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Guest Post: Psychodrama and the Presentation of Your Client’s Story

We are excited to publish, below, the first of a two-part series of posts from the 3 Sisters. (No, not those three sisters.) The 3 Sisters (not actual sisters) offer unique trial practice resources and training sessions. For general information respecting the 3 Sisters, check out their website, especially the frequently asked questions section. If you have a handle on what they offer, and you think the intervention of the Sisters may be just what you need to refresh your trial practice, take a look at their specific programming options (via the main tab of their website), to see whether any of their upcoming events may be where you can get started. Be sure to also review information respecting the ladies’ new book Trial in Action: The Persuasive Power of Psychodrama. What’s psychodrama?, you say. Well, just read on, for an introduction.

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Psychodrama and Trial Lawyers

A trial lawyer needs to be intelligent, and to maintain an understanding of prevailing law. A trial lawyer must be a good storyteller, director and performer. A trial lawyer must be an empathic, genuine, and real, sincere human being. And, perhaps, those last statements are the most important. Through your courtroom presentations, your goal is to help your juries hear, see, and feel your client’s stories. To make your performance most effective, you require special tools to assist you. One method of training that gives you powerful techniques for preparing and presenting your clients’ cases is psychodrama.

What is Psychodrama?

Psychodrama is an action method during which participants show a group what has happened versus telling a group what has happened. It is both a method of communication and a role-playing modality. It is the exploration of the truth through dramatic action. Psychodrama is meant to bring to the fore the full flowering of humanity through a singular exposition of the universal stories and truths that connect us all.

In a psychodrama, typically engaged in group settings, participants spontaneously dramatize events from their lives. The main actor, called the “protagonist” or “star”, acts out the event that the group is exploring. A psychodrama, in other words, is a three-dimensional, spontaneous re-enactment, presented in the moment, with no script or rehearsal. The purpose of psychodrama is for participants to gain insight or understanding of the self, or of significant others, or of significant life events.

In essence, psychodrama is a method that enables the group (actors, auxiliaries, and audience) to act and to feel, to find out, and to 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’s much like learning to ride a bicycle. Reading about bicycle riding won’t teach you how to do it; you need to experience it for yourself.

Why Should Lawyers Use Psychodrama?

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

The trail of events that causes a client to take legal action is an exceedingly meaningful experience in that client’s life. And, if a protagonist can re-enact a meaningful experience on the psychodrama stage, so can a client preparing for trial. Through psychodrama, a client can educate his lawyer about what happened to him, and how it has affected his life, and 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 in a most powerful and humane way, when in the courtroom, when before the jury.

Lawyers who become well-versed in psychodrama can use the same tools in preparing their clients for trial that they will use at trial. Not only have lawyers using psychodrama techniques found greater success in the courtroom, they have gained greater satisfaction in the practice of law. They are also able to create richer and deeper relationships with their clients.

Psychodrama is not, however, a short-cut formula for success, or some magic silver bullet for trial results. Those lawyers who have achieved the best results in using this method have committed themselves to in-depth personal exploration and to the full development of their psychodramatic toolbox.

Psychodrama Brings the Client’s Story to Life

In addition to allowing you to more effectively develop your client’s case, in a 3-D format (see-hear-feel), psychodrama also enables you to examine and explore more completely various witnesses’ 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 the story. Or, as Annette Simmons, author of The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling, writes: “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.” Psychodrama enables you to identify and to explore the themes that arise from the facts of your case, as they come alive through a dramatic, full-scale re-enactment. By using re-enactment techniques, you are able to gather the raw data from which to shape and frame your client’s story.