Whenever people hear about psychodrama, they immediately start thinking about some crazy thing that happened in their life and this person that was psycho. So the word itself is unfortunate. But if we unpack the word and think about it: psycho is the study of the mind and of behavior; and drama, of course, is to reenact something. So, in psychodrama you are reenacting something from the person’s life or from their mind.
It is really an improvisational theater of the person’s life. And psychodrama itself is used most typically for a therapeutic purpose. There is something similar to that called sociodrama, which is where the director—the person who is trained in this type of methodology—is using the tools of psychodrama to gain more insight into a group issue.
We first learned about it through the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College. But what we have done is we’ve used the psychodramatic method in all aspects of the Barone Defense Firm. Everybody in our firm has at least some training in both psychodrama as well as sociodrama, all the lawyers are trained in it. And we use it in virtually every aspect of both our business as well as our practice of law.
So how a sociodrama might unfold is you bring together a group—let us just say it is the law firm, the entire law firm—and we do a series of exercises to get the group warmed up to things that might be happening in the office that are causing problems. And we eventually decide as a group which of those problems to have a look at more closely. And it may be dealing with a difficult client or dealing with a difficult clerk at a court or whatever it might be that the group has warmed up to in order to help us build a defense.
We will not actually reenact a specific event, but more the stereotypic event where that would occur. And each of us would then play the part of the different participants in that fictional scene. And that might mean that an attorney would reverse roles with the receptionist who is actually taking that call or the secretary that’s taking that call. And that gives them more insight into what it is like to be them. They might reverse roles and have to make the decision of what to do with that client, and that gives them more insight into what it is like to be someone else. And that type of role reversal, which is really the sine qua non of psychodrama, is what gives you much greater insight and therefore empathy for the other people that are both in your work environment as well as more broadly in your life.
As human beings, we understand our environment through our senses. And the more we can involve in our storytelling as many senses as possible, the better the person who’s listening to the story will really be able to understand what happened. And that is why, using the psychodramatic method, we can get into the minute details that might not otherwise be conveyable in simple words. The person might not even have the vocabulary to explain it. And if we reenact it, then we can see it almost as if we are part of it, part of it happening right now. And that gives us a much more vivid understanding of a person’s case.
Instead of simply asking the client to tell us what happened and then taking notes—which we do do that—but we will expand that and certain parts of it we may say, “Well, let’s reenact that. Show me what happened.” And because of muscle memory, which is much more vivid often than what’s happening up in the brain and the ability to typically remember it, we can gain more insight into their case from all different aspects of it. And there might be some small portion of it that becomes very important as the linchpin to the defense of the case. And it can also become an important part of what we do as we present the case to the jury.
If we can actually show the jury what happened rather than tell them what happened, it creates a much better understanding. This is not a way to manipulate the jury, it is a way to give them a much more thorough and vivid understanding of what actually happened so they can make the right decision.
The goal now is to not just look at the way that we are impacting our client’s life, but look at how we are impacting each others lives. So we’re starting to really employ the mission statement—which is to help our clients win back their lives—we’re starting to employ that internally and ask ourselves what we can do to help each other’s lives be better.
And also outward in looking at ways that we can impact the community in a positive way—maybe people we’ve never even met through our charitable activities and through other outreach programs that we are involved in and hope to continue to be involved in on a larger scale. So it is really a 360 degree type of approach to the way that we interact with each other, with our clients and with the broader community around us.