Patrick Barone Becomes First Michigan Lawyer Certified as Trainer Educator and Practitioner of Psychodrama

The Barone Defense Firm is pleased to announce that founding member Patrick T. Barone has become the first Michigan lawyer to obtain certification as a Trainer, Educator and Practitioner (TEP) of Psychodrama. Barone sat for the written certification exam on October 23, 2021, and on January 17, 2022, he was advised by the American Board of Psychodrama Examiners (ABE) that he had passed the exam.

Having completed the long journey toward CP and TEP certification, Barone recounts the questions he is most frequently asked, which are first and foremost is “what is psychodrama” and a close second; “what does psychodrama have to do with the practice of law?” Barone asked himself the same questions when he first attended the Trial Lawyer’s College, the story of which is partially recounted in the 2016 Super Lawyer’s article entitled “Walking in Their Shoes, How Barone Defense Firm uses psychodrama to help clients cope with traumatic events.”

In answering these questions, Barone says “psychodrama is really something that must be experienced to be understood. Simply stated, psychodrama is a deep action method of psychotherapy.” Regarding what it has to do with the law, Barone indicates “as trial lawyers our chief skill is storytelling, and we must learn to tell our client’s stories ‘passionately and succinctly[i]’”. Among many other things, psychodrama offers lawyers powerful tools for learning this essential trial skill, something Trial Lawyer College graduates call ‘discovering the story’”.

According to fellow trial attorney and psychodramatist James Leach, “Lawyers with psychodrama training have achieved results that neither they nor their colleagues thought possible. Psychodrama training has helped both inexperienced lawyers and extremely experienced, accomplished lawyers obtain outstanding verdicts. Lawyers with psychodrama training still lose trials, but they do not lose them as often as they used to.[ii]

While Barone may be the first Michigan lawyer to obtain either CP or TEP certification, in doing so he joins a long list of esteemed lawyers who have travelled the same path. Three such lawyers are Joane Garcia-Colson, Fredilyn Sison and Mary Peckham, who together wrote the book Trial in Action. In Donna Bader’s 2011 review of this excellent book, Ms. Bader writes that Author’s basic premise is that successful trial lawyers need to be proficient at many things.  Storytelling yes, but also “voice and diction, psychology and group dynamics.” Psychodrama, which offers these tools and many more, is “the science that explores the truth through dramatic methods.”

Elaborating on the question “what is psychodrama,” attorney Dana Cole writes: “Psychodrama is considered, first and foremost, a method of psychotherapy. However, unlike traditional Freudian psychoanalysis, where the subjects talk about their experiences, dreams and fantasies, psychodrama requires action. Psychodrama has the subject dramatize certain events as a spontaneous play on a “stage” in a group setting. The subject literally goes through the motions of physically acting out the scene.”[iii]

In his article, Professor Cole explains how psychodrama is used by trial lawyers in every phase of the trial, from voir dire, to opening statements, direct and cross-examination, and closing argument.[iv] According to Barone, “an essential building block to courtroom litigation is ‘discovering the story’ and it is in this foundational task, the task of finding the story of our client’s cases, that psychodrama finds its unique power.”

Psychodrama training and experience offers much more to the trial attorney. Another transferable concept that is extremely powerful is that which comes from role-reversal. According to Zerka Moreno, a psychotherapist who, along with her husband J.L. Moreno is the co-founder of psychodrama, role reversal is the sine qua non of psychodrama. In psychodrama training, lawyers learn how to role reverse with all involved in a client’s case, from the client to the investigating officers and their witnesses to the prosecutors, judges and finally, the jury.

“Role reversal with the client is particularly illuminating,” says Barone. It’s like the famous and oft-repeated quote from To Kill a Mockingbird – “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view….until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” In psychodrama that’s exactly what you do, said Barone, “you climb into their shoes and see what it feels like to walk around in their skin.”

