The Trial Lawyer’s Use of Psychodrama

Psychodrama is a deep action method developed by Jacob Levy Moreno (1889-1974), in which people enact scenes from their lives, dreams or fantasies in an effort to gain new insights and understandings, and practice new and more satisfying behaviors.[i]

Psychodrama is an amazingly versatile modality.  As a method of healing it has been used in group therapy and in one-on-one therapy (as an extension of Freudian “talk” therapy).  And Sociodrama, as a sub-set of psychodrama , had even more far reaching application, and allows further expansion of the method’s versatility.

Sociodrama is a type of psychodrama, but rather than using the methods to address individual issues, sociodrama identifies and explores group issues.  It is “a learning method that creates deep understanding of the social systems that shape us individually and collectively”[ii]

Sociodrama, is used in the classroom and in businesses.  It is also used for exploring literature and deepening religious understanding, such as with bibliodrama.

A blend of psychodrama and sociodrama is also used by trial lawyers. According to psychodramatist John Nolte, “as many as 1500 trial lawyers have been exposed to psychodrama through Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyer College.”[iii]  Lawyers (staff and students) “have gone far beyond this goal (of personal development) by developing unique and creative ways of utilizing the psychodramatic method in training and their work.”[iv]

It is fascinating to observe how creative and spontaneous trial lawyers are and can be when bringing the tools of psychodrama to the courtroom.  For example, lawyers will often use the various methods of role reversal, doubling, chair back, and soliloquy to help deepen their understanding of their client’s case.  This can allow them to become better story-tellers in the courtroom.

Trial lawyers use psychodrama to increase their own creativity and spontaneity. They can then use the information they gain from these exercises to help bring their cases to life.

According to one lawyer deeply steeped in the method:

Trials are frequently likened to a drama. The comparison is an easy one to accept since both theater and trial involve storytelling. One of the lessons we can take from the theater is the notion that credibility originates with the inner feelings the actor is experiencing and not the action itself.[v]

As finally, as John Nolte eloquently explains, trial lawyers “have reinforced strongly my long-held conviction that psychodrama is indeed the road to spontaneity-creativity and that psychodrama is for everybody.”[vi]

 

 


[i] Garcia, Buchanan, Current Approaches in Drama Therapy, Chapter 9, pg.162 (2000).

[ii] Browne, R. Towards a framework for sociodrama. Thesis for Board of Examiners of the Australian and New Zealand Psychodrama Association, (2005).

[iii] Nolte, Non-Clinical Psychodrama: Lawyers and the Psychodramatic Method, The Journal of Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy, Vol. 60, No. 2, pg. 7 (2012).

[iv] Id.

[v] Cole, Psychodrama and the Training of Trial Lawyers; Finding the Story, The Warrior, Winter (2002).

[vi][vi] Nolte, Non-Clinical Psychodrama: Lawyers and the Psychodramatic Method, The Journal of Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy, Vol. 60, No. 2, pg. 13 (2012).


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