Archive for the ‘Group Dynamics’ Category

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Doubling: Listening With The Third Ear

November 27, 2011

In a continuing effort to share information on psychodrama and the tools trial lawyers use most often to work with clients, prepare for and present their cases at trial, what follows is the next installment on this topic.

Doubling

A double is an auxiliary (a group member asked to play a role in the drama or re-enactment) who speaks the inner life of the protagonist, in whatever role he happens to inhabit in that moment. The job of the double is to tune in to the protagonist’s unexpressed thoughts and feelings and express them, bringing material lodged in the background to the foreground.

The double is the hidden voice, the truest self, the one who helps the protagonist realize and acknowledge what she is thinking and feeling. The double gives voice to the protagonist’s interior reality, helping the protagonist go deeper, strip off the outer socially visible layers, and reach the deeper layers of expression. The double speaks in the first person, as the inner voice of the protagonist, but does not engage in conversation with the protagonist. In essence, the double assists the protagonist in expressing herself more fully. Using a double facilitates expressing a protagonist’s deepest emotions, and is one of the most effective techniques to bring out unexpressed emotions. J. L. Moreno, the creator of psychodrama, described the double as the protagonist’s inside.[1]

As the double expresses the protagonist’s inner thoughts or feelings, it is extremely important to give the protagonist an opportunity to accept, reject, or correct the statements which the double makes, and if accepted, to put them in her own words. For example:

Protagonist: I don’t know what I’m going to do. I wish she would talk to me.

Double: I feel helpless and all alone.

Protagonist: I do feel helpless. I just don’t understand why she won’t talk to me.

Double: I feel angry at her.

Protagonist: [Has a puzzled look on his face.]

Double: If that is right, put it in your own words. If it is wrong, correct it.

Protagonist: It isn’t right. I’m not angry. I am hurt, and I feel betrayed.

Double: I trusted her to talk to me, to tell me what was going on.

Protagonist: Yes, that’s it. I did trust her to talk to me. To let me in. And she betrayed my trust.

Even an incorrect statement is helpful to the protagonist, for in correcting the statement, the protagonist clarifies what is going on inside her.

A good double helps the protagonist to feel seen and understood, and, at the same time, to move into deeper levels of feeling. Often during a traumatic life event, we dissociate or freeze, and may feel helpless or powerless. Through psychodramatic reenactment, a protagonist can revisit that moment in her life and, through the use of a double, stay in her body, and express thoughts and feelings she was too overwhelmed to express at the time. This can be very beneficial to a protagonist as it facilitates feeling and integration of emotions that she split from her consciousness.

A double can also provide support for the protagonist. This helps him take more risks and enter the action more completely. In addition, a double can provide suggestions and interpretations to the protagonist through the role. For example, if your client is having a difficult time expressing sadness over the changes in his life because of an accident, you may want to double by uttering words he cannot: “I am sad. I can no longer lift my little boy to his high chair. I can no longer have sex with my wife. I feel useless and less of a man.” Make sure you give your client the opportunity to accept or reject this doubling statement. If he accepts it, ask him to put it in his own words.

When you wish to act as a double for someone, (for example, a friend, spouse, client, or witness) the process generally is to stand slightly behind and to the side of the protagonist. It is extremely important to abandon your own agenda, to set aside your need to ask questions or solve problems, and tune in and listen without judgment. Listen with your heart, not your head. Let the feelings that come up reverberate in you. You should be aware of the protagonist’s non-verbal communication, and imitate her body language. When you mirror the protagonist’s gestures, posture, body positions, and tone of voice, you will begin to experience the same kinds of body sensations as the protagonist.

Neuroscientists have recently discovered mirror neurons, a class of brain cells that operate similar to radio waves. They explain why we pick up on the feelings and moods of people we are with.

                       Mirror neurons track the emotional flow, move-

                        ment and even intentions of the person we are

                        with, and replicate this sensed state in our own

                        brain by stirring in our brain the same areas active

                        in the other person. Mirror neurons offer a neu-

                        ral mechanism that explains emotional contagion,

                        the tendency of one person to catch the feelings

                        of another, particularly if strongly expressed. This

                        brain-to-brain link may also account for feelings

                        of rapport, which research finds depend in part on

                        extremely rapid synchronization of peoples’ pos-

                        ture, vocal pacing and movements as they interact.

