Using Dramatic Enactment in Clinical Supervision


Although role-playing is widely used in clinical supervision and training, most supervisors employ only “realistic simulation,” the retrospective recreation of part of the therapy session. Over the past fifteen years as a trainer and supervisor of MFT graduate students, the presenter has developed and experimented with a variety of dramatic enactment (DE) techniques that enhance supervisee training. Below are three DE examples:

  1. An exercise that teaches how we co-construct realities and demonstrates how we persist in seeing what we have convinced ourselves is there. Participants experience the effects of dealing with their own initial unconfirmed expectations.
  2. A role-play that teaches the practical use of status choices (behavior signifying the relative importance of self and others), which strongly affect “family member’s” individual perceptions of the “therapist,” their degree of anticipated cooperation, and whose therapeutic issues are addressed. For more detailed training in status maneuvers, see workshops on (a) Basic and (b) Advanced Status. {STATUS TRAINING}
  3. A fantasy role-play to try out feared or forbidden responses as a way of helping the trainee detoxify those limiting, painful, or taboo reactions that arise in all therapists.

In this experiential workshop, intended for both supervisors and supervisors-in-training, participants learn four of these DE techniques through brief, voluntary exercises, interspersed by sharing, didactic instruction, and discussion. The workshop also addresses:

  1. practical issues regarding the appropriate and ethical conditions under which DE may be employed in training;
  2. which uses of the self of the therapist-in-training are activated by DE.

Learning Objectives

To learn techniques that:

  1. lessen supervisee fears of making mistakes.
  2. enhance supervisees’ skill at joining with clients in individual and conjoint therapies.
  3. explore supervisees’ unstated hypotheses.
  4. develop group support and diminish competitive strivings among supervisees.

Demonstration of Applying Improv to MFT Training

  1. Hidden Pecking Order – Each of the players in a 3- or 4-person scene privately assigns self a status rank before interacting in a scene.
  2. Unknown Status – Players are privately assigned instructions as to the status hierarchy of everyone in a 3- or 4-person scene.
  3. Simulated Family Therapy sessions with status shifts by the therapist.
  4. Tag Improv – Other group members frequently replace (“tag out”) the players during a Simulated Family Therapy session