Book Chapters and Journal Articles
- Performing status manoeuvres in conducting couples therapy (2018)
- Rehearsals for Growth: A drama therapy of relationships (2018)
- Benefits of theatrical improvisation in the training of psychotherapists (2018)
- “Towards a Drama Therapy of Relationships” (2018)
- From action to insight: Uses of post-enactment processing in the action therapies (2017)
- Removing personal constraints via proxy scene enactment (2016)
- Rehearsals for Growth: Enhancing Family Wellbeing through Dramatic Play (2015)
- Staging dramatic enactments to resolve conflicts in couples (2014)
- Utilizing Improvisational Action Methods in Conducting Substance Abuse Groups (2014)
- The truth shall set you free (2013)
- Assessing interpersonal functioning in couples relationships using Rehearsals for Growth (2012)
- The subjective genogram: An action therapy tool for family of origin work (2012)
- Co-creating reality: Acquiring mutual validation skills in couple therapy using theatre improvisation (2012)
- Improvisation and innovation in psychotherapy: Variations of the presents action exercise (2012)
- Status: A tool for understanding intra-familial conflict (2011)
- Dramatic Enactments in Family Therapy (2010)
- Rehearsals for Growth: Drama therapy with couples (2009)
- Assessing trust in action: The couples leaning exercise (2008)
- Rehearsals for growth: Applications to therapy and personal development groups (2007)
- Action methods in marriage and family therapy: A review (2005)
- Rehearsals for Growth Papers 1991-2004 (2004)
- Treating depression with Rehearsals for Growth (2004)
- Rehearsals for Growth applied to group substance abuse groups (2003)
- Rescripting family dramas using psychodramatic methods (2003)
- From the outside in (2003)
- Creating a participating role for adolescents in family therapy (2003)
- Improvisational play in couples therapy (2002)
- Using fantasy enactments with a schizophrenic outpatient (2000)
- Rehearsals for growth: Activating clinical change via theater improvisation (2000)
- Struggling to grow: Using dramatic enactments in family therapy (2000)
- Using theater improvisation to assess interpersonal functioning (1999)
- Rehearsals for Growth: Applying improvisational theater games to relationship therapy (1999)
- Feeding the relationship by feeding each other (1998)
- Mirroring movement for increasing family cooperation (1998)
- Family assessment using subjective genograms (1998)
- Presents of mind (1997)
- Using dramatic enactment in MFT supervision (1997)
- Rehearsals for growth: A methodology for using theater improvisation in MFT (1997)
- Improv Games: Games and Variations not included in Rehearsals for Growth (1996)
- Assigning “Home Play” in Family Therapy (1996)
- Tug-of-war: A theatrical technique for marital therapy (1996)
- Use of RfG in Facilitating Basic Skills (Part I) (1995)
- The gift of play (1995)
- Die familienspezifische Position von Familienmitgeliedern durch Theaterimprovisation verandern (Changing family members’ positions using theater improvisation) (1995)
- Rehearsing for growth: Improvisational group therapy (1994)
- You wanna play? (1991)
Annotated Chapters and Articles
Status, defined as the perceived importance of persons relative to others within a social system, is manifested by intentional behaviors, termed status maneuvers (SMs), which aim to alter or maintain the status of each person relative to others. This paper first illustrates SMs in dyads and triads by examples encountered in everyday life; next sets forth descriptions of three exercises useful in training therapists to detect and experience SMs; then offers examples of intentional SMs applicable to couples therapy; and finally presents a case vignette illustrating the effective performance of SMs by the therapist.
Wiener, D. J., Osborne, J., Ramseur, C. & Sand, M. (in press). Rehearsals for Growth: A drama therapy of relationships. In D. R. Johnson & R. Emunah (Eds) Current Approaches in Drama Therapy in North America (3rd Edition) Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
As in the Second Edition which was published in 2009, Rehearsals for Growth is presented as a drama therapy of relationships, informed by family systems principles. Rehearsals for Growth’s application to therapy is explicated through annotated cases featuring: an individual; a couple; and, a childrens’ group.
Wiener, D. J. (2018). Benefits of theatrical improvisation in the training of psychotherapists In B. Kirkcaldy (Ed). Psychotherapy, Literature and the Visual and Performing Arts. Houndmills, GB: Palgrave Macmillan, 131-150.
