A Glossary Of Terms In Psychodrama And Sociometry

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A Glossary Of Terms In Psychodrama And Sociometry
(Compiled by Adam Blatner)
June 1, 2006

Further down on this page are the following: A D P R S Some Problematic Terms Possible Controversies

Preliminary Comments:
As a field matures, differentiations emerge, and along with this comes a need for counter-balancing appropriate efforts at integration. This has been true for most fields in which a specialized vocabulary is needed to describe the elements or processes that may not be adequately described by the kinds of words in a general dictionary. Thus, some effort should be made to find a common agreement about the meanings of a variety of terms. A number of associated issues also are raised in this effort:
– are some terms used that might have functional equivalents in the general dictionary? If so, might it be better to let go of the jargon and adopt the more widely used term?
– are some terms or phrases actually useful, or were they more theoretical constructs that have been found to have limited or little application?
– certain terms are so general–and the utility of their definition may involve the generation of a boundary of what phenomena are not included.
– where there is an apparent difference in definitions between different authorities, it will aid in the promotion of professionalization to build in some sort of agreed-upon process for debating the issues and seeking a synthesis or consensus. At present, it seems to me the field is fragmented enough–and wary about unnecessary efforts at imposing standards or authority hierarchies as they may turn into a “cultural conserve” that might inhibit spontaneity–so that the requisite process is not yet in place.

The Advantages of a Web-Page Context for This Debate:

The internet and the available websites offer an interesting technological opportunity in this regard. A provisional set of definitions can be put up and read over by anyone interested in the process. It is thus ultimately transparent and democratic. Anyone can comment and those comments can be woven into a dialogue–perhaps generating a hypertext linked-to separate web-page, in which the different ideas can be presented.

In time, as people become interested, a critical mass of trainers may begin to move towards a greater degree of consensus. Of course, different people are free to use terms in their own way. (With a somewhat postmodernist sensibility, I have no illusions about being able to proclaim a “right” or “wrong” way to define a word–not by my own will or even by a committee. There will always be some who might not wish to agree.) The point is that it is useful to have some consensus. Students studying for exams in college classes or institutes, or being evaluated on certifying exams may use the words as defined by their own teachers or from certain books–and I can assure you that the major books available today have meaningful differences on the way they define certain key words!

In the spirit of the blogosphere, the internet world of people posting ideas, revising their posting, mixing it with emails, etc., I invite you to come up with additions and suggestions for revisions of not only the terms to be discussed, but also of these comments and perspectives! Email me at adam@blatner.com I may edit out peripheral messages, but will try to include the gist of your points, whether or not I agree. If I disagree, I’ll try to be very specific and also note my reasons, and I hope you will do the same. I believe the field needs this kind of professional exchange if it is to be recognized as being intellectually rigorous by our colleagues in other fields.
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Preliminary Comments:
The challenge is to generate a workable glossary, with definitions that are agreed on by a fair number of authorities in the field. (What is an authority? Shall it be certification as a trainer? But let it be clear that anyone, with any level of training, should feel free to ask probing questions, challenge authority, and offer alternative suggestions and comments!! In an easy-to-modify document such as one that is online, revisions and updating can be an ongoing process. This maintains the spirit of Moreno’s ideas about spontaneity more effectively than having to submit ideas to writing in “hard copy.” )

Another factor to consider about the following definitions: Are they presented with optimal succinctness and clarity? Could they be explained with more familiar wording? In a new field, sometimes new words are necessary to express concepts that cannot be captured in more familiar terms; yet at other times, these new words, neologisms, only add a measure of obscurity and in-group jargon to the field, and that kind of wording should be critiqued.

Related to this is the tendency to over-generalize, to describe a dynamic in excessive or over-blown hyperbole. There are some concepts that I question as possibly being phrased as if they were scientific principles that are established rather than their being tentative hypotheses that deserve more rigorous analysis. (See my section beginning on pg. 13 about problematic terms.)

A glossary is most useful–indeed, perhaps even necessary– for professionals within a field to be able to converse meaningfully among themselves, and even more so to aid in the process of translation to and from other languages. As our field has grown internationally, again, this project becomes more relevant.

I envision the process of forming a meaningful glossary as proceeding over the period of several years, gradually obtaining increasing consensus, and finally reaching a kind of “critical mass” when sufficient consensus has accumulated and various national organizations begin to adopt this document as an official standard, much as societies need common standards for weight, length, monetary value, and other variables. (For example, in biology, the development of a language for classification has made it possible for people who give different folk names for a plant or animal to agree on what species is actually being referred to.)
Glossary of Terms Used in Psychodrama and Sociometry

Reader: Please add your own comments, write me about areas where you agree, disagree, what you would say instead, why you think it’s better. Please note that this whole project is still in a tentative, provisional state and is not meant to be authoritative. Your input is essential.

Abbreviations from sources (so far):

AB00 Adam Blatner, Foundations of Psychodrama 4th ed
TD Tian Dayton, The Living Stage, 2005
EL: Leveton, Eva. 2001. A Clinician’s Guide to Psychodrama, 2nd ed. Springer
JLM75: Moreno & Moreno, 1975 pd3:
ER: Roine, Eva. Psychodrama, 1997, Jessica Kingsley.
LW: White, Liz. The Action Manual, 2002. Self-published.
? Wilkins: Psychodrama. 1999. Sage.


Act Hunger: The longing for action in a certain role, or for completion of an unresolved interaction. – White
AB: The inner need, conscious or unconscious, to experience some dimension of emotion or physical action by actually enacting a situation where such self expression would be part of appropriate role behavior. For example, the need to be triumphant might evoke a scene of being a knight in combat.

