Souldrama: A Spiritual Awakening Within the Group

Step12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others suffering from addiction and to practice these principles in all our affairs. (AA, 2001)

What is a spiritual awakening?

What is Spiritual Awakening? How can this be developed and revealed within the group?

The true meaning of spiritual awakening, as it has been known classically in both Christian and Buddhist traditions, is the waking up of consciousness to the remembrance of its original nature. It is an alignment of the ego and soul where the individual sense of self-identification has fallen away and awareness stands with nothing to identify itself, and yet it knows itself as being aware with a true sense of being present and connected.  It is a co-creation between the ego and soul. Instead of identifying ourselves by the label we carry, we know we are sensing, thinking, feeling or being connected to whatever divine movement is happening in this one moment.  This is when we can practice new ways to handle different situations and remember the true nature of our souls.

If we want total recovery, then we must use a method that uses all parts of the brain, which includes the rational, the emotional, and the spiritual intelligences. The quest in recovery is to find a personal sense of meaning and purpose in life.  All human beings are born as part of a larger universe, world, and social system that has been culturally indoctrinated both verbally and through role modeling in order to establish a set of beliefs about the self, others, the world, and whatever powers greater than the self that exist to govern the \"way things are\" in the world.  The ultimate goal of recovery is to develop a sense of \"Who am I, and what do other people and the world require of me to survive and thrive?”  Recovery also asks the question of \"Why am I here?\"  Individuals need to decide for themselves what they choose to do in order to improve themselves, help others, and leave the world a better place. The first and primary cause of relapse is that many addiction recovery programs do not use a comprehensive model in treatment, which includes looking at and developing “our rational, emotional, and spiritual intelligences” (Miller, 2010, p. xvii).  Many treatment programs fail to teach vital thinking, feeling, social, stress, and spiritual skills.  These skills would allow clients to find their meaning and purpose in life as sober, conscious, and spiritually aware human beings, who do not need alcohol or other drugs in order to manage their internal experiences or their external challenges in life. 

Spiritual intelligence (SQ) allows us to assess the usefulness of one life path or the need to change the particular direction our actions are taking. It allows creativity and gives people the basis with which to change prevailing situations and to do things differently, allowing human beings to weigh and decide on one solution in the midst of a number of them. This is what eventually determines the outcome when deciding between addictive or sober behavior.

 SQ is the basis with which we determine our visions, hopes, and values in life. It is not caused or determined by the brain. Instead, it serves as a unification force for making human beings fully spiritual, emotional and intellectual so that one’s thoughts may not necessarily be brought about by their rational intelligence alone.  Miller, C offers Souldrama® a new action model for 12-step recovery (2013) that incorporates all three of our intelligences, especially our spiritual intelligence. Connecting with our spiritual intelligence facilitates the process of answering value-based or meaning-based questions. It is the only type of intelligence that allows us to derive a sense of life fulfillment.

How do we help the addict to gain total recovery to move from intervention to reinvention?  In twelve-step programs, people heal partly through the experiential telling of their own stories (Miller, 2006, 2007b).  It is through this sharing of trauma and pain, and also through the subsequent healing that occurs, which helps people to form common bonds, thus uniting them on their road to recovery (Miller, 2006, 2007b).  Then, in order to go beyond that initial connection of pain and addiction, clients need to go further by sharing their soulful moments, their hopes, their moments of understanding, and their dreams (Miller, 2006, 2007b).  This requires re-establishing a relationship with their creativity and then, through their higher awareness, connecting with others on a spiritual level, which is where they will connect on a deeper level in order to start healing (Miller, 2006, 2007b).  One of the new techniques that can help to assist them in doing so is the action method[1] of Souldrama®.  Souldrama® puts spirituality into action by linking the Twelve Steps to the seven doors of spiritual transformation, while “aligning the ego and the soul” (Miller, 2010, p. 33).

Miller describes spiritual intelligence as an alignment of the ego and soul, balancing all three of our intelligences. (Miller, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2013).  Spiritual development, involves regularly shedding our old roles, the competition to be clever, attachments, and identities to make room for expansion into a larger perspective and identity. In 12-step recovery programs, one must complete the steps. In Souldrama, one must pass through seven doorways of transformation aligning the rational, emotional and spiritual intelligences in an experiential group process.  The journey involves passing through the doorways of faith, truth, compassion, love, humility, gratitude and integration.

Spiritual intelligence allows collective thought or wholeness in thinking. Those who use their spiritual intelligence do not just focus on themselves as the basis for deciding on particular decisions. Instead, they consider the effect that their actions have on other persons, making them aware of the fact that they are connected to other human beings and highlighting the fact that there is a bigger picture at play.