Psychodrama training and its application in the courtroom all begins with the lawyer’s journey of self-exploration. A basic premise of trial lawyer-based psychodrama training is that to be able to persuasively tell a client’s story, a lawyer must know and understand his or her own story. This journey of self-discovery, which happens concomitant to psychodrama certification, is part of what leads to greater success in the courtroom.

Patrick Barone began his journey toward psychodrama certification in 2007 when he first experienced psychodrama with the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyer’s College (TLC). He became a TLC graduate in 2012 and began formal psychodrama training in 2010. In 2018 he obtained psychodrama practitioner certification (CP).

Reflecting on his journey toward TEP certification, Barone has this to say: “It’s a long, expensive, time-consuming slog, but well worth the effort.” It’s no wonder Barone calls the journey a long slog. Becoming a certified practitioner is minimally a 5–6-year endeavor and becoming a TEP requires minimally another 4 years of persistent and at times intense training. Barone began his formal psychodrama training in 2010 and only finished it this year. However, some of his psychodrama training began with the TLC in 2007, meaning that for Barone, in the midst of a busy legal practice and family life, TEP certification took a total of 15 years. “Few lawyers are able to devote the time and resources necessary to what is essentially the obtaining of another advanced degree,” said Barone.

Obtaining psychodrama certification is akin to obtaining an advanced scholastic degree. In fact, it’s not unlike a PhD, only without the dissertation. A typical Doctor of Philosophy degree requires a minimum of 5-6 years of study and 120 class hours compared with closer to a minimum of 9 years of study and 1104 “classroom” hours to obtain TEP certification. Anyone who has earned a PhD will tell that the 120 hours of class credits is not the same as the total number of training hours, especially when you include time necessary for the research, writing and defending of the dissertation. So, this is an imperfect comparison. But no matter how you slice it, obtaining TEP certification is, like obtaining a PhD, a difficult, time consuming and expensive endeavor.

The reasons psychodrama training is so long and intensive are many-fold. One of the main reasons for the length and intensiveness of the training is that psychodrama is at it’s core a very powerful therapeutic intervention. Person’s who are inadequately trained can traumatize or re-traumatize participants. This can be true of lawyers working with their clients or others involved in their case. Anytime the tools of psychodrama are utilized things can go south very quickly. It is because of this that the ABE requires extensive supervision during training and before certification.

The formal requirements for both CP and TEP certification are set forth by the ABE. These requirements involve a rigorous training process, including ethics training and supervision, along with an intensive supervised practicum. This practicum is succeeded by a demonstration of competence via an extensive one-day written board examination covering the theory, philosophy, methodology necessary for the ethical professional practice of psychodrama, sociometry and group psychotherapy. After that, there is a psychodrama on-site examination, which must also be approved by the ABE.

From a more granular level, and as set forth in the ABE certification guidelines, to becoming a Certified Practitioner requires, minimally, 780 hours of training in psychodrama, sociometry and group psychotherapy. This training must come from those who, like Barone, have obtained TEP certification.  Additionally, CP certification requires that a supervised practicum be completed. This supervised practicum must be completed during a minimum period of fifty-two weeks. During this 52-week period, the CP candidate must “direct” at least 80 psychodrama sessions with individuals, each of which must be at least 60 minutes each. These psychodrama sessions are supervised by the CP’s primary psychodrama trainer, who again must be a TEP.

Additionally, CP candidates must demonstrate that they have contributed to the field of psychodrama in their professional activities, and have the endorsement of three individuals, including their primary psychodrama trainer (TEP) and a secondary psychodrama trainer (TEP) as well as a third party, all of whom who must attest, in writing, to the applicant’s professional competence and readiness to take and successfully complete the examination process.

As a non-mental health professional, all lawyers seeking certification, including Barone, are also required by the ABE to attend and successfully complete five graduate level psychology classes at a qualified accredited university, covering such topics as human growth and development, theories of personality, abnormal behavior (psychopathology), methods of psychotherapy, and social systems.

