Written by: Maria Gabriela (Gaby) Biscardi; Edited By: Denisse Albornoz and Gioel Gioacchino

What does it mean to fail? What does it mean to be successful? Use psychodrama to unpack these ideas and become aware of the beliefs young people hold about themselves.

Our experience using this technique:

Gaby, a life coach, designed this technique in collaboration with her academic tutor, a psychodrama director, and an excellent group of psychodrama students in Casa Hogar Corazón de Jesús, Valencia (Venezuela). The exercise was used to discover and improve the self-esteem of teenagers underperforming in high school. It was part of a process of 10 psychodrama workshops to explore students’ sense of self using visualization and role play. Gaby has been using this method in many contexts to unveil emotions and self-perceptions from different angles.

Research and Development:

What are we trying to understand about the community?
We are trying to understand how young people understand failure and success in their life – in relationship to their friends, family members, and authority figures. How do young people see themselves through the eyes of the most significant people in their lives? How do these perceptions affect their self-esteem?
Why is it important for the community’s development?

Young people’s understanding of themselves has consequences on their sense of empowerment, on their willingness to study, work, engage in community, and their ability to visualize their future. A positive self-concepts matters for the whole community.  

At what stage(s) of the research cycle is this method used?
Data collection, problem identification, action, community building.


What do I need?
  • A quiet place
  • Some cushions (for participants and to identify the three big areas of work – or more depending on what areas you’re exploring)
  • White sheets
  • A pencil for each participant
  • Tables where participants can sit and write.
How long does it take?

First Visualization: 10 mins

Second Visualization: 10 mins

Psychodrama: 15 mins per participant

Debrief: 30 minutes

**This can be a lengthy exercise and it works best with smaller groups of people. The exercise might take up to three and a half hours for a group of 10 people.

Step-by-step description

Introduction: Set the space

To set up the space for the workshop, make sure that there is an atmosphere of trust amongst the group. As you introduce the workshop, present the space as a judgement-free environment. Encourage participants to open up to the process and be playful – doing some warm up exercises might be very useful to make sure people are ready to play. Welcome people to share their thoughts and feelings freely. It’s a good idea to ask for a verbal commitment to keep other people’s words and experiences confidential, unless there is something that could threaten the physical or mental integrity of participants.

When using this technique for research purposes, the main researcher should ask direct permission to write any details about the stories shared.

It is also important to explain that during the debrief session, people are discouraged from providing advice or express any sort of judgement on other experiences. Instead, encourage people to listen with an open heart and mind while paying attention to what is happening inside of each person while acting and witnessing others.

This is a psychodrama technique, a creative therapeutic approach which allows individuals to express internal conflict utilizing guided drama and role playing to work through problems. Developed Jacob Levy Moreno, psychodrama integrates elements from theater and psychology. The process of psychodrama begins with a warm up, followed by the action and finally a sharing session.

Visualization 1

  1. Ask participants to close their eyes and imagine themselves about to face a challenge. For example, suggest that they visualize themselves sitting in a classroom about to take an exam, or about to start a job interview. They may want to recall a situation when they experienced something similar or visualize themselves in a potential future scenario. 
  1. Invite them to imagine answering these questions: “How do you feel? Can you do it? What attitude would you need to achieve it?”. As the facilitator, place a piece of paper in front of each participant.
  1. Ask participants to open their eyes and write the answers to those questions on the paper.

Visualization 2

  1. The facilitator asks participants to close their eyes and visualize themselves after having completed the challenge. How do you feel? How did it go? Did you talk to your family or friends about the experience? How did you share the experience? What did they say or do?
  1. Ask them to open their eyes, the facilitator places three cushions to create a space for psycho-dramatic action.


Psychodrama – 3 stations

  1. The facilitator puts three cushions down and explains:
    1. The first cushion represents the first station where you will act as if you had completed the challenge and express how you feel about it.  
    2. The second cushion represents the second station: take on the role of an authority figure that you are interacting with: your teacher, the interviewer, your boss, etc. How did they engage with you? How do they feel while interacting with you? As a facilitator you can also prompt the actors by asking further questions and interacting with what the participant is saying.
    3. In the third station you will personify a family member  (mom, dad, grandma, stepdad, etc.) or a friend interacting with you in situation you visualized. Facilitator role applies again.
  2. Each person has to pass through the 3 stations while the others are listening.


Facilitate a debrief by asking:

  • Did you visualize yourself failing or succeeding? Why?
  • How did you feel when you visualized yourself after having completed the challenge?
  • How was the experience of taking on the role of the authority figure? How did that feel?
  • How was it to personify your family member or friend? How much does it matter to you what your family/friends think about your performance/success?
  • What did you learn from watching others act out the different roles?
  • What did you realize about yourself when you were watching others act out?
  • What is success to you? How do you deal with failure?

Encourage people to explore their own truth. Explicitly discourage participants to provide advice to others – instead, respect each other’s truth and acknowledge each other’s feelings. A recommendation is to start the comments with: ‘what happen to me with this process was…’

Benefits and Challenges

What are the benefits of using this technique?

This is a reflective, fun technique that takes the participants through a journey of exploring their own joys and fears.

The technique allows participants to reflect on their stories, and become aware of the impressions they hold on themselves and others. It does so by playing with humor and with the the body to go deep into feelings and perceptions without being invasive.

What are the challenges of using this technique?

This a technique that can dig into emotions, giving a really deep understanding on how family members, authority figures and friends are in influencing their concept of self and self-esteem. To implement it effectively, you need to build an atmosphere of trust among the young participants. It is a good idea to start the technique with some warm up activities.


Tips and Traps :

Be aware of the body signs while participants are doing the visualization. Be aware of the words that cause more impression. Always finish with a debrief – a lot of important perspective can be revealed in it.

You can adapt this technique based on the type of group and environment!  For example, Gaby used this technique to understand how students relate to their school grades. 




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