                        In short, these brain cells seem to allow the inter-

                        personal orchestration of shifts in physiology.[2]

A double should not, however, overwhelm or take over for the protagonist. Instead, the double should feel into the protagonist, becoming attuned to the protagonist’s moods, feelings, and rhythm. The double needs to let go of any prior perception she may have had of the protagonist and trust her intuition, being open to the feelings that arise. When the double speaks for the protagonist, the double should speak in the first person: “I feel really angry that . . .”

Learning to be a good double, setting aside your own agenda and tuning in to another person is a powerful experience, not only for the double but for the person being doubled as well. Doubling is essentially the skill of active listening on a very deep level, and connecting to the emotions, the inner life, of the other person.

The skill of listening is one of the most important skills for you to have; you use it in all phases of trial, and you should actively develop it. When a speaker and his double participate in a listening/doubling exercise, the exercise creates a bond between them. The person being doubled feels seen, heard, and most importantly, validated. Validation results in connection and trust.

Once you have significant experience with this tool, you can begin to use it without standing slightly behind and to the side of the person you wish to double, without imitating their non- verbal communication, and without speaking in first person as if an inner voice. You can double jurors as you conduct voir dire, double witnesses in deposition, and even double the judge. This tool can also be used during direct examination to help the witness go deeper and fully express their feelings to the jury. You can use this tool when meeting with clients to ensure your relationship starts out on a good note and to demonstrate that you care about them as people.

You can learn more about psychodrama and how trial lawyers use this method by reading the book – Trial In Action: The Persuasive Power of Psychodrama, (2010 Trial Guides) available at http://www.trialguides.com/book/trial-in-action/

[1] Moreno, Blomkvist and Rutzel, Psychodrama, 69.

[2] Daniel Goleman, Essay—Friends for Life: An Emerging Biology of Emotional Healing (2006).

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The Power Of Story In The Courtroom

May 10, 2011

Story is the portal through which we enter other people’s lives, connect with them and discover our similarities. Stories are the source of human connection; and, storytelling is, perhaps, the most important component of effective communication. And, effective communication is the means to achieving your goal as a trial attorney: justice for your client.

A hunger to hear stories is ingrained in every human being. From the time that our ancestors sat around fires in caves, up through today, human beings seek out and thrive on stories and storytelling, in order to connect with their fellow man, to pass down history and to teach. Story is the currency of human contact. As Annette Simmons (storytelling expert) writes in her book, The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling: “Telling stories and being curious about the stories of others is a way of life as much as it is a technique of influence.”

Our insatiable appetite for stories is fed daily through movies, cable television and the internet. Stories permeate our everyday lives, from the moment we wake, to the moment we fall asleep. Stories even inhabit and invade our dreams. Stories are everywhere, because more than anything else in our culture, stories move us.

But, some stories draw us in and move us more than do others. In the courtroom, we need to grab the jury’s attention, to hold it and, ultimately, to move the jury to action on behalf of our clients. This is not an easy task.

One of the most difficult tasks that you face as a lawyer is finding out about, or, rather, discovering, your client’s story, the one that you must tell at trial. What parts of the story are important? Where do you begin? Who are the characters, or important players? What facts do you need to prove the client’s claims? And, most importantly, what story will move a jury to deliver justice?

You cannot give jurors the actual experience of your client; but, you can provide them with the next best thing. According to Annette Simmons, “Stories interpret raw facts and proofs to create reality.” You can bring your client’s experience to jurors through story; by weaving a story that is so vivid and detailed that jurors feel as if they are actually there to experience the events of the story as they are happening. Simmons goes on to say that, “Story is a re-imagined experience narrated with enough detail and feeling to cause your listener’s imaginations to experience it as real.” Even though the jurors cannot be witnesses to the actual event, they can, through the use of psychodramatic tools, bear witness to the re-imagining of the experience.

One of the first things that you must do to fully explore your client’s story is to abandon your agenda: to focus not only on the elements of the cause of action asserted in the case, but to, instead, look at all of the facts, all the points of view expressed and the perspectives of each witness, including the opposition’s. In this way, only, will you get the whole story. You need to take a first look at the story as a human being, not just as a lawyer, so that you can relate to another group of human beings: jurors.