Once the CP candidate’s application demonstrating all the above has been approved by the ABE, the candidate must successfully complete the one-day written board examination covering the following topics: Philosophy of Psychodrama, History of Psychodrama, Psychodrama Methodology, Sociometry, Ethics and Research. Once the written exam is successfully passed, then the candidate must also successfully complete an onsite evaluation, which involves conducting a three-hour psychodrama with an observer from the ABE present. If the onsite is also successfully passed, the candidate will have successfully completed the certification process and will have obtained Certified Practitioner Status. Even after being so certified the CP may ethically practice psychodrama only within their area of competence consistent with their training.

The focus of a TEP is somewhat different.  TEP’s are certified teachers and educators of psychodrama, and in addition to ethical competence to practice psychodrama, sociometry and group psychotherapy, the TEP may provide training hours and supervision to those wishing to become CPs. Therefore, TEPs are essentially the gatekeepers of the profession.

The journey to become a TEP begins with the preparation of a successful application submitted to the ABE declaring the candidates desire to become a TEP, after which the CP candidate will have obtained the designation as a PAT (Practitioner Applicant for Trainer). Barone obtained this PAT designation in 2018.

To become a TEP the PAT candidate must then provide a minimum of 144 additional hours of psychodrama, sociometry and group psychotherapy training workshops, all of which must be supervised by a TEP selected by the PAT and so designated by the ABE. Additionally, the PAT must complete a minimum of 100 hours of continuing education and post-graduate professional development in psychodrama, sociometry and group psychotherapy and/or related fields, and must again obtain the endorsement of three individuals as described above. If the application is approved by the ABE, the PAT will have been cleared to sit for the one-day written board exam covering the same topics as the CP exam, but from a different perspective, that of teaching the material. If the written exam is passed, the the TEP candidate must then successfully conduct a 3-hour training workshop while being observed by an ABE designate. Again, if all of this is passed, then the PAT becomes a certified TEP.

The CP and TEP candidate’s on-site examination evaluates the actual practice of psychodrama. A successful on-site examination requires that the certification candidate select and obtain an independent ABE designate, who observes the candidate in action, and who then reports back in writing to the Board of Examiners. This is a pass/fail examination and requires the candidate to demonstrate appropriate subject matter proficiency to the ABE when actually working with a group and the individual members within that group.

Clearly the ABE employs rigorous criteria when considering candidates for certification, and many people who begin the journey, abandon the effort, sometimes after many years of work. Others obtain the training, but never sit for the written board exams or complete their on-site examinations. This might be akin to a PhD candidate who never completes their dissertation. They have much of the necessary training, but their subject matter competency has not been fully vetted.

When asked, in retrospect, if becoming a TEP was all worth the effort, Barone indicates “absolutely. The training is invaluable, and my clients have benefited tremendously from my assimilation of this training into my practice of law. By learning how to take the philosophy, methodology and ethics of psychodrama and creatively apply this my client’s cases, I have been able to consistently obtain better results for them in the courtroom. This increased success level, combined with more satisfying client interactions, has led to even higher client satisfaction.

Barone has also utilized and continues to incorporate his CP and TEP training, in building and managing the Barone Defense Firm team.  The knowledge of individual and group dynamics, what psychodramatists call “sociometry” and the practical skills learned in the process allows Barone to employ a more wholistic approach to Firm management and informs all aspects of running the law firm, including client interaction. Barone has found that his knowledge of organizational psychology and sociometry to be particularly useful in these endeavors.

Looking back, and considering both the opportunity and economic cost involved in obtaining CP and TEP certification, would he do it over again? “At 57 maybe not, but at 43, yes, absolutely! And that’s a wholehearted, unequivocal and enthusiastic yes!” said Barone.

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[i] Dana Cole, Psychodrama and the Training of Trial Lawyers: Finding the Story, 21 Northern Illinois University Law Review 1 (2001).

[ii] Leach, J. D. (2003). Psychodrama and Justice: Training Trial Lawyers. In J. Gershoni (Ed.), Psychodrama in the 21st Century: Clinical and Educational Applications (pp. 249–264). Springer Publishing Company.

[iii] Cole, supra.

[iv] Id.

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