The differences between psychodrama and sociodrama


Tamar Pelleg

Since then, a lot of water has flowed in the river of my life. Today, apart from my everyday writing in my “Morning  Diary”, I write regularly on topics related to the Hebrew Bible’s portion of the week, from a psycho-spiritual perspective and on topics  related to relationships that I post on  Facebook, blog, digital story collections and recently I am engaged in writing a  book and my  dream begins to come true.


How is sociodrama different from psychodrama? What does a sociodrama deal with?

A. Sociodrama is a group method in which participants act out agreed upon social situations spontaneously. It deals with the collective components of roles, as manifested in social situations.
Sociodrama helps people express their thoughts and feelings, solve problems and clarify their values. Rather than simply discussing, sociodrama gets people out of their chairs and allows them to explore topics of interest in action.
Putting themselves in other people’s shoes and lending their voices to other people enables the enactors understand better other people’s point of view, feelings and thoughts.
Basic assumption in Sociodrama is that as human beings we are more alike than different.
Soc. concern itself with those aspects of roles that we share with others, for example: all employees have bosses with whom they have to deal.
Soc deals with the collective aspects of roles rather than the individual aspects of roles and in a sociodrama session a shared central issue will be acted out, such as: fear of success.

Sociodrama is a safe way to experience a range of feelings, thoughts, emotions without exposing oneself, as it deals with a collective situation and not in a private matter. It provides a very good opportunity for role training, that real life does not always provide.

Moreno developed two modalities to facilitate exploration of a role:
Sociodrama for collective components and psychodrama for private components.
Sociodrama was the first modality he created out of his interest in theatre and society: exploration of social connections and the wish to repair and promote a healthier society. psychodrama was developed thereafter. Both modalities share a lot in common, but they also differ from each other:
1.The main difference between Sociodrama and psychodrama is that Soc explores the collective components of a role, while psychodrama helps to explore the private aspects of a role. Therefore, in Soc people who are chosen to act a role do not bring their personal story to the stage but rather a social/ literary/ Biblical/ or general topic that we can all share in common.
2.In both SOc and PSy the group members have a say about the topic that will be explored in action, however in SOc it will be a shared issue that will emerge out of group members discussion during the warmup phase and in PSy it will be choosing the Protagonist and his private issue, after the warmup. In both cases, however, the topic will reflect the group interest/ energy.
3.Sometime the director will choose and prepare ahead of time a topic for a Soc, for example in a BIbliodrama session, and sometime in a PSy session the director may have a director’s choice regarding the protagonist that will work today.
4.Both SOc and PSy deals with feelings, emotions and thoughts, and both use the same methodologies to support and explore the feelings/ thoughts such as:
Role reversals, soliloquy, aside, empty chair, etc.
5.Both share the same goals: catharsis, insight, role training. (Though psychodrama has in addition more defined therapeutic goals)
6. Both have the same structure: warm- up, action and sharing.
7. In both the intensity of the work moves from periphery to the core and then to periphery again.
However, sociodrama is mainly an educational tool and deals with ” as if” situations while psychodrama is a therapeutic tool and deals with real life situations.

The way I direct a sociodrama is as follow:
I usually facilitate a BIbliodrama, or Literary drama which are forms of sociodrama: group members are invited to take the roles of others and lend their voices, thoughts and feelings to the figures of the narrative. In my ongoing group I will start with a short teaching as a warmup. For example, I will choose a literary piece (in accordance with the theme that the group was engaged with lately, it could be related to the phase the group is at, like weather the group is preparing for a closure, or if the group was occupied with repairing relationships, etc.)
In the example I am going to describe I chose a poem by Zelda (translated to English) that uses metaphors (a flame and a cypress tree) to describe a relationship. In the warmup I will first read the poem out loud and then lead a short discussion to warmup up the participant to action, with questions like: What is the situation that is being described in the poem? What do the metaphors stand for? Do you recognize any personification? Who could be the ” flame” or the ” cypress tree” in life? What is the specific feeling described in the first 6 lines?
I will move to the action phase inviting the participants to get up from their chairs and move in the room as if they were the flame, manifesting with their body language the feelings, mood, and gesture that the role invites. Later on, I will freeze the action and ask for a soliloquy from each one. I will then put an empty chair for the cypress tree, ask for a couple of “flames” to return to the stage and go around the chair, with the same energy as before, and invite others who would like to explore the role of the cypress tree to take the empty chair and give a soliloquy how does it feels when such a flame is ” dancing” around you. I will let a few group members take the seat, one at a time and offer doubling if needed. At the same time, I will pay close attention to the participants and see if I can recognize someone who is warming up to take the role of the flame or the cypress tree in an encounter.
The next step will be an encounter between the flame and the cypress tree with a few role reversals. The enactors will be directed first just to take the role, i.g to be loyal to the poem and what it says, and later on they could ” bring it home ” take the role and even create in the role. Sometime these two phases warm us up to do a piece of psychodrama (this is the contract with my group) and sometimes we stay in the boundaries of the poem and the collective components of the roles.
In the last phase of sharing, I facilitate group members to share how this sociodrama touched their own story, and I will try to tap into universal truths that can be elicit from the roles with questions like: where in our life can we recognize these kinds of relationships? Who is familiar with the relationships described in the poem in his own life? Can you give an example? This helps the group move back to their heads, and at the same time helps them integrate some universal truths about roles they have experienced and can be a warmup for additional exploration in the next session. (Someone might want to be role trained to talk back to the ” flame” in a way that will serve the communication better).

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