The case may be about an automobile accident, but the story is about much more than the accident itself. If all you do is focus on the actual event giving rise to the cause of action (the accident), you will miss critical parts of the story. Those other parts of the story will help a jury to understand, not only the accident itself, but also how the accident had an impact on your client’s life, and, ultimately, how not holding the defendant responsible could have an impact on each of the jurors’ lives. (This is not, incidentally, about violating the Golden Rule; rather, it is recognition of the universal truths that are part of our lives. Many of us share similar life experiences, albeit with slight variations; this means that our stories are largely the same.)

Traditionally, you begin to explore a new client’s case through an initial interview. Unfortunately, most lawyers limit themselves to looking for facts that fit into various boxes tending to prove the elements of a particular cause of action. This is, after all, what you were taught in law school. This stock-type of analysis, though, will not serve you well when it comes to finding the story that will result in the successful outcome of your client’s case, because this sort of baseline work-up does not take into account emotions, or the universal story, or stories, that have arisen out of the events. A story, to be effective, must evoke feelings in the listener or observer.

In a trial, human beings, not automatons, are the decision makers. These human beings are the people whom you want to convince that your client has been wronged, and is now deserving of redress. Despite what many law professors teach, people make decisions based on their gut, on their instincts, and their feelings, rather than on rationality and the application of intellect. As human beings, our feelings play a large role in our decision-making. After all, a verdict really reflects the decision of human beings who use their intellect and rational analysis to support the decision that they “feel” is right.

Limiting yourself to a cold analysis of facts, and pigeonholing those facts into neat cause of action checklists, is far too limiting. It may result in your missing powerful and persuasive aspects of your client’s story, specifically, feelings and emotions that will lead a jury to mete out justice on behalf of your client. Annette Simmons says that, “[F]acts aren’t as powerful as human emotions. Feelings alter facts, at least the impact of facts.” The most effective way to elicit an emotional response from people is through psychodramatic methods, that is, the “show me, don’t tell me” method.

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A Rare and Precious Gift

March 4, 2011

On my way home from a client appointment yesterday, I stopped at a local store to buy a birthday present for the love of my life. The store is quiet and there are more salespeople than customers filling the aisles. I take my time, browsing in various departments for that perfect gift. I am not in a rush like I usually am, having finished my work for the day, and feel satisfied that my time with the client was extremely productive. I am happy and content. My life may not be perfect, but it is pretty damn good.

After selecting a gift that I hope will be a big hit, and picking up a new cd for myself, I pay for my items and exit the store. I can’t wait to get in my car, open the cd, and insert it into the car’s stereo and crank the volume on the soundtrack for my drive home. As the first notes explode from my car’s speakers, I head for the exit to the parking lot. Sitting on a mound of grass to the right of the exit is a woman holding up a cardboard sign. From the distance I can’t make out the words on the sign. But as I approach, the handwritten words come into focus. “Single Unemployed mom needs help.” Sadness overcomes me. I look at the sign holder. She appears to be in her 30’s, is clean and neatly dressed in black jeans and a t-shirt. Her shoulder length auburn hair is neatly combed and she is wearing a defeated and sad expression. I can’t imagine what it must feel like, being so desperate and hopeless, dependent on the kindness of strangers. Her eyes catch mine for a moment. She looks away and lowers her sign.

About a-week-and-a-half ago I was in New Orleans, finishing up a seminar on the persuasive power of psychodrama. For four days my dearest friends and I worked with trial lawyers from all over the country, teaching them the basic tools of psychodrama and how to apply them to their practices. After finishing our last session and packing up our materials, we decide to spend some time exploring the French Quarter, a place we had little time to enjoy during the program.

Now if you ever go to New Orleans, you must visit the world famous Café DuMonde and sample the delicious, addictive and thigh destroying beignets. On this Sunday afternoon of a three-day weekend, I need a beignet fix. My friends and I arrive at this landmark establishment and discover a huge line snaking down the block.  Even the line for take out is enormous. After a wait, which isn’t too bad since one of the busboys is taking orders from those of us at the back of the line so we don’t have to waste too much time, and beignets in hand, my friends and I head out of the bustling Quarter to walk along the riverfront towards our hotel.