A group provides the ideal place for the corrective reconstructive framework. Our need to talk, interact and simply be with each other is part of our development.  Group psychotherapy is the most viable method for initiating, improving and evaluating connections.  Adding action techniques is a dramatic way to alter the process of a group.  It focuses the consciousness of the members on their interactions, which in turn channels and enhances the energy within a group, and therefore, dissolves passivity. 

The concept of a spiritual awakening within a group process implies the following objective:

  • Being able to experience what is happening in oneself and others with an accepting awareness, while being able to tolerate direct experience without becoming defensive or acting out to discharge the tension. It is a way of providing secure support and honoring others’ boundaries, while learning not to take things personally.

This is not an easy feat for either the group member or leader.  Each of these objectives is framed within a context of being in the “here and now,” or by staying in the present (Miller, 2010).  Members appreciate being in the “here and now,” with purpose instead of impulsivity (Miller, 2010).  They are spontaneously living and are responsive to the current moment, as well as focused on their higher purpose (Miller, 2010). At this point, members concentrate on the spiritual integration of their experiences and perceptions, express humility, and embrace their unique-ness, while understanding their inherent spiritual journey (Miller, 2010).

Those in recovery hope to overcome pervasive feelings of fear, addictions, self-hatred, and unworthiness  (Miller, 2010).  Becoming identified with our mind and our emotions can sabotage our relationships, preoccupy our thinking, increase our state of anxiety and unhappiness, and keep us out of a state of joy (Miller,  2010). Twelve-step recovery programs help in converting the nontranscending self-actualizers, who become stuck in their RQ (AA, 2001; Miller, 2010).  A possible next step, that of Souldrama, can show how the experiential process of progressing through seven doors of transformation can help a client move toward the transcendent self-actualized state, and thus reduce relapse while accessing a higher level of spiritual consciousness, spontaneity and authenticity.

Applied to Souldrama, I invite you to experience an example of the 12th step in action.

Recently, I completed a summer of volunteering in Java, Indonesia to teach Souldrama to 120 pastoral counselors, health care workers, psychologists and teachers for a three-day workshop.  Being new to the group process of Souldrama it was important for the group leaders to gain the trust of the group members, who were new to experiencing action methods. Trust and faith are vital in any process. It was our task to warm up the group by developing cohesion and connection among group members. We all spoke different languages including the group members, and the five facilitators from different countries.

On day one, following a history of group therapy, we did a warm up asking each participant to play the role of a fantasy character from childhood and to introduce themselves to each other. We had a huge group of “Supermen” and superheroes.  I asked myself “Will this large group of ‘Superheroes’ reflect the group ego and mine as well?”  This group continued to joke and talk among themselves throughout the first two days, causing many distractions. It seemed as through their spontaneity was unleashed through the first exercise and group could not quiet down.

Indonesia has the highest use of cell phones in the world. The problem we had as the use of cell phones during groups –texting and receiving calls. Therefore the group members were not emotionally present.  Participants were repeatedly invited – to no avail-to turn off their cell phones during the group sessions. By day three, there were many interruptions during the group, and I was getting increasingly annoyed by all of the side talking. In fact, I was ready to scream. 

I asked myself, “Who is really running this group?  Maybe this is all happening for a reason.” I decided to surrender my ego, and on the third day, used the cell phones as an intervention.   I asked each person to write their cell phone number on a piece of paper and put the numbers in a box.  Each person then turned on their phone and was instructed to take a number from the box. On the word “GO,” they were to call the number they chose.  Our interpreter randomly took one number out of the box so that one person would not get a call. Imagine 120 cell phones ringing!

Each person was told to find the person they called and to put their hand on the back of that person. We had a large chain in the room.    

Interestingly enough, the person who did not get the call was the one on the first day to play the fantasy role of Judas.

He said, “I did not get a call.”

I responded, “Yes you did. God is calling –would you like to speak with him?” He agreed and the drama began.

He said “I am mad at God.”  As I directed, he chose an auxiliary to play God and not surprisingly chose the man who chose to be Jesus when asked to play a fantasy role on the first day.  I now had “Judas” confronting “Jesus.”

The protagonist had two issues. One was his addictive behavior for which he felt he needed to be forgiven.   The other was his anger at God for taking his father when he was still a child. The drama was completed and in the end many people were crying and sharing. Interestingly enough, the person he chose to be his auxiliaries were all in the initial “Superheros” group.   During the sharing, the participant who played the role of Jesus had the same issue as the protagonist.  They both lost their fathers at the same young age.  The men were crying after the drama. This was the first time, for many of them that they could cry in public. The relief in the room was incredible. 