Acting-in: I called acting-in the activity of using the act hunger (q.v.) implicit in a role or predicament as the vehicle for promoting insight through enactment. (Blatner, 1973)

(A rather different definition is proposed by Eva Roine (1992): When the auxiliary ego, the double or the director include personal motives which run counter to the protagonist’s motives. In psychoanalytical termonlogy, acting in was introduce by John N. Rosen (1962), who sees it as an “inward reaction,” especially in reference to the inner world of the psychotic. –Roine.

(A.Blatner: I don’t agree: I’d call this simply counter-transference. I confess I didn’t know Rosen’s definition, but his opinion is not held highly, and his approach was generally considered extreme by the mainstream, if not an embarrassment.

Acting-out: Moreno’s use of this term has a much broader meaning than when it is used in psychoanalysis. Acting out is the fulfillment of all impulses and thoughts, that is, an enactment. Acting out in the more general understanding of the word, for example physically or violently, is channelled into constructive action through psychodramatic techniques. Roine.

A.Blatner: Because acting-out has become so widely known through psychoanalytically-oriented approaches, and they continue to dominate internationally, I think using the term in a different way is problematic. That’s why I played with it as acting-in.
Acting-out is an expression of a repressed emotion through behavior rather than through, say, a dysfunction of the body (in conversion disorder), certain compulsions (like hair pulling), etc. Thus, an adolescent in therapy who goes on a drunk and gets pregnant might be an expression of an erotic transference or rebellious hostility.


Action Insight: When a person spontaneously acquires a new insight or has an emotional “aha!” experience during an enactment. Moreno has also used the term “working off” as a spontaneous emotional release. Roine
A.Blatner: I agree with first sentence, but I’ve never heard the term “working off.”


Action Methods: A synonym for psychodramatic techniques, experiential exercises, a general category of techniques that might include physical action; imagination; theatre games or creative drama techniques; nonverbal communications; using music, poetry, sculpture, song, dance, movement; and so forth. – AB.
Antony Williams writes in April, 1999: My response to your action methods versus psychodrama is simple and expedient, rather than one based on “theory”: I reserve “psychodrama” for “The Full Monty,”–i.e., the whole complex of classical psychodrama–; while “action methods” might refer to any of the techniques that often make up a psychodrama, but which are used in another context, such as the “Walk down Memory Lane” technique. Now to me, that’s not a psychodrama: the nearest it gets is the use of role reversal on a time line. Nor is the use of people or magnetic figures to represent roles in supervision. It’s not psychodrama, it’s supervision. Take another example: I have developed action methods in business contexts that use space and relationship between spaces to represent other factors, e.g., organizational purpose, stakeholders, suppliers, customers, etc; these could not even be described as “vignettes”– i.e., one-act mini-psychodramas. That’s a business example, but I could take many others from Human Services or even therapy. They’ve nothing to do with psychodrama, long or short, but do use bits and pieces of the psychodramatic methodology.

Actogram: The course of events during a psychodrama in which one keeps track of what happens within the group: the members’ relationships to one another, their rhythm, choice of auxiliary egos, and positive and negative transfers. – ER
A.Blatner: I’ve never seen anyone use this technique, and even if they did, I would like to see a discussion about how the method is actually useful, helpful.

Antagonist: The role of the main figure with whom the protagonist is having an interaction. This may not necessarily be an antagonistic relationship, however–it may be a love scene, or some other enactment without any friction or hostility. The term isn’t frequently used, however. –AB


The Audience: This common term, in psychodrama, refers to most of the group members during an enactment. When the enactment is finished, the audience returns to a more participatory role. Also, the audience can be helped to play active roles in the drama, such as cheering a protagonist on or calling out suggestions; however, such behavior should generally be expressed only as suggested by the director, in order to maintain optimal levels of coherence. Audience members are frequently called upon to play auxiliary roles for a while during the course of an enactment.

Autodrama: A drama in which the protagonist alone plays all of the roles. – Roine

A.Blatner: Add: This includes the director’s role. Monodrama is similar, but there is an outside director, perhaps the therapist.

Auxiliary ego. A deputy person from real life whom the protagonist needs for the enactment of his drama. – Roine
A.Blatner, sort of agree. Some point should be made that the enactment in question, the drama, is in psychodrama, the therapeutic role playing process, not in real life.

Auxiliary: A group member who plays a role in another person’s drama. An auxiliary may be a person, a symbol, an object, a feeling, or an idea. –LW:
A.Blatner: (1) Sometimes it’s not a group member, but a co-therapist, a trained auxiliary, such as a nurse. (2) An auxiliary is a person, not an object, though the auxiliary may portray or play an object, feeling, etc. (When an empty chair is used, sometimes called the auxiliary chair, that’s a technique, but not the same as an auxiliary. An auxliary is short for auxiliary ego.)

AB: The auxiliary was originally called “auxiliary ego” in the psychodrama literature. This term refers to any other person besides the protagonist or director in the group who plays a role in an enactment. It’s like a “supporting actor” except that an auxiliary can play a wider variety of roles: An inanimate figure in a dream; the unspoken or subconscious thoughts or feelings of the protagonist or one of the other characters in the enactment, and, as noted above, even the role of the person of the protagonist (while the protagonist watches from the sidelines). Auxiliaries can change roles, also. In short, the auxiliary is a term used in psychodrama to refer to any person who helps the enactment by playing an active role.

Axiodrama: It focuses on ethics and general values; it is a synthesis of axiological meanings with psychodrama; it attempts to dramatize the eternal verities, truth, justice, beauty, grace, piety, perfection, eternity, and peace. – M&M

A.Blatner: Bulky. Better to say: A drama in which the protagonist explores some abstract idea that requires a more careful analysis, such as the meaning of anger, loyalty, spirituality, purpose–using auxiliary egos to play the parts of teachers, spiritual guides, and so forth.