Following descriptions of theater improvisation and RfG, the uses and benefits of improv are elaborated on in the areas of: (1) Training clients in life skills; (2) Improving the personal lives of therapists; (3) Offering clinically useful tools; (4) Enhancing therapist effectiveness. A description of RfG training and evidence of its effectiveness follows.
This Drama Therapy Review.editorial appears in a Special Issue on the applications of drama therapy to the wellness of, and therapy with, couples and families. It contrasts the relatively stagnant current state of innovation within the field of MFT with creative and dynamic developments in Drama Therapy, envisaging the emergence of a new praxis: a Drama Therapy of Relationships.
Action therapy techniques provide vivid experiences that, in themselves, often promote therapeutic change via insight. Applicable to all action therapies, verbal Post-Enactment Processing (PEP) provides reflection, questioning and associations during the verbal discourse that may follow therapeutically guided enactments. Ways of conducting PEP to facilitate insight are described in detail through a case example drawn from Rehearsals for Growth (RfG) couples therapy.
Proxy scenes, improvised enactments devised by drama therapists, are useful in overcoming client limitations (‘constraints’) as they explore, experiment with or practise change. This article presents four underlying variables that may be calibrated to create effective Proxy scenes, elucidates the underlying principle informing therapists’ practical choices, and illustrates Proxy scene application to the example of an individual client in group therapy.
Wiener, D. J. (2015). Rehearsals for Growth: Enhancing Family Wellbeing through Dramatic Play. In B. Kirkcaldy (Ed.) Promoting Psychological Wellbeing in Children and Families. Houndmills, GB: Palmgrave Macmillan, 244-258.
By establishing a playful atmosphere and fully including children in therapy sessions, families are empowered to explore alternative choices and to co-create solutions to their problems.
Following review of RfG’s conceptual foundations (family systems thinking, social constructivism, embodied psychotherapy and dramatic enactment) a brief family case example is presented. Italicized commentary interspersed throughout this section offers the rationale for both generic principles in the practice of RfG therapy and specific choices made by the therapist working with the case family. A concluding section instructs clinicians seeking to practice RfG therapy.
Re-enacting an event that has triggered conflict from each partner’s perspective during couples therapy, while employing one’s actual partner as an auxiliary, is a distinctive, theatrical application of psychodrama that develops perspective, promotes empathy, lowers resistance to being invalidated by disagreement and points the way to novel resolutions. Each client’s enactment is followed by a role-reversed encounter between the auxiliary and the character assigned the auxiliary by the partner. Post-enactment processing of video feedback facilitates collaboration and reflection by the couple. A case example illustrates the application of this method.
This case example features the use of RfG methods in a frame consistent with a client couple espousing evangelical Christian beliefs.
Wiener, D.J. (2012). Assessing interpersonal functioning in couples relationships using Rehearsals for Growth. In D.R. Johnson, S. Pendzik, and S. Snow (Eds.) Assessment in Drama Therapy. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 308-332.
This chapter offers a detailed summary of the advances in Rehearsals for Growth assessment focusing on couples therapy. Five historical phases are described both for using improvisation exercises and status maneuvers and for interweaving theory and application. Further proposed research is outlined to test the foundational hypothesis that good improvising is related to good relationship functioning.
Clients often present with limitations both in range of affect and in the capacity to see themselves as others do. These limitations are described within a Dramaturgic Model that posits the psychosocial need for complementary Performative and Self-Observational skills. An individual therapy case illustrates how Family of Origin work conducted with subjective genograms and improvised dramatic enactment enhances social skills and broadens role repertoire.
Wiener, D.J. & MacColl, M. (2012). Co-creating reality: Acquiring mutual validation skills in couple therapy using theatre improvisation. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 2, (23), 54-63.
In the current marriage and family therapy literature, a debate swirls around the concept of mutual validation (MV). For some theorists and practitioners, MV is a key component of good relationship functioning. For others, the quest for MV robs individuals of self-esteem and saps vibrancy and risk-taking out of couples functioning. After reviewing the theoretical underpinnings of the prevailing MV definitions, this paper examines theoretical and therapeutic approaches growing out of social constructivist theory and addresses how Rehearsals for Growth serves as a MV-enhancing practice in couples therapy.
