Dramatherapy and Psychodrama

Definition of Dramatherapy:
The UK Health Professions Council Standards of Proficiency for Arts Therapists document (2003) describes Dramatherapy as:
“a unique form of psychotherapy in which creativity, play, movement, voice, storytelling, dramatisation, and the performance arts have a central position within the therapeutic relationship.”

Dramatherapy is the heir to the ancient shamanic traditions of healing through ritual drama. Dramatherapy has been defined by Sue Jennings as “the specific application of theatre structures and drama processes with a declared intention that it is therapy.”

Definition of Psychodrama:
It could be argued that the above definition of dramatherapy could include psychodrama, an action method created by Dr. J. L. Moreno in the 1920s-40s and now recognised internationally as a form of psychotherapy. Moreno defined psychodrama as “the science which explores the truth by dramatic methods. It deals with inter-personal relations and private worlds.” (from a paper read at the American Psychiatric Association in Chicago on May 30th 1946).

These two creative action methods of therapy overlap and I use which ever techniques seem to be useful to a particular person at that stage in their therapy. However technique is the servant of the process: first and foremost comes the safe, supportive environment I am able to offer at Inscape: the opportunity to talk, express how you feel and explore what you need. You will retain the right to say No to any technique or stop any activity or therapy when you choose. I conduct up to six assessment sessions before we agree on working together for any longer period. I will provide you with my usual confidentiality policy at our first meeting.

For thousands of years drama has been used in healing rituals. In the twentieth century many creative workers have rediscovered the therapeutic value of drama and developed the related methods of dramatherapy and psychodrama.
In counselling and other forms of therapy the basis of the work is in talking in a safe, supportive relationship. In dramatherapy this also is true: added to this is the use of creative action when it is useful to help the person progress.
For many people the word drama is connected with theatre. There is a difference. Drama is a personal experience (the word comes from the Greek drao: “I do” or “struggle”) and theatre is communicating the experience to others (the word comes from the Greek theatron: “a place for seeing/showing”). It can be helpful to show a therapist how we are struggling, to do so in action, not just in words.
Sometimes we cannot act on our impulses: it may not be wise to do so and we may then feel stuck. In the theatre of our lives we can feel lost, forget our lines, lose a role, feel frozen, unable to move or change: we may need a prompt, a rehearsal for the next scene or to go back to a previous scene and sort it out. Acting can then enable us to move, to change.

Each night we enter into the strange theatre of our dreams where we experience images and dramas that have meaning in our lives. In a dramatherapy session we can explore these images and discover their meaning. It is also possible to re-work nightmares and indeed in dramatherapy we can dream whilst still awake: only being able this time to control the dream. Moreno who invented psychodrama said to Freud, “You analysed their dreams, I try to give them courage to dream again.”

Whether we work in the past, present or future, in imagination or reality, dramatherapy offers us the opportunity to recreate ourselves, rediscover our creativity, our ability to play and feel our own power to change our way of being and acting.

Dramatherapy is the use of drama as a therapeutic method. It is not, as in theatre, a specialised skill which people can or cannot do. We are all acting and active every day. In dramatherapy each person can participate at his/her own level. There is no standard of performance, no critic (unless you bring your own). The dramatherapist will find a safe way of working that suits you. This may involve other activities such as music, drawing, using objects to represent things, movement and images. You will have the choice of methods and the right to say no to any technique or to stop when you choose. These methods are ways of helping you express what you need and find the strength to cope and change.
Dramatherapy is recognised, through an act of Parliament, as a profession regulated through the Health Professions Council (HPC).

Developed through spontaneity research by Dr. J. L. Moreno, a psychiatrist working in Vienna, from about 1921 onwards. He emigrated to the USA in 1926 and by 1936 had opened the first psychodrama theatre in his psychiatric clinic. He was the founder of group psychotherapy.

Psychodrama encourages the spontaneity and creativity of clients for therapeutic purposes. It has very wide applications and allied disciplines of sociometry (the measurement of group relations) and sociodrama.

Psychodrama is recognised by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy as a Psychotherapy and has spread around the world.

Psychodrama is classically structured as follows:
Warm-up: the first phase of the group is when drama and other creative activities are used to warm-up participants’ spontaneity. Out of this phase one member of the group is chosen to become the protagonist whose story is explored or who wishes to work on some difficulty.
Enactment: the group enacts scenes from the past, present and future of the protagonist under the direction of the therapist and according to the protagonist?s perception of the events. Therapeutic goals are catharsis, action insight and intra-psychic and inter-personal change.
Sharing: Group members share with the protagonist what they recognise from their own lives in the drama.
Psychodrama offers you an opportunity to explore things that trouble you. With the help of others you can review scenes from your life and express how you feel. Psychodrama can also be fun, empower you and help you gain confidence in relationships.
Psychodrama is usually a group therapy. The method can be also be used in individual therapy.

For a short film interview about Psychodrama with Marcia Karp, see:

Central to my practice, whichever method I use, is the empowerment of the person I am working with.

What follows is a history of dramatherapy and psychodrama:


This chronology is an attempt to trace the inter-weaving influences which have gone to make modern psychodrama and dramatherapy. The chronology is of historical references: I do not attempt here to look into the prehistory of healing through dramatic, shamanic ritual, which I have done elsewhere (Casson, 1979, 1984, 1997-8). The recurring strands of theatre, psychology, drama and therapy, continue to develop a courtship dance until the marriage occurs mid 20th century simultaneously in the U.S.A., Britain and Europe. The parallel developments in many places do not mean that people knew of each other’s work and necessarily influenced each other: Moreno and Slade were original creators, autodidacts who through observation and experiment developed their methods and only later encountered other, complementary creators; so for example, Slade eventually met Laban but owed nothing to him, and disagreed with his methods, yet both have influenced the Sesame dramatherapy training. We now have the fortune to learn from all and without an orthodoxy can keep the field wide open, fresh and always renewing itself in the play and imaginations of therapists and clients.

