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Photos and psychodrama: a great match

Photos help us get to know ourselves and each other

By Karen Carnabucci, MSS, LCSW, TEP people into the group and increase
sociometric connections, you may wish to
The use of photography in psychodramatic have participants select new partners for
settings has been a common theme with each question. This may also intensify the
many psychodramatists and experiential warm-up although the director will need to
therapists for years. stay alert to the dropping of the energy
when the sharing is “too much” or
Photography — both simple snapshots as
participants appear to lose interest.
well as more formal portraits — is ideal for
group psychotherapy, individual therapy and If you wish to move into a drama, a good
personal growth groups. place to start is to invite a group member
sculpt his or her photo, paying special
Photographs can serve as warm-ups to
attention to posture of each person shown
sculptures, vignettes and full-length dramas.
in the photo — hands, arms, heads, eyes.
The use of photos also an be integrated with
other creative arts therapies and adjunct
We also may add a person who is only Questions to ask
partially shown in the photo. In setting up,
activities, such as art therapy, guided
we notice who is turned toward or away • Who is in the photo?
imagery, drama therapy, journaling and the
from whom, who is looking at whom, and
like. • When was the photo taken — a
so forth. We may invite the protagonist to
Sharing a photograph or two is a non- soliloquize about looking at this “live” holiday or weeding, a
threatening way to begin a session; people photograph. Then the protagonist may role celebration, a family gathering,
share and exchange photographs all the reverse with each person in the scene, another event — and how old
time with each other in everyday life. Yet including himself or herself. The director were you?
photographic content is also rich with may ask: “Is there any way you would like
to change this scene?” and give the • What is the setting of the
emotions, memories, past and present
protagonist the option of rearranging the photograph — home, school,
relationships, family milestones, body image
auxiliaries, adding a missing person or place of worship, vacation?
and other themes.
making another kind of change.
• Why is this photograph
The warm-up begins when participants are
Sometimes it is clear from the scene that important to you?
invited to hunt for photos to bring to a
session. At the start of the session, the additional scenes are needed: addressing
• What feelings do you recall
photographs may be placed on a table, wall, and mourning a loss, perhaps, or
having in the photograph?
bulletin board or other central location to be confronting a perpetrator, setting
viewed before the session actually begins, boundaries, developing alternative ways of • What feelings do you have now,
continuing the warm-up. communicating to an individual, coming to as you view and share the
terms with body image or aging, photograph?
Because the subjects of photographs are reconnecting with the inner child.
typically people who are important to us, • If you could speak aloud
they are great sociometric tools, showing our At times, the photo represents a happy (doubling yourself) in the
sociometric connections away from group. scene, one that needs no alteration. It is photograph, what would you
Because it’s generally comfortable to share simply experienced by the protagonist and be saying?
and describe a photo to another person, shared with the group as an important and
joyful life moment. • Is there anything that you wish
they also allow us easily to build sociometric
connections with people within the group. that you could say to the others
A valuable resource on the emerging in the photograph that you
One of my favorite warm-ups involves having practice of photo therapy, a system don’t feel comfortable saying
participants bring a favorite or important developed by Judy Weiser, can give more out loud?
photo to group. Members are instructed to ideas for the use of photos in therapeutic
select a partner to share their photograph. settings. Although she is not a • Is there anything you would like
psychodramatist, many of her to say to yourself?
Sharing begins with common questions (see recommendations and ideas blend nicely
right) and then progresses to more complex with enactments. See her Web site at • Are there any secrets in this
questions as trust and cohesion builds. If photograph? Is anyone
your goal as director is to integrate new missing?

© Karen Carnabucci, MSS, LCSW, TEP * * (262) 633-2645