Psychotherapy can usefully be viewed as an improvisational art in which the therapist continually adjusts in the moment to unforeseen clients’ responses. “Rehearsals for Growth,” an action approach based on theatre improvisation, offers clients the adventure of safely exploring change while concurrently stimulating the therapist to improvise directives. This paper describes the development of a number of innovations in the therapeutic use of one specific action method used by the author in conjoint therapy, the theatre exercise “Presents,” and attempts to shed light on the part played by creativity in the development of relevant and useful innovations in psychotherapy.
Status, defined as the perceived importance of persons relative to others, is manifested by intentional expressive behaviors, termed status maneuvers, which aim to alter or maintain the status of self relative to others. Families are social systems in which status hierarchies are realized through recurrent status maneuvers. A Discrepancy Hypothesis is proposed to account for intrafamilial conflict. Analysis of family status maneuvering can be used to deduce each member’s cognitive map and the degree of intrafamilial conflict. Information about the aggregate family status hierarchies is presented in the form of an underlying status matrix. This paper first illustrates status maneuvers by examples encountered in everyday life; next explains the correspondence between the dynamics of family cooperation or conflict and its underlying status matrix; and finally presents data, obtained from a detailed analysis of status maneuvers in a single family therapy session, supporting the Discrepancy Hypothesis.
This article offers a summary of the distinctive principles and practices of family systems-informed drama therapy, emphasizing the contributions of dramatic (in-fictional-role) enactment to personal growth and clinical progress.
Wiener, D.J. (2009). Rehearsals for Growth: Drama therapy with couples. In D. R. Johnson & R. Emunah (Eds.) Current Approaches in Drama Therapy in North America (2nd Edition). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 355-373.
Rehearsals for Growth is presented here as a drama therapy of relationships, informed by family systems principles. Rehearsals for Growth’s application to couples therapy is explicated through a detailed description of a couples therapy case.
Primary experience exists apart from language, which itself is a secondary experience that describes primary experience. Action methods are primary experiences that bypass the limitations of language. An action technique for working on mutual trust issues, the Couples Leaning Exercise, is described for application to couples therapy.
Wiener, D.J. (2007). Rehearsals for growth: Applications to therapy and personal development groups. In A. Blatner (Ed.) w. Wiener, D.J. Interactive and improvisational drama: Varieties of applied theatre and performance. New York: iUniverse, 174-183.
Rehearsals for Growth is here described as a method for running Personal Development groups, which are similar to group forms of other RfG applications, such as social skills training, education, therapy and recreation. The seven Signs of Good RfG Improvising are listed as a guide for Directors running RfG Personal Development groups.
This review article classifies a broad diversity of action techniques into those derived from psychodrama and those derived from other sources and describes the features of each in sufficient detail for the reader to grasp the rationale for their utility within the approach that employs it.
Depressed persons’ world view is shaped, both by themselves and by others, as reflecting a defect in their responses to life. Rehearsals for Growth (RfG) offers such persons an impactful alternative of exploring “who else you could be,” via Group improvisational exercises and games, preparing clients to act heroically on the stage of life. Group members are united by their efforts to discover and practice new ways of playing their roles. encouraging one another to take risks on-stage, play supporting roles for one another, and share constructive feedback with one another about their effectiveness in the new roles.
Ramseur, C. & Wiener, D.J. (2003). Rehearsals for Growth applied to group substance abuse groups. In D.J. Wiener & L.K. Oxford (Eds.) Action therapy with families and groups: Using creative arts improvisation in clinical practice. Ch. 4, 107-134. Washington, DC: APA Books.
Group RfG therapy offers substance-abuse clients who have recently gone through detoxification opportunities for offsetting common mood disorders through laughter and authentic re-socialization through playful, non-verbal interaction. Drawing from their two years’ experience in conducting group therapy with this population, the authors summarize and give examples of client growth gained through their short-term participation in group RfG therapy.
Oxford, L.K. & Wiener, D.J. (2003). Rescripting family dramas using psychodramatic methods.In D.J. Wiener & L.K. Oxford (Eds.) Action therapy with families and groups: Using creative arts improvisation in clinical practice. Ch. 2, 45-74. Washington, D.C.: APA Books.[Reprinted in D. Wedding & R. Corsini (Eds.) (2004). Case Studies in Psychotherapy (4th Ed). New York: Wadsworth].