440 B.C. In Sophocles’ play Antigone, the Chorus sing a hymn to Dionysus invoking his “swift healing”, “katharsios” (Sophocles 1994, 39 and note 163). Aristotle in his Poetics recognised catharsis as an effect of tragedy (Fyfe 1967, 16). In his own home Sophocles had a shrine to Asclepius, the god of healing (Sophocles 1994, xv).
Circa 150 AD Soranus, a Roman, believed that the way to cure mentally ill patients was to put them into peaceful surroundings and have them read, discuss, and participate in the production of plays in order to create order in their thinking and offset their depression (Cockerham, 1991).
5th Century AD Caelius Aurelius, in his treatise On Acute Diseases and on Chronic Diseases, advocated that patients suffering from madness should go to the theatre. For depression, see a comedy; for mania or hysteria, see a tragedy: the aim being to match the mental disturbance with its opposite and help attain a balanced state. The patient then progressed to delivering speeches. Rome. (Jones, 1996, 45-6).
1528 Wolsey encouraged drama in school at Ipswich (Courtney, 1968, 14)
16th Century: Nicholas Udall writes Ralph Royster Doister which is the first English comedy which is performed by school children at Eton and Westminster. In the play he states that the benefit of comedy is that is “prolongeth life and causeth health”. Sir Thomas Elyot recommended dramatic dancing in education; Sir Francis Bacon values theatre in developing confidence: “stage-playing; an art which strengthens the memory, regulates the tone and effect of the voice and pronounciation, teaches a decent carriage of the countenance and gesture, gives not a little assurance, and accustoms young men to bear being looked at.” (Courtney, 1968, 15)
1606 The earliest performance of Shakespeare’s King Lear: on the wild heath Lear addresses an empty stool as his daughter Goneril in a “psychodramatic” trial. Later in the play Edgar uses a guided fantasy and enactment to help his suicidal father (Gloucester). He states: “Why I do trifle thus with his despair is done to cure it.” Act 4, scene 6, 33.
1609 John Lowin Roscio publishes a book about the wholesome use of dancing: Brief Conclusions of Dancers and Dancing in which he suggests that dancing may be helpful in healing a bodily “obstruction” or “impediment” or a weakness in the “braine” or “imfirmitie in some other part.”
1613-14 Shakespeare and Fletcher write The Two Nobel Kinsmen, in which a woman goes mad and is healed by a psychodramatic enactment: a doctor prescribes the treatment. He is deliberately using the dramatic “as if”. The doctor states that this is not an innovation but normal clinical practice: “I have seen it approved, how many times I know not, but to make the number more, I have great hope in this.” (4.3.91)
This is the first of five Jacobean plays in which drama is used for therapeutic purposes.
1616 John Fletcher writes The Mad Lover which makes use of masques to prevent suicide.
1619-22 Fletcher and Philip Massinger write A Very Woman, a tragicomedy, in which a Doctor Paulo uses drama for therapeutic purposes.
1615 – 1625 Fletcher wrote and Middleton revised a comedy titled alternately, The Nice Valour or The Passionate Madman, in which masques are used in an attempt to treat a man whose diagnosis might be erotomania!
1621-5 In John Ford’s play The Lover’s Melancholy, Dr. Corax uses drama to treat depression and grief. He stages several therapeutic dramas including The Masque of Melancholy.
1624-5 John Ford and Thomas Dekker write a moral masque: The Sun’s Darling, in which Raybright’s melancholy is treated by him being given a year to experience the pleasures of the four seasons. His search for satisfaction is unfulfilled. The Sun advises Raybright that he must resist Folly and Humor (the latter in the old meaning of the word: approximating now to “mood”) to attain harmony. (First printed 1656.)
1668 Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen writes in his ?Simplicissimus? (book 2, chapter 13) that doctors used symbolic enactments in the treatment of delusions: e.g. one man “hought he had already died and wandered around as a ghost, refusing both medicine and food and drink until a clever doctor paid two men to pretend they were ghosts, but ones who loved to drink. They joined the other and persuaded him that modern ghosts were in the habit of eating and drinking, though which he was cured.” Germany.
1761 Sauvage uses theatre in the treatment of psychiatric patients, France (Petzold, 1973)This is possibly L’Abbe Francois Boissier de Sauvages de la Croix, botanist, theologian and physician, Professor of philosophy at the College of Went.
1775-7 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe writes Lila: a play in which a woman suffering a psychotic grief reaction is healed by a Doctor Verazio, her relatives and friends who play out her delusions and hallucinations and so bring her back, through this dramatised fantasy, to reality. The play is first performed in 1777. He also writes the first version of Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship in which he recommends spontaneous theatre for the benefit of the public, (Book 2, Chapter 9) Germany.
1778 onwards doctors refer to Shakespeare as an authoritative source concerning madness: Dr. Akenside is the first to refer to Hamlet’s madness (Reiss, 2008, 83).
1788 “in the large Lunatic Hospital near Paris, the Patients were encouraged to Act Plays, this pleasing remedy has been found to be very conducive to their recovery.” Black, 1788. (Hunter & Macalpine, 1964, 644)
1790s Dr. Philippe Pinel, founder of enlightened psychiatry in France, stages a “psychodramatic” trial to cure a patient of his delusion that he was going to be executed. (Porter, 2002, 105)
1795 Goethe meets J.C. Reil (see 1803) who becomes Goethe’s Doctor.
1797 – 1811 Coulmier, at Charenton asylum, encourages patients including De Sade to make theatre, France.
1803 J. C. Reil publishes Rhapsodies on the application of psychic cure method of mental disorders, an entire program for the treatment of mental illness, recommends the establishment of a Therapeutic Theatre, Germany.
1812 Benjamin Rush, physician USA, refers to Shakespeare in his book: Medical Inquiries and Observations, upon Diseases of the Mind (Reiss, 2008, 83).
1813 Theatres built in psychiatric hospitals in Italy at Aversa, Naples and Palermo.
1822 John Mason Good (physician, UK) used Hamlet as a template for his discussion of “melancholy attonita” (Reiss, 2008, 83).
1833 George Farren (a lawyer working in the asylum system, USA, inspired by Good) wrote Essays on the Varieties of Mania, Exhibited by the Characters of Hamlet, Ophelia, Lear, and Edgar (Reiss, 2008, 84).
1843 William A. F. Browne, former student at Charenton (see 1811) encourages mental patients to perform plays (including Twelfth Night) at the Crichton Royal Institute, Dumfries, Scotland.
1847 Patients of the Utica New York State Lunatic Asylum, USA, put on a “great bill” of theatre including an original play in 3 acts (Reiss, 2008, 54).
1850s John Galt, superintendent of a state asylum in Virginia, USA, was influenced by Reil to use comedy to supplant delusional ideas (Reiss, 2008, 59).
