Leni M.F. Verhofstadt-Denève
Ghent University, Department of Developmental and Personality Psychology, Belgium

E-mail: leni.deneve@rug.ac.be

 

THE PSYCHODRAMATIC 'SOCIAL ATOM METHOD':
DIALOGICAL SELF IN DIALECTICAL ACTION

 

The present paper consists of two parts. Part 1 describes five major characteristics of the developmental therapeutic model. The basic content is the Phenomenological-Dialectic Personality Model, resting on six major questions regarding oneself and the surrounding world, and which constitutes a useful frame of reference for psychotherapeutic practice. The underlying motivational process is that of dialectics, thanks to which personality contents can originate and develop. The goal of the therapy is the development of personality toward maximum self-actualization, through the individual's discovery of his potential and strenghts in a harmonious relationship with significant others and the whole surrounding world. The reflection upon self and others is the means of personality development. But reflection and development are possible only if self-acceptance and positive self-evaluation have been achieved. The method for stimulation of (self-)reflection is that of action and drama techniques, in a secure atmosphere. Part 2 consists of a demonstration of how, within this theoretical framework, the psychodramatic 'social atom method' can be applied. This action method enables the protagonist to devise a spatial structure in which the self is elaborated in relation to significant others (symbolized by objects and/or other group members). Moreover, the protagonist has the possibility to go through a dialogue between the self and his/her significant antagonists, or formulated in the words of Hermans: "The I constructs a multivoiced world in which the individual is not only able to talk about the variety of imaginal others [antagonists] but also to talk with them as relatively independent parts of an extended self." Typical of the 'social atom method' is the vivid experience of dialectical oppositions (within an affective spatial situational context) in which emotions, cognitions, language and action can be closely integrated.