Earlier in the day many people bought “I love Souldrama” T-shirts that were sold by the sponsoring organization.  The tee shirts have a big heart on the fronts that say “I Love Souldrama.” Before the afternoon session, I took pictures of the group wearing the shirts. These people turned out to be the main auxiliaries, God, the person who played the protagonist as a child, and the protagonist’s father and the angels. The protagonist was the only one without the large heart on his chest. That evening he came in with a new T-shirt. There was dead silence in the room throughout the drama and not one cell phone was on.

As a group leader and therapist, it is easy for me to be cast into the role of God. This experience taught me that the director has no higher power than that of the group, and that I am only a servant to their needs.  My spiritual awakening came by surrendering to the power of the group and by trusting and listening to that still voice within. Who was calling?  God was truly calling to me to go “with the flow” and let go of my own ego. 

You can see this in action on the YOUTUBE video:

The spiritual awakening of the group (Step 12) is where members begin to live in the moment, listen to the voice of the soul, and become co-creators with God (Miller, 2010), listen non-defensively and openly, and not take things personally. They appreciate being in the “here and now,” with purpose instead of impulsivity (Miller, 2010).  They are spontaneously living and are responsive to the current moment as well as focused on their  higher purpose (Miller,2010). When we are connected to our spiritual intelligence, we are able to possess inner and outer peace and a sense of wisdom and compassion in spite of prevailing circumstances. This is not an easy feat according to how difficult life’s challenges may be. At this point, members concentrate on the spiritual integration of their experiences and perceptions, express humility, and embrace their unique-ness, while understanding their inherent spiritual journey (Miller, 2010). This is total recovery.


Blatner, A., & Blatner, A. (1997). The Art of Play: Helping Adults Reclaim Imagination and Spontaneity. Philadelphia, PA: Brunner/Mazel-Tayler & Francis.

Miller, C. (2000). The technique of Souldrama and its applications. The International Journal of action methods, 52, (no 4), 173-186.

Miller, C. (2004)  Souldrama: a journey into the heart of God.  Self published. NJ  3rd edition.

Miller, C: (2010) Starve the Ego: Feed the Soul: Souldrama: Ignite you spiritual intelligence.

Self Published.

Miller, C. (2012) A New Model for Putting the Twelve Steps into Action: Souldrama. Summer Vol.16, No4.  Proctor Hospital Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery.

Miller, C  Eurotas  Positive Spirituality: Souldrama®: A New Model for Putting the           Twelve Steps into Action, Fall 2013. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology.

 Miller, C. (2013) Integrating Two Models for the Treatment of Addictions: Souldrama® and   Twelve Step Recovery in Action.  Journal of Groups in Addiction & Recovery, 8:81-111, 2013 Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Miller, W. Integrating Spirituality into treatment. (1999) [Resources for  practitioners]. Washington, DC: American psychological association. (Original work published June 1999)

Moreno, J. L. (1946). Psychodrama: Vol 1. Beacon, NY: Beacon House. Moreno, J. L. (1971). Psychodrama. In H. I. Kaplan, & B. J. Sadock, (Eds.), Comprehensive group psychotherapy, 460-500. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins.

Moreno, J. L. (1972). The religion of God-Father. In P.E. Johnson, (Ed.), Healer of the Mind: A Psychiatrist\'s Search for Faith, 197-215. Nashville, TN: Abington.

Moreno, Z. (1965). Psychodramatic rules, techniques and adjunctive methods. Group Psychotherapy, 18, 73-86.

Connie Miller, ACS, TEP,LPC, NCC, is founder and director of the International Institute for Souldrama and the owner of the Spring Lake Heights Counseling Center in NJ. Connie has developed Souldrama to help clients to move past resistance to remove the blocks that stop one from moving forward onto their higher purpose by aligning the ego and soul In 2013 she published   Integrating Two Models for the Treatment of Addictions: Souldrama® and  Twelve Step Recovery in Action.  Journal of Groups in Addiction & Recovery, She is the recipient of the 2010 Innovators Award and the award for Creativity and Innovation from the American Counseling association 2011. Connie runs trainings internationally and is the author of two books. Routledge press includes her chapter \"Psychodrama, Spirituality and Souldrama\" in the book New Advances in Psychodrama (published June 2007). Her recent work is focused on training the pastoral counselors and psychologists throughout Indonesia in Souldrama and action methods.

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