An Introduction to Psychotherapeutic Playback Theater : Hall of Mirrors on Stage book cover
1st Edition

An Introduction to Psychotherapeutic Playback Theater
Hall of Mirrors on Stage

ISBN 9780367766290
Published January 31, 2022 by Routledge
216 Pages 14 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

An Introduction to Psychotherapeutic Playback Theater is a comprehensive book presenting Psychotherapeutic Playback Theater as a unique form of group psychotherapy.

This pioneering book is the first of its kind, examining this new approach, the theory behind it, and the numerous considerations and diverse possibilities involved in using the technique to promote a significant reflective process among participants. Informed by years of Psychotherapeutic Playback Theater practice and research, the authors detail a collective-creative method that allows for the creation of a therapeutic experience centered on feelings of belonging, acceptance, visibility and liberation. It is presented to the reader as a path toward their development and growth as a conductor working in this newly evolving field of group therapy.

The book will be of great interest to dramatherapy students, trainees and professionals, and group therapists who wish to reflect upon their practice through the mirror of Psychotherapeutic Playback Theater as well as facilitators and actors working with Playback Theater or other improvised genres.

Table of Contents

Introduction – A House on the Bridge  1. The Story – A Picture from the Photo Album of the Mind  2. Theatrical Mirroring  3. A Bypass to the Depths of the Psyche  4. Opposites and Integration  5. Expansion of Self through the Other  6. From the Playground to the Stage  7. Such Stuff as Containers are Made on – Levels of Structuring in Psychotherapeutic Playback Theater  8. Theatrical Forms in Psychotherapeutic Playback Theater   9. Approaching Personal Stories through Dramatic Resonances in Group Work by Susana Pendzik  10.  Psychotherapeutic Playback Theater as a Group Dream about the Story: Surrealism as the Theatrical Language of the Inner World

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Ronen Kowalsky, M.A., is a supervising clinical psychologist, co-founder and head of the Israeli Institute of Psychotherapeutic Playback Theater and member of the Israeli Institute of Group Analysis. He is faculty and supervisor at the Winnicott Center and the Academic College of Society and Art.

Nir Raz is an international Playback Theater trainer, writer and stage artist, and co-founder and head of the Israeli Institute of Psychotherapeutic Playback Theater. He teaches at the Schneider Clown-care Academy, and is a medical clown and hydrotherapist.

Shoshi Keisari, Ph.D., is a drama therapist and scholar in the field of drama therapy and clinical gerontology. She is a lecturer and a researcher at the School of Creative Arts Therapies and the Emilie Sagol Creative Arts Therapies Research Center at the University of Haifa, Israel.

Susana Pendzik, Ph.D., RDT, former head of the Drama Therapy M.A. program at Tel-Hai College, Israel, and lecturer at the Theatre Studies Department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Dramatherapy Swiss Institute and other academic institutions worldwide.


"The authors set out to give Playback Theatre a theoretical and clinical base for use in Group Psychotherapy, and they succeed! Drawing on the rich tradition of Non-Scripted Theatre and integrating it with psychodynamic psychotherapy, this book is an important, groundbreaking contribution to the field, rich in clinical perspectives. I highly recommend it!"

David Read Johnson, Ph.D., RDT-BCT, director, Institute of Developmental Transformations. Co-editor, Current Approaches in Drama Therapy, Charles C Thomas, 2020

"A thoughtful, sensitive guided tour of a method of group psychotherapy integrating psychoanalytic and psychodramatic approaches. Well grounded in theory, the stories are much more than standard clinical case material. Engaging and clearly written, the authors bring the process to life. Creative clinicians and the interested public can participate."

Robert W Siroka, Ph.D., founder, The Sociometric Institute NYC  

"This book represents a real gem. It combines the systematic use of playback theatre for therapeutic realms with a group analytic perspective. It introduces moreover Jungian concepts to amplify its theoretical and practical scope. Readers from both active and reflective group approaches will surely benefit from its stimulating ideas."

Dr. Jorge Burmeister, former president, IAGP

"This book is a bridge between Playback Theatre and psychoanalytic group psychotherapy. Each chapter weaves together philosophical ideas from theatre, psychoanalysis, psychodrama, and drama therapy with carefully chosen examples that illuminate important clinical considerations. It is an invitation to therapists to develop imaginative, playful capacities in the context of group work and explore applications in a variety of contexts."

Nisha Sajnani, Ph.D., RDT-BCT, director, NYU Program in Drama Therapy

"A warm welcome for this original and valuable book. Psychotherapeutic Playback Theatre is a new, inventive approach that that has much potential at a time of widespread emotional stress. I enjoyed the playful approach of the method, clearly and convincingly described. Yet, the book reveals an erudition and scholarship that make it a serious contribution to the field. The method, while having light, playful aspects, is capable of reaching emotional depth in individuals and groups. It is a tribute to the authors that I felt a distinct urge to participate in a playback therapy group myself! I suspect other readers may feel the same. In the meantime, reading the book is an excellent preparation."

