The beginnings and development of the Moreno method in Switzerland (1950-2000)


By Roger Schaller

Moreno himself presented psychodrama at the International Group Psychotherapy Congress in Zurich in 1957 and visited Switzerland for the second time in 1973 as part of the Group Therapy Congress. (Brem, 2012) However the origin of psychodrama in Switzerland is associated with Grete Anna Leutz who learned from him personally in the USA:

The young woman happened to meet the doctor during trip to the USA in 1951, then spent an au pair year at Moreno’s house and later learned about psychodramatic work – including that with psychosocial patients – from Moreno and his wife Zerka in their clinic. The experiences there were formative for the further life of the specialist in psychosomatic medicine and psychotherapy. During her work at the Ludwig Binswanger psychiatric clinic in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, Leutz applied psychodrama independently in the therapy of psychosis patients, later also at the CG Jung Clinic in Zurich.( Bühring, 2015)

A crucial factor for the blossoming of psychodrama in Switzerland was the International Psychodrama Congress in 1968 in Baden near Vienna, where Grete Leutz reported to Moreno about her psychodrama-therapeutic activities. This prompted Moreno to inquire what measures could be taken to promote the dissemination of psychodrama in German-speaking countries. Leutz suggested a collaboration with the DAGG (German Working Group for Group Psychotherapy and Group Dynamics). Hence, the Psychodrama, Sociometry and Role Play Section of the DAGG was founded on the initiative of Moreno, Ploeger and Leutz. (Leutz, 2004) Shortly after, the first psychodrama training institutes were founded by Grete Leutz in Überlingen and by Helga Heike Straub in Stuttgart. (von Ameln, Gerstmann, Kramer, 2009)

Soon, the Institute of Überlingen organised the first regular psychodrama group in Switzerland at Burghölzli, the Psychiatric University Hospital in Zurich, in 1971. Some of the candidates completed or finished their further training at Moreno’s Institute in Beacon, N.Y.. After their return, the psychodrama section of the Swiss Society for Group Psychotherapy and Group Dynamics (SGGG) was formed on the initiative of the psychiatrists and psychotherapists R. Binswanger and J. Scheidegger – both were teaching at the Moreno Institute in Uberlingen at that time – with the Friedemann student and founder of the Psychodrama Institute Liestal, J. P. Gonseth, as its director. In the wake of the dissolution of the SGGG, Binswanger and Scheidegger founded the “Psychodrama Switzerland Working Group” with E. Pfäfflin, who had been trained by Zerka Moreno in Beacon. (Leutz, 2004) Elisabeth Pfäfflin proposed theme-centered seminars and training groups herself from 1979-2007, inviting Ann Hale from the USA and Anthony Williams from Australia, among others, as guest speakers. (Brem, 2012) Since 1988, the “Swedish Moreno Institute” has also been offering advanced psychodrama training with A. Puhlmann in Zurich. (Leutz, 2004)

In 1991 the emeritus director of the C. G. Jung Institute, Dr. H. Barz and his wife E. Barz, founded the “Institute for Psychodrama based on Jungian Psychology” in Zurich. They maintained exchanges with the director of the Moreno Institute in Überlingen as guest lecturers of these institutes. H. Barz gave lectures on psychodrama at the Psychological Institute I of the University of Zurich; G. Leutz teached during several semesters at the Psychological Institute II under the direction of Prof. Dr. B. Boothe, a student and co-author of A. Heigl-Evers and graduate of the Uberlingen Moreno Institute. (Leutz, 2004)

In 1988, J. Muller created the Swiss Working Group for Psychodrama , a group of psychodramatists who met four times a year for further training. As psychodrama was no longer represented by any association in Switzerland since the dissolution of the SGGG, the Swiss psychodramatists, through this working group, founded the association “Psychodrama Helvetia PDH” in 1993. (Leutz, 2004) The first President was Marianne Tobler. The board includes representatives of the different training institutes as well as of the different professional fields in which psychodrama is applied. In the german-speaking side, PDH has more than 100 members. In the Romandie, however, it was necessary to create a section, since it did not make sense to translate everything directly from Swiss German. Paul Debelle was the first to try to set up a french section and organised the first PDH meetings in the french part of Switzerland. Later on, Laurent Fontaine and Sandrine Racine fulfilled this function in the committee. Eventually, a French-speaking section of Psychodrama Helvetia (PDH) was created, which arranged meetings between psychodramatists and also organised trainings. PDH allocates a part of the budget for the section. (Schaller, 2016)

Norbert Apter also played an important role in introducing the Moreno method to the general public (including professionals) in the French-speaking part of Switzerland at the end of the 1980s, through a large number of personal development workshops and continuing education seminars. Thanks to the memorable encouragement of Anne Ancelin-Schützenberger in 1996 (“Go for it!”), and to the unfailing support and participation of Marcia Karp, as the main trainer, the first complete training program was launched in 2000 (combining the theories of J. L. Moreno and Carl Rogers), organised by the ODeF Institute in Geneva. The diploma/certificate courses were initiated with the help of international trainers. The ODeF Institute has since trained several groups of professionals and organised numerous seminars and conferences; more and more professionals in the fields of training, coaching, human resources, etc. are now being trained in Action Methods. Moreno’s Action Methods have been used in numerous training sessions and interventions in companies (banks, transport companies, law firms, notaries, telecommunications, etc.), in international or humanitarian organisations (UN, ILO, CERN, ICRC, etc.), as well as in training centers and universities, or in the medical world, in the social and educational fields, etc. («L’essort de la méthode Moreno», 2016)


Brem, Helena (2012). Psychodrama in der Schweiz – von Helena Brem dank Mitwirkung von Elisabeth Pfäfflin, Lilo Steinmann und Roger Schaller. Retrieved from:–helena-brem-elisabeth-pfaefflin-lilo-steinman-roger-schaller

Bühring, Petra (2015). Grete Anna Leutz: A life for psychodrama. retrieved from:

L’essor de la méthode de Moreno en Suisse romande, (2016). Par la rédaction du journal en ligne de Institut ODeF. Journal Relation et Action.

Leutz, Grete (2004). Psychodrama, Soziometrie, Gruppenpsychotherapie in den deutschsprachigen Ländern. In Gfäller, G. R., Leutz, G. (2004). Gruppenanalyse, Gruppendynamik, Psychodrama. Quellen und Traditionen – Zeitzeugen berichten. Der Umgang mit Gruppenphänomenen in den deutschsprachigen Ländern.  Heidelberg: Mattes Verlag

Schaller, R. (2016). Psychodrama Helvetia et la reconnaissance du psychodrame en Suisse. Interview by Chazaud, V. Journal Relation et Action. Institut Odef.

von Ameln, F., Gerstmann, R., Kramer, J. (2009): Psychodrama, 2.Aufl. Heidelberg