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Module 5: Talking to, Not About

Experiential Letter Writing

On Demand
0 CE Hours

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Experiential Letter Writing is the easiest way to introduce role play into your practice. It is structured and focused and allows clients to express themselves fully to a part of themselves or a significant person in their lives. Clients may also write a letter they wish to receive and either choose a role player to represent that other person and have the letter read to them or choose a role player to represent themselves(or use an empty chair) and read the letter to themselves (playing that other person). Letter writing is a “near psychodramatic technique” that grows out of psychodrama. It has a beginning, middle, and end, and it is role-based in that it is to someone, whether to the self or another. It is a good way to incorporate small forms of psychodrama in a contained manner.


In group therapy, experiential letter-writing can also be useful as a closure technique. If a lot of feelings come up for group members during a session or a floor check, for example, clients can write a letter to someone they feel they have something to say or to a part of themselves and take a few minutes to write letters — not to send, but to use as a psychodramatic release. After they have finished, they can proceed with any of the following:


Letter Writing

Share the letters with the group, or if the group is large, form pairs or subgroups and share the letters.

  • • Read their letter to an empty chair representing the letter’s recipient.
  • • Choose a group member to play the person or part of self to whom the letter is written and read it to him or her. 
  • • If you choose the above two options, you can double for the protagonist or the protagonist in role reversal. Do not double for a role player; it becomes too confusing for the protagonist. In a group, group members can act as doubles and protagonists can double for themselves in their roles or when they are in a role reversal as the other person or part of the self.
  • • Share the letters with a therapist in one-to-one work.


Role Reversal Letter Writing

Clients may also write letters they wish to receive from someone or a part of themselves. They may then: Choose a group member to play that person or part and experience the letter being read to them. And/or:

  • • Share the letter with the group.
    • Share the letter in pairs or subgroups.
    • Share the letter with a therapist in one-to-one work.
Educational Goal

The educational goal of this module is for participants to better understand the benefits of experiential letter writing and how it can be used in various ways when working with clients.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Explain how Letter Writing is a near-Psychodrama technique and a simple way to do an embodied role play.

  • Describe each step of the Letter Writing process and how it would be presented in both an individual and group setting.

  • Explain how an individual can use Letter Writing as a tool to process personal feelings and feelings toward someone.

  • Explain how Letter Writing can provide individuals with a format to hear words that they’ve always longed to hear in order to both add a positive template or memory and to have a direct experience of receiving what they have longed for.

  • Describe 2 ways Letter Writing provides a user-friendly way to add role-play to a practice that is focused, safe, and contained.

Tian Dayton MA, PhD, TEP

Tian Dayton, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow at The Meadows and a nationally renowned speaker, expert, and consultant in trauma, addiction, and psychodrama. Dr. Dayton is the director of The New York Psychodrama Training Institute and author of 15 books, including the soon-to-be-released Treating Adult Children of Relational Trauma, Sociometrics, Emotional Sobriety, The ACoA Trauma Syndrome, and others. A board-certified trainer in psychodrama, sociometry, and group psychotherapy, she’s spent her decades-long career adapting psychodrama and sociometry for work specifically with relational trauma and addictions. Her trademarked processes, Relational Trauma Repair/RTR-SOCIOMETRICS, are used nationally and worldwide. Dr. Dayton is a fellow of the American Society of Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy ASGPP, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award, their Scholar’s Award, the President’s Award, and former editor-in-chief of the Journal of Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy. She also won The Marty Mann Award, The Mona Mansell Award, and The Ackermann Black Award. Dr. Dayton earned her masters in educational psychology and Ph.D. in clinical psychology. She served on the faculty at NYU for eight years and has appeared as a guest expert on NBC, CNN, MSNBC, and other major media outlets.


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