Theatre and Psychology work together
Development of Drama Therapy in Argentina
Student: Micaela Urueña
Student Number: 000034090
Word count abstract: 249
Word count essay: 3817
Best language: Spanish
School name: Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific
Date: January 14th 2008
Micaela Lis Urueña.
· Abstract………………………………………………………………………… Page 3
· Essay…………………………………………………………………………….. Page 4
· General information……………………………………………………… Page 5
· Eduardo Pavlovsky and his influences…………………………… Page 6
· Bibliography and resources: MLA system……………………… Page 11
The following essay is the result of an investigation of the process of evolution of drama therapy into what is drama therapy in the actuality and how it is being applied and for what reasons. In the history of drama therapy different people have influenced it in several aspects; one of the people who influenced on it is Eduardo Pavlovsky. This essay will investigate and analyze the influence of Eduardo Pavlovsky on Drama therapy theories and techniques created by Jacobo L. Moreno. Eduardo Pavlovsky has a unique combination of knowledge about theatre and psychiatry and is able to understand, heal, and teach others about many of the most common mental illnesses of the modern world.
In the research process I used various methods: first reading books, magazine articles and using internet sources and finally interviewing Silvia Schverdfinger, the director of “El Paso” psychodrama institute and also Eduardo Pavlovsky, Argentinean renowned drama therapist. The variety of information sources helped me to achieve a greater level of knowledge on the topic.
Finally I conclude by understanding how Eduardo Pavlovsky influenced drama therapy and how he helped this therapy to be extended onto different areas, such as mediation, prevention and education. Through reading of this essay one can learn how much the different drama therapy techniques can be applied in some important areas. Through reading this essay one can identify the healing aspects of acting and dramatizing. Also, one understands that the essence of acting and the essence of compassion and love are understanding.
“The essence of love and compassion is understanding, the ability to recognize the physical, material and psychological suffering of others, to put ourselves “inside the skin” of the other” (Nhat Hanh, 81) May you please switch the words love and compassion for the word acting? If that made any sense, continue with the following one. “We “go inside” their body, feelings and mental formations and witness for ourselves their suffering. Shallow observation as an outsider is not enough to see their suffering. We must become one with the object of our observation. When we are in contact with another’s suffering, a feeling of compassion is born in us. Compassion means, literally “to suffer with”.” (Nhat Hanh, 82). May you please exchange the words the object of our observation for the word character.
Compassion and love are, sometimes, the most complicated feelings, but the ones that heal the most. When kids are suffering they can be healed with a warm hug, few words of care and love. When someone suffers, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, physically, materially or psychologically the only way that someone else can help them is by first feeling compassion and understanding the other’s suffering.
When an actor plays a character, they must understand the character’s story and feelings. The same way an actor feels other’s suffering, people with psychological problems should be able to feel other’s suffering so that they can understand them and stop suffering. In other words, let A and B be two persons, A had suffer a terrible lost a while ago and does not clean the path in front of her house and B is her neighbor. If B does not feel any kind of compassion, he will aggressively tell A how terrible does the path look and how much he does not like it being so dirty. This will make A feel worse and no solution but problems will come up. If B has the ability to “go inside” A’s body and feel her pain, the way an actor will do it, he might understand her and help her somehow to clean the path, that way they both will feel better and no problems will bother them. These are the bases of drama therapy.
Drama therapy is a psychotherapeutic technique that has deep roots in theatre, psychology and sociology. The principal characteristics of psychodrama and drama therapy are the dramatization and the combination of word and body language in different expressions and interactions with other individuals.
Later on, psychodrama arose as a method aiming to add psychoanalysis to drama therapy. Art-therapies are some of the most effective ways for helping out with psychological problems and stress. This kind of treatment has been used by countries in Europe and North America for more than a century. However, in Latin American countries such as Argentina, only a few people knew about art-therapies which have become incrementally more available to the public in the past two decades.
