The Sociodrama of Life or Death: Young Adults and Addiction Treatment

By Scott Giacomucci, MSS, LSW, CTTS, CET III


The continued opiate epidemic has severely impacted young people as drug overdoses have reached unprecedented levels. Young people, more than ever, have been seeking addiction treatment with mostly unfavorable outcomes. Adjusting our treatment approaches to the specific needs of young adults is necessary. Many treatment programs for young adults can be improved by incorporating engaging, experiential treatment groups into their models, including sociodrama and sociometry. This article emphasizes the effectiveness of sociometry in meeting the developmental needs of young adults in addition to recounting the Sociodrama of Life or Death, which manifested spontaneously in an inpatient group at Mirmont Treatment Center and has been enacted with many different groups since. The walk toward life in sobriety or toward death by addiction is a walk that many are facing each day. Using future projection and surplus reality, the sociodrama brings these two paths, side by side, into the room for the group to experience.

Keywords: Sociometry; sociodrama; addiction; young adults; adolescence; life; death; step-in circle; group psychotherapy.


Working with young adults in an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment center can be particularly challenging, as the recidivism rates are extraordinarily high and attention spans and willingness to change may seem extraordinarily low. Treating young people with chemical dependencies is important work in the context of the current opiate epidemic, as overdoses are the leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 18 and 25 in the United States (Smith, Lee, & Davidson, 2010). Recovering from addiction is indeed a life-or-death situation. Most inpatient treatment centers have program models which were initially developed for adult clients and have not adapted to meet the specific needs of younger clients.

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