Catharsis: Moreno used this term in two ways: as primary / active or as secondary / passive. The protagonist experiences a primary / active catharsis while the group usually experiences the secondary / passive – unless they have been directly involved, so that their own problems have been touched upon and given an emotional release or an aha experience. Actually, Moreno uses a third type of mental catharsis by introducing the “healing effect,” which applies to all members of a psychodrama: “The healing effect is produced … in the producer-actors, who produce the drama and at the same time liberate themselves from it. (Moreno, 1970a).– Roine

A.Blatner: Not satisfied, because doesn’t really explain what the process is.


Choice in Action: If there is a choice to be made in the group–which drama to do now, whether to meet next week or next month–indicate one part of the room for each choice. Group members stand in the place that expresses their choice. It is often useful to check with the unchosen person or position to comment on the choice process. –White

A.Blatner: This is an idiosyncratic term, not commonly known or used. A nice technique, a variant of or equal to how others use the term “locogram” as a near-sociometric technique, a little similar also to the “spectrogram.”
By “un-chosen,” I think Liz means the person whose drama may not be chosen; but one might also note if there is anyone in the group who doesn’t choose and ask that person also to comment.

Co-Character: In the Art of Play, I used this term as a more familiar than “auxiliary”–although it’s close to the same meaning. The co-character refers to any role that is one of the people or animals in a scene and is played by another group member.


Cosmodynamic: This expression is especially directed toward Freud’s deterministic viewpoint and implies that man is a cosmic being not limited by forces within the individual psyche. Man is a cosmonaut who, like an astronaut, can travel freely in inner and outer space. See also “Psychonaut.” – Roine

A.Blatner: I’ve never heard anyone use this term, and if I did, it didn’t impress me as useful in any way, except that many in the field tend to speak in hyperbole, which only reduces the credibility of the enterprise to those who are outside of the somewhat idealizing dynamic.

Creative Dramatics: Improvisational dramatics in classrooms is being used to develop skills of creativity, communications, problem solving, and pro-social attitudes. Also has been called “creative drama.”
Creaturgy: When a person creates spontaneity from inner resources. In reference to Darwin, Moreno said, “Survival of the Creator!” The person who creates, survives. – Roine

A.Blatner: I also question the value of this term and invite comments that will help me appreciate its usefulness..

Cultural Conserve: The product of spontaneity and a creative act, which may become the springboard for further creativity. It may be a product (a symphony or poem) or an idea (driving on the right-hand side of the road.) – White

A.Blatner: That which has already been created. It isn’t possible to say whether most creations are the product of spontaneity, and it doesn’t matter.


Director: The leader of a psychodrama group, who is responsible for conducting a psychodrama, sociodrama or sociometric exploration. – White

A.Blatner: The person who conducts or facilitates a psychodrama, etc. This person is often, but not always the group leader. Sometimes the director is a student in the group, taking turns or operating as a co-director or auxiliary, but used as director for some enactments or explorations. Sometimes the director comes in from the outside and the group leader remains in the group.
Director: The person directing the psychodrama, giving commands such as “cut the action,” or “now switch roles.” Usually, the director is the group leader, but in a psychodrama training group, for example, several group members may take turns as director while the instructor remains part of the audience or perhaps functions as a co-director on the sidelines. Or if the group breaks up into mini-groups, different group members may take turns rotating the roles of director, protagonist, and auxiliaries. As you can see, roles need not remain fixed, and indeed, the essential flexibility of role taking is a fundamental principle of psychodrama–indeed, I’d suggest that it is a fundamental principle of effective living in general.

Double: Like the auxiliary ego, the double also plays a role in a psychodrama. The double’s function is to help the protagonist express throughts and feelings that often exist on a pre-conscious level. With the support of the double, a protagonist finds the courage to express what is often the very nucleus of the problem. – Roine

An auxiliary who acts as a companion / alter ego, expressing he inner thoughts and feelings of the protagonist. – White
AB: The double is the name for the role of a person who plays the inner voice of the protagonist or the co-character. The double is also called “the alter ego.” S/he positions herself beside the character for whom s/he is doubling and speaks the words that the character might not feel free to say or needs help in expressing.


Drama Therapy: In the mid-1960s increasing numbers of people with a background in theatre helped psychiatric patients put on plays, generally as part of an overall activities or occupational therapy program. (In England, this approach emerged as “dramatherapy”–one word.) Gradually, this approach took on a number of psychodramatic methods, and in the late 1970s emerged as one of the expressive arts therapies, along with music therapy, poetry therapy, art therapy, dance therapy, movement therapy, etc. There is more of an emphasis on producing a rehearsed performance, or more of a use of recognized characters from the dramatic or written literature. Yet in many situations, the two separately evolving disciplines (i.e., psychodrama and drama therapy) overlap and each has something to offer the other.

Empathy: Insight into the other person. (Moreno considered the German word, “Einfeuhlung,” to be its equivalent.) Moreno uses empathy and tele in the direct I-you relationship which he seeks in the concept “encounter,” or, in German: Begegnung. – Roine
A.Blatner: I think this is a great oversimplification of a great deal of psychological literature about the topic. It won’t do to use terms that are widespread only in terms of Moreno’s idiosycratic definitions and inner correspondences. There are innumerable instances of empathy aside from either tele or encounter.


Encounter: The true meeting of individuals; the process of seeing another as they see themselves; authentic social relations. In psychodrama, encounter is greatly aided by role reversal. – Wilkins

Blatner’s comment: This is an example of psychodrama’s creating its own little world, following the cultural conserve of Moreno’s 1914 poem about encounter. Yet thousands of people in psychology and the human potential movement used the term in thousands of papers, chapters, and books between 1960 and 1985, and it wasn’t about Moreno’s particular use. It was closer to the aforementioned “authentic social relations.” Role reversal can help, to be sure, but generally wasn’t considered part of the process.
For most writers about encounter, it involved a deeper level of self disclosure, a willingness to really listen and open one’s heart, a readiness to explore and consider the relationship itself, the way the interaction was proceeding, and not just the content of the subject matter being discussed.
As for any meeting being “true,” we need to note that absolute truth may be an asymptotic limit, like perfection or the speed of light, and therefore of little practical utility in a definition.