As we near the holocaust memorial, a man comes running from the side path waving his arms and pointing behind him, “please, someone call 911. She is having a seizure. Give me a cell phone so I can call 911.” Most of the people strolling along the riverfront ignore his pleas and pass by.

“I need a cell phone. Please. We need to call 911. She is having a seizure.” People continue walking past, as if they are deaf and the frantic man invisible. He is dirty and thin, wearing jeans and a jacket over a t-shirt with a dirty baseball cap on his head. I look in the direction he is pointing and see two other people, a black woman, short, chubby and shabbily dressed. She is staggering around near the park bench from where the man came. When she tries to stand, she staggers a few steps and then falls down on the bench. Across from her is an elderly man with long stringy hair and a wild, unkempt beard. He tries to help the woman sit, but isn’t too steady himself. Again the man in the cap calls out, “she is having a seizure, I need a cell phone to call 911.”

My friends and I stop and look again in the direction he is pointing. “Please, someone call 911.” I pull my cell phone from my pocket and shout to him, “I will call 911.” I dial 911 and a dispatcher answers. “What is your emergency?”

“We need paramedics on the riverfront walk, a woman is having a seizure.”

“Where are you?”

“On the riverfront walk, right near the holocaust memorial. Between the holocaust memorial and the IMAX.”

“Holo what?”

“The holocaust memorial.”

“Hotel, what hotel?” I pull my phone away from my ear and look incredulously at my friends.

I put the phone back to my ear, “No! The HOLOCAUST memorial. H-O-L-O-C-A-U-S-T.”

“What is happening?”

“A woman is having a seizure.”

“Oh, O.K. You need an ambulance, not the police. What is your number and I will have them call you.”  I can’t believe this. Here we are with an emergency and they can’t figure out where we are and then they tell us we have called the wrong place. I give the dispatcher my number.

Within seconds, my phone rings. A male voice is on the other end. “What is your emergency?” I repeat the information and tell him where we are. He starts asking questions about cross streets and addresses.

“I’m not from here. I don’t know the cross streets.” Getting help for a woman having a seizure should really not be this hard.

By this time, a couple walking by stops near us and is watching the homeless woman, who by now, is being held tightly by the man in the baseball cap. “I’ve got you Martha. I’m right here. I am not going to let you get hurt.” She is struggling to free herself. Her speech is slurred and one side of her face droops. At times she seems to convulse slightly. He holds her on his lap, his arms wrapped tightly around her.  She struggles to get free, “I want to go.”

“Martha, you are having a seizure. I am not letting you go.”

The couple overhears me trying to give our location to the ambulance dispatcher and approaches us. “I’m from here,” the male member of the couple says as he reaches out for me to give him my phone. I hand it over and he gives the information the dispatcher needs to send help. He hands back the phone and the dispatcher tells me to please watch for the ambulance and to flag them down when they arrive.

I call out to the man in the baseball cap, “They are sending an ambulance.”

“Thank you.” I hear the relief in his voice and see it in his eyes.

My friends and I stay nearby waiting for the ambulance to arrive. We want to make sure they come, and when they arrive that they help this woman. We watch the man in the cap hold Martha and try to soothe her. “You are my best friend Martha. You need help. I am not going to let you go.” She is struggling and appears a little out of it.

“I’m ok.” She whines.

“No, your not. You are having a seizure. You were seizing for 3 minutes. You need to go to the hospital.”

“No! I don’t want to go.” Her agitation increases as she tries to escape his hold.

“They hurt me.” She holds up her arm and her soiled sleeve slips down toward her elbow revealing a large swollen area on her forearm.

“They hurt me with the needle. I don’t want to go!”

“I promised Martha. You are my best friend. I love you. I promised. I am not letting you go. You need help.” He tries to calm her and keep her still.

“Yes Maatha. Yo haf ta gota the hospital.” Slurs the old man who is with them. He looks at the man in the cap. “You goin wif heh?”

“I will be with you Martha. I am not going to leave you. You are my best friend. I love you.”

“They hurt me. See, they hurt me.” Again she holds up her arm.

“I am airborne and I will go with you. You are my best friend.”