Since the time in which Jacobo Levy Moreno first applied dramatization as a therapy, the methods and techniques have changed. In Argentina the greatest change can be recognized when a group of mental health professionals, including Eduardo A. Pavlovsky, María Rosa Glesserman and Jaime G. Rojas Bermúdez, observed through their psychoanalytic point of view the movements and words that drama therapy patients performed in a hospital. Years after that event two different (but not opposite) tendencies started in Argentina: One that follows Moreno’s ideas and methods and the one that sees the therapy from a psychoanalytic point of view and follow Eduardo Pavlovsky’s methods.
This essay will investigate and analyze the influence of Eduardo Pavlovsky on Drama therapy theories and techniques created by Moreno. Eduardo Pavlovsky has a unique combination of knowledge about theatre and psychiatry and is able to understand, heal, and teach others about many of the most common mental illnesses of the modern world.
Jacobo Levy Moreno (1892-1974) is considered as the creator of drama therapy. Some situations in his life made possible the idea of drama therapy, one being Barbara’s story. Barbara was a young actress of the “Theatre of Spontaneity”, which soon after this time, turned into a Therapeutic Theatre in 1923. She used to play the role of ingenuous and romantic girls and the audience recognized her in that way. After she got married with one of her admirers, her husband went to talk to Moreno because in their family life, she was the opposite of the roles she played: acting rudely and even getting involved with physical aggression. To solve this problem Moreno made the young actress play other characters through which she could express some other aspects of her life. This way her anger decreased and her husband started to participate as another actor so that they could dramatize some of their personal life. In this story we can visualize how acting allows the actor to put into words or movements their personal feelings and it is through this action that dramatizing heals.
In Moreno’s opinion Psychodrama represents the connection between the treatment of the person as individual with the treatment of the person in groups; between the treatment of the patient with spoken methods and the treatment of the patient with dynamic methods. (Rojas Bermúdez, Jaime. Page 9) This Therapy involves the total commitment and trust of the patient. It is essential for the patient to have a good communication with his peers, to act spontaneously, to take responsibility for everything that he says and does. But why are these things so important? Well first it is necessary for the patient to be able to explain and express his feelings and needs, both to the coordinator and to his peers (the other patients). The techniques’ aim is to show how the patient “acts” in his daily life; however, this can only be achieved if the patient acts spontaneously. If we want to see it from a theatrical perspective we could say that we transform the patient into a character, being able then to see them as a simplified element. This is not complicated for the patient given that they only need to recreate their own characteristics; however this simple act allows everyone in the session to analyze more carefully the details that in real life people do not realize consciously.
The element that creates the spontaneity is called “in vivo” which means “here and now”. Some emotional elements are brought up unconsciously as a consequence of “in vivo”. The situations can be re-created as many times as it is required to be understood and until the patients can see them from different points of view. Identical to the way in which rehearsals work, things are done as many times as needed for the actors and production crew to understand. One of the benefits that theatre gives to this therapy is that, given that dramatizing situations wraps a person up in a social environment, it is possible to work from the individual to the group. Nevertheless, dramatization allows the vision of the whole situation, being able to see the way some things affect other things. A possible analogy to comprehend could be to think about traditional individual therapies as a picture or a photograph and drama therapy as an audiovisual film in which one is able to see the background of the scene. In usual psychological therapy sessions, the therapist must listen to the patient’s story but he is not able to visualize the whole situation as the drama therapist is. Drama therapy sees the patient within the context of his background and reacting within it. Drama therapy studies the relationships between two or more people and their influences on each other and their environment; this is called “in Toto.” In other words drama therapy analyzes the conditions in which a person lives and the ways in which these affect their lives and psychological state.
Eduardo Pavlovsky and his influences
In Argentina a group of health professionals, that had have previous experiences in drama therapy, noticed that it was possible to analyze from the psychoanalytic perspective sessions of drama therapy. In this group were Eduardo A. Pavlovsky, María Rosa Glesserman and Jaime G. Rojas Bermúdez. They observed children in the XVII room of the Children’s Hospital in Buenos Aires and they became aware of the fact that “the children did not talk about their problems, but they played with them” as Eduardo Pavlovsky said. As a consequence of their observations they decided to travel to the United States in 1963 to see J.L. Moreno and do Psychodrama training. Five years later, in 1968, Eduardo Pavlovsky wrote the first Drama therapy book in Spanish, called “Psicoterapia de grupo de niños y adolescents” (Group Psychotherapy for children and adolescents). This was the first step that Argentina took to introduce Drama therapy and Psychodrama in its culture. Later on, the three professionals split and started working on their own projects.
