Can role-playing take the place of reality? Ordinarily, the answer might be no. In the field of clinical psychology, however, the answer might be yes.
Specifically, an approach called psychomotor therapy hopes that victims of post-traumatic stress disorder or other trauma might benefit from a role-playing group activity. With the help of other participants who play characters from an individual’s past, the approach allows a victim of PTSD or trauma to confront characters involved in the incident and explain his or her feelings to them. That new experience, provided by the other participants in the group, may provide an alternative narrative to the original traumatic memory, possibly stopping the cycle of painful memories believed to trigger the accompanying symptoms of trauma and PTSD.
At least one psychomotor therapist claims that existing PTSD treatment techniques, such as exposure or cognitive behavioral therapy, do not help patients accept what actually happened to them. He claims that such approaches may not necessarily promote healing. For example, exposure therapy seeks to desensitize patients to a traumatic event through repeated confrontation with it, and cognitive behavioral therapy uses dialogue to help patients recognize the nonproductive connections between their emotions and thoughts.
As this article suggests, the process of recovering from trauma or PTSD can be slow and circuitous. An individual may not be able to work until progress is made. However, defining a disabling condition for purposes of determining legal eligibility for disability benefits can be a separate challenge. Programs administered by entities such as the Social Security Administration will require evidence of how a condition affects an individual’s ability to work. In order to produce sufficient evidence, an applicant seeking disability benefits may need to consult with an attorney.
Source: The New York Times, “A Revolutionary Approach to Treating PTSD,” Jeneen Interlandi, May 22, 2014