We watch, in silence, each of us deep in our own thoughts.

A siren in the distance breaks the spell.

The man who gave directions to the ambulance dispatcher calls to us, “We’ll go flag down the ambulance and direct them over here.” They head off towards the street.

Other than the four of us, and the couple who head off to flag down the ambulance, no one else has stopped. No one has even noticed what is happening. In fact, people are purposely avoiding the area where we are all gathered.

A man in a golf cart, who appears to be some sort of security patrol, drives over to the park bench where the man in the ball cap is holding Martha.

“You people need to leave.” He starts to get out of the golf cart to chase them off.

“She is having a seizure. We have called an ambulance and they are on their way,” we tell him. He gets in his golf cart and drives away.

The ambulance finally arrives and paramedics along with a gurney join us. Martha is still struggling and resisting help. The man in the ball cap stays right by her side, talking to her calmly, promising not to leave.

Eventually the paramedics succeed in lifting Martha on to the gurney and strap her down. She continues to struggle as they wheel her down the grassy hill towards the ambulance, all while her best friend, the man in the ball cap stays by her side.

The four of us stand there together watching, Martha’s cries fading away. None of us have words. We leave the riverfront walk behind us, and slowly head back into the French Quarter. I look at my three friends and am filled with immense love and gratitude. Martha may be homeless, but she has something truly rare, a real friend who is there for her and doesn’t leave her side when she needs him most. And that is a precious and rare gift.

I look at the women I am with. Amazing, kind, loving women. I know in my heart that each of them is my man in the baseball cap.

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Psychodrama And The Power of Story

February 3, 2011

Story is the portal through which we enter other people’s lives, connect with them, and discover our similarities. Stories are the source of human connection and perhaps the most important component to effective communication. Effective communication is a means to achieve your goal: justice for your client.

The hunger for story is ingrained in every human being. From the time our ancestors sat around fires in caves until today, humans seek and thrive on story to connect with their fellow man, pass down history and to teach. Story is the currency of human contact. “Telling stories and being curious about the stories of others is a way of life as much as it is a technique of influence.”[1]

Our insatiable appetite for stories is fed daily via movies, cable TV, and the Internet. Stories permeate our everyday lives, from the moment we wake to the moment we sleep. They even inhabit and invade our dreams. Stories are everywhere because more than anything else in culture, stories move us.

But some draw and move us more than others. In the courtroom, we need to grab the jury’s attention, hold it, and move them to action on behalf of our clients. This is not an easy task.

One of the most difficult tasks you face as a lawyer is finding or discovering your client’s story, the one that you must tell at trial. What parts of the story are important? Where do you begin? Who are the characters or important players? What facts do you need to prove the client’s claims? And most importantly, what story will move a jury to deliver justice?

You cannot give jurors the actual experience of your client, but you can provide them with the next best thing. According to storytelling expert Annette Simmons, author of The Story Factor and Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, “Stories interpret raw facts and proofs to create reality.”[2] You can bring your client’s experience to jurors through story, one that is so vivid and detailed the jurors feel as if they are actually there to experience the event as it is happening. “Story is a re-imagined experience narrated with enough detail and feeling to cause your listener’s imaginations to experience it as real.”[3] While they cannot be witnesses to the actual event, through the use of psychodramatic tools, they can bear witness to the re-imagining of the experience.

One of the first things that must happen in order to fully explore a client’s story is for you to abandon your agenda that focuses only on the elements of the cause of action asserted in the case, and instead, to look at all of the facts, the points of view and perspectives of each witness (including the opposition’s) and explore the story as a whole. You need to look at the story first as a human being, not just as a lawyer, so you can relate to and tell it to a group of human beings, the jurors.

The case may be about an automobile accident but the story is about much more than the accident itself. If all you do is focus on the actual event giving rise to the cause of action—the accident—you will miss critical parts of the story. These parts of the story help a jury understand not only the accident itself, but how the accident had an impact on your client’s life, and ultimately, how not holding the defendant responsible could have an impact on each of the jurors’ lives.[4]

Traditionally, you begin by interviewing the client. Unfortunately, most lawyers limit themselves to looking for facts that fit into various boxes that prove the elements of a particular cause of action. This is, after all, what you were taught in law school.