Histrionic neurosis. The actor’s neurosis. When portions of the actor’s own psyche block out deeper understanding of a role or when the actor falls into a rut and is not able to renew his habitual acting techniques. – Roine.

A.Blatner. Obsolete, not used for 30 years in psychiatry, and certainly not confined to actors. Of questionable usefulness, also for being oversimplified.

In situ. At the place where thoughts and impulses are given expression. Originally used to describe Moreno’s psychodrama in Vienna, a kind of seeking-out activity in streets and parks. Drama in situ is also called Austrian psychodrama or existential psychodrama.– Roine

A.Blatner: I’ve not heard this. My understanding is that a psychodrama in situ happens when someone facilitates an exploration of a situation using psychodramatic methods, with the protagonist in the actual place and time and with the actual people that generated the situation to be explored. For example, during a camping trip for youth, the youth worker addresses a conflict that arises among the kids by having them role reverse, replay, and in other ways explore their own feelings and in the service also of a more conscious conflict resolution.

Life skills. Problem-solving skills individuals use to manage their lives successfully in five areas: self, family, community, career, and leisure. –LW

A.Blatner: First, should this item even be included in this glossary? Many programs that have nothing to do with psychodrama use behavior training and other psychoeducational approaches in the rehabilitation of post-brain injury, the chronically institutionalized, developmentally disabled, and others. However, role training is often a part of this. Second, it is a slightly idiosyncratic definition, perhaps having special reference to a program in Canada known to the LW.).


Metaphysics: The point of view of the creature. (Contrasted by Moreno with metapraxie, see below.). – Moreno & Moreno, Psychodrama Vol 3.
A.Blatner: This is an unacceptable distortion of a widely used term in philosophy, where it refers to the contemplation of the essential nature of being. It reveals Moreno’s penchant for acting like the character of Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s classical children’s book, Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking-Glass, where Humpty says, “When I use a word, it means just what I want it to mean, no more, no less!”
In this context, Moreno seems to be drawing a contrast, suggesting that we could imagine that there are two levels of something–mind, perspective, whatever–so that the perspective of the creature–i.e., humans–is recognized to be different from, and necessarily more limited than, the “meta-praxie” viewpoint of the Creator.
The actual implications of drawing this distinction are unclear. (See below)


Metapraxie: A term coined by Moreno, (noted in his book, Theatre of Spontaneity.). The point of view of the creator; the metaphysics of action; the locus of freedom. – M&M ‘75
A.Blatner: I wrote about this term back in 1988 in a journal article, speculating that this esoteric concept might be understood by considering his earlier readings in kabbalah. I’m still not sure what it means, and question whether we need to try to understand it as part of a practical definition process. Rather, it might be okay for the occasional deeply philosophical student to contemplate what he meant and also make a stab at interpretation, but more as an exercise in plumbing the depths of the theological and philosophical foundations of this work.


Mirror Technique: The director suggests that the protagonist come out of the enactment and the scene is re-played by an auxiliary who portrays the protagonist, while the protagonist observes from the sidelines or farther away in the room. The protagonist may also then discuss what is observed with the director and the group. Then she re-enters and replays the scene having had a chance to thus reflect (literally!).

Mirroring as a psychological dynamic has a slightly different meaning, so that for two people in a dialogue or interaction, one to a varying degree reflects and mimics the behavior or paraphrases or feeds back the words of the other. This increases the level of interpersonal resonance.


Monodrama. A psychodrama which is enacted without the group and with only the directo as a co-player for the protagonist. – Roine
Alternatively, an individual plays all the parts of the drama (except that of the director), and there are no auxiliary egos. The hot seat and shuttling technique that Fritz Perls adopted from psychodrama and applies in his version of Gestalt therapy is a monodrama.
(In contrast, an autodrama includes the protagonist also directing his own enactment.)



Protagonist: The individual who enacts his/her life situation. Co-protagonists are people participating in a shared drama or a structured encounter. – LW

A.Blatner: Generally agree. The use of more than one protagonist in a scene is occasionally a very appropriate and effective maneuver in family or group work, but might better be recognized as a separate technique.
AB: Protagonist: This term refers to the person whose problem is being explored. At different points in the action, a protagonist may play his/her own role, the role of another person in his world, or might even stand outside the scene, alongside the director, and in a quasi- co-director role, observe “himself” (played by an auxiliary) interact with the other people (played by other auxiliaries). In a sociodrama, the protagonist may shift from person to person, being the spokesperson for a role or point of view. In a role playing situation, again the protagonist role may shift among several group members as they take turns exploring how they might behave in dealing with a problem. So, again, the protagonist is a term used in drama and psychodrama to indicate the person playing the principal role in an enactment. S/he indicates the basic scene and characters, and it is the protagonist’s experience that is the central focus of the group.
Psychodrama: An action learning experience, in which one person enacts a life situation from the past, present, future, or from his/her imagination. – White

A.Blatner: Okay. Elsewhere, I write: Psychodrama: A method of exploring life situations by enacting them rather than talking about them. Psychodrama was originated by Dr. J.L. Moreno around 1924. Its methods have wide application beyond the realm of therapy. Psychodrama addresses its attention to the “truth” of each person’s life, that unique complex and dynamism of interacting roles that makes up the individual in his or her relations with others and the world.

