auxiliaries to play the roles of people, things, emotions or anything of significance in the story. The psychodramatist, also known as the director of the drama, facilitates the unfolding of the drama on the stage. The stage is the space set apart specifically for the action to take place. The rest of the group act as the audience who witnesses the drama. These are the main elements in a psychodrama.

psychodrama promises healthcare Sharmini Winslow anxiety
Psychodrama class

In a drama, the protagonist might go to a scene from the past, the present or even a desired future. The protagonist usually experiences a new perspective; something in their psyche shifts and they can engage in the present with more energy and life!

In a psychodrama, we have many ways of facilitating healing and closure so we don’t re-traumatise people – that’s why it takes about 800 hours to become a qualified psychodramatist. There are protocols to follow to create safety and confidentiality, which is an important aspect of group therapy.

What do you think the main advantages of psychodrama are?

The main advantage of psychodrama is that it takes less time to get to the heart of the matter. It helps the client cut through the clutter of their intellectualisation and explore new problem-solving skills. It’s also a holistic form of therapy that embraces spontaneity and body awareness.

Psychodrama is relatively new in Singapore; does this cause any challenges? How do you address this?

There are many misconceptions and one of them is that you have to reveal your personal life to a group of strangers. In actual fact, great care is taken to build trust in the group, and if you’re still not warmed up you can participate as an audience member. I offer open sessions that allow people to experience what goes on in psychodrama. This helps to demystify it and make it more accessible. For those that want to dive deeper, I hold Personal Growth Groups that run for six to eight weeks. I believe that if people are willing to try it, they’ll enjoy it. But there’s always a hesitancy and fear about trying something new.

Is psychodrama more effective for certain kinds of people?

Psychodrama works best for people who are willing to be honest and open and want to deal with their issues in more creative ways.

Can it help with anxiety?

It helps with anger issues, depression, anxiety, stress, relationship issues, low self-esteem and even addictions.

What are some of your success stories?

I had a client who was too afraid to speak because of anxiety and his addiction issues. He was put into our group of men with addiction issues, and he was very quiet in this group. We started doing warm-ups and for the first time in his life people were relating to him as an equal, a peer. Nobody was talking down to him because nobody knew about his background except for me. He had become anxious as a result of years of drug use, and had some neurological issues.

After a few weeks, he started talking in short sentences and told us he had gone to a concert. All the guys in the group were slapping him on the back and cheering him on. His family was really grateful. He didn’t even do his own psychodrama, he was just part of the group.

What advice do you have for people who want to become professional psychodramatists?

Be patient! It takes many hours. If you’re committed to it, stay the course and don’t give up. Supervision is part of the learning process as it’s a very powerful method. Don’t neglect this important aspect of your training.

Want to discover psychodrama for yourself?

Sharmini is hosting an open session/introduction to psychodrama on 12 August for Expat Living readers – visit the Psychodrama website to sign up. She also holds training sessions for those interested in taking up psychodrama professionally. Sharmini is a Certified Psychodramatist, accredited by the American Board of Examiners in Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy

For more information on psychodrama sessions, visit psychodramasingapore.org.

Promises Healthcare is at Novena Medical Centre, 10 Sinaran Drive, #11-16.
psychodrama@promises.com.sg | promises.com.sg

 


Dinesh Ajith

Dinesh is a seasoned writer and editor with seven years of experience covering travel, restaurants and bars. His interests include film photography, cheesy 90s monster flicks, and scouring the island for under-the-radar craft beer bars.


*This article first appeared in the July 2022 edition of Expat Living and on their website.

Auteurs, thespians, and emotions. Except it’s all truly heartfelt. Psychodrama!

Auteurs, thespians, and emotions. Except it’s all truly heartfelt. Psychodrama!

Written by an anonymous contributor

I am a self-confessed introvert. And I’m also an addict.

I was recently cajoled into attending a Psychodrama session. I’d heard things about it – years earlier, my then significant other lauded the raw emotional exploration her sessions afforded her. I encouraged her, it was good for her. Personally though, I found the idea of a group session’s ability to evoke genuine emotion alien. It was the antithesis of who I was.

I had never enjoyed group sessions. I hated them. The introvert in me screamed (silently) in indignation at being forced into a room with my peers, lorded over by therapists who would extol the heaven-sent power of vulnerability, hanging it over the heads of us sullen detainees. They would espouse connectedness with others, openness. To me, these were just unattainable states of being that I could never actualise. The years wore on, and I plodded along, entwined with my precious, thorny, addictions. Prison, pricey rehabs abroad. I took care to never bring my real self along to the banal group therapies – I merely presented them with an alter-ego. Faking it to get along. Or “faking it to make it”, in the parlance of addicts like myself who would say or do anything to achieve a discharge.

I was living an entirely unremarkable life, losing friends and embarrassing myself.