But this type of analysis will not serve you well when it comes to finding and exploring the story that will result in a successful outcome of the case. It does not take into consideration emotions or the universal story or stories that may arise from the events. A story, to be effective, must evoke feelings in the listener or the observer.

In a trial, human beings, not automatons, are the decision makers; they are the people you want to convince that your client has been wronged and deserves redress. Despite what many law professors would have us think, people make decisions based on their gut, their instincts, and their feelings, rather than rationality and intellect. As human beings, our feelings play a huge role in our decision-making. After all, a verdict reflects the decision of human beings who use their intellect and rational analysis to support the decision they “feel” is right.

Limiting yourself to a cold analysis of facts, pigeon-holing those facts into causes of action is too limiting. It may result in your missing powerful and persuasive aspects of the story, specifically feelings and emotions that will lead a jury to justice on behalf of your client. “[F]acts aren’t as powerful as human emotions. Feelings alter facts, at least the impact of facts.”4 The most effective way to elicit an emotional response from people is through psychodramatic methods, that is, the “show me, don’t tell me” way.

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. To learn more about the power of Story in the courtroom, attend The Art of Telling Our Client’s Story – Aug. 11 – 14, 2011 in Portland, OR.


[1] Annette Simmons, The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling (Basis Books, 2001), 189.

[2] Annette Simmons, Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, (AMACOM, 2007), 3.

[3] Id. 19.

[4] This is not about violating the Golden Rule but a recognition of the universal truths that are part of our lives. Many of us share similar life experiences, albeit with slight variations; this means our stories are largely the same.

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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.

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So Much to Be Thankful For

November 18, 2010

 

The 3 Sisters (from left) Mary Peckham, Joane Garcia-Colson, Fredilyn Sison

Had anyone asked us—the 3 Sisters, Mary, Fredi and I—ten years ago what we would be doing today, I doubt that any of us would have predicted that we would be part of a partnership created to help people, particularly trial lawyers, realize their full potential. And yet, that is exactly where we are.

The three of us met ten years ago when we were part of an organization that provides continuing legal education programs to trial lawyers. Through this experience, we were exposed to psychodrama. As many of you know who have read this blog, psychodrama is an action method, a way to communicate deeply and meaningfully. It is the exploration of the truth through dramatic action. A psychodrama not only brings out the humanity of people, but also the universal stories and truths that connect us all.

Psychodrama can be therapeutic as it gives participants the opportunity to explore events from their lives to gain greater understanding of the self and to begin to heal old wounds. Psychodrama also empowers those who experience it to become more fully present in the here and now, enjoy greater spontaneity, realize their own potential, and create the life they each want to lead.

Over the years, each of us dedicated ourselves to doing as much of our own personal work as possible so that we can better know who we are, how we came to be that way and what we can do to shape our future. Our journey has not always been easy and each of us has traveled psychodramatically through many painful moments from the past. With each passing experience, we grew as human beings and as lawyers.  By learning more about ourselves, we are more able to understand others.  Over the last ten to twelve years, we have shared our skill and knowledge of psychodrama with other lawyers across the country and helped them to discover and learn to use the tools of this powerful method to represent their clients. We have exposed them to ideas and techniques that can assist them both in preparing and presenting their clients’ stories in trial. Teaching at various workshops improved our skill and stimulated our creativity. These experiences also increased our desire to develop our skill and proficiency in using the psychodramatic method to help others.  After years of training and study, each of us was certified as a practitioner (CP) of psychodrama by the American Board of Examiners. Mary and I have continued our training and hope to soon be certified as trainers (TEP’s). Fredi, in her inimitable way, said, “Basta!”  The three of us continue to go to workshops, often together.  Psychodrama continues to help us each individually and provides many tools we call upon and employ both personally and professionally.  To say that our lives have been enhanced as a result of our exposure to psychodrama would be an understatement.