The authors present a family therapy case in which a family struggles to surmount their grief and cope after the death of the family matriarch, which had left them without a functional head. Guided by a Narrative Therapy approach that reframes the family’s internal conflicts as a collective struggle against an external antagonist, the therapist uses an array of psychodramatic techniques that go beyond linguistic intervention to separate the family experientially from the problem, mobilize their strengths and resources, and promote healthy and lasting reorganization.
A dejected client dumped into therapy by a rejecting spouse is transformed into a determined suitor who eventually reunites with her. The case narrative demonstrates how this is accomplished via short-term RfG individual and group therapy. The author-therapist offers his transformative view that a socially inadequate interpersonal style is not the sign of a psychiatric disorder but rather the result of a habitual failure to choose appropriate roles or to perform them skillfully; people’s social behavior are theatrical performances which can be improved upon.
Adolescents are well-known for frequent oppositional or obstructive attitudes and behaviors during therapy sessions. An RfG game, Slo-Mo Commentator, is adapted to offer the recalcitrant adolescent client a dramatic role through which participation is not perceived as compliance. A brief vignette illustrates this application in a family therapy case.
The authors describe in considerable detail a nine-session course of couples therapy conducted primarily by the use of RfG games and exercises. Athough the work is not complete, by the end there have been considerable improvements in thee couples’ affect, empathy and cooperation, and a foundation has been laid in trust, mutual fun, and personal growth for them to constructively address new challenges in their relationship. The case narrative by the junior author is interspersed by commentary throughout by the senior author as supervisor.
Effective psychotherapy for clients with schizophrenia needs to go beyond verbal “reality based” interventions and offer enactments which permit emotional expressiveness, use of fantasy, and exploration of dramatic roles. The encouraging results of the use of some of these techniques in working with a schizophrenic client are described in this paper.
Rehearsals for Growth (RfG), a method of using theater improvisation enactments in conjoint therapy, is based upon principles common to good relationship functioning. A family therapy case illustrates how RfG techniques are applied to shift relationship patterns, teach cooperation and improve the family’s affective climate. Pragmatic suggestions for inducing clients to engage in these enactments are offered. The impact and benefits of engaging the therapist’s own sense of adventure and willingness to assume social risk are discussed.
Dramatic enactments (DEs) are therapeutic activities which involve some element of acknowledged pretense. Applied to MFT, DEs encourage non-verbal participation, create impactful learning experiences, and empower exploratory behavior by lessening fears of the “real life” consequences of change.This paper first offers a classification scheme for DE components, then describes in detail the application of dramatic enactments to a family therapy case, and concludes with an analysis of the effective use of these interventions.
Theater improvisation games and exercises, which employ role-playing methods, are structured tasks useful for the assessment, training, and remediation of interpersonal skills. Using case material, the author demonstrates how those tasks reveal distinct deficiencies or imbalances that are manifest in clients’ psychosocial functioning and describes 5 theatrical functions necessary for adequate psychosocial functioning as part of a dramaturgic model.
Wiener, D.J. (1999). Rehearsals for Growth: Applying improvisational theater games to relationship therapy. (Ch. 8). In Wiener, D.J. (Ed.) (1999) Beyond talk therapy: Using movement and expressive techniques in clinical practice. Washington, DC: APA Books.
After reviewing the advantages of using improvised enactments in couples therapy, the author offers two enactments, “Presents” and “Puppets,” described in the context of case examples. These case examples are presented in parallel two-column format, permitting the reader to learn both the therapist’s rationale for his intervention and interpretation of clients’ responses. The chapter includes practical tips on implementing dramatic enactments and information of acquiring foundational training for therapists wishing to use them.
Wiener, D.J. (1998). Feeding the relationship by feeding each other. L. L. Hecker, S. Deacon & Associates, (Eds.) The therapist’s notebook: Homework, handouts, & activities. New York: Haworth Press, Ch. 33, 163-166.
This couples therapy enactment, useful both in-session and as homework, helps couples to experience: (1) the effects of receiving attentiveness and nurturance from their partners; (2) the trade-off inherent in being taken care of at the expense of autonomy; (3) being empowered through service to another; (4) reciprocal partnership. Instructions, suggestions for the follow-up and contra-indications are offered.