Eduardo Pavlovsky is the one who had the most influence on Argentinean drama therapy due to the large amount of knowledge that he has in theatre as an actor, a director and a play writer as well as a psychiatrist. In simple words, Pavlovsky added to drama therapy the psychoanalytic idea of finding the unconscious problems such as fears and wishes among others and amplified the situations in which applying drama therapy is useful and possible.
Eduardo Pavlovsky, also known by his artistic name “Tato”, was born in Buenos Aires on December the 10th in 1933. He graduated as a psychotherapeutic doctor and during the sixties he started working within psychodrama for the first time in Latin America. In the early seventies one of his theatre plays, “El señor Galindez,” became very popular. The play’s topic is related to the Argentinean political history and it was critiqued from different points of view. He received diverse prizes including first prize of the American Theatre Festival in Montreal 1987.
I had the honor of having an interview with “Tato” Pavlovsky in his own home where he confessed that most of his life including his first step in drama therapy was ruled by fortune and coincidences. He talked about the first time he heard about group and drama therapy saying, “it was by chance, a colleague invited me to go with him to a hospital where he was directing a therapeutic group.”
He told me that one of the reasons for looking for new ways of healing is that he did not agree with the majority of the psychologists and psychiatrists that he studied at University and he was not satisfied by the system in which people were being healed. Therefore when he heard about Moreno’s techniques and started learning about them he realized that they were more related to his own opinion about healing.
Presently, we can find in Argentina, and principally in Buenos Aires, two types of drama therapists. One of them is formed by drama therapists who follow Moreno’s ideas, with no involvement of psychoanalysis. The other one looks at the dramatization through psychoanalysis and tries to understand and interpret what the patient has dramatized. The first one is led by Jaime G. Rojas Bermudez and a fairly small group of students; the second one it is being led by Eduardo A. Pavlovsky and is better received by the people. Even though, as he said during the interview, only a small group of people considers drama therapy as a form of therapy. The ones that do, have faith in his methods and his techniques.
Even though it has been recognized as a formal therapy, drama therapy is not accepted by all the psychologists and psychoanalysts. Though, there are a significant number of people with problems that look for alternatives to psychoanalysis. Many of them find what they are looking for in the institute “El Paso” which was created by Pavlovsky and a group of his associates to apply and teach his techniques. “El Paso” is directed by Silvia Schverdfinger, a well known Argentinean psychologist and drama therapist who wrote several articles for different psychology magazines about drama therapy.
As I said before, what “Tato” did is to show that drama therapy goes beyond the theatre or a stage. In “El Paso”, Silvia Schverdfinger and the other coordinator teach how to apply drama therapy in many different contexts. The three principal situations in which drama therapy is very useful are mediation, prevention of social problems such as harassment and finally education.
Silvia Schverdfinger wrote a very specific article about how important it was for her to be able to apply psycho-dramatic methods and techniques during mediation sessions. In this article called “Psicodrama: una herramienta eficaz en el campo de la mediación” (Psychodrama: an effective tool in the mediation area”) she explains that meditation is an “alternative resolution for conflicts”. According to Schverdfinger, the basics of this alternative are cooperation and achievement of harmony. The principal aims are to save time and money. With that purpose in mind, the mediator should try to facilitate the communication between the different sides, clarify the ideas, and comprehend the positions and necessities. This is done in order to give possible solutions to the problems and further drive the process in a way for the conflict to end with an agreement where both sides are satisfied. In this situation, there are many different theories a mediator can use and Silvia Schverdfinger applies psychodrama.
