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Comments on Victor L. Schermer’s Interview with Jonathan Moreno

Schermer’s well-informed interview with Jonathan Moreno about the book he wrote on his father, full of insight, yields a deep view into the manifold personality and huge fields of creative interest, which Moreno pioneered. It leaves no doubt about his charismatic role as the principal inspirer in the field of non-analytic group therapy. Even his influence on group-analysis is vital (Hamer, 1990). Concerning the Tavistock Group, Moreno lectured at the Tavistock Clinic for several months in 1945, Harrison (2000) writes:

The theories of Lewin and Moreno provided the intellectual basis for the Tavistock Group’s particular brand of systems theory, and provided the techniques of experimentation and enquiry. (Harrison, 2000: 102)

S.H. Foulkes visited the Moreno Institue (Zerca) in 1948 during his US lecture tour and participated in sessions. He acknowledged the merits of Moreno’s work for group analysis in a significant footnote.

In this context we would like to acknowledge the particular debt we owe to the work of J.L. Moreno. In his system the insight into the dramatic situation is basic, and he uses dramatic techniques as the main vehicle of psychotherapy. Moreno’s so-called psycho-dramatic and socio-dramatic techniques and his theoretical concepts have also become significant in the field of group psychotherapy, and are in accord with many viewpoints expressed in this book. (Foulkes and Anthony, 1984: 242)

In October 1944 Foulkes was given several essays by Moreno on Sociometry by Hargreaves—the senior doctor at Northfield—with the request to circulate them among his Northfield colleagues. Foulkes then gave a seminar on Moreno (Harrison, 2000: 62). One of the interests of the Northfield group concerned Moreno’s concept of ‘spontane- ity’, as the conceptualization of the group-therapeutic process was beginning to focus on the ‘here and now’. As Moreno’s son remarked, Foulkes built a psychodrama stage at one point. However it was not a psycho-dramatic group with patients. Foulkes reported on this Northfield experience with a psychodrama stage in his first book (Foulkes, 1948 [1983]: 115). It consisted of a platform in three tiers. The co-ordination group in Northfield acted out their usual business, the psychiatrists acting as the audience. Foulkes called it socio-drama.

Schermer’s interview inspires us to look more deeply into the question as to how exactly, and in which way did Moreno influence group-analysis, measuring up the ‘particular debt’, group-analysis owes to him.

Foulkes was inspired by theatre in his concept of group analysis and returned to the question of how group analysis can profit from dramatic art in the later phase of his thinking, the full extent of this lifelong dialogue with drama has yet to be fully understood (Roth, 2014).


Foulkes, S.H. and Anthony, E.J. (1984) Group Psychotherapy. The Psychoanalytic Approach. London: Karnac.

Foulkes, S. (1983) Introduction to Group Analytic Psychotherapy. London: Karnac. Hamer, N. (1990) ‘Group-Analytic Psychodrama’, Group Analysis 23: 245–54. Harrison, T. (2000) Bion, Rickman, Foulkes and the Northfield Experiments. London:

Jessica Kingsley. Roth, W.M. (2014) ‘The Birth of Group-Analysis for the Spirit of Theatre’, Group

Analysis 47(3): 293–311.

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