Then, I experienced a seismic shift in circumstances. To represent it as merely ‘mandated’ would be to deny gravity to what had happened. I had run afoul of the law again, and paid my penance with a 9 month long “drug rehab”. I got out, and three months later I was a year clean. Still, I wasn’t happy. I had done no soul searching, nor had I even begun to scratch the surface of my addiction, always lurking in the shadows. Of course, a large part of my reticence towards accepting sincere nudges in the direction of help could be attributed to personal and moral failings. But why was I the person that I was? That’s when I decided to attend a psychodrama workshop at the urgings of my boss, a sweet girl whose genuine concern had initially confounded me. Why did I acquiesce? To understand myself, I guess. So, I went in with an open mind.

Psychodrama is about exploring internal conflicts, by acting out emotions and interpersonal interactions. I wasn’t inclined to be the center of attention just yet, so I left other enthusiastic participants to play the protagonists. The director, a bubbly personality whose sharp wit was tempered by insightful, genuine empathy, herded a roomful of clueless attendees with a deft hand, schooling us in psychodrama’s basic concepts. I made myself small in the corner and watched as our director doubled volunteers, acting out scenes from their lives, giving voice to their unconscious. Revelatory perspicacity was the order of these moments. I watched as they were mirrored, experiencing themselves from the outside, drawing from a nonjudgmental pool of collective consciousness. I watched as roles reversed – mothers became their daughters, and wives their husbands. All of them seemed edified, comforted, even. Misty eyes and rivulet strewn faces, sighing into closures when none previously seemed possible. There was a woman pained by a frightful trauma, her repressed malefaction she seemed so sure she had committed driving her to seek expiation from whom had ceased to be able to give her any. From the outside looking in, I was sure her wound was self-inflicted – we all knew this, but one’s own guilt is deeply personal, often insidious. As her situation percolated in my mind, so did my own guilt. I hadn’t wept when I learned of my father’s and sister’s departures, I hadn’t wept at their funerals, I hadn’t wept at their memorials. I hadn’t needed to, because I had my addiction. Now, without the pernicious warmth of substances, these losses became some therapeutic cynosure of a starting point. I had begun to understand myself, through others. The cynic in me finally realised why, across addiction recovery literature, syllabuses are almost invariably characterised by the motif of benefits accrued by group therapy. I think it owes something to the collective experience of humanity, that no matter your guilt or your shame, there are people out there who have lived congruent experiences. It may seem cloying and mawkish for me to say that no-one is truly alone, but it’s true.

You just have to look in the right places.

Please visit the Psychodrama website for more information about the groups they offer.

 

A Play in Psychodrama

A Play in Psychodrama

As I mentioned in my first article, the phrase,”reverse roles” was very much what I heard at my first psychodrama workshop. As this was uttered by the group leader, two people on the stage switched places and began playing the opposite role. 

 “This is it! “, I thought as I began to think of how I could use it in my work. Get people to reverse roles and voila! Well I was sorely mistaken those many years ago. As I began to explore this fascinating form of group work I discovered several techniques that are used in Psychodrama. Here are two key techniques used and an example of how I used them. 

Role Reversal

Here the Protagonist says a few words in the role of a particular ‘character’ or entity in their drama. The Auxiliary then says these lines to the Protagonist who is in the complimentary role. 

Concretization

In this technique, objects and people are used to represent the scenario the Protagonist wishes to explore.

A Drama using Role Reversal and Concretization

Ken is aged 19, and has a serious problem with drugs and alcohol which he has managed to stop, after going to the alcohol treatment centre. He had just come out of drug rehab in the United Kingdom and was brought to my practice by his concerned father. His father had tried very hard to help him over the years and has now brought Ken to us at Promises. Ken is worried about going out for dinner with his Father and a family Friend, whom we shall call Andy, because he might be tempted to drink again.

I encourage him to enact a scene at dinner with his father and Andy, playing out what he expects to happen. He sets out the chairs and chooses two people in the group to be his Father and Andy. As he greets the two older men rather lethargically, his shoulders slouch and he speaks in a flat voice.

Reversing roles, Ken now plays the part of Andy. He perks up now, smiling and full of energy. ‘Andy’ says, “The last time I saw you Ken, you were a small boy. My how you’ve grown!” Playing the role of his tempter, he urges Ken to “have a drink now as a real man” holding a glass towards him.

Back to being himself after another role reversal Ken’s face reddens and he clenches his fists in agitation.  He speaks to me as the Director, saying that he is afraid he might have a relapse. I immediately ask him to take on the role of his father.

As his father, he sits with his arms crossed and says through clenched teeth, “It’s okay, you don’t have to drink. I don’t want to cause a relapse.” As himself, Ken is at a loss for words. I ask the other audience members to do some modeling and try different responses in the role of Ken as he watches.