1855 D. Tilden Brown at Utica wrote that for patients involved in theatre, “undoubted benefits have accrued from the intellectual application, mental discipline, exercise of memory, and self-control of the performers, and from the diffusion of good humour and hilarity among the observers” (Reiss, 2008, 61).
1856 The Blackbird Minstrels, formed by patients at Utica NY performed for 3 nights.
1863 Alexandre Dumas witnesses a therapeutic performance by patients at Aversa, Italy.
1878 “An excellent theatre with scenery” was constructed for the use of patients at Ticehurst Asylum, England. (Scull, 1979, 207)
1879 Woyzeck published, written 1836 by G. Buchner (1813-37) Germany
1883 first performance of Ibsen’s Ghosts, Stockholm.
1891 Janet, French pioneer of Psychological Analysis, uses hypnosis and drama to re-enact traumatic scenes, to achieve catharsis and modify the patient’s fixed ideas.
1895 Breuer and Freud publish Studies in Hysteria, Vienna.
1896 Ubu Roi produced by Alfred Jarry, France.
1897 Stanislavski and Danchenko found the Moscow Arts Theatre.
1898 F. M. Alexander, actor, begins to study his own use of himself to resolve voice difficulties and subsequently develops the Alexander technique, Australia.
1900 Freud publishes The Interpretation of Dreams.
1902 Strindberg writes A Dream Play.
1904 F. M. Alexander arrives in London.
1904 Freud writes on the psychopathological characters on stage: and points to the therapeutic potential of theatrical play. He does not publish this paper until 1948 and never referred back to this approach again.
1905 Stanislavski suggests actors use improvisation during rehearsal: such are the objections of Meyerhold and Danchenko that he abandons the idea which 30 years later he formulates as the law for the analysis of a play and a role.
1908 Dr. Eugen Bleuler introduces the term schizophrenia. He encourages patients “to take part in theatricals.” (Ellwood, 1995, 24)
1908 Harriet Finlay-Johnson using drama in school across the curriculum, Sussex.
1908 Evreinov premieres his monodrama The Presentation of Love in Vienna.
1908 J. L. Moreno writes The Godhead as Comedian, a play, and begins creative drama/play with children, Vienna.
1908 – 17 Vladimir Iljine (influenced by Stanislavski) develops his Therapeutic Theatre in a psychiatric hospital, Kiev, Russia. He also works with Basilius Zenkowski on didactic (educational) drama.
1909 Iljine publishes Improvising Theatre Play in the Treatment of Mood Disorders in Kiev, Russia
1909-10 Evreinoff publishes his ideas on Monodrama, Russia.
1910 Iljine publishes Patients Play Theatre: a way of healing body and mind, Kiev, Russia.
1910 Jane Addams publishes 20 Years at Hull-House: she describes the value of drama in recreation, education and self-expression, Chicago.
1911 Neva Boyd begins to promote play activities for children, Chicago.
1911 Harriet Finlay-Johnson publishes The Dramatic Method of Teaching, London.
1913 C. G. Jung develops Active Imagination as a method of encountering the unconscious using visualisation, conversations with inner figures, play with objects and painting, Switzerland.
1913 Copeau founds his theatre Vieux Colombier in Paris and starts work on improvisation .
1913 H.G. Wells publishes Floor Games: Lowenfield (see 1929, 1935) took this as her play method (with small toys and objects on the floor or in sand).
1914 – 15 Moreno publishes The Invitation to an Encounter? (influences and is influenced by M. Buber).
1915 Joseph Lee publishes Play in Education, New York.
1915 Rudolf Laban establishes Choreographic Institute in Zurich.
1915 – 17 Evreinov publishes The Theatre for Oneself.
1916 Iljine writes about his Therapeutic Theatre in a letter to Stanislavski
1916 Jung lectures on Active Imagination in Zurich.
1917 Caldwell Cook publishes The Play Way, recommending drama in schools as a rehearsal for living, Cambridge, England.
1917 onwards, Alfred Wolfsohn wounded and traumatised in World War I, begins his healing exploration of voice, Germany.
1917 – 19 Copeau in New York.
1919 Mikhail Pustynin creates Living Newspaper: “that news could be made more accessible through dramatisation.” Terevsat Theatre of Revolutionary Satire, USSR.
1920 Sandor Ferenczi, psychoanalyst addresses the 6th International Congress of Psycho-Analysis on The Further Development of an Active Therapy in Psycho-Analysis, describing his use of role play/drama in individual therapy.
1921 Mayakovski writes a Living Newspaper, directed by Nikolai Foregger at Terevsat’s Moscow Studio.
1921 Moreno starts spontaneous theatre work with adult actors .
1922-24 Stanislavski writes My Life in Art.
1922-24 Iljine is in Budapest, a pupil/analysand of Ferenczi
1923 Boris Yuzhanin started the Blue Blouse soviet Living Newspaper touring theatre company, Moscow Institute of Journalism.
1924 Moreno publishes The Theatre of Spontaneity and develops the Dramatised Newspaper: the origin of psychodrama.
1924-27 Viola Spolin lives with Boyd, learning her methods of drama games.
1925 Iljine translates Moreno’s The Theatre of Spontaneity into Russian in Berlin.
1925-30 Winifred Ward brings drama into special education and publishes Creative Dramatics, refers to Hull-House (see 1910).
1926 Moreno arrives in America.
1927 Evreinoff publishes The Theatre in Life (including a chapter on Theatrotherapy) in New York, U.S.A.
1927 Roberto Assagioli publishes A New Method of Treatment – Psychosynthesis (using visualisation and image work), Italy.
1928 Laban publishes Kinetographie Laban, a practical method for recording all forms of human motion (Labanotation).
1928 Peter Slade begins to use dance drama with his fellow pupils who had joined together in a Suicide Club at boarding school. After the enactments “helped young men not to kill themselves after all, but to find hope and try to believe life must be better after school…we could all see & feel the difference after such sessions…became my life’s work to explain.” (Slade, 2000)
1929 Moreno presents Impromptu Theatre at Carnegie Hall, New York, his ideas influence The Group Theatre founded that year.
1929 Margaret Lowenfeld, child psychotherapist, develops Sandplay as a form of playtherapy.
1930s Stanislavski and Pavlov share mutual interest in each other?s work: in theatre, physiology/psychology and the creativity of the actor.
1930s at Lisbon’s Julio de Matos Hospital a theatre is built for rcreation, Portugal.
1931 Moreno presents Living Newspaper at the Guild Theatre, New York.
1931 F. M. Alexander starts a three year teacher training programme for his method and teaches in England and U.S.A.
1932 onwards, Slade runs experimental children’s theatre and youth theatre.
1932 Moreno coins the terms group therapy and group psychotherapy.
1932 F. M. Alexander publishes The Use of the Self?.
1932 Melanie Klein publishes The Psychoanalysis of Children, presenting her observations of children’s play and theory of object-relations.
1933 Moreno publishes Who Shall Survive: the first major text on Psychodrama and Sociometry.