The advantages that psychodrama provides are based on the fact that in it you consider the group itself as a problematic space, given that it is formed by different people related to each other all with different perspectives. The articulation between the look, the action and the words allow new connections related to situations from the past that are also in the present. The most useful technique in these situations is the inversion of roles. It is useful because both sides of the conflict feel what the other side feels, in a way that they finally understand the wishes and the reasons of the other side. It is very similar to a rehearsal of a play in the sense that the actor needs to know what the character feels and what they want in order to be able to recreate such feeling and transmit it. In other words, when an actor is given a play and is told the character that he will perform he needs to read and find out the story of this character, what does the character want and how much does the character desire to do whatever he does. On the other hand, both sides of the conflict are given what the opposite side wants and they have to find out how it is that the other feels that way by placing themselves in the other’s position. Good actors are able to transform themselves into different characters even when they do not agree with the character’s ideals. The performer is able to see the situation from the character’s point of view. Just like both sides in a problematic situation; they both consider themselves correct and the other side incorrect, but when drama therapy is applied they have to understand the other side in order to represent it.
Psychodrama is useful not only to apply during mediations but also during the training of potential mediators. For example it is very useful to recreate a scene where two of the future mediators are playing the role (role inversion is the name of this technique) of opposite sides of a conflict and a third one plays the role of the mediator; if you think about it, each of them is experimenting with what that person feels in that position. It is really helpful to place oneself in another person’s position and imagine how they feel. Once someone understands the other person’s feeling one can also understand the other person’s needs and in that form they can reach an agreement. The most useful psychodrama techniques for mediation are soliloquy (saying out loud what the person is thinking of, anything) and role inversion.
The Association for the Prevention of Infant Harassment and Abandon (A.P.A.I.) summoned Argentinean professionals concerned about these issues since 1996 and 1999 and one of the methods they applied for instruction is psychodrama.
To use psychodrama in prevention of harassment and family violence, the coordinator must be careful, as it is such a delicate topic. In these kinds of psychodrama sessions, the coordinators always start with the practical information, with what the people know, how they live and feel, and how they deal with their daily situations and problems. This gives the opportunity to develop a process in which we can visualize and see in theoretical form the singular, the social, the collective, the historical and the structural and later go back to the practical to try to change that reality. Psychodrama allows collective discussions, collective knowledge and collective reflection.
In the example mentioned before, the goals that A.P.A.I. have are:
- To create a ambiance in which the participants can exchange knowledge
- Collective discussion and reflection
- Generate solidarity among the professionals
Some social problems go beyond words and everything else commonly used for healing. This is when psychodrama becomes greatly useful. Psycho drama allows the patient to express himself through body language. For example, psychodrama with puppets is a technique that would work very well in this case. In addition one could focus on the fact that repeatedly people do not realize how cruel and painful a situation can be until they live it or at least feel it through their own senses (sight, listening, etc.). Then one could think of a piece of art which is a re-creation of feelings and thoughts. Therefore, if one re-creates harmful feelings in a scene in a play and shows to others what they felt, the audience might be able to feel at least a small part of what the victim felt, and as result of it, the audience would be involved emotionally with the problem and will want to help out with the cause.
The other area in which psychodrama is being applied is education. There was a peculiar situation in a school where a teacher decided to try an experiment. He agreed with a student and they act out a situation in a meeting. They made everybody in the class believe that he had found drugs in a student’s bag and that he had been expelled from the school. Given that the student was not in the meeting they all believed it. There was a horrible tension in the room and a few students broke into tears. Finally the student came into the meeting and they all found out that it was not true, however they all felt how painful would be to lose someone in the community therefore, they were more responsible at the time they had to decide on doing drugs in the school or not. It is not any drama therapy technique; however it fits into drama therapy definition of creating possible situations to analyze reactions and to achieve an understanding of it. This teacher created an atmosphere that would teach the students how much someone can hurt without meaning to do it.
Seen from another point of view, what this teacher did had the same effect that realistic theatre plays have. When playwrights sit down and design a story, they think carefully about the effect that they want to create on the audience and they decide what to do in order to achieve the feelings they wish the audience to feel: pain, sorry, hate, love, sorrow, among others. Most of the realistic plays have something to teach us. Theatre can heal ignorance, theatre attacks feelings forcing us to face reality and sometimes that is the only thing that works.
