Effectiveness of psychodrama for mitigating school fears among senior secondary school students

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Effectiveness of psychodrama for mitigating school fears among senior secondary school students

Authors: D. Rudokaite, V. Indriuniene

e-mail: daiva.rudokaite@gmail.com
e-mail: vinga.indriuniene@lsu.lt

Published online: 2 September 2019 © Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, ein Teil von Springer Nature 2019

Abstract

This study is focused on the effectiveness of psychodrama for mitigating school fears among senior secondary school students. The study involved 224 students from senior forms (ninth- to eleventh-graders). The efficiency of psychodrama was measured by creating two groups consisting of ninth- and eleventh-graders: the students of the target group (participants of the continuous psychodrama sessions, n = 61) and the students of the comparative group (who did not take part in the continuous psychodrama sessions, n = 163). Two instruments were employed for the purposes of this study: impact method and evaluation method. In order to reduce the manifestations of school fears among secondary school students, psychodrama was used as an impact method. The impact consisted of four continuous psychodrama sessions, each lasting around four academic hours (i.e. group exercises). The differentiated school fear descriptor (DSFD) was used (Rost and Schermer 1997) in order to reveal whether school fears of senior secondary school students changed after the psychodrama sessions. Two questionnaires were used for the purposes of the study: manifestations of school fears (MA) and strategies for coping with school fears (CO). The study results showed that the manifestations of emotional and cognitive school fears among the participants of the target group decreased after the psychodrama sessions; for overcoming school fears, the students of the target group started engaging in productive working activity more often; the students of the target group stated that they experienced fewer emotional and cognitive manifestations of school fears, compared to the students of the comparative group; the students of the target group started using productive working activity for coping with school fears more often, as compared to the students of the comparative group.

Keywords

School fears · Manifestations of school fears · Coping with school fears · Psychodrama

1 Introduction

The educational reforms, systematic standardised and diagnostic testing at schools, final (maturity) examinations, school curricula requiring profound academic knowledge and often inadequate in terms of student capabilities, intense learning burden, parents’ expectations towards the best learning results of their children, the aim of teachers to provide as much subject-related knowledge as possible—all this exerts emotional pressure on school children, leading to stress and feelings of fear (Kostyunina and Drozdikova-Zaripova 2016; Липcкая 2015). During their school years, students develop skills for personal motivation, self-control, communication with peers and adults; they also develop self-respect and adopt rules of social behaviour. However, if a student systematically experiences anxiety and fear, this supresses their intellectual and emotional development, and negatively impacts on the ability to develop creativity and originality. Students’ reactions to the arising emotional conflicts may not only disturb their mental state, but also lead to physical conditions. Exhausted by stress and fears, experiencing painful reactions towards criticism, developing negative opinions about themselves, unsure about the suitability of their behaviour, people are less inclined to adapt to the requirements stemming from life changes. Such students are often less liked by teachers and are characterised as unmotivated and unskilled (Kalatskaya and Drozdikova-Zaripova 2016).

Four decades ago, studies were initiated to measure the effectiveness of psychodrama in reducing school fears among children, when Kipper and Giladi (1978) explored the effectiveness of structured psychodrama for mitigating the fear of examinations among students and found its positive impact. The author found several recent studies exploring the effectiveness of psychodrama for the fears and anxiety experienced by children showing that psychodrama positively affected certain areas problematic for children, relating to mathematics anxiety (Gstrein, 2015), reduction of social anxiety experienced by children (Akinsola and Udoka 2013), social and activity-based anxiety experienced by boys (Dehnavi et al. 2014), anxiety experienced by male adolescents, by teaching them to take initiative, to communicate with others and to apply constructive coping strategies (Dehnavi and Pooee 2015). In view of the results of these studies confirming the effectiveness of psychodrama for mitigating students’ school fears, studies exploring more closely the effectiveness of psychodrama (i.e. psychodramatic interventions in educational context) for mitigating school fears experienced by senior school students are still lacking.