1933 T. D. Noble, a psychiatrist at Sheppard-Pratt Hospital in Baltimore, USA, noticed that patients who had acted in the hospital plays were able to understand emotions better than other patients, could link their present emotional state and behaviour to their earlier trauma more easily, and were able to experiment with alternative modes of behaviour. He found drama was a vehicle for the discovery and expression of conscious and unconscious conflicts; that playing other characters helped patients release repressed emotions; that drama encouraged socialization. (Phillips, 1994).
1935 Lowenfeld publishes Play in Childhood.
1935 Slade begins to use drama to build confidence in adults and starts first theatre school and training theatre in the round.
1936 Moreno builds first psychodrama theatre.
1936 Slade founds Parable Players (to perform for schools and churches) and works for B.B.C. radio Children’s Hour.
1936 L. Bender and A. G. Woltman use puppets in psychotherapy with children, U.S.A..
1937 Lauretta Bender organises play therapy groups for children, U.S.A.
1937 – 9 Slade uses drama to facilitate therapy, working in collaboration with Dr. Kraemer (a Jungian psychotherapist), London.
1937 R.G. Newton publishes Acting Improvised, refers to Stanislavsky, London.
1938 Peter Slade and J.L. Moreno start to correspond and continue to be in touch until they meet in 1951 and in 1954.
1938 Antonin Artaud publishes The Theatre and Its Double, France.
1938 Laban at Dartington Hall, Devon, U.K.
1939 Peter Slade speaks at the British Medical Association on dramatherapy.
1939 Lowenfeld publishes The world pictures of children? (about sandplay) in the British Journal of Medical Psychology.
1939 Wolfsohn flees to London and after the War starts teaching his voice method.
1939 Reider, Olinger and Lyle publish Amateur Dramatics as a Therapeutic Agent in the Psychiatric Hospital, U.S.A.
1939 J. Curran publishes The Drama as a Therapeutic Measure in Adolescents U.S.A.
1940 Slade’s lecture: The Value of Drama in Religion, Education and Therapy published, England.
1940s Selma Horwitz uses spontaneous drama in group therapy with children, U.S.A.
1941 Slade, first as a patient following an accident during making a military training film, then employed during his rehabilitation, does dramatherapeutic work and therapeutic theatre at the Crichton Royal Institute, Dumfries, (the very hospital where Browne had used theatre with patients in 1843) On December 22nd 1941 there were two performances of Dear Brutus by J.M. Barrie.
1941 Lyle and Holly write of the Therapeutic Value of Puppets, U.S.A.
1941 A Psychodrama Theatre is opened at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital Washington D.C. and drama therapy (the production of scripted plays by patients) is practiced alongside the spontaneous psychodrama. In the same hospital Marian Chace pioneers dance therapy during the 1940s.
1942 Moreno sets up the Society of Psychodrama and Group Psychotherapy.
1942 Iljine publishes Therapeutic Theatre, Paris.
1943 Community Theatre opens at Psychiatric Centre, Stockbridge, U.S.A.
1943 onwards Maxwell Jones, psychiatrist, using scripted/improvised plays for therapeutic purposes at Mill Hill Emergency Hospital, U.K.
1943-5 Spontaneous plays are performed by patients at Northfield Military Hospital (Foulkes, 1984, 191). S. Foulkes (founder of group analytic therapy) begins to experiment with psychodrama and sociodrama: he calls this Enactive Therapy?: a Moreno stage built at Northfield (Foulkes, 1983, 115).
1943 – 7 (dates approximate) Gertrud Schattner (see 1981) did drama, storytelling and poetry with depressed patients in a Swiss tuberculosis sanatorium. Through their participation in drama, patients began to recover (Schattner, 1981; Reiter, 1996).
1944-7 Theatro-therapy, group psychotherapy, started for psychotic children in Saint Alban Hospital with Dr. F. Tosquelles, psychiatrist/analyst, France.
1945 Lewis Barbato’s article Drama Therapy (the first published use of the term as two words, the normal American usage) published by Moreno.
1945 Horwitz publishes The Spontaneous Drama as a Technic in Group Therapy.
1945 Neva Boyd publishes Handbook of Recreational Games, USA.
1945 Wilhelm Reich publishes Character Analysis, USA
1946 Roy Hart starts lessons with Wolfsohn.
1946 Florsheim publishes Drama Therapy: she utilises enactment of plays as therapy, U.S.A.
1946 Fritz Perls arrives in the USA and during the 1950s, whilst developing Gestalt Therapy, becomes familiar with psychodrama.
1946 S.J.F. Philpott gives 10 lectures on Sociometry and Moreno at University College, London
1947 Maxwell Jones reads a paper at the Psychiatric Section of the Royal Society of Medicine in which he describes using drama to promote Catharsis and Re-Education in the Neuroses. (published in 1948)
1947 Julian Beck and Judith Malina found the Living Theatre, New York, (their work is influenced by M. Buber, the encounter movement, R. D. Laing; they work with P. Goodman and influence F. Perls).
1947 Virginia Axline publishes Play Therapy.
1947 Laban publishes Effort.
1948 E.M. Langdon publishes An Introduction to Dramatic Work with Children: she stresses the value of play for development, social learning, resolving difficulties.
late 40s – 50s Spieltherapie involving dramatic play and games in therapeutic contexts developed in Germany.
late 40s – 50s play and drama as therapy developing in the Netherlands. (Some Dutch leaders train with Slade).
1949 Maxwell Jones publishes Acting as an Aid to Therapy in a Neurosis Centre, Belmont Hospital, Sutton, by this time he is aware of and integrating Moreno’s ideas: he quotes Moreno’s 1946 volume on Psychodrama.
1950 Solomon publishes Drama Therapy U.S.A.
1950s Veronica Sherborne employed at Withymead Centre, Devon, to offer Laban based movement therapy to psychiatric patients, works with Irene Champerowne (Jungian Psychotherapist).
1950?s – 1970?s Nikolai Sergevich Govorov, (influenced by Evreinov, see 1908 onwards) developed a theatrical storytelling technique to help psychiatric patients and others develop social connections, self-confidence, and socially appropriate behaviour, Soviet Russia.
1951 Moreno visits England and meets Peter Slade.
1951 F. Perls, R. Hefferline and P. Goodman publish ?Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality, New York.
1952 Dr. Henry Rollin invites Elsie Green, theatre director, to work at Horton Hospital, Epsom, Surrey. For 32 years, until 1984, Elsie conducts play reading, theatre therapy and dramatherapy sessions with patients.
1953 onwards Anne Schutzenberger starts psychodrama in France.
1954 Slade publishes Child Drama. Moreno again in England and meets Peter Slade.
1955 Sue Jennings starts drama workshops with patients in psychiatric hospital, Warwick.
1955 Anna Halprin founds the Tamalpa Institute of Dancers? Workshop and from 1959 onwards creates community ritual dances, U.S.A.
1955 James Roose-Evans, theatre director and priest, begins exploring theatre as ritual, New York, later teaching at Sesame and developing ritual theatre processes.
1955 Johann Huizinger publishes Homo Ludens, U.S.A.
1958 Eric Berne publishes Transactional Analysis: A new and effective method of group therapy, U.S.A.
1959 Slade publishes Dramatherapy as an aid to becoming a Person (first published use of dramatherapy as one word).