During the interview I had with Tato I asked him about his expectations or dreams related to psychodrama in Argentina and he told me: “I do not think I have a dream but I hope Silvia (referring to Silvia Schverdfinger) and Carolina, my daughter (who also works in the institute “El Paso”) have expectations and enough energy to do whatever is necessary to achieve their dreams about psycho drama. I was really lucky and I ended up being a renowned theatre artist and psycho dramatist in Argentina…”
To predict what is going to happen with psychodrama in Argentina in the future I could say that the number of students and level of enthusiasm shown at “El paso” institute is enough evidence to guarantee that psychodrama will continue growing in Argentina as a therapeutic method.
The essence of acting, is understanding. And the essence of healing is understanding as well. Acting and healing share the same essence and that is why drama therapy is so effective. “We “go inside” their body, feelings and mental formations and witness for ourselves their suffering. Shallow observation as an outsider is not enough to see their suffering. We must become one with the object of our observation. When we are in contact with another’s suffering, a feeling of compassion is born in us.” (Hanh, 82). Eduardo Pavlovsky is aware of this fact and his theory and techniques point to heal psychological suffering by helping people to understand themselves and others.
The progress that drama therapy and psychodrama underwent transformed them into a very efficient method in the present. In Argentina psychodrama is growing. The two groups that had been created during the process continue working parallel in the healing process, by using different techniques.
I analyzed the influence of Eduardo Pavlovsky. I saw how the unique combination of knowledge about theatre and psychiatry that he has, gives him the tools for understanding, healing and teaching others about the most common mental illnesses in the modern world. After researching and discussing with him about the origins present and future of drama therapy I realized that this therapy has renovated different areas. All the areas that have been influenced by drama therapy have improved. Mediation, prevention and education are three very important tools in society and drama therapy is now being used by professionals to improve them. For example mediation uses the inversion of roles, which is a drama therapy technique. Prevention uses puppets in situation where even body language is too tender or even painful, and the use of puppets with that objective is also a drama therapy method. And finally, education applies drama therapy techniques such as the dramatization of stories and the teaching behind each story.
First Jacobo Moreno created a connection between psychology and theatre. Then Eduardo Pavlovsky created a connection between drama therapy and psychoanalysis and brought these techniques to different professional areas. Actually, in Argentina these methods are growing and being studied and applied. If we know what psychology and dramatization can work together why not applying them in order to achieve a better life?
Bibliography and resources: MLA system
1. Rojas Bermúdez, Jaime G. “¿Qué es el Psicodrama?”. Buenos Aires: Genitor, 1975.
2. Pavlovsky, Eduardo and Kesselman, Hernán “Espacios y creatividad”. Buenos Aires: Ayllu, 1997.
3. Pavlovsky, Eduardo. “Proceso creador terapia y existencia.” Buenos Aires: Busqueda, 1982.
4. De Brasi, Juan Carlos. “Subjetividad grupalidad identificaciones.”Buenos aires: Busqueda, 1990.
5. Nhat Hanh, Thich. “Peace is every step”. United States and Canada: Bantam Books, March 1992.
6. Schverdfinger, Silvia. “Psicodrama Grupal en el ámbito de la Universidad.” Campo Grupal number 15, July 2000
7. Schverdfinger, Silvia. “Entre practicas y reflexiones”. Campo Grupal number 90. June 2007.
8. Schverdfinger, Silvia. “Psicodrama psicoanalítico grupal en el campo de la prevención.” Actualidad Psicológica number 277. July 2000.
9. Schverdfinger, Silvia. “Trazos entre prácticas y reflexiones.” Campo Grupal number 46. June 2003.
10. Schverdfinger, Silvia. “Psicodrama una herramienta eficaz en el campo de la mediación.” Actualidad Psicológica number 237. November 1996.
11. Gioberchio, Graciela. “Desafío al Psicoanálisis.” Clarín April the 2nd 2006.
12. Elustondo, Georgina. “Más gente hace terapias que prometen resultados rápidos” Clarín October the 24th 2004.
13. Schverdfinger, Silvia. “Psicodrama: un dispositivo para la producción creativa.” Actualidad psicológica. Number 261. January 1999.
14. Interview with Silvia Schverdfinger.
15. Interview with Eduardo “Tato” Pavlovsky.