Ken cheers up as he sees the other group members rising to the occasion. Everyone is animated as they get a chance to act the part and try to tell Andy off. There is much laughter and hilarity as people do and say whatever they think might work. A sort of role training session is underway.

Ken is noticeably inspired by the group and he chooses one response. He stands tall with a cheeky smile and says to Andy, “I’m not drinking today, and I wonder why you are so determined to force alcohol on me!”  In role reversal as Andy, he changes the subject and backs down, no longer the magnanimous host. The drama ends. Ken is no longer a deflated doomsday worry wart. Instead he is positive about going out for dinner and knows what he can do later that night at dinner. The group has come to his aid and I once again marvel at the magic of Psychodrama.

In future articles, I shall illustrate more psychodrama techniques with dramas I have directed. It continues to be a privilege to be allowed into the lives of group members and I am continually amazed at the transformations that happen.

Please visit the Psychodrama website for more information about the groups we offer.

Written by Sharmini Winslow, Therapist.

At Promises Healthcare, we are committed to helping you through your journey to recovery. Discover a new life and find renewed hope. If you or someone you know needs mental health support, please contact our clinic for inquiries and consultations.

 

What is Psychodrama?

What is Psychodrama?

This is a series of article about the Action Method of Psychodrama by Sharmini Winslow.

“Reverse roles!”, the group leader shouted, and two people switched roles on stage and began enacting the opposite part. I was in the middle of my first Psychodrama workshop and all seemed chaotic and yet pleasantly therapeutic. What was going on? My desire to explore psychodrama had brought me here to a large room with a group leader and several very friendly people. Soon I was learning the ropes and I tried to make sense of things. 7 years later, I am still held captive by the magic of psychodrama.

Often people ask me,”what is Psychodrama?”, and I ask if they have 10 minutes to listen. It is a therapeutic action method that usually is done in groups. So here is a short description that will suffice for now.

Psychodrama, is the brainchild of Dr J.L. Moreno. It comes from two words, Psycho and drama. Psycho (not like in the movie where someone slashes you in the shower with a knife), is derived from the word ‘psyche’ which means the mental or psychological structure of a person. Drama refers to the enactment or action that happens in the session.

There are 5 instruments in Psychodrama

  • The Director

In the group, the therapist or group leader takes on this role and keeps the action flowing and gives structure to what evolves on the stage.

  • The Stage

This can be any space set aside for the enactments to occur. In a group, the stage is the space apart from where group members are seated. Moreno built a stage in New York specifically for psychodrama which had the audience seated at a different level. I had the privilege of directing a drama on the original stage.

  • The Audience

These are the group members who are not involved in the drama but who act as witnesses and can respond to the action on stage as a normal audience would, often yelling encouragement to the protagonist.

  • The Protagonist

This is the person who represents the main concerns of the group. Usually chosen by the group, the Protagonist gets to put into action a concern, a challenge or an event that they would like to have turned out differently. In psychodrama, past, future and present can coexist in the Here and Now.

  • The Auxiliary

The Auxiliary or sometimes called the Auxiliary Ego is the group member chosen to be a certain element or person in the drama, for example the protagonist’s Sister or maybe their addiction.

Each session has a warm up, an enactment phase and time for sharing. In the sharing segment, group members get to share something about their own lives that is connected to the drama.

So in Psychodrama the protagonist’s inner world gets “‘concretized” or made real, and the Director helps the Protagonist explore and work spontaneously to create new ways of being that are more helpful in living with whatever challenge was enacted. New perspectives are discovered; insights and conclusions made that bring healing and newness. The Protagonist and group members experience the wonder of being spontaneous and are positively energized!

*Psychodrama is used in group sessions run by Sharmini as part of her practice at Promises. Please visit the Psychodrama website for more information about the groups we offer.

Written by Sharmini Winslow, Therapist.

At Promises Healthcare, we are committed to helping you through your journey to recovery. Discover a new life and find renewed hope.  Please contact our clinic today if you or someone you know needs mental health support.

Sociodrama and Story in Childrens Groups

Sociodrama and Story in Childrens Groups

We are very excited to be presenting a sociodrama workshop for working with children run by Rebecca Walters from the Hudson Valley Psychodrama Institute. 

Sociodrama is a natural, powerful and playful method for helping children develop problem solving skills and try out new behaviors and roles. It helps children
learn how to self-regulate and develop impulse control as well as to safely and appropriately express strong feelings.Sociodrama Psychodrama Rebecca Walters Singapore Buy Tickets

Click for full details on our Psychodrama Singapore site.

Sociodrama Psychodrama Children Rebecca Walters Promises Healthcare

Sociodrama & Story in Childrens Groups

Click on the poster above or click here to visit www.psychodramasingapore.org

Sociodrama Psychodrama Rebecca Walters Singapore Buy Tickets