1959 Moreno demonstrates psychodrama in Lenigrad and Moscow.
1959 Jerzy Grotowski founds the Laboratory Theatre, Poland.
1959 Eli Griefer (poet) begins to develop poetry therapy at the Cumberland Hospital, Brooklyn, U.S.A., working with Jack Leedy (psychiatrist).
1962 P?rang Theatre Group led by Sue Jennings tour E. & W. Germany, performing and running workshops for people with disabilities.
1963 Viola Spolin publishes Improvisation for the Theatre.
1963 Gertrude Schattner introduces drama therapy to Bellevue Hospital, USA
1964 The 1st International Congress of Psychodrama in Paris organised by Anne Schutzenberger. Moreno and 1200 people from 26 countries attend. At this conference Moreno meets Iljine (see 1908-17).
1964 – 9 F. Perls, trainer of Gestalt at the Esalen Institute, California, gives public demonstrations “very much a synthesis of drama and therapy”. Influences Anna Halprin, Gabrielle Roth.
1964 Marian Lindkvist founds the Sesame Institute to train drama movement therapists: first training course for O. T.s at York Clinic Guy’s Hospital, London. (works with Peter Slade and Audrey Wethered and is influenced by Laban and Jung.)
1965 Middeloo (Sociaal Pedagogische Opeleidingen), a training centre for creative arts therapies founded in Amersfoort, The Netherlands.
1965 Veronica Sherborne makes her first film about Movement for mentally handicapped children (is influenced by Laban).
1965 Peter Brook’s production of Weiss’s Marat/Sade recalls the performances at Charenton (see 1797-1811 above).
1966 Jennings meets Lindkvist; Sue Jennings and Gordon Wiseman found the Remedial Drama Group and tour hospitals and centres for people with profound learning difficulties: Germany, Holland, Belgium and U.K..
1966 E. Berne acknowledges the influence of Moreno. Berne’s idea of script complements Moreno’s ideas about role.
1966 – 86 Dorothy Heathcote (influenced by Slade) runs drama groups in hospitals for people with disabilities and mental illnesses in England, U.S.A., Australia, New Zealand and Norway and makes vidoes of her work.
1967 Theatro Escambray founded: aiming to examine and solve social-political problems, develops an interactive style involving the audience in their plays, Cuba.
1967 Aloke Roy founds Jagran Theatre: a clown-mime company dedicated to promoting change, personal and social liberation in poor communities, India.
1967 The Remedial Drama Centre runs training workshops, London.
1967 Richard Schechner founds the Performance Group in New York, experimenting with improvisation and ritual.
1967 Brian Way publishes Development Through Drama.
1967 Doreen and Dean Elethrey start an international psychodrama training group in the Netherlands (see 1970/71).
1968 at Lisbon’s Julio de Matos Hospital theatre patients, under the direction of Joao Silva (theatre director) and psychiatrists perform plays by Eugene O?Neill and Pirandello for recreational purposes, Portugal.
1968 Roy Hart lectures at the 3rd International Congress of Psychodrama in Vienna.
1968 Paul Rebillot founds The Gestalt Fool Theatre Family and commences experimental work, combining theatre, ritual and therapy, California.
1968 Grotowski publishes Towards a Poor Theatre.
1970 onwards Grotowski conducts paratheatrical experiments, exploring how to enable a living encounter between participants, a theatre of ritual.
1970 onwards, Interplay Community Theatre, Leeds, U.K., run workshops with and create shows for people with disabilities.
1970/71 Doreen and Dean Elethrey start a psychodrama training group in London.
1971 The Remedial Drama Centre is renamed The Dramatherapy Centre and runs dramatherapy training courses at the Polytechnic of Central London
1971 D. W. Winnicott publishes Playing and Reality.
1972 Sesame’s first day release course at Cassio College, London. (Renee Emunah is one of the students.)
1972 Moshe Feldenkrais publishes Awareness Through Movement.
1973 Sue Jennings publishes Remedial Drama.
1973 Petzold publishes Gestalttherapie und Psychodrama in which he also writes of Iljine?s Therapeutic Theatre.
1973 Audrey Wethered publishes Movement and Drama in Therapy (influenced by Laban).
1973-77 Barbara Tregear, David Kennard, Dr. Eric Crouch, Danny Fordwour ran psychodrama therapy and training groups in Oxford.
1974 Marcia Karp and Ken Sprague establish the Holwell Centre, training a generation of British and European psychodramatists, Devon.
1974 Augusto Boal publishes Theatre of the Oppressed, Brazil.
1974 Richard Courtney publishes Play, Drama and Thought, New York.
1974-5 Sesame’s first full time course in drama and movement therapy at Kingsway Princeton College, London.
1975 Establishment of the first Playback Theatre company, directed by Jonathan Fox, U.S.A..
1975 Jennings publishes Creative Therapy with chapters by Anne Schutzenberger, Larry Butler, Veronica Sherborne.
1975 Lindkvist’s first lecture tour of U.S.A.
1975/6-9 Gavin Bolton runs weekly role-play sessions in a Psychiatric Hospital in Durham.
1976 British Association for Dramatherapy founded.
1976 Queen Margaret College, Edinburgh, runs the first undergraduate course in dramatherapy: the validation of this course led to approval of other courses in th UK.
1977 The first dramatherapy diploma starts at Hertfordshire College of Art and Design.
1977 Donna Brandes and Howard Phillips publish The Gamesters’ Handbook, Newcastle.
1978 Lindkvist in S.Africa researching movement with urbanised black schizophenics.
1978 Lev Vygotsky describes in Mind in Society the importance of play in developing social identity in children.
1979 National Association for Drama Therapy established in U.S.A.
1979 Thomas Scheff publishes Catharsis in Healing, Ritual and Drama, California.
1980 Grotowski in Mexico works with Nicholas Nunez who develops Anthropcosmic Theatre: a ritual theatre of meditation, movement and awareness.
1980 Dora Kalff publishes Sandplay, influenced by Jung.
1980s Ike Schambelan (for seven years) directs patients working alongside actors in theatre productions at Aston Briggs Centre, a progressive psychiatric Hospital, USA; he emphasised an increased sense of autonomy, ability to socialise and concentrate, as benefits (Reiss, 2008, 192).
1981 Gertrude Schattner and Richard Courtney publish Drama in Therapy vols I and II, New York (chapters by Jennings, Lindkvist, Slade, Fox, Spolin and others).
1982 John Bergman starts Geese Theatre: interactive improvisational theatre using half masks, in prisons, Iowa, U.S.A.
1983 Dorothy Langley publishes Dramatherapy and Psychiatry.
1984 British Psychodrama Association founded.
1985 Lindkvist lectures on the benefits of African stamping dances for schizophrenic people, at the World Federation of Mental Health MIND Congress, Brighton.
1986 Robert Landy publishes Drama Therapy Concepts and Practices.
1987 Clark Baim founds Geese Theatre U.K., working in prisons and probation.
1989 The Whitley Council recognises dramatherapists in N.H.S., providing a career structure.
1993 The UKCP (United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy) inaugurated: the British Psychodrama Association represents psychodrama in the HIPS Section (Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy).

