A History to the commencement of a Psychodrama Training Programme through Psychodrama Center Orpheus in 2019 promoting a new generation of psychodramatists in South Africa

The International Association for Group Psychotherapy and Group Processes (IAGP) held its 2nd African Regional Conference at the University of Pretoria, Groenkloof Campus on 11-14 March 2015. We are all hugely grateful to all those local people who helped bring about this international meeting and especially Prof. Norman Duncan, Vice-Principal: Academic; Prof Hennie Stander, Acting Dean: Faculty of Humanities and Dr. Assie Gildenhuys, Conference Convener: Dept of psychology.

We began the morning each day with a small group. Kate Bradshaw Tauvon co-led one of these with an Israeli colleague Yaacov Naor, who sadly died 12 December 2018. Marelé Venter who you see at the far right of the photo below had experienced psychodrama before and was already greatly enthusiastic. She also participated in Lars Tauvon’s group during the Conference. You see him on the front row to the far right. Yaacov and Kate you can see in the middle of the back row.

At that time Kate was Secretary of IAGP and closely involved in the planning of the conference. Lars was a Co-Editor of IAGP’s journal and Galabina Tarashoeva was a Member of the Ethics and Professional Standards Committee and later the Governance and Bylaws Committee.

Following the conference Kate and Marelé communicated about further training options for Marelé. We had met Warren Nebe at the conference who said they offer some psychodrama through Drama for Life but they do not offer full psychodrama Training. Marelé thought she would ask Louise Fouché from Cape Town to co-administrate the course as she works with action methods. Kate sent information about all National Training Programmes which belong to International Examination Boards for Psychodrama training standards.

Marelé concluded that the best option was to establish a training programme in South Africa and asked Lars and Kate, who are both Trainer, Educator Practitioners (TEP’s), examined by the Nordic Board of Examiners and authorized to direct internationally validated training programmes, to do this. This training was arranged through Kate’s Genuine Encounters Psychotherapy Practice and Training Centre in Stockholm, Sweden. Kate and Lars had been Co-Founders and Co-Directors of the Stockholm Institute for Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy from June 1998 until its closure December 2014 and prior to that directors of the Swedish Moreno Institute from 1992 shortly after Kates transplantation from UK to Sweden. In UK Kate was a UKCP Trainer from UKCP’s inception.

The first programme for the 4 training weeks which Marelé thought colleagues might be able to be able to attend for an introduction to psychodrama in our original undertaking in South Africa was inspired by the modules of a basic training programme established and run by Kate together  with Sonja Nyström 2011-2012 of the Stockholm Institute of Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy, though that training involved 500 hours spread over four semesters.

Semester 1. During this semester themes related to the birth and coming-into-being are highlighted. How do we become ourselves in life and in the group and how do we come to the stage where we can start to choose and reject?

Semester 2. This semester focuses on relationships. How have you created relationships in life and how you can use the group to understand more of how these relationships affect you today? In seminars on family structure, dreams, and similar themes we use creative techniques such as photo and music, to approach a deeper understanding of how we function in the social interactions of everyday life. Via relationships in the group, we explore and develop the important relationships you have in your life.

Semester 3. Making a group reconstruction means exploring the groups you have entered into along the path of life and what roles you primarily had in them. This terms seminars aim to explore how to work in groups and improve the way you act in them in order to find a leadership style that suits you. You will direct vignettes and short psychodramas.

Semester 4. This term’s theme is “ending” and the seminars will include how stories of various kinds concern and influence us throughout life. A central concept in the semester is process analysis, which involves a cognitive psycho-pedagogical summary of what has been. Like an older person summing up their life the seminars will include topics dealing with the past, separation, individuation and autonomy.

Students attending a week-long module on this South African Psychodrama Training Programme could be awarded 30 CPD accreditation points.

Main literature „Handbook of Psychodrama“ ISBN 978-0-415-14846-7

The plan for the 4 weeks in South Africa

Week 1
Introducing the philosophy, and method of psychodrama providing the opportunity to develop the roles of protagonist, auxiliary ego, group member and director.
Participants will also practice the techniques of scene-setting, doubling and mirroring.

