The Essential Moreno

Writings on Psychodrama, Group Method, and Spontaneity

by Jonathan Fox

The Essential Moreno was first published by Springer Publishing Company in 1987 and has been a classic in the psychodrama literature since then, with numerous foreign-language editions. Tusitala is pleased to take over the publication of this important collection of excerpted writings of psychodrama’s legendary founder J. L. Moreno, including basic and advanced concepts and techniques, and verbatim transcripts of psychodrama sessions.


“It is not the usual book on psychiatry, psychotherapy, or psychopathology. It is a book about living, and the massive contribution of a true master.”
—from the Foreword by Carl A. Whitaker, MD

262 pages
ISBN 978-0-9642350-5-2


Foreword, by Carl A. Whitaker, MD

PART 1: An overview
1. Moreno’s Philosophical System
2. Psychodrama and Sociodrama
3. Sociometry
4. Group psychotherapy

PART II: Advanced Concepts and Techniqes
5. Spontaneity and Catharsis
6. The Role Concept, a Bridge Between Psychiatry and Sociology
7. Notes on Indications and Contra-indications for Acting Out in Psychodrama
8. Psychodramatic Treatment of Psychoses
9. The Psychodramatic Treatment of Marriage Problems
10. The Prediction and Planning of Success in Marriage
11. The Sociometric Test
12. Authoritative and Democratic Methods of Grouping
13. Thoughts on Genetics

PART III: Protocols
14. Psychodramatic Production Techniques
15. An Experiment with Sociodrama and Sociometry in Industry
16. Fragments from the Psychodrama of a Dream

PART IV: Autobiographical Selections
17. The man in the green cloak

Chronology of Jacob Levy Moreno
Secondary bibliography

From Chapter One, Moreno’s Philosophical System:

Let us start with time, one of the great universals. What has happened with the function of time in the course of psychotherapy in our century? I do not speak of time as a philosophical, mystical, or phenomenological concept, but as a therapeutic concept. From the point of view of therapeutic procedures, to what extent does the time dimension enter into and function in psychotherapeutic settings? Man lives in time—past, present, and future. He may suffer from a pathology related to each. The problem is how to integrate all three dimensions into significant therapeutic operations. It is not sufficient that they figure as “abstract” references; they must be made alive within treatment modalities. The psychological aspect of time must reappear in toto.

Let us look first at psychoanalysis. When I speak of psychoanalysis, I refer to the orthodox Freudian position. Time, in the psychotherapeutic doctrine, is emphasized in terms of the past. Freud, an exponent of genetic psychology and psychobiology, found going back and trying to find the causes of things of particular interest. Often the farther back he went, the more he thought he would find something which is worthwhile as a causation. And soon, psychoanalysts began to go farther and farther back, into the womb, and if possible, even beyond that, until they got tired of the futile “recherche du temps perdu,” and began to come back.

However important that past is as a dimension of time, it is a one-sided position, a “reduced time,” which neglects and distorts the total influence which time has upon the psyche. Here we come to my first conflict with the Freudian view. I have pointed out that time has other phases which are important. One of them is the present, the dynamics of the present, of the Here and Now, hic et nunc. The experiences which take place continuously in the context of the Here and Now have been overlooked, distorted, or entirely forgotten. Therefore, early in my writings began to emphasize the moment, the dynamics of the moment, the warming up to the moment, the dynamics of the present, the Here and Now, and all its immediate personal, social, and cultural implications. But again, I considered these not only from the point of view of philosophy and phenomenology, but from the viewpoint of the therapeutic process as it takes place in connection with patients and in patient groups—the encounter. The encounter is a telic phenomenon. The fundamental process of tele is reciprocity—reciprocity of attraction, reciprocity of rejection, reciprocity of excitation, reciprocity of inhibition, reciprocity of indifference, reciprocity of distortion.

And when you are near I will tear your eyes out
and place them instead of mine,
and you will tear my eyes out
and will place them instead of yours,
then I will look at you with your eyes
and you will look at me with mine

There is another dimension of therapeutic time which has been neglected until recently—the future. Yet it is an important aspect of living, for we certainly live more in the future than in the past. Since early this morning, I have been concerned with being on time to meet you. But it is one thing to consider the expectancies of future happenings in our own minds and another thing to “simulate” them, to construct techniques which enable us to live in the future, to act as if the future is at hand, right here, “à la recherche du temps de l’avenir.” For instance, via our therapeutic future techniques, I can act out a situation which I expect to happen tomorrow, with a new friend, or an appointment with a prospective employer, to simulate the morrow as concretely as possible, so as to predict it, or perhaps to be better prepared for it.

I have often had clients who suffered from an employment neurosis or an unemployment neurosis, who are anxious about getting a job, or having an interview with a boss to ask for higher wages. Often we rehearse such a client a week in advance of what may happen; it is a sort of “rehearsal for life.” This rehearsal for life technique is also effective with clients concerned about an affair of the heart—whether it be a prospective marriage, divorce, new baby, or whatever. The problem is how to integrate these expectancies and concerns of the client into the therapeutic operation as actualities, so as to be of value for both client and therapist.

The importance of the future as a perception and as a dynamic meaning has been emphasized by others—for instance, Adler, Horney, and Sullivan. But the special configuration around and inside the future situation remained unstructured and impersonal.

Thus all three dimensions of time—past, present, and future are brought together in psychodrama, as they are in life, from the point of view of functional therapy.


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