1995 John Casson was the founding member who called together the team who set up the Northern School of Psychodrama. That first meeting was of Jenny Biancardi, Anne Bannister, Celia Scanlan, Jan Costa and John Casson. The diploma was established with the support of City College Manchester where John worked as a dramatherapy trainer running a diploma programme. From the start the psychodrama diploma was validated by Manchester University, only losing this validation during a reorganisation at the University. The programme developed over the years with the addition of certificate programmes and NSP successfully trained a generation of psychodramatists. Jan Costa retired early due to pressure of work in her other roles but has  continued her association with NSP as the external marker. Later in 2002 Dr. Anne Bannister retired on health grounds and Celia Scanlan also retired in 2007. Jenny Biancardi retired in January 2012 and John Casson in September 2012.

1997 By act of Parliament dramatherapy becomes a state registered profession (in the C.P.S.M.: later to become the H.P.C.).

This chronology is incomplete. From 1990 so many books were published I have not listed them all. By then Dramatherapy, Psychodrama and Play Therapy had taken off. My aim has been to chart the historical development over the period up to the end of the 20th Century. My main sources are British and American. If you feel important people have been omitted please send me relevant dates to:

I am grateful for the assistance given to me in compiling this chronology by Gordon Wiseman, Peter Slade, Marian Lindkvist, Dr. Sue Jennings, Tony Jackson, Clark Baim, Jonathan Fox, Mike Barham, Dr. Bonnie Meekums, Dr. Ann Cattanach, Doreen Elethrey, Sally Bailey.