From left - Mary Peckham, Fredilyn Sison, Joane Garcia-Colson

In the mid 2000’s, we began to brainstorm ideas for working together, for taking our creative ideas and sharing them with others. Originally, our thoughts were simply playful, more fantastical than practical:  a 3 Sisters coffee house, bookstore, stand-up comedy and yarn shop. As we grew as people, our ideas grew. The idea of a Trial Boot Camp for Women took shape after several troubling experiences throughout the years. Two of us attended one program as part of the teaching staff where our male colleagues introduced the other male faculty as talented and skilled trial lawyers but ignored the many accomplishments of the female staff members. One of our friends, a courageous lawyer who does employment law, got up and started to introduce the talented lawyers she knew and named the women attorney staff in the room.  Other female professionals we have talked to over the years have had similar experiences and often feel invisible at seminars and workshops. Issues unique to women are rarely acknowledged, much less addressed with any sort of depth or understanding.  And so, we conceived the idea of a program where women could come together to work on issues unique to them and to meet and build relationships with other female trial lawyers.

In the late summer of 2009, Fredi and I began talking about making our idea of creating a program specifically for women trial lawyers a reality.  Our concept was to develop and design a program to nurture female trial lawyers and help them develop their own voice, recognize their unique talents as women and bring them into the courtroom. In September 2009, Mary, Fredi, Lynne Bratcher and I traveled to Colorado, where we brainstormed and outlined our ideas for a Women’s Trial Boot Camp.

After a successful inaugural run in May, 2010, we decided to create other programs with the same mission in mind.  We also wanted to invite other teachers with whom we enjoyed working in the past and who we believe share the same thoughts, ideas and feelings about teaching (Lynne, Carl Bettinger and Charlie Abourezk) to join us.  We did not and do not intend to be a traditional provider of programs for trial lawyers or for women only. Our ideas, beliefs and vision are much broader. And men are more than welcome at all of our programs, with the exception of the Women’s Trial Boot Camp.

“Garcia-Colson, Sison, and Peckham intelligibly meld psychodrama and trial skills in an easily understandable book. As a pioneer in psychodramatic trial consulting, I highly recommend this book to lawyers and psychodramatists alike. J. L. Moreno would be pleased.” —John Nolte, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and trial consultant

It’s hard to imagine that we embarked on this great journey from a fun, playful conversation.  But that’s the nature of spontaneity and creativity.  We missed teaching together.   We wanted to do something different, something that was collaborative, receptive and adaptive.  We wanted to meet interesting and interested people.  We’ve accomplished a great deal this year—–2 programs, and coming next month, a book.

We wrote the book because we wanted to reach more people who were interested in being better lawyers for clients and to help them learn to master the tools of psychodrama.  We wished to keep the dream of Jacob Moreno, the father of psychodrama, alive.  The book’s name is Trial in Action: The Persuasive Power of Psychodrama.  It is being published by Trial Guides.  We are extremely proud of it, as it will expose psychodrama to a wider audience.  Check out the book and reviews at: http://www.trialguides.com/book/trial-in-action/

Because of how well our 2010 programs have been received, we have four (4) programs planned for 2011:

  • Trial in Action: The Persuasive Power of Psychodrama – Feb. 17-20 –  New Orleans, LA

  • Second Annual Women’s Trial Boot Camp – May 12-15  – Palm Springs, CA

  • The Art of Telling Our Clients’ Story – Aug. 11-14 – Portland, OR

  • Trial Intensive: Voir Dire and Group Formation – Oct. 20-23 – Palm Springs, CA

In addition to Lynne, Carl and Charlie, who will be faculty for one or more of the programs above, John Nolte will be our special guest at the New Orleans seminar.  Details about all of our programs and testimonials from participants can be found on our web site at http://www.the3sisters.org.

The Faculty for - The Art of Telling Our Clients' Stories (from left) Fredilyn Sison, Charlie Abourezk, Mary Peckham, Carl Bettinger, Joane Garcia-Colson

Our partnership is still is in its infancy. But we are filled with excitement and enthusiasm, and we love working with all the people we’ve met.  It’s been great collaborating with each other.  It’s nice to be teaching with old friends once again.  We have so many people to thank—those who supported us during tough times and those who have joined our journey, because we wouldn’t be here without them.  It’s been a spectacular year, and we are grateful for everything that has happened.  We look forward to next year!

