For your Psychodramatic Toolbox:
Four Chairs of Discernment
By Carley Foster
Cathy created this action structure to help people explore a difficult decision from four distinct perspectives. At LPTI and the recent ASGPP Conference, Cathy offered the Four Chairs to help the protagonists discern their motivations to enter – or not enter – a dual relationship with a client or student. However, the action structure is useful for exploring any ethical dilemma. By examining a predicament from the perspective held by each of the chairs, protagonists (and group members) gain insights to help guide their choices and actions.
Set-Up: Each of four chairs represents a different perspective that the protagonist speaks from in the form of a soliloquy. The chairs, in the order they are set out, are: The Chair of Doubt and Fear; The Chair of Courage and Authenticity; The Chair of Shadows and Self-Delusion; and The Chair of Wisdom & Discernment. The chairs are spaced so that the first three are relatively close together with the fourth chair, The Chair of Wisdom & Discernment, somewhat apart from the first three. To enhance their creativity, the protagonist might like to choose a scarf or other auxiliary object to place on each chair. They can be invited to take a posture or show with a gesture or movement the essence of the messages from each perspective. If auxiliary egos are available, they can be enrolled for each of the four perspectives, and play the messages back.
Instructions for directing The Four Chairs of Differing Perspectives to explore an ethical dilemma involving taking on a new role with a client or student.
Ask protagonist: Choose an object or person to take the role of the client with whom you are considering a dual role/relationship. Invite protagonist to share the reasons for choice of auxiliary object. If a person is enroled, could sculpt the client as protagonist sees them in this situation. Could also give role-player one word, phrase or sentence to repeat.
Remind protagonist of key question to keep in mind when assessing the potential of a dual/multiple relationship: To what extent does taking on this role/relationship with the client place him/her/them at risk of harm, such as loss of objectivity or exploitation?
Invite protagonist to stand behind each chair in turn, beginning with the Chair of Doubt & Fear, progressing to the Chair of Courage & Authenticity, on to the Chair of Shadows and Self-Delusion, and finally, to the Chair of Wisdom & Discernment.
At each chair, the protagonist gives a brief soliloquy, giving voice to the perspective at each chair. (Director might ask: From this perspective, what are the important considerations about having this relationship with X? Looking at the situation from this perspective, what is important to say? Or, director could provide stems in the form of open-ended doubling statements, such as, “As I look at X from the perspective of my Doubt & Fear, I think and feel…”)
Auxiliaries can be enrolled to take on the reflections and important messages from each chair.
After setting up the first three chairs, the protagonist walks along the row of chairs, receiving the messages from each Perspective.
Finally, the protagonist stands behind the Chair of Wisdom & Discernment. Taking into consideration everything you have seen and heard, give your soliloquy. Can bring in doubles. Can end here. Can end in a role-training, telling client yes or no to the relationship. Can end in a future projection.
This post is an excerpt from BTS-LPTI Spring 2023. Read more and subscribe to follow further LPTI updates.
Catherine D. Nugent
6636 Park Hall Drive
Laurel, MD 20707