Addams, J., 1910 (reprint 1973), Twenty Years at Hull-House, New York, Macmillan Publishing Co.., Inc.

Bailey, S. (2005) Ancient and Modern Roots of Drama Therapy, chapter 22 in Brooke, S. (ed) (2005) Creative Arts Therapies Manual: A Guide to the History, Theoretical Approaches, Assessment, and Work with Special Populations of Art, Play, Dance, Music, Drama, and Poetry Therapies, Charles C. Thomas

Black W., 1788, A comparative view of the mortality of the human species…London, Dilly.

Blatner A. and Blatner A., 1988, Foundations of Psychodrama, Springer Publications, New York.

Bolton G., 1979, Some Issues Involved in the use of Role-Play with Psychiatric Patients, article in the Journal of the British Association of Dramatherapists, Vol. 2, No. 4, Summer

Brandes, D., & Phillips, H., 1989, Gamesters’ Handbook, London, Hutchinson.

Brady D.& McCormick J., (1978) People’s Theatre, London, Croom Helm.
Clarkson, P., & Mackewn, J., 1993, Fritz Perls, London, Sage.

Casson, J. (1979) Shamanistic Elements of Oriental Theatre with Special Reference to the Traditional Forms of Drama in Sri Lanka, unpublished M.A. thesis University of Birmingham.

Casson, J. (1984) The Therapeutic Dramatic Community Ceremonies of Sri Lanka, The Journal of the British Association for Dramatherapists, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp 11-18

Casson, J. (1997-8) Shamanism, Dramatherapy and Psychodrama, Cahoots magazine, 62, pp 52-56; 63, pp 55-56; 64, pp 56-60; 65, pp 49-56

Casson, J. (2007) 17th Century Theatre Therapy: Shakespeare, Fletcher, Massinger, Middleton and Ford: Five Jacobean Healing Dramas. The Journal of the British Association of Dramatherapists, Volume 29, No 1, Spring

Cockerham, W. C. (2000). Sociology of mental disorder. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall.

Cook, C., 1917, The Play Way, London, Heineman.

Corsini, R., & Putzey, L., 1957, Bibliography of Group Psychotherapy 1906-56, Psychodrama and Group Psychotherapy Monographs No. 29, New York, Beacon House.

Cosgrove S., (1982) The Living Newspaper, History, Production and Form, unpublished dissertation, Hull University.

Courtney, R. (1968) Play, Drama & Thought, London, Cassell

Dolan B., 1996, Perspectives on Henderson Hospital, Sutton, Surrey, Henderson Hospital.

Downing, D., & Jones, T., 1989, Special Theatre, London, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Drain, R., (1995) Twentieth Century Theatre – a sourcebook, London, Routledge.

Ellenberger, H., 1994, The Discovery of the Unconscious, London, Fontana.

Ellwood, J. (1995) Psychosis: Understanding and Treatment, London, Jessica Kingsley.
Evreinoff, N., 1927, The Theatre in Life, Brentano’s, New York.

