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The Use of Psychodrama in Dealing With Grief and Addiction-Related Loss and TraumaTIAN DAYTON  Ph D TEP
ABSTRACT. This article is an adaptation of a chapter from the author's 2005 book, The Living Stage: A Step by Step Guide to Psychodrama, Sociometry, and Experiential Group Therapy. The author proposes the use of psychodrama to help clients in recovery who are dealing with complicated grief issues associated with  addiction and addition related trauma. She emphasizes the importance of grieving and recognizes the many causes for a client's grief, ranging from death to divorce to addiction issues. She suggests psychodramatic strategies that can help clients to resolve those issues and to move forward with their lives.
Key words: dealing with grief, psychodrama and grief, psychodramatic strategies for dealing with grief
GRIEF IS WIDELY ACCEPTED AS AN ISSUE that needs to be addressed during recovery. Although normal life losses do not necessarily benefit from therapy nor require it, complicated loss associated with addiction issues may be aided by professional help. Those developing treatment approaches are often times legitimately concerned about whether addressing powerful issues of grief will undermine sobriety or open the door to relapse. Many addicts are themselves hurt people, who have relied on some form of self medication to manage their emotional pain. Additionally, the unresolved grief issues that they have been self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, food, sex, or gambling may reemerge during the recovery process. Clients may find themselves, for example, needing to  grieve for "lost time"  i.e. the years that they spent mired in addiction along with the pain that they have caused those they love. To complicate matters even further, they are likely to be grieving these issues with a compromised set of psychological and emotional tools. In early recovery from addiction, addicts may not benefit from revisiting painful, historical material that can trigger relapse, whereas in later recovery the opposite can be true. Avoiding painful material can actually undermine the recovering person’s ability to develop a consolidated sense of self, which can also lead to relapse or less satisfying life and relationships. Generally speaking, addicts need to develop a solid enough recovery program along with sufficient ego strength to allow them to tolerate the difficult emotions associated with the grieving process without self-medicating. They also need to have their recovery supports such as twelve step programs and professional therapy well in place.
Grief work in recovering populations can have both present day and developental components. Psychodrama, with its unique ability to concretize virtually any moment along the developmental continuum of a client's life, offers a unique approach to working with the mental, emotional and behavioral aspects of loss. Psychodrama allows for a therapeutic intervention that involves and engages the full psychological, emotional and sensorial person in his or her appropriate relational world or social atom. Going to the status nascendi of a particular conflict or issue, allows the client to explore the roots of a loss experience and trace the impact that that loss has had throughout their development.
Moreno (1946) believed that the self emerges from the roles a person plays and that the function of the role is to enter the unconscious and give it shape and definition. By using role play to work with loss issues, the therapist has a method that can reach into both the conscious and the unconscious mind of the client, meet them at the appropriate developmental level and allow the shape and definition of the roles that they have internalized to emerge onto the stage. Clients can view  a circumstance as it was, explore it psychodramatically and tease out the web of associated meaning they made of it at the time that they may still be living by. They can integrate their split-off affect and develop new insights as their adult mind witnesses their  child, adolescent or young adult world in its concrete form. They may then reshape their role configuration and practice new, emerging or desired role behaviors in the here and now of the psychodramatic moment. Moreno (1946) believed that what was learned in action must be unlearned in action. Psychodrama, with its ability to allow the shape of the unconcious to be concretized through role play, is a tool that can reshape the self. It has the ability to reach through time and allow our surplus reality to emerge onto the stage in its many dynamic, co-created forms.
Gesture as Our First Language
Gesturing is our first language. It is the mind-body communication upon which all subsequent language is built. Before language formally enters the picture, humans have learned a rich tapestry of gestures to communicate needs and desires. The expression of concern or alarm on a mother’s face, for example, causes the child to feel alerted to danger. The child’s screech accompanied by an arm motion may signal a wish to be picked up and cuddled or command the mother to hand over a favorite object. All of this body language is part and parcel of gestural communication. Each tiny gesture is double coded with emotion and is stored by the brain and body with emotional purpose and meaning woven into it. Through this interactive process, we build emotional intelligence and literacy as surely as we learn math in a classroom. (Greenspan 2000) The interaction between the more emotional right and the logical left brain is central to emotional intelligence and literacy.In his article The Right Brain, the Right Mind, and Psychoanalysis, Alan Schore explains that  the cortex sometimes referred to as  the logical left brain, is able to modify intense feeling states associated with the right brain through the use of reason and words. The right hemisphere is also centrally involved not only in the reception but also in the expression and transmission of emotional signals and affective states. Right cortical functions mediate the expression of facial displays of emotion (Borod, Haywood, & Koff, 1997), thereby facilitating spontaneous emotional communication (Buck, 1994) and spontaneous gestural communication (BlondeR, Bowers, & Heilman 1991). These rapid communications are not only sensed by another face, they trigger motor responses in the facial musculature of the recipient. There is an emotional contagion between us that is part of how people tune in on another person’s unconscious communication and regulate their own behavior accordingly.
Because gesturing is our first form of communication, much of that language is unconscious and surfaces in the form of automatic emotion writess Schore. Automatic emotion operates in infancy and beyond at nonconscious levels and shapes subsequent conscious emotional processing (Dimberg & Ohman, 1996). That web of non concious gesture, meaning, and word is formed through our interactional environment with our family and caregivers (our first social atom), and lays a foundation for later emotional growth and language development. Evolution has cunningly made the processing of emotions and their communication to others very rapid. The transmission of facially expressed emotion occurs in as little as 2 milliseconds (Niedenthal, 1990), far beneath levels of awareness. Nature has favored this speed synch for obvious reasons. The mother who could "feel fast," sense danger, and communicate that to her child to get him or her out of harm's way, was naturally selected to be the DNA strain that led to us. "Because the unconscious processing of emotional information is extremely rapid, the dynamic operations of the ‘transmission of nonconscious affect’ is largely unconciousRead More...


Dr. Tian Dayton

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