Archive for January, 2011

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Psychodrama and Trial Lawyers

January 21, 2011

At any point in practice, a trial lawyer needs not only to be intelligent with an understanding of the law, but also to be a good storyteller, director, and performer, and most importantly, an empathic, genuine, and real human being. Through your courtroom presentations, your goal is to help your juries hear, see, and feel your client’s stories. To do so, you need special tools to assist you. One method of training that gives you powerful and effective techniques for preparing and presenting your client’s case is psychodrama.

What is Psychodrama?

Psychodrama is an action method during which participants show a group what happened vs. telling what happened. It is an action method, a method of communication and a role-playing modality. It is the exploration of the truth through dramatic action. Psychodrama is a powerful method that not only brings out the humanity of people, but also the universal stories and truths that connect us all.

In a psychodrama, participants dramatize or act out events from their lives as a spontaneous play, typically in a group setting. The main actor, called the protagonist or star, literally acts out the event that the group is exploring. A psychodrama is a three-dimensional spontaneous re-enactment presented in the moment with no script or rehearsal. The purpose is to gain insight or understanding of yourself or significant others, and about events in your life that you can only achieve in action.

In essence, psychodrama is a method that enables people (the actor, auxiliaries, and audience) to act and feel, to find out, and see things for themselves; it empowers the person who is the subject of the psychodrama (the protagonist), to both show and tell her own story.

It is difficult to fully understand psychodrama, its use and effectiveness until you experience it. It is somewhat like learning to ride a bicycle. Reading about riding a bicycle won’t teach you how to do it; you need to experience it. The same is true with psychodrama.

Why Should Lawyers Use Psychodrama?

The tools of this method help trial lawyers and their clients communicate with each other more effectively. Through the use of psychodrama, lawyers are better able to discover and explore their clients’ stories and to present them in 3D – so that the jury hears, sees and most importantly, feels the story.

What happens to the client that leads to legal action is a meaningful experience in that client’s life. If a protagonist can re-enact a meaningful experience on the psychodrama stage, so can a client in preparing for trial. Through psychodrama, a client can educate his lawyer about what happened to him, how it has affected his life, and perhaps more importantly, who he is. At the same time, re-enacting the client’s meaningful experience enhances the lawyer’s ability to share the client’s story with the jury in the courtroom in a much more powerful, human, and effective way.

Lawyers who become versed in psychodrama effectively use the same tools when they prepare their client and case for trial, as well as when they present the case. Not only have they found greater success in the courtroom, they have gained greater satisfaction in the practice of law. Additionally, they have better and richer relationships with their clients.

Psychodrama is not, however, a short-cut or a formula for success. Those lawyers who have achieved the greatest results in using this method have committed themselves to personal exploration and the development of skill in using the tools of psychodrama.

Psychodrama Brings the Client’s Story to Life

Psychodrama enables you, in an efficient and powerful manner, to not only discover your client’s story in three-dimensional format—hear it, see it and feel it—but to examine and explore the various witnesses’ different points of view and perspectives. If you want to influence a jury, you need to deal with them on an emotional level, using the power of story. “You have to awaken the emotions in yourself that you want to awaken in them. Like an actor in a play, to communicate an emotion, you have to feel it first.”[1] Psychodrama enables you to identify and explore the themes that arise from the facts and the emotions as they come alive through a psychodramatic re-enactment. Using re-enactment, you gather the raw data from which to shape and frame your client’s story.

You can learn more about Psychodrama and how lawyers are using it by reading the book – Trial In Action:The Persuasive Power of Psychodrama available from Trial Guides. For information on programs that train lawyers in the use of psychodrama and its application to trial practice, visit The 3 Sisters, LLP web site.


[1] Annette Simmons, The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling (Basis Books, 2001), 151.