Ferenczi, S. (1920) The Further Development of an Active Therapy in Psycho-Analysis, an address delivered at the 6th International Congress of Psycho-Analysis, translated by Suttie, J. I. and compiled by Rickman, J. (1980) Further Contribtions to the Theory and Technique of Psycho-Analysis, London, Maresfield Reprints

Finlay-Johnson H., 1911, The Dramatic Method of Teaching, London, James Nisbet & Co., Ltd., (Self-Help Series)

Fontaine P., 1999, Psychodrama Training, A European View, Leuven, Belgium, FEPTO.

Foulkes S., 1983, Introduction to Group Analytic Psychotherapy, London, Marefield Reprints.

Foulkes S., 1984, Therapeutic Group Analysis, London, Maresfield Reprints.

Fox J, 1987, The Essential Moreno, New York, Springer Publishing.

Fox, J., 1986, Acts of Service, New Paltz, N.Y., Tusitala Publishing.

Fyfe, W.H.(1967) Aristotle’s Art of Poetry, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Golub, S. 1984, Evreinov: the Theatre of Paradox and Transformation,Ann Arbor, Michigan, Umi Research Press

Grimmelshausen, J. (1999) Simplicissimus, a new translation by Mike Mitchell, Sawtry, Cambs, Dedalus Ltd.

Hazelton J.E., 1979, My Exploration Through Psychodrama, article in the Journal of the British Association of Dramatherapists, Vol. 2, No. 4, Summer

Hunter R. & Macalpine I., 1964, Three Hundred Years of Psychiatry,London, Oxfrod University Press.

Jennings, S., 1982, Remedial Drama, London, Adam and Charles Black.

Jennings, S., 1987, Creative Therapy, Banbury, Kemble Press.

Johnson L., & O’Neill C., 1984, Dorothy Heathcote, collected writings on education and drama, Hutchinson, London.

Jones, P., 1995, Drama as Therapy, Theatre as Living, Routledge, London.

Jones M., 1949, Acting as an aid to therapy in a neurosis centre. British Medical Journal 1, 756-761

Landy, R., 1986, Drama Therapy Concepts and Practices, Springfield, Illinois, Charles Thomas Publisher.

Langdon, E.M. (1948) An Introduction to Dramatic Work with Children, London, Dennis Dobson Ltd

Langley, D. (1983) Dramatherapy and Psychiatry, London, Croom Helm.

Leach R., (1994) Revolutionary Theatre, London, Routledge.

Lee J., 1915, Play in Education, New York, The Macmillan Company.

Levy F.J., 1992, Dance Moevment Therapy, A Healing Art, Revised edition, Reston V.A., American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation Dance

Marineau, R., 1989, Jacob Levy Moreno 1889 -1974, London, Tavistock Routledge.

McNiff, S., 1986, Educating the Creative Arts Therapist, Illinois, Charles C. Thomas.

Moreno, J. L, 1983, The Theatre of Spontaneity, Beacon House Inc. Pennsylvania.

Newman, P., 1993, The Singing Cure, London, Rider.

Newton R. G., 1937, Acting Improvised, London, Thomas Nelson & Sons

Nunez, N., 1996, Anthropocosmic Theatre, Harwood Academic Publications
Osinski, Z., 1986, Grotowski and his Laboratory, New York, PAJ Publications.

Overholser W. & Enneis J., 1959, Twenty Years of Psychodrama at Saint Elizabeths Hospital, Group Psychotherapy Vol XII No. 4, Beacon House Inc N.Y.

Petzold, H. 1973, Gestalttherapie und Psychodrama, Nicol, Kassel

Philips, M. E. (1996). The use of drama and puppetry in occupational therapy during the 1920s and 1930s. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy (50), 3, 229-233.

Porter, R., 2002, Madness, A Brief History, Oxford University Press

Rebillot, P., 1993, The Call to Adventure, San Francisco, Harper Collins.

Reiss, B. (2008) Theatres of Madness, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press

Reiter, S. (1996). Honoring Gert Schattner. Dramascope (14), 1, 1, 3.

Salas, J. 1993, Improvising Real Life, Dubuque, Iowa, Kendall/Hunt.

Sayler, O. M., 1922, The Russian Theatre, New York, Brentano?s.

Scull A., 1979, Museums of Madness, London, Penguin Books

Schattner, G. & Courtney, R. (1981). Drama in therapy, Volumes 1 & 2, NY: Drama Book Specialists.

Sherborne, V., 1993, Developmental Movement for Children, Cambridge University Press.

Slade, P., 1980, Child Drama, London, Hodder and Stoughton.

Slade, P., 1995, Child Play, London, Jessica Kingsley.

Slade, P.,2000, personal communication: letter to John Casson.

Sophocles, translated by Kitto, (1994) Antigone, Oedipus the King, Electra, Oxford University Press.

Steinhardt L., Foundation and Form in Jungian Sandplay, Jessica Kingslet Publishers

Stone M., 1998, Healing the Mind, Pimlico

Styan, J. L., 1996, Modern Drama in Theory and Practice 3, Cambridge University Press.

Thompson E., 1998, The Actors are come hither: a tribute to Elsie Green,published at Philip Walton Partners, Coggers, Leatherhead Road, Oxshott, Surrey, KT22OET

Ward W., 1930, Creative Dramatics, New York D., Appleton & Co.

Winnicott, D. W., 1991, London, Routledge.

The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Chicago, 1985.
John Casson 1997-2001

Still to be investigated!
1922 Das Schopferisches Theatre by Platon M. Kerschenzew, Verlag Maternuus. (1986 reprint)