An evaluation of the theoretical assumptions and practical applications of the psychodramatic methodin the promotion of social adjustment



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The present study was designed to evaluate the theoretical assumptions underlying the psychodramatic method, as a technique to promote social adjustment. The relationship of the social adjustment-trait constructs of anxiety, neuroticism, rigidity-closemindedness, and empathy to the effective, the empathic, and the rigidity-inflexibility roleplaying ability dimensions; and to the authoritarian, permissive/apologetic, and uncaring/apathetic roleplaying ability modes, was investigated. The differential effectiveness of the psychodrama actor/audience condition and the experiential/didactic type of psychodrama exposure, were evaluated as a function of roleplaying ability. Finally, the active/passive distinction in the method of presentation of psychodrama course material, was analyzed in terms of the amount of course material learned. Seventy-five students from the University of Houston enrolled in either of two sections of an advanced undergraduate psychology course in psychodrama. All students consented to participate in the research and were randomly assigned to one of four experimental groups: Psychodrama, Audience, Discussion-Lecture, or Lecture-Only. The students took part in fifteen sessions characterized by their respective treatment groups; and were tested before and after these sessions with the social adjustment-trait construct measures and the Role Test enactments which assessed the roleplaying ability dimensions and modes. The results of the study yielded mostly non-significant findings for establishing a relationship between the social adjustment-trait construct measures and the roleplaying ability dimensions and modes. There was, however, a significant finding for the anxiety variable in predicting a negative relationship to empathic roleplaying; and significance for the rigidity-closemindedness variable prediction of a negative relationship with role-playing in the authoritarian and the uncaring/apathetic modes of roleplaying ability. No differences were found among the various psychodrama conditions, the types of psychodrama exposure, and the roleplaying ability dimensions and modes. However, participation in the psychodrama course did lead to a significant increase in empathic roleplaying and a significant decrease in rigid-inflexible roleplaying. Finally, the active/passive method of psychodrama presentation did not significantly predict to differences in course examination performance. The factors contributing to these results and the issues associated with the presentation of a psychodrama experience for undergraduates, and the implications for the design of future psychodrama research, were discussed. Moreover, it was emphasized that the psychodrama format is both a rewarding approach for use in the undergraduate curriculum, and a research-worthy phenomenon when evaluated with the appropriate measures.