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Role play in psychodrama and dramatherapy: Comparative analyses from a narrative perspective

25 July 1997


Role-play, defined as the consciously planned portrayal of behaviors, emotions, or events by an individual; is a therapeutic technique most often associated with psychodrama and dtamatherapy. Both psychodrama and dramatherapy share common roots in theatrical tradition, but each takes a different technical approach to the use of role-play as a therapeutic tool. While much has been written about the application and effectiveness of both approaches, little attention has been given to the relationship between story, or narrative, and therapeutic role-play. Generally speaking, narrative is the story that individuals create, tell, and re-tell to themselves and others about how the world operates and what their place is in it. Narrative approaches to psychotherapy stress constructionist interpretations of the self. Internal representations or narratives about experience form the construct that is identified as the self. Role-play operates as a vehicle through which an individual narrative can be represented, explored and transformed in the external world. This paper examines the therapeutic uses of role-play from a narrative perspective. Sections one and two review the current literature regarding the development and application of role-play as a therapeutic technique in psychodrama and dramatherapy, respectively. The final section discusses narrative/ constructionist theory as it relates to the application of role-play in the therapeutic process.


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