Psychodrama for Addiction

The Benefits of Experiential Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is widely used to help people in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. Most therapy options are talk-based. In other words, they ask you to talk about your experiences and then use this information to help you. However, some therapy options take a more active approach. They do so by asking you to “live out” your experiences, not just talk about them. Therapies of this type are collectively referred to as experiential psychotherapy.

One form of experiential psychotherapy used in addiction treatment is something known as psychodrama. This therapy relies on active role-playing to help you work through underlying issues and experiences that can support addiction. The same role-playing approach can also help you address any additional mental health issues affecting you.

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What Is Psychodrama

What is psychodrama’s basic definition? This term is used to describe a specific form of therapy first developed in the 1920s. This therapy asks you to act out your feelings and thoughts as they are actually happening to you. You do this in carefully controlled circumstances guided by a trained therapist. Each set of circumstances forms a role-playing scenario with a beginning, middle and end.

The goal of psychodrama is to provide a safe space to discover and explore your feelings about:

  • Things that happened to you in the past
  • Problems or challenges you are facing in the present
  • Wishes or desires you have regarding your future

 There is no “wrong” outcome to the process. Instead, you use whatever happens during therapy as fuel for growth and  change. As a rule, psychodrama is conducted in group sessions. This is true because multiple participants are needed to act out a therapeutic scenario.

The Roles and Phases of Psychodrama Therapy

When you are the focus of a psychodrama session, you play the main character in a given scenario. One or more members of your therapy group will act as key supporting players. In this role, they may portray people who are significant to you in real life. They may also represent aspects of your internal life or other things of significance to you. The remaining members of your group act as engaged observers.

There are three basics phases to the typical psychodrama session. In the first phase, you focus on an issue affecting you in the present. You then use a role-playing scenario to explore the roots of that issue. During this exploration, the supporting players in the scenario help you act out conversations and interactions. In this way, they help you get at the core of what is affecting you. In the third phase of the session, you end the scenario and discuss what you have learned.   

What Techniques Are Used in Psychodrama

Techniques of Psychodrama

A range of techniques can be used in psychodrama to help you reach your treatment goals. Three of these techniques are viewed as essential elements of the therapy:

  • Doubling
  • Mirroring
  • Role Reversal

In doubling, one of the supporting players in the scenario mimics your physical posture. While doing so, they seek to enter your thought world and speak from this internal perspective. When taking this perspective, your double attempts to do things such as:

  • Interpret the ways your are thinking, reacting and behaving
  • Point out feelings of particular importance
  • Pick up on your nonverbal behavior cues
  • Help you understand yourself and others better
  • Provide general support for your efforts at self-exploration

In mirroring, you attempt to view yourself as if you were watching your reflection in a mirror. This technique can be especially helpful if the experience you are exploring had a traumatic effect on you. It allows you to do such thing as:

  • Get some emotional distance from what is happening in the scenario
  • Reconnect with feelings you may have lost access to
  • Observe your own reactions to the events you are exploring
  • Explore how other people might have reacted in the same situation

In role reversal, you play the “other” in a given scenario. That other may be another person. It may also be an object, an archetype social role or some aspect of yourself. You can use role reversal to:

  • Better understand the point of view and actions of the other in your scenario
  • Gain a more accurate picture of what happened to you in the past
  • Develop greater empathy toward yourself

These are just the main psychodrama techniques. Your therapist may also use any of dozens of other supportive methods as part of your treatment.

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How Can Psychodrama Help With Addiction and Trauma

Psychodrama has a number of possible therapeutic uses. The list of these uses includes the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. It also includes the treatment of serious, lingering trauma.

Research shows that psychodrama for addiction can be helpful in achieving some crucial treatment objectives. First, it may help you improve your motivation to take an active part in your treatment. In addition, it may help you avoid relapsing back into substance use. Psychodrama provides it benefits, in part, by reducing the impact of anxiety on your mental outlook.

In many ways, psychodrama was designed to address the harmful impact of lingering trauma. People affected by such trauma often find it difficult or impossible to talk about what happened to them. Psychodrama can help you get around this obstacle by giving you physical, nonverbal ways to access your experiences. As a result, you may be able work through the effects of those traumatic experiences on your:

  • Thought processes
  • Emotional reactions
  • Physical reactions
  • Social interactions
  • Basic perspective on yourself and the world

The benefits of psychodrama for addiction and trauma often go hand in hand. This is true because many people affected by addiction have a history of serious traumatic experiences. Unless you address the impact of these experiences, you may have difficulty gaining and maintaining sobriety.

Does Psychodrama Work With Dual Diagnosis Disorders

Psychodrama for Addiction

Dual diagnosis disorders are defined by the combination of addiction and a separate mental illness. This combination is not at all rare among people with substance problems. If you have a dual diagnosis disorder, you need help for both of the issues that form that condition. Failure to address one tends to lead to failure to recover from the other.

Does psychodrama work for dual diagnosis treatment? Current research indicates that it does, at least in certain cases. Specifically, psychodrama has produced results as a treatment for combined addiction and PTSD.

PTSD, or posttraumatic stress disorder, is perhaps the world’s best-known trauma-related mental illness. It is also one of the most common mental illnesses in people affected by dual diagnosis. Psychodrama for addiction and PTSD may benefit you in several different ways.

First, it can help decrease the intensity of several types of core PTSD symptoms. It can also help decrease the overall severity of your PTSD. For these reasons, psychodrama may help improve your general sense of health and wellness. Relief of your PTSD-related trauma can also help eliminate some of the key motivation for addictive behavior.

Psychodrama as a Component of Holistic Treatment

Today, the working model for addiction treatment is holistic. In other words, modern rehab programs aim to treat you as a person, not merely as an “addict.” Psychodrama is not typically a frontline option for addiction recovery. However, it can play an important role in a larger, holistic recovery plan. The therapy is considered part of the creative arts school of supportive treatment. This term can apply to any therapy that uses a creative or artistic method to support your sobriety goals.

Travelling for Inpatient Treatment With Psychodrama

Today, not all addiction recovery programs offer psychodrama as a treatment option. This means that you may have to travel to find a suitable provider. Travelling for inpatient treatment may make more sense than travelling for outpatient treatment. That is true for a couple of reasons.

First, people in recovery who would benefit from psychodrama often have serious forms of addiction. Typically, addiction of this severity calls for the extensive resources of an inpatient program. In addition, people who make the commitment to travel for treatment tend not to do so for milder forms of addiction. Instead, they are motivated by the need for inpatient care.

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Seek Lasting Recovery From Dual Diagnosis at Emerald Isle

Psychodrama is just one possible element in an effective dual diagnosis treatment plan. Your larger plan may include one or more medications. It may also include one or more additional therapy options. When used, psychodrama must work with these other treatments in a supportive manner.

At Emerald Isle, we specialize in the treatment of dual diagnosis. This treatment features coordinated care plans for both addiction and mental illness. Our plans are customized to suit the specific conditions affecting you. They are then further customized to meet your unique circumstances.

When appropriate, psychodrama may form part of your personalized recovery. In all cases, our goal is to help you achieve lasting relief from dual diagnosis. Call us today to learn more about how we support your recovery goals. You can also reach us by filling out our online information form.