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Professional Psychology: Debating Chamber · Psychology Journals · Psychologists

Dr. Jacob Levy Moreno (born Bucharest, Romania, May 18 1889; died New York, USA, May 14 1974) was the founder of psychodrama, sociometry and the foremost pioneer of group psychotherapy. He was also a leading psychiatrist, theorist and educator. During his lifetime, he was recognized as one of the leading social scientists.

Early life and educationEdit

He grew up in Vienna at time of great intellectual creativity and political turmoil. He studied medicine, mathematics, and philosophy at the University of Vienna, becoming a Doctor of Medicine in 1917. He had rejected Freudian theory while still a medical student, and became interested in the potential of group settings for therapeutic practice.[1]

In his autobiography, Dr. Moreno recalls this encounter with Sigmund Freud in 1912. "I attended one of Freud’s lectures. He had just finished an analysis of a telepathic dream. As the students filed out, he singled me out from the crowd and asked me what I was doing. I responded, 'Well, Dr. Freud, I start where you leave off. You meet people in the artificial setting of your office. I meet them on the street and in their homes, in their natural surroundings. You analyze their dreams. I give them the courage to dream again. You analyze and tear them apart. I let them act out their conflicting roles and help them to put the parts back together again.'"[2]


Moreno picked up where Freud left off, with his theory of interpersonal relations, and the development of his work in psychodrama, sociometry, group psychotherapy, sociodrama, and sociatry.

Moving to the U.S. in 1925, he began working in New York City. In his autobiography he states that, of all the places in the world "only in New York, the melting pot of the nations, the vast metropolis, with all its freedom from all preconceived notions, could I be free to pursue sociometric group research in the grand style I had envisioned".[3]

He later held positions at Columbia University[4] and the New School for Social Research.[5]

In 1932, Dr. Moreno first introduced group psychotherapy to the American Psychiatric Association. For the next 40 years he developed and introduced his Theory of Interpersonal Relations and tools for social sciences he called sociodrama, psychodrama, sociometry, and sociatry. In his monograph entitled, "The Future of Man's World", he describes how he developed these sciences to counteract "the economic materialism of Marx, the psychological materialism of Freud, and the technological materialism" of our modern industrial age.[6]

His autobiography describes his position as "threefold:

  1. Spontaneity and creativity are the propelling forces in human progress, beyond and independent of libido and socioeconomic motives [that] are frequently interwoven with spontaneity-creativity, but [this proposition] does deny that spontaneity and creativity are merely a function and derivative of libido or socioeconomic motives.
  2. Love and mutual sharing are powerful, indispensable working principles in group life. Therefore, it is imperative that we have faith in our fellow man’s intentions, a faith which transcends mere obedience arising from physical or legalistic coercion.
  3. That a superdynamic community based on these principles can be brought to realization through new techniques..."[2]

Moreno died in New York City in 1974, aged 84.[1]

Summary of contributionEdit

There is evidence that the methods of J. L. Moreno have held up respectably over the last 100 years.[7] Subsequent research from the University of Vienna shows the enormous influence that Moreno's theory of the Encounter (Invitations to an Encounter, 1914) had on the development of Martin Buber's I-Thou philosophy, and Buber's influence on philosophy, theology, and psychology. His wife, Zerka Moreno, who still continues his work, writes: "While it is true that Buber broadened the idea of the Encounter, he did not create the instruments for it to occur." Moreno "produced the various instruments we now use for facilitating the human encounter, sociometry, group psychotherapy, psychodrama, and sociodrama".[8]

With training centers and institutes on nearly every continent, there are many thousands of students who are expanding and developing training and teaching the Morenean Arts & Sciences across the disciplines, to more fully realize Moreno's vision to make these social sciences available for "the whole of [hu]mankind."[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 Biographical detail: article by Lucy Ozarin, Psychiatric News (Volume 38, Number 10), May 16 2003. Retrieved on December 29 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Autobiography of J. L. Moreno, M.D. (Abridged), J. L. Moreno, Moreno Archives, Harvard University, 1985.
  3. Journal of Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama & Sociometry (Vol. 42, No. 1), J. L. Moreno, spring 1989.
  4. Taught at Columbia University, evidenced in recollection: article by Mary Nicholas & Gene Eliasoph, The Group Circle (August/September 2002), American Group Psychotherapy Association. Retrieved on December 30 2007.
  5. New School for Social Research: short biography at SibiuOnline website. Retrieved on December 30 2007.
  6. The Future of Man's World, J. L. Moreno, New York Beacon House, Psychodrama Monographs, 1947.
  7. Psychotherapy Networker, Clinician's Digest, January/February 2007.
  8. Psychodrama Network News, Zerka Moreno, winter 2007.
  9. Morenean Arts & Sciences: Moreno Institute East website. Retrieved on December 29 2007.


  • Moreno, J.L. (1953) Who Shall Survive? Beacon, N.J.: Beacon House.

Book ChaptersEdit


External linksEdit

Further readingEdit


Several DVDs are available showing Moreno in action.

Jacob Levy Moreno: His Life and his Muses Disc 1: Spontaneity Training and Role Re-Training and Introduction to Psychodrama (around 1933) Disc 2: Psychodrama of a Marriage (around 1948) Disc 3: Psychodrama in Action (in the 1960's) Disc 4: Psychodrama of a Marriage: A Motion Picture 4-DVD Set

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