THE WALK AND TALK: WHAT IT IS AND HOW TO DO IT
By Antonina Garcia

Every psychodrama session has three components: the warm-up; the action/ enactment; the sharing/closure. During the warm-up the group members ready themselves for psychodramatic work.  In the enactment segment the protagonist explores an issue in action.  This component is the heart of the psychodrama session. After the enactment, the protagonist returns to the group, and the sharing begins.  This is a time for group members to let the protagonist know how the drama has helped them; is a time to re-integrate the protagonist back in the group; and is a time to reach closure for the session.  Thus, in a psychodrama session, the work moves from the periphery, to the center to the periphery. 

Let's pause at the warm-up segment for a moment.  As the warm-up proceeds, group members begin to recognize the issues that are most present for them and to decide whether or not they would like to explore those issues as a protagonist.  The open tension systems , the central concern , and the act hungers  all emerge during the warm-up.  In the last part of the warm-up the protagonist is chosen. 

Next, the action segment of the psychodrama begins. The action has a periphery, center, periphery flow to it as does the whole session.  The walk and talk is the warming up component of the enactment.  The actual scenes of the enactment are the center of the drama, and the final working through scene or final moments of the last scene form the cool down and/or closure reaching portion of the drama and move us back to the periphery.

Here we'll focus particularly on the walk and talk portion.  The walk and talk is a valuable part of the enactment that has many functions.  One of the purposes is to define the playing area of the  drama. The protagonist and director circumnavigate that space. 

The walk and talk is the time when the director and protagonist solidify their rapport.  This may happen in a variety of ways.  Some directors like to hold hands with the protagonist, re-enforcing the feeling that they will both walk the journey of the psychodrama together.  It is to be noted that if the director chooses to do this, she first asks the protagonist for permission.  Some people find holding hands awkward and uncomfortable.  Also, protagonists who have been abused may find this behavior intrusive and counterproductive.  Further, there are some settings where touch of any kind is forbidden. Clearly, the director must be aware of this and follow the guidelines of the setting.  When in doubt, the director simply walks along next to the protagonist during the walk and talk. 

The process of walking together and talking over the protagonist's issue further warms up the group and the protagonist to the issue at hand.  Additionally, keeping the protagonist moving during the walk and talk helps him to keep spontaneity and creativity flowing.  Moreno felt it was difficult to stay stuck if one is moving.  Pretty simple, but profound. 

When walking with the protagonist, it is useful to be curious.  Directors ask for any information they need to know in order to direct the drama.  It the director is confused about a particular element of the story or the protagonist's presentation, it's likely that the group members and maybe even the protagonist are confused as well.  The rule of thumb is: if you don't understand something or are confused, ask the protagonist for clarification.  Don't tough it out.

The protagonist discusses various aspects of his issue or story in an effort to discover and decide what the focus of the drama will be.  The director begins to form a therapeutic hypothesis about what processes may be occurring in the protagonist and what the protagonist may need in order to accomplish his/her goals.  The director may also begin to get an idea about the developmental level of the drama, e.g., "Is the protagonist regressed?  Is he/she dealing with the issue from his current chronological age or is he engaged in the issue at an earlier stage of development?" 

During the walk and talk the protagonist and director decide who will be the characters  in the drama.  Does the protagonist want to talk to her best friend; to her high school English teacher; to a figure from a dream she had last night?  If the protagonist is going to have a permanent double, this is often decided during the walk and talk. 

The protagonist and director also determine where the drama will take place.  They may decide on several scenes or simply plan where the first scene will occur: on the beach; in a restaurant; in the protagonist's living room.

The walk and talk is also the time when the director and the protagonist contract for the scope and goals of the work.  The director will ask such questions as, "What do you want to happen in this drama?" or "What will let you know that this drama has succeeded?" or "What do you want to happen by the end of the drama?" or "What do you want to be sure to do in the enactment?" or "What do you want to come away with from this drama?"  When contracting with the protagonist, it is important to keep in mind that the goals must focus on the protagonist's change, not on changes on the part of others in the protagonist's life. 

During the walk and talk the director also begins to become more aware of how the central concern and the act hungers are emerging.  This happens when the protagonist says what he wants to do in the enactment and what he hopes to accomplish.

During the contracting portion of the walk and talk, it is also helpful to limit the scope of the work to fit the time available for the drama.  For example, in a 15 minute psychodrama, there would not be sufficient time for the protagonist to enact three scenes and talk to three auxiliary egos.  Also, in a brief drama, there would not be enough time for the protagonist to deal with every aspect of her relationship with a significant person in her life.

By the end of the walk and talk, the director and protagonist know the following: where the action will take place; what characters will be in the drama; and what the contract is.  The director may also have a working hypothesis of what issues the protagonist is dealing with and how he may help him in the drama. 

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