Psychonaut: This designates, like the cosmonaut, man as a cosmic being. Here, like the astronaut, the psychonaut moves freely through time.
A.Blatner: I await a useful application of this term.


Role expansion: After the role has been established by the protagonist, the auxiliary adds statements or actions that seem to arise from the role. – White

A.Blatner: I haven’t heard the term used that way, though it might good as a technique. Worth writing more about. Generally, though, in role theory, the term refers to the tendency to add new roles and expand old roles with new components. Might be a general strategy or technique, encouraging a protagonist to expand the possibilities of a role. For example, a musician who has never improvised might be encouraged to add this dimension.


Role-playing. Taking part in a psychodrama. It is important not to confuse role playing with acting. Role playing refers to spontaneous improvisation depending solely on the participant’s ability to fit himself into the role and his reactions to the others. Acting, on the other hand, begins with role-playing but involves a complex discipline requiring the individual to be able to learn scripts, play in a way suitable for stage or film, and repeat performances in exact detail. – Leveton

A.Blatner: Role playing has many meanings: It can be a general category in role theory, and Moreno differentiates role playing from role taking (which is more like basic imitation) by suggesting that r.p. is somewhat more flexible; and in this sense, role creativity is even more flexible and introduces new dimensions or variations into the role enactment.
Role playing in another sense refers to a somewhat more superficial form that doesn’t seek any emotional insights or personal revelations, but rather focuses more on bringing out the dimensions of the predicament that role is involved in. It thus may be used as a tool for exploring actual social situations–as sociodrama–or historical, literary, and other kinds of issues..
A third sense conflates role playing with role training (q.v.–which see).
A fourth sense is noted above–many people who find their clients are too threatened or put off by the semantic associations of “psycho-drama,” will accept a somewhat attenuated terminology of “role playing.” (Others find even this term too loaded and the practitioner then may use such equivalent euphemisms as “action techniques,” “experiential approaches,” and the like.
Some writers prefer the term “role playing” instead of psychodrama, and use it with an equivalent meaning because psychodrama seems too emotionally loaded to many audiences: “psycho-” sounds too much like “psychosis,” “psychiatrist” or its stigmatized associations, and “-drama” is equally problematic, suggesting the histrionic, inauthentic, rehearsed, exaggerated, theatrical tradition, along with a vague sense of loss of control. In a related sense, the psychoanalytic term, “acting out,” has come to imply that any action at all is suspect, and in many children’s treatment programs, the term is inaccurately applied to almost any kind of overexcitement or misbehavior (e.g., “the kids were really acting out today”). Role playing more precisely refers to a sub-type of psychodrama in which the goal is the exploration of a problem in order to find the most effective way of handling it. Role-Playing: An extension of psychodrama in which the central task is to discover the optimal strategy for coping with a situation. In truth, this term is also used as a more acceptable and less technical term for sociodrama. Usually, however, fewer explorations are undertaken regarding the deep feelings involved in a conflict.


Role Relief. The experience of letting go of an overdeveloped role, often by developing a complementary one. For example: choosing for once not to be the one who organizes the staff picnic, creating a space for someone else to play the role. – White
A.Blatner: Agree in general. I find it a very powerful concept, like role expansion, for people to entertain as a part of taking stock of themselves, using applied role theory. Where do you want to “give it a rest, already” ?

Role Reversal: The technique of inviting one person to change places and play the role of another. Role reversal gives the protagonist insight into the position of others, and the opportunity to see himself as others see him. In an encounter or sociodrama, role reversal ensures that the protagonist has heard the other position and can place himself temporarily in it. – White

A.Blatner: Sort of agree. Early in an enactment, the director often has the protagonist “role reverse” or take the role of the other person in the scene (sometimes also called the antagonist), in order to show the auxiliary who will be playing that part how that other person stands, what expression is on her face, what typical words are said, and so forth. It’s a way to warm up the auxiliary. This is not technically a full role reversal in which two people change parts.

RR: When two role playing individuals take each other’s roles. (In a father-son dialogue, for example, the father plays the son’s part while the son plays the father’s.)–Leveton
A.Blatner: This is especially helpful in family therapy. Note, though, that in most ordinary psychodramas the individual may role reverse with the imagined other person, played by an auxiliary or as a virtual other in an “empty chair.”
Another definiton (AB): Role Reversal: Exchanging one’s focus of experience with the other person in an interaction. In an enactment, the principal character may change parts with one of the co-characters, and then the person who played one role then plays the other, while the person playing the co-character becomes the role originally played by the protagonist (q.v.)

Role Taking: The act of embodying a particular role, usually one that is not part of one’s ordinary life. This process can be done with a narrow or broad definition of how the role may be portrayed. When a person brings a fair amount of spontaneity to the role taking process, it may be called “role creativity.” – AB



Sharing: The last phase of the psychodrama, in which group members take the focus off the protagonist, and express their identification with the protagonist and the feelings evoked in them by the drama. It facilitates the re-entry of the protagonist into the group after the action. – White

A.Blatner, yes, well, but some of the group occasionally identifies more with the antagonist or some other figure. Also, it might be argued that there can be a phase after sharing of various types of discussion, allowing for closure, even if only to check in with others as to what other themes are raised. Sometimes it’s that another group member wants to pursue their own enactment, warmed up by the previous enactment.


Social atom: The smallest part of the social structure of human society. The total sum of all choices and experiences that an individual has made in his life.– ER

A.Blatner: I question the usefulness of this concept. First definition assumes that society has “a structure,” which is entirely arguable. (There may be innumerable maps that can be variably useful or misleading for various aspects of the complexities of social functioning; moreover, these maps may be more useful at certain levels than others. See my webpage on “social beingness.” As for the second sentence in the definition above: It seems so general as to be completely abstract and unworkable
Another definition: Social Atom is Moreno’s term for the people or groups most relevant to one’s psychological world. Sometimes the term also refers to the diagram of the social network involved. Variations on the social atom diagram can be used as a form of sociometry.