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The Inaugural Women’s Trial Boot Camp

May 18, 2010
Inaugural Class - Women's Trial Boot Camp - 2010

Inaugural Class - Women's Trial Boot Camp - May, 2010

Inspiration comes from many sources. This past weekend I was inspired by a group of talented and courageous women who attended the 3 Sisters Women’s Trial Boot Camp in Palm Springs, California. And as I write this, I feel their energy and camaraderie still, as if we were gathered together in the Palm Canyon room at the Hyatt Suites.  Our three days together were both validating and powerful and I will never forget the wonderful women I reconnected with, met for the first time, and with whom I shared three-days in Palm Springs.

This program was a long time in the making and the journey began many months ago, first in late night telephone calls and emails and finally coming to fruition around the dining room table at a rented condo in Breckenridge, Colorado.  In September 2009, a girls’ weekend in the mountains reminded those in attendance of the power of women and our need to nurture, support and encourage each other. As female trial lawyers, we face different challenges than our male counterparts, and often, we lack the self-confidence and support we need to reach our full potential.  Each of us recognized the need for a place where women trial lawyers could come together and work on the issues unique to us, where our voices could be heard and competition didn’t rule the day.  A rough outline for a Women’s Trial Boot Camp was developed, tentative dates were chosen and a location was agreed upon. We left the mountains of Colorado excited by the possibilities and our creativity stimulated.

Over the next several months, we continued brainstorming the program. We drafted our mission statement and refined our ideas. In November 2009, the 3 Sisters, LLP was launched and the program announced. A big question, however, loomed in our minds – Would anyone want to attend a Women’s Trial Boot Camp? To our surprise, we received a response far greater than we ever imagined.

As the opening session approached, anxiety ran high and the 3 Sisters, (myself, Fredilyn Sison and Mary Peckham) spent hours reviewing our plan, revising it to cover skills and topics we felt were important and making sure we had crossed all the T’s and dotted the I’s and that we were ready to meet the expectations and objectives of the women who would be joining us.

On Wednesday night, we finalized our preparations and caught up with each other. Bright and early Thursday morning we went on a long run to dissipate some of the nervous energy we each were feeling. When 6 p.m. rolled around, we drove the few blocks to the Hyatt Suites and set up for the opening session. As the participants began to arrive, the air was filled with excitement and enthusiasm. Women from TX, CA, WA, PA, and NC and even as far as Africa were soon gathered together. Poolside at the Hyatt we socialized during an informal reception with fabulous food, but even better company. The bonding began that night and a community was beginning to form. After some opening group building exercises, we retired for the night.

Friday morning began with an optional yoga session. The yoga teacher, who joined us that morning, and every other morning of the program, was simply incredible. She not only taught to the skill level of the group, she brought a quiet strength and peaceful spirit to the group each morning. What an incredible way to start the day.

After continental breakfast, we set to work. Many important skills were covered and we celebrated our uniqueness as women. The program belonged to the group and was adapted frequently to meet their needs, address their concerns and enhance the learning. It was a mutual give and take between the 3 Sisters and the group. All in attendance were supportive of each other and a willingness to help, nurture and encourage the other attendees was palpable. It was an incredibly positive atmosphere in which all could learn, challenge themselves and grow. The group was comprised of plaintiffs’ lawyers, family law practitioners, and public defenders, from women just admitted to the bar to those who have practiced 20+ years.

After an amazing day Friday, I didn’t think it could get any better. But it did! There was so much creative energy in the room and the new ideas, methods and exercises we shared were enthusiastically embraced. Saturday was even more powerful than Friday.

There were no evening sessions and the wonderful women who attended had the time to bond, get to know each other and spend time together relaxing and socializing.  Groups went to dinner together and formed friendships that will continue beyond the program.

Sunday was our last session, beginning again with yoga. Three days had flown by. I felt so much love, appreciation and validation from my fellow 3 Sisters and from the women who joined us for the weekend. Over our three days together, we had been on a journey and came to the end more self confident, powerful and energized than when we began. It was an amazing experience and I am still feeling the power and energy of the group. I have been inspired by every woman who participated. We have formed a community.  And an amazing community it is! This is just the beginning.

For more information about 3 Sisters programs, please visit http://www.the3sisters.org. Our next program is The Art of Telling Our Clients’ Story – Sept. 30- Oct. 3, 2010 in Palm Springs, California and is open to both male and female trial lawyers who represent people.