  • The fundamentals of JL Moreno’s philosophy: Time, Space, Reality and the Cosmos
  • The 4 phases warm-up, action, sharing and processing
  1. Warming up – a training in being here and now with foresight. Coaching – A fruitful prelude to action How will you get there you want to be? Using the psychodramatic method of coaching. Focus, plan, implement and evaluate.

  2. Action – To star in your own life, your life stage is under the soles of your feet – you carry it with you wherever you go. To star in your own life means to be centered and balanced within you.
  3. Sharing – by sharing experiences from roles we have enacted in the dramas and connecting with our similar experiences we give back to the protagonist – not feedback but what Moreno called a “love-back”. The protagonist has shared personal material with the group and is to a degree emotionally exposed. The sharing re-dresses the protagonist emotionally and restores them to their role of group member.
  4. Processing – the psycho-educative phase of the group and individual process. Looking back at what we did in the drama: technically, therapeutically, educationally. How could we have thought differently? Students in a way reverse roles with the director.
  • The 5 elements of Psychodrama – the director, the stage, the protagonist, the auxiliary ego and the group.
  1. The director – introducing the 4 elements of directing: therapist, action-analyst, director, producer including ethical aspects.
  2. The stage: represents our life space. We ask group members to suspend disbelief just long enough to explore not only what has happened in our lives but what didn’t happen, can’t happen, should have happened or might happen in the future. We can place on the psychodramatic stage just those aspects we want to explore more deeply without the distractions of everyday life. The stage allows free movement in time dimensions and between reality and fantasy.
  3. The protagonist – Man as a man of action (actor) with sole responsibility for their choices in life is a doctrine of Moreno’s existential philosophy. We explore how you can create your own life and support your goals by confronting obstacles such as fear, shame or envy. The body’s message has much to teach us. Our body, formed through genetic inheritance, the food we are given and our psychological environment during childhood. We put the body on the stage to learn from its message in active group work with psychodrama as a method.  How do your choices affect your life What if you are trying new ways?
  4. The auxiliary ego: A group member chosen by the protagonist to represent the “significant others” or parts of self in the drama.
  5. A group can be seen as a laboratory where you can practice living without being punished for making mistakes. It is the sounding board of public opinion and the resource from which the dramatic roles emerge.

Week 2
Sociometric choice

The contextual influence of groups from the perspective of working relationships in schools and organizations: some groups work well together; others you just want to escape from. We will examine the basis of sociometric theory what it can depend on and how you as a leader can hold the structure to create a good-enough working climate and support groups to become more creative.

  • Role-Reversal – Seeing you yourself from the outside and from the inside – about mentalization. By being mirrored in a secure relationship a child learns to understand the meaning of what he or she feels, and through role reversal learns how to understand others. Throughout life, we are working to increase our empathy and compassion both with ourselves and with others. Here we look at ways to facilitate the process.
  • The Train of Life is a model to explore how you were influenced by others during important developmental phases in your life. What impact have others had on you and what messages have you received about life? Unfinished business can be sorted out and your latent resources brought to life to meet your future.
  • The Reality of Dreams – By embodying a manifest dream and continuing the action beyond its actual ending, psychodrama can playfully transform the dream’s reality to form a key to the dreamer’s life situation. We explore together how to understand and orchestrate dreams classically as well as learning the surrealist method.
  • Writing Your Life Script. Writing can be used as a therapeutic tool. Artists have used automatic writing to get close to a creative, unconscious side of themselves. Your writing makes it possible to have a dialogue with yourself. We are investigating opportunities to get away with writing and developing the stories that emerge.

Week 3
Virtual and Agreed Reality – Co-conscious and co-unconscious. Social life in Facebook times. Facebook is a global village where everyone knows everything about everyone? How are your relations of mobiles, the internet and social media? We examine the concept that network, normalization, social control, status, and presence.