Sociodrama: this focuses on social relations between human beings and on attitudes. For example, as a starting point, a sociodrama would investigate attitudes about abortion, race or religion, or shed light on patterns of gender roles. A sociodrama also shows relations among groups, especially in terms of conflicts. –ER

A.Blatner: Slightly misleading first line, as psychodrama does this also. More, a focus on the social relations between roles. (Human beings are particular blends of many roles, in all their particular components, and the interactions of these inner elements leads to variations, exceptions, qualifications, that interfere with the pure exploration of a role conflict. Thus, while fathers and teen-aged daughters might share a certain set of commonly experienced tensions, there are exceptions and special cases that don’t fit the general role predicament.)

Sociodrama: An action exploration of a social issue, in which the roles are gneric rather than individual. For example, one might address through sociodrama conflicts involving loggers and environmentalists; tribal leaders of First Nations (i.e also called aboriginals or Native American Indians, etc.) and government ministers or agents; or parents, teenagers, and local police officers. – LW. A.Blatner: Okay

Sociometry: The study of interpersonal relationship choices, by individuals in the structuring of their lives through role development, and by groups whose choice patterns interact to generate group dynamics. Sociometry was originated by J.L. Moreno and has been developed subsequently by others.– White
A.Blatner: I think this is a bit bulky. The individuals in groups often aren’t making life-structuring choices–that seems a bit misleading and overblown, though that’s of course probably not what’s meant. Also, group dynamics arises out of factors other than choice patterns, although such forces do play an important function.

Sociometry is the mathematical study of psychological properties of populations, the experimental technique of and the results by application of quantitative methods. – M&M, Psychodrama vol 3, p.270, glossary.

AB: Sociometry: A group of methods for measuring some aspects of the interpersonal dynamics in groups.More specifically, it notes the aggregate of preferences in terms of responses to a question such as, “Who would you prefer to have share working on this project?” The answers are charted and shared with the group so as to respond to their needs to organize themselves more realistically. It can also be modified in many ways, using written questionnaires, diagrams, or action techniques. A group of concepts are also associated with the term, such as the general desirability of helping people to be with those with whom they feel the most rapport, noting that different relations are constellated when different criteria are used, etc. On a deeper level, sociometry is a way to more clearly identify preferences and to check out how one is perceived by others.


Soliloquy: An expression out loud of a player’s internal thoughts. Others in the scene do not respond to it. – White
A.Blatner–okay, I think

Spectrogram: the group demonstrates how they feel about an issue in the group by placing themselves on a invisible line in the room. It helps in objectifying and clarifying the problems.
Spontaneity: The state of readiness to respond to a situation. It includes the capacity to find adequate responses to new situations and new responses to old ones. – EW
A.Blatner: I think okay.
SPONTANEITY: An adequate response to a new situation or a new response to an old situation

Stage: Here used to designate any area where a psychodrama takes place. –EL

AB: Nevertheless, in psychodrama there is also another meaning: A specially constructed psychodrama stage. Yet it must be acknowledged that most psychodramas being conducted today happen in areas in which no formal psychodrama stage is available. The point to be emphasized is that role playing not occur in the ordinary context of a group or family setting, but if possible an area be designated apart from the locus of ordinary discussion, an area in which enactment can be staged and it is understood that this is a place for experimentation and a measure of playfulness.
Also, it should be noted that the traditional theatrical stage is not amenable to psychodrama–it’s too high and relatively inaccessible to easy ascending and descending of protagonist and auxiliaries.
A few psychodramatists have been able to actually construct a special stage designed for psychodrama. In general, this term refers merely to the area in a group room where the main action occurs. In general, the kinds of stages used in theatres or auditoriums is not useful for psychodramas, because people in the audience need ready access, a matter of only a step or two away, rather than the imposing height of the stage in most regular theatres.


Status Nascendi: The creative moment. That which becomes tele. Moreno translates this word into German as zweifeuhlung, as opposed to Einfeuhlung. In tele, the empathy is reciprocal, having two receivers and two senders.– Roine

A.Blatner: I haven’t seen this term used this way. I’ve seen it used as equivalent to locus nascendi. What do others think? Furthermore, I question the need for this Latinized term, which I think lends a bit of pseudo-intellectual puffery to what is being referred to. Let’s re-think it.


Surplus reality: The world that takes place on the psychodramatic stage where anything can take place–time travel, fantasy, enacted metaphor–and still be seen in the present and in real dimensions. –EL

A.Blatner: SR: The experience of simulated “reality” made available through dramatic enactment. Thus, that which might be considered not real, such as an encounter with a relative who died before one could say goodbye, a past scene in which the other person behaves more helpfully rather than destructively (i.e., the “reformed auxiliary ego technique”), and so forth, all can be experienced by the protagonist in the service of healing. Moreno called psychodrama “the theatre of truth” not because what gets enacted there is true in any factual sense, but rather that it represents the protagonist’s phenomenological “truth,” the outward expression of the inner drama. It reflects a slight variation of the insight of cognitive therapy (i.e., that thoughts often determine behavior)– i.e., that imagery, fantasy, a shift in perspective or metaphor–these also affect behavior, and such influences are even more powerful when physically enacted, which adds the sense of kinesthetic cues and embodied experience. (See Act Hunger).