Morris Nitsun, psychologist, psychotherapist, training group analyst, Institute of Group Analysis, London. Author of The Anti-group and The Group as an object of Desire. Practising, exhibiting artist    

"This book is much needed in the group therapy field. It is the first book ever written about psychotherapeutic playback theatre and as such, it illuminates an important and neglected area in group therapy modalities… Playback theatre can be a powerful way to see others "act your problems" and create different endings that help you heal. Ronen Kowalsky, Nir Raz and Shoshi Keisari are to be commended for their achievement in writing and publishing this book."

Haim Weinberg, clinical psychologist, group analyst & group psychotherapist. Former president of the Northern California Group Therapy Society. Writer of numerous books and articles about group therapy  

"…This book is creating an interwove of theories and models that were individually presented such as Psychodrama, Dramatherapy and Analytic group work (and more) into a new set of insights, methods and practices creating a novel and creative structure both for practitioners and scholars to look into the healing potential of Psychotherapeutic Playback Theater. The book, full of case examples and references is a great resource for students of drama, theater, Arts therapists, and other psychotherapists interested in action therapies. In my view this book presents the power of traditional inter-being process of healing using variety of art form methods with the postmodern concepts of 'therapy'."

Mooli Lahad, Ph.D., founder of Dramatherapy in Israel. Full Professor of Psychology and Dramatherapy, Tel Hai College. Founder and president of the Community Stress Prevention Center, Israel

"An Introduction to Psychotherapeutic Playback Theater: Hall of Mirrors on Stage by Ronen Kowalsky, Nir Raz and Shoshi Keisari gives an interesting account of a form of group psychotherapy developed in Israel that combines theatrical and psychoanalytic traditions. In the background are J. L. Moreno’s psychodrama and the Playback Theater of J. Fox. These theatrical traditions are here skillfully merged with psychoanalytic ideas from W. Bion, such as the container and contained, as well as S. H. Foulkes’s notion of resonance. The authors offer numerous examples of the method throughout. There are also interesting chapters on an expanded notion of dramatic reality (by Susana Pendzik) and on the influence of French Surrealism on working with dreamlike states. I would recommend this book to group therapists with an interest in cross-fertilization of techniques from different schools and traditions. This manages to be both an exciting and scholarly book."

Dominick Grundy, Ph.D., fellow, American Group Psychotherapy Association. Former editor, International Journal of Group Psychotherapy

"Here is something new – a sound and fascinating integration of playback theatre and analytic group therapy. Drawing from group analysis, object relations psychoanalysis, psychodrama, creative arts therapy, theatre, and surrealism, An Introduction to Psychotherapeutic Playback Theater: Hall of Mirrors on Stage stands on the pillars of Moreno, Fox, Salas, Winnicott, and Bion. Its authors open a door to an emerging field, a vast space for exploring the psyche and the social-collective dimension of experience by combining therapeutic groups and theatre techniques. Recalling a Bion quote, 'Beauty can hold the most difficult truth and make it easier to digest,' the authors and their clinical illustrations prove that with the theatrical aesthetic as container, the individual story becomes an illuminating collective experience, by retelling, expanding and revealing deeper layers during a deep, emotional and direct encounter between the individual and the group. This book will be of great interest to group therapists, counsellors, facilitators, mediators, and actors who want to deepen their understanding of the human condition -- and intervene effectively using the authors’ unique method of psychotherapeutic playback theatre."

Jill Savege Scharff, MD, FABP, FTCL, LGSM; co-founder, International Psychotherapy Institute. Author of Doctor in the House Seat: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Theatre (2013)

"…This is the first book of its kind to bring playback as a group psychotherapy therapy process. You can find in these wonderful texts a whole theoretical and practical set based on tools from the field of Playback Theater, improvisation, theater games, group dynamic and psychoanalytic theories. Creative arts Therapists, psychodrama, drama therapists, Playback theater practitioners with a therapeutic orientation, and anyone involved in group work, may find in this book an inexhaustible source of knowledge, guidance, support and inspiration."

Aviva Apel Rosenthal, theater director, creative arts therapist. Former president of IPT, CPT – leadership teacher and PB advance skills trainer, founder and director of 'Play Life' PBT

"This book is a novel and welcome addition to the profession as it offers an original method of group psychotherapy that combines psychodrama and group psychotherapy through the application of Playback Theater. Practitioners will find it to be a useful guide as it offers its conceptualization in a responsible and friendly manner."

Avi Berman, International Journal of Group Psychotherapy