Group Reconstruction – how groups begotten the Reconstruction Group is a method with roots in Virginia Satir’s family reconstruction. With the help of the other participants, you will go through all the groups you remember that you participated in during your life. Focus will be placed on the roles and important experience that characterizes you in the present, especially in relation to yourself in your professional capacity.

Attachment-Separation-Individuation-Loss „No“ is not a dirty word. Life seen as an infinity of possibilities and where improvement is unlimited space is sometimes a high price for the individual. This group explores you where you need to put your limits, to have energy and time to develop your life that you want.

Role-reversal Train yourself to walk in other people’s shoes Some of the psycho-dramatic method is to teach group members how it is to be someone else in their social network. We focus on the role of hjälpjag – to develop your empathic and intuitive abilities to better understand yourself and others in interaction.

Being here-and-now – Mindfulness through play, spontaneity and creativity – psychodrama and mindfulness to take a new step in life can be both exciting and scary. To be here and now facilitates learning and makes it more joyful.

How are you affected by other people’s stories? Throughout human history, we have talked about our lives for other people, but how affected we are really listening and what happens to us when we tell ourselves and others listen? During this seminar we will explore the narrative effects on our lives.

Week 4
What happens in the mind of the therapist? Comprehending a group process by following a seminar to go through what we have done together and have the opportunity to question the leaders about how they thought and what they felt, we learn how the interaction between the conscious and unconscious knowledge contributes to the creative process. This type of learning is very dynamic and adds a cognitive understanding of the processes that the group is going through.

Separation, individuation, autonomy, completion – in ending something, one usually means that something else takes over, but before that, we need to make a space to reflect on the past. If for various reasons cannot, we are storing heavy loads that eventually weigh down on us and hinder us in our everyday lives. Here we examine how it is to be reconciled with unexplained events and the external life contained in the seminar group.

In this seminar we will explore different types of leadership. Which leadership style do you like best and what are your core ideals? To take the leadership of a group can be both fun and difficult.

Personal training presentation by the students who completed this block of 4 weeks of training. The paper is about 10 pages and about their own process through the education seen as a process analysis over the study block. The presentation takes place in the psychodramatic form.

„Rites of passage“ – to pass from one stage of life to another, when we have been through an strong experience, passing from one stage of life to another, we can celebrate it with creating a psychodramatic rite of passage. Candidates presented of their certificates maybe in a ceremonial form. What would you like to celebrate?

Between training weeks, the plan was for students to meet in study groups to practice directing warm ups and vignettes.  Supervision by Skype was to be arranged by the course co-ordinators.

Course literature:

The Handbook of Psychodrama. Ed. Holmes, Karp & Bradshaw Tauvon (Pub. Routledge). 1998

The Essential Moreno. Ed Fox. Pub. 1987

Additional provided texts with references.

Since the group in the IAGP Conference in Pretoria 2015 three preparatory Psychodrama Training weeks have been held by Kate and Lars in in South Africa.

November 2015 in Bloemfontein

May 2016 Pretoria

November 2016 Cape Town

Despite their huge contributions, Marelé Venter and Natasja Rowe-Rowe, her colleague in the current local administrative organisation I2WE, were excluded from the Cape Town week for reasons which were hard to fathom. A second planned week in Cape Town in Bloemfontein was cancelled by the local administrator without advance discussion with Kate and Lars. We extend very many thanks to group member Naomi Schroeder who generously spent the unexpected week of vacation with us making sure we could see many of the areas we wished to experience among them, Robin Island, Table Mountain on the clearest day, the Cape of Good Hope and the coastline and landscapes of the area. Thanks also to group analyst Pat Mayers for her supportive dialogue around the process. Kate’s appointment to President of IAGP 2015-2018 made it more difficult to attend to the training in South Africa and Lars was moving toward retirement. It was decided for the future for Kate to continue the programme but in co-operation with Dr. Galabina Tarashoeva from Bulgaria and to frame the work within Psychodrama Center Orpheus.


Kate Bradshaw Tauvon
24 February 2019