Some remarks on Psychodrama research

António Roma Torres
Past President (1990-1994) of Portuguese Psychodrama Association

1st - Moreno

a) J.L.Moreno himself was always concerned with research and , in particular, measures. Sociometric test is a good example. But it is more useful in sociological research of small groups than in clinics. Sociometric practice is widely used in therapeutic psychodrama , but not with the scientific rigour we need in psychological or psychiatric research . See, for example, "Forbidden agendas" by Anthony Williams (Tavistock/Routledge,1991).

b) As far as I know, other tests, as the spontaneity test, have not been developed, after Moreno, in a useful way in psychodrama research. Could it be, as Moreno suggested, a psychodramatic measure of general psychopathology, useful even in a non-psychodramatic context? Could psychodramatic methods add something to the clinical evaluation , even made by non-psychodramatists? If we say yes, could we teach our colleagues psychodrama as a pattern of communication (or to understand communication), and not only as a technique, and could this aim be achieved without a complete and formal training in therapeutic psychodrama?

2nd - Psychotherapies

a) Psychotherapy research has always been a difficult subject. Russell and Orlinsky have recently reviewed the history and phases of psychotherapy research (Archives of General Psychiatry, August , 1996,708-715). Their orientation tends to be an eclectic or integrative one. But, as Richard P. Halgin and Robert A. Murphy say ("Comprehensive Textbook of Psychotherapy", eds. Bonar and Beutler, Oxford ,1995,chap.22), "can they really know how to be eclectic without having first been exposed to the traditional models of therapy from which experienced therapists have chosen their techniques?". Halgin and Murphy also say that "complicating the task of training ..."- and I say not only the training - " the fact that so little is understood about how psychotherapy really works" (underline is mine).

b) The question is, from my point of view , as follows: how can Psychodrama be in this debate and participate in the research of the "common factors" in psychotherapy , without loss of identity ? (I think this is valid for whatever model of psycotherapy, but I feel that the attempt to search what is common and/or explanations for "how it works" crossing different models , makes sense and is probably necessary when we must think about mental health care policies).

3rd- Psychodrama

a) Some criticism about Psychodrama is based on its lack of visibility in the general field of the psychotherapies. In our Portuguese journal "Psicodrama" (3, July 1995) we have published an article with a similar viewpoint , written by A. Branco Vasco, who is professor at the Faculty of Psychology of Lisbon and defines himself as an Integrative Cognitive-Behaviourist based psychotherapist. This lack of visibility results from a small interest of psychodramatists in general in research and/or in publish their results in generalist psychological or medical journals. But it is also true that we (psychodramatists) make little effort to answer questions like the efficacy of psychodramatic treatments , the indications and contra-indications , the failures , the alternative handling for specific psychopathologic conditions, etc., or to add some kind of scientific evidence to our answers.

b) Since the beginning of Psychodrama, a considerable evolution on the methods of research in psychotherapy field has been done. Probably a research design on the results of psychodramatic treatments needs evaluation methods that would be non-dependent of psychodramatic theory, like well established questionnaires and scales. These methods must be in confront with the results of a psychodramatic evaluation. This is important from both research and clinic viewpoints, particularly on respect to follow-up studies.

4th- Humanistic approach

a) Psychodrama must continue to be considered an humanistic psychotherapy, as its experiential and holistic roots widely confirm. There is probably an unsolved contradiction which concerns the scientific research methods. Efficacy is not the only aim to be considered , but we must pay attention to the philosophy and ethics of a suitable concept of cure.

b) This kind of research (or reflection) is essential to maintain the spirit of Morenian Psychodrama. Of course the validation of this research will be made in a different level, but we must not neglect it nowadays , in the conditions of the post-post-modern mankind . Psychodrama could be programmatic in reframing the therapy itself. In my view, Grete Leutz has tried to reflect it, particularly in her text "Mettre sa vie en scčne" (EPI,1985) - see chap.7 "Les correspondances..."

5th- Theoretical research

a) Theory has an heuristic value that gives support to new hypothesis which are essential for all research. Different theories give support to different models in psychotherapy. Theories must change to continue to be stimulants for research. Psychodrama theory has changed less than other psychotherapeutic theories probably because of the grandeur of Moreno's contributions and the difficult mourning of psychodramatists after his death. It would be ironic if Psychodrama theory became a kind of "cultural conserve" . Psychodramatists must be creative also in theoretical work.

b) Developments in different fields bring new questions in Psychodrama theory. Research on child development and neuroscience raise questions in the search of a biological basis to Psychodrama procedures. I think Moreno's contribution on psychosomatic roles was only a beginning - Rojas Bermudez "ego nucleus" theory may constitute a guideline for ulterior research linking child development, neurophysiology and the nuclear concept of role. Rojas Bermudez is also interested in the links between Psychodrama and the right and left hemispheres of the brain . Recent contributions of a Portuguese neurologist living in U. S. A. , Antonio R. Damasio, on prefrontal damage ("Descartes's Error - emotion , reason and human brain",Grosset/Putnam,1994) give interesting data about the role of the body and the action in human emotion and reasoning that seems to me relevant for Psychodrama theory (Damasio speaks of "somatic markers: theatre in the body or theatre in the mind?").

c) Ethology and anthropology also give much relevant information to Psychodrama. An important branch in research on Psychodrama may be in a transcultural level. I think that psychodramatists may study some popular rituals and feasts in different cultures as non-formal but eventually therapeutic psychodrama-like procedures (an example may be the study in a region of the North of Spain, near and similar to Portugal, made by the Spanish psychodramatist Marisol Filguera, with Lamas Grego, on "Pranto, a popular psychodrama against pathological mourning",Vinculos, 4,1992), and other phenomena as the procedures on trial and justice, or even the more recent "reality shows" on TV.

d) Theatre (as a root of Psychodrama), of course, seems to me an important field we must accompany, but personally I think that the cinema and the modern "media", including the arising "cyberspace" (with new ways to face an audience), merit at least attention.

e) I am also interested in the connections between Psychodrama and the studies on communication from MRI in Palo Alto (particularly the concepts of metacommunication and paradox and its use in Psychodrama, or how Psychodrama works with them before such theoretical formulations have been done) ; the systems theory (with a similar emphasis in group and in context) ;and more recently the constructivist and narrative theories ( and the questions of reality , aesthetics , etc. in therapeutic practice).

f) There are, of course, many other fields to be considered .

6th- Clinical research

a) Those of us who work in a clinical context may be aware of the importance of studies on some specific psychopathological conditions. Unfortunately there are few psychodramatic studies of a similar kind. We must remember the work of Rojas Bermudez with psychotics (and the theoretical formulation of intermediate object and the hypothesis of a lack of well enough developed and differentiated roles in schizophrenia and the clinical use of puppets in such conditions) , and the work of Anne Ancelin- Schutzenberger with cancer and other somatic illnesses (and the connections of sociometry and social atom and genograms in a transgenerational family perspective) , as an example of experiences that merit to be known outside the restrict field of psychodramatists. I am interested myself in a psychodramatic work with bulimic patients and I have been inspired in it by both of them.

b) My training with Brazilian psychodramatist Alfredo C. Soeiro gave me the opportunity to learn a consistent way of psychodramatic handling of the different personality or psychopathological types, inspired by a modified concept of psychosomatic roles and the "ego nucleus" theory of Rojas Bermudez. The formulation of Paul Holmes inspired by Kernberg and the "object relations" theory seems to me also an attractive and consistent one. I think we need some kind of consensus in this area to make possible more objective and not regional limited research designs.

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