AB: Surplus Reality: That realm of dramatic action in which the ideas of the mind can find expression. Thus, events of science fiction, fantasy, and the emotional happenings that we fear or yearn for can have an opportunity to be vividly experienced because conceptualizing this realm creates a space for its manifestation. Surplus reality is a “psychologically real” dimension of existence in which mental events can be expressed verbally or physically. Drama often uses surplus reality to reveal those events which haven’t happened in actuality, but they are yearned for or feared, playfully entertained or fantasized. Most psychodramatic techniques call upon the human capacity to intuitively understand that potential in order to concretely explore the dynamics of the protagonist’s imagination. In a way, this term refers to the mind’s capacity to pretend or play, not in its childish or frivolous sense, but in its deepest capacity to serve as an instrument of self-awareness, healing and transcendence. Portraying an encounter with God or St. Peter after death, a reconciliation with an aborted child, a re-living of a deprived childhood, or an empowered response to a traumatizing event, all would call upon our capacity for using surplus reality. There needs to be a psychological and even philosophical recognition of the usefulness of this concept.


Tele: A term coined by Moreno to denote the dynamic that determines the way in which individuals are connected in a group in terms of their attraction and repulsion. It accounts for the preferences between group members, the mood of the group, and the intuitive leaps often made in role assignments and role-playing. – Levit.

A.Blatner: Might “rapport” be a more useful equivalent term? This is discussed in an associated web-page.


Theatrotherapy: This is the opposite of psychodrama and refers in particular to the work of Das Stegreiftheater (The Theater of Spontaneity) in Vienna around 1921-1923, when Moreno worked with professional actors and improvised on the basis of newspaper texts and current events. This is an incomplete psychodrama because the individual does not live out his own life in a spontaneous drama. – Roine

A.Blatner. Well, I might not call it the opposite, so much as different. First, I haven’t heard anyone use this term. Drama therapy is the more popular approach, and nowadays, most drama therapists are willing to use psychodrama at a certain point in the process. But they do have the patients taking “distanced” roles, playing other than themselves, at certain points in the process. The aforementioned definition is problematical also because some people go along with Moreno’s statement that psychodrama originated with the founding of the Stegreiftheater. I don’t agree with this–I think it would be more proper to say that Moreno was one of the pioneers of improvisational and applied social-action theatre before ever turning it to therapeutic applications.


Vignette: A dramatic enactment that consists of one scene. – White A.Blatner: Okay–or maybe only a part of a scene. Why not call it a scene?

Warm-up. The initial activity in a psychodrama group designed to encourage maximum participation and spontaneity as well as introduce material for further work. – Leviton,2001

AB notes: In addition to being the first phase, there may be a series of warm-up techniques, and sometimes if the group is prolonged, there may be warm-ups after breaks and for each subsequent enactment. Indeed, much of life, therapy, and psychodrama can be imagined as an ongoing process of warming-up to certain roles, cooling down, shifting the warm-up to other roles, and so forth.
Warm up techniques tend to develop group cohesion, focus a group on its task, increase the sense of safety, generate useful mental associations.
Warming-up: The process of increasing spontaneity, involvement.

Some Problematic Terms:
opposite pole ?
AB: This term was included in the study guide of the American Board of Examiners in Psychodrama, etc., on page 9. I don’t know what it refers to in psychodrama. It seems to me to be so general as to be applicable in electricity, geography, philosophy? Does it mean the tendency to experience and think about things in terms of duality, with extreme ends? That would make it more relevant to the most general parts of psychology. Why or how is it part of psychodrama more so than for any other field?
– – –

When I look over the glossaries in a variety of locations, I encounter terms, some of which I’ve never encountered, though I make an effort to be relatively scholarly and have been working at this for over 35 years.

For example,: Consider the following:
Help me: Who uses these terms? Where can they be found in writing, or defined?
– – –
open tension system
Dayton (2005: 453) “open tensions are unresolved situations that live inside the psyche in an unfinished state and produce internal tension.”
Adam Blatner: Why Open tensions? why not just tension? how is this not true for everybody in almost every situations? When is it a useful term to use and why cannot more ordinary language be used instead? Why does it need a special definition? Who uses this term, anyway, and in what context? Use it in some sentences.
And is that what they meant by an open tension system? Why a system? What’s a closed tension system? Or a closed non-tension system? or an open non-tension system? or an open mildly tension system?

– – –
model group
I’m trying to picture this and it doesn’t come. A bunch of little toys and a child playing group therapy instead of holding a tea party? A group in which all the members are perfect, behaving well? I’m trying to imagine using the phrase in any kind of sentence? Help.
– – –

Role dynamics . One use of this phrase has been that it is my term for all the things that can happen to a role… but oddly enough, I’ve never heard of the following terms on the ABE’s list: role stripping, role lock, role consensus, role crisis… (Some definitions may be inferred, but where are they clearly described?–not in Hale, Dayton, etc.) Now, I can guess at these meanings, but I’m not sure that others would have the same interpretation. Who has used them, in what context? Is there any written source?
I like role theory, and talking about these dynamics.
Some folks have certain roles stripped away when they’re arrested and put in prison. Strip is an interesting term, though. Is it always involuntary? Can one strip oneself of roles? How is stripping different from releasing, or loss? Different degrees of voluntariness? Just speculating. Key point is to note that some of these dynamics are not uncomplicated, and possibly jargon should not be used. In other words, if I say, John experienced (or was subjected to) role stripping, which questions will that make unnecessary? And if all the questions are needed to clarify this predicament, then why use the jargon? Why not just describe the role situation? Same with all the other terms.
– – –
sociometric consciousness
Interesting term, suggesting that a person knows and actively thinks about sociometric principles. Okay, but in my perfect world, some day, these principles would be taught with much less jargon, as part of social psychology, as a basic type of science–in middle school and high school, and even a little in elementary school.
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star of incongruity ?what’s this? not in hale.
The person who has the most number of un-reciprocated choices? Maybe.

– – – –
world sociometry ? ?