This simple nonverbal exercise permits any number of persons acting, in pairs, to experience attentiveness to one another, deepened concentration, and heightened awareness of cooperation. It also allows them to experience a preference for leading or following as well as the possibility of “mutuality,” a leaderless cooperative flow. In addition to its use for social skills training, mirroring can readily be adapted to group, couples, family and individual therapy, where it is performed by therapist and client.
Useful as a tool that supplements the conventional “objective” genogram, Subjective Genograms are drawings using colored markers and crayons which represent their families or social networks impressionistically. Subjective Genogrms offer the advantages of: (1) indirect client representation of experience; (2) fuller access to emotional and intersubjective aspects of family relationship; (3) heightened client investment in the construction and interpretation of information; (4) comparison of differences and similarities across different family members; (5) inclusion of children in the assessment process; (6) re-doing at different stages of therapy to track affective changes. A brief case example illustrates the application of Subjective Genogram.
Theater improvisation (improv) is an art form that, when adapted for psychotherapy, offers unique advantages to couples therapists, both as clinical technique and as a tool for personal growth. Improv techniques induce playfulness, fantasy, spontaneity, and close cooperation between partners which can enrich therapy by providing useful alternatives to purely verbal discourse. A case study is offered demonstrating the use of one simple improvisation exercise, Presents, in working with a conflictual couple.
Dramatic Enactments (DEs) are techniques employing fictional roles and/or non-conventional scenarios. DEs offer several advantages over realistic role-play in MFT supervision. Ten DEs used by the author for this purpose are briefly described.
Borrowing techniques from improvisational theater, Rehearsals for Growth (RfG) is a method of using drama in the service of marital and family psychotherapy. Its primary focus is on enhancing and developing skills that promote good relationship functioning. Secondarily, it offers techniques for changing the stories we have co-created about self and relationship. RfG is not a complete therapy but rather a growing body of techniques informed by a social constructivist perspective and a spirit of playfulness. Representative games and exercises are described that illustrate RfG methods.
An example of an advanced improv game, One Improvises, the Other Doesn’t, is given, illustrating this game’s value in teaching how to accept offers by the other player when these offers themselves are blocks of one’s own offers.
“Home play” refers to therapist-assigned improvised games and exercises conducted at home, unsupervised, by couples and families. Home play is assigned following the successful in-session use of these activities for three purposes: (1) practice or consolidation of learning from in-session enactments; (2) altering the quality of routine transactions; and (3) changing problematic family interaction.
Improvisation games have utility as both intervention and assessment tools. Two versions of a modified game, Tug-of-War using an imaginary rope, are described. Clinical vignettes illustrate their application.
Based upon a two-year experience leading an outpatient RfG therapy group for low social functioning clients, the author offers two gradual progressions of action methods that have proven useful in drawing group members into productive interaction with one other.
Wiener, D.J. (1995). The gift of play. Family Therapy Networker, 19, (1), 65-70. [Reprinted in R. Simon, L. Markowitz, C. Barrilleaux, & B. Topping (Eds.) (1999). The art of psychotherapy: Case Studies from the Family Therapy Networker. New York: Wiley. (203-214).
Following the author’s account of his journey from hobby to therapeutic application of theater improvisation, he offers case examples using improvised enactments with individual, couple and family therapy clients which illustrate their utility. Case commentaries by Drs. Richard Schwartz and David Waters are supportive of these methods that engage clients in growthful play.
Wiener, D.J. (1995). Die familienspezifische Position von Familienmitge-liedern durch Theaterimprovisation verandern (Changing family members’ positions using theater improvisation). System Familie, 8, 42-50.
Theater improvisation is not only a fascinating recreational activity, but can also be of use in family therapy. The model of improvisation presented here is compared with related therapeutic approaches as Gestalt therapy, psychodrama, drama therapy, pretend technique; the clinical use of improvisation is conceptualized within a social constructivist framework. By means of a case example taken from therapeutic practice it is illustrated how rigid family member positions can be shifted and changed.
Improvisational group therapy (IGT) utilizes modified theater games both to develop social skills and deepen encounters between members. IGT follows the psychodramatic group format of warm-up, action, and sharing and is particularly useful in working with clients who do not respond well to talk-only therapy.
Modified improvisational theater games developed by the author have been used successfully both for assessment and intervention in couples therapy. A marital case featuring gender and power issues is presented in which two theater games were key interventions in resolving marital conflict.