Here are some terms that I’ve not seen neatly defined and would be interested in some different interpretations:

How does this term differ from God, spiritual source, ? Sounds patriarchal, God as Head (rather than godheart, godbody, godspirit)… what is implied? Giving commandments? What if God doesn’t give commandments, only lures all beings towards more value? Theological questions abound. Why is the term useful?
Is it just to note that Moreno had his own theological ideas, and tied them to the principle of creativity? What if some of those ideas might be controversial today? such as his idea of the categorical imperitave, “let everyone be born…” Pared with the shocking statement: “Let us rather reduce the length of life of the existing populations in order to permit everyone who is conceived to be born.” Hey, Jake, not me! This exposition from p. 608 -617 is really rather appalling. Comments?

First universe p. 64-5, psychodrama vol 1 theory of spontaneity, along with matrix of identity, please won’t someone explain to me this section? The more I learn, the more I have trouble perceiving what is actually meaningful in this section, in contrast to vague truisms–and some of those are arguable. In other words, what can you do with these concepts, how do they make a difference in doing therapy, raising kids, your own personal mythology (story of how you became what you are becoming), directing psychodrama? I can’t see any use whatsoever. What am I missing here?

Hale in Glossary cites p 296 in WSS to describe counter-transference: term used to describe what occurs when two persons each have a transference reaction to the other. Neither person is able to see the other person as he/she sees himself or herself. Yet counter-transference is not noted on p. 296.
More, this definition is not at all how psychoanalysts use the term. How shall we address the problem of a minor–almost marginalized–field choosing to use a common term in a way that is idiosyncratic, different from the way the mainstream uses or understands the term? More, can we back up this attitude and definition?

Many problems in Hale’s definition.
A. can anyone see you completely as you see yourself? There are so many role components and perceptions involved. More, what is the likelihood that the way you see yourself may be less accurate than the way your friend (or enemy) sees you? Self-deception is pretty pervasive in the world, and many people don’t see a tyrant as the hero-savior that he perceives himself to be.

Here’s a term to describe mainly the problems of people who have been in long term hospitals–but today this number continues to decrease as hospitals give way to half-way houses and other social institutions. Prisoners also share some of the elements here. When and how is this term actually being used? How is it more relevant to people in psychodrama than for any other sector of society? What are the components? Is there any consensus or authoritative definition?

sociodynamic effect
This has a clear definition, but my concern is whether this apparent “law” has any actual meaning other than what is pretty obvious? Is this an astute observation or flim-flam? Please help me discover something here that has some implications, suggesting that group leaders, administrators, etc. might behave differently, knowing this, than they would do otherwise.

socio-genetic evolution – is this the same as The sociogenetic law? i.e., that organizations evolve from more rudimentary groupings, is of questionable utility or rational coherence. It’s simple reductionism, like saying that people evolve from more rudimentary organisms. The point about evolution is that each higher level of organization involves “emergent properties,” dynamics and qualities not applicable to the simpler levels. How do any of you concretely use this law to guide you? Help me find its utility.
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why is norms/values a term under sociometry rather than role theory

systems theory, and why is it capitalized

Hale (1981). In glossary p176 defines
“Cleavage” as Moreno (WSS, 62): A discrepancy between official and secret value systems, causing a break or a split in the group structure.
What would be some examples of this? When is there a split and when is there merely tension? If it is secret, is it expressed as passive-aggressiveness? What if the people involved aren’t explicitly aware this is happening? What if the “secret” value system is unconscious or pre-conscious, vague–is that the same as secret? What if the official value system is partially or wholly implicit, unstated, rather than as part of any consensus of rules? Or if it is transmitted as overly lenient or overly harsh by an intermediary? (Example: how much exclusion would a couple who hasn’t been officially granted permission to marry by the church–one was divorced–experience, depending on how the priest advising them was informed or interpreted the rules?)
I am open to being educated on these matters– AB

Other Questions:

Moreno: WSS (1953), p 297:

Choice of person for an object–e.g., a food = object tele.
1. Can it be tele when there is no reciprocity? How? Please explain.

2. Why not just call it preference?
(I agree that preference is a root dynamic in tele, but not all of it.)

3. ..there is attraction from both sides.. whether the both sides are the two egos of the two persons… or a person and an object. How can this be? Please explain. Give examples.
Similarly, “there can also be an infra-tele with objects.” Please explain.

Hale, p177, glossary, External Reality–cites WSS p57, but I can’t find any comment on reality on p 57.
The use of the term “reality” is problematic, drawing on new approaches in philosophy, and on more ordinary level, the differing perceptions of how fixed a socio-cultural arrangement may be. John may experience it as “just the way it is.” Even then, it may not have the same status of reality as a chair–an object; rather, it may be a statement of resignation in the face of perceived social consensus. Jane may experience the same situation as more changeable, open to protest, manipulation, or subterfuge. It may be a rule or norm, but it isn’t reality to Jane.

P178: Incongruity. Hale says is incompatibility (whatever that means) or lack of reciprocity. Vague. How much lack, how much reciprocity.
Moreno WSS p297: if A chooses B as first choice, but B chooses A as third choice, that is incongruous.
Not exactly the same thing, or perhaps if the interpretation is stretched.

But in actual situations, how finely should the term be applied? Among 30 kids, A chooses B, C, and D as pals to go on a field trip with. Those three are in fact pals, and the depth of difference between B and C are minor; B chooses D and C, and A third. Incongruous? Yes, but perhaps hardly. More obvious is if A chooses D and D doesn’t even include A in her choices, or more so, if D negatively chooses A, would prefer not to go with him.

However wrong I may be, it may be argued that at least these issues do deserve to be clarified in some generally accessible context!

Not on the list:
Matrix of all identity. Psychodrama 1 p 74. When, in actual fact, is this concept useful, except as a mid-20th century speculation?

Source | A Glossary Of Terms In Psychodrama And Sociometry
(Compiled by Adam Blatner)