2 School fears

Recently, it has been noticed that the number of children experiencing different kindsof fears is increasing systematically, including fears relating to school (Kalatskayaand Drozdikova-Zaripova2016). When attending school, children face fear andanxiety, which may arise at any time spent at school (Khan et al.2011). Accordingto some authors, children aged from 5 to 17 experience and feel school fears (García-Fernández et al.2014). Teachers and experts working at schools in the field of studentassistance also note that the number of such children is increasing systematically(Luxford et al. 2017; Белов 2011).Some authors (Jain and Pasrija2017; Sung et al. 2016; Kalatskaya andDrozdikova-Zaripova 2016; Alesi et al. 2014 and others) analyse school fearsby examining their causes and effects more comprehensively. Noting that anxietycaused by fear and separation tends to diminish in childhood, but in the middlechildhood school fear and anxiety increases (Alesi et al.2014). A deeper insightinto the reasons causing school fears revealed that the authors often analyse children’s age and sex (Kushnir and Sadeh2010). It was found that younger childrenexperience less fears, as compared to the older ones, and girls suff er more schoolfears than boys (Jain and Pasrija 2017; Sung et al. 2016; Kushnir and Sadeh 2010). This article is based on the statements of Rost and Schermer (2008), who distinguish three factors provoking fear, also distinguished by the authors in the differentiated diagnostic model for school fears: repertory lack of safety, cognitive factorsprovoking fear and social factors provoking fear.

  • Repertory lack of safety. School fears experienced by students are caused by cir-cumstances with unclear requirements such as when students feel doubtful abouttheir skills needed to complete a particular task or are unaware of how to makeuse of the existing skills properly. Students are afraid of exams, as they are alwaysconsumed by doubts with regard to sufficient preparedness and sufficient effortswhen preparing for an exam (Rost and Schermer2008).
  • Cognitive factors provoking fear relate to the student’s convictions as to their in-ability to satisfy the requirements prevailing in schools, to properly complete theirtasks and tests. Fear is caused by imaginary or objective lack of competences, aris-ing from the student’s lack of cognitive abilities and insufficient attention to thelearning material (Rost and Schermer2008).
  • Social factors provoking fear are characterised by the feeling of fear felt whenanswering questions in front of other p eople (such as teachers and peers). Antici-pation of failure gives an early expectation of threat to one’s feeling of self-value(Rost and Schermer2008).

The analysis of the scientific literature carried out by the author revealed a numberof studies analysing the effects of school fears and school anxiety, which can begenerally grouped into four main fields, by stating that school fears negatively affectthe psycho-social, emotional and academic success of senior school students andare characterised by a negative impact on health (Luxford et al.2017; Leppma et al.2015; Deb et al. 2010 and others).

  • Negative impact on psychosocial success. Researchers have found significant as-sociations between school fears experienced by young people and psycho-socialadaptation at school and outside school (Хотина2015; Bakhla et al. 2013 andothers), problematic behaviour (Кузнецова2016;Khanetal.2011; Kushnir andSadeh 2010), lack of behaviour control (Leppma et al. 2015). School fears resultin the lack of confidence and thus prevent acquisition and development of socialbehavioural skills, the lack of which often results in avoiding social interaction,which consequently increases the risk of loneliness (Jain and Pasrija2017;Debet al. 2010). Thus, it is stated that school fears disturb the social functioning ofstudents (Luxford et al.2017; Липcкая 2015) and their relations with familymembers (Bakhla et al. 2013)
  • Negative impact on emotional success. School fears experienced by pupilsnegatively affect the emotional development of senior pupils (Kalatskaya andDrozdikova-Zaripova2016;Khanetal.2011). Such students lack emotionalstability, experience self-regulation problems (Leppma et al.2015; Pereira et al.2012) and negative self-perception (Bakhla et al. 2013), they are also characterisedby low self-respect (Huberty 2010; Deb et al. 2010).
  • Negative impact on academic success. School fear experienced by students suppresses psychological activity and intellectual work (Kostyunina and Drozdikova-Zaripova2016). Students experiencing school fears also experience cognitive difficulties (Sung et al. 2016; Owens et al. 2014; Pereira et al. 2012), learning diffi-K Effectiveness of psychodrama for mitigating school fears among senior secondary school… 373culties obstructing the learning process and lowering the possibilities of knowingand understanding the educational content more p rofoundly (Кузнецова 2016;Alesi et al. 2014). Students experiencing higher levels of school fear are charac-terised b y lower working memory speed (Owens et al.2014; Kushnir and Sadeh2010 and others), inadequate processing of information (Alesi et al. 2014), loweracademic achievements (Jain and Pasrija 2017; Luxford et al. 2017 and others),unwillingness to attend school and lack of learning motivation (Jain and Pasrija2017; Кузнецова 2016; Maric et al. 2013 and others).
  • Negative impact on health. School fears experienced by senior school studentscause serious mental and physical health pressure (Kalatskaya and Drozdikova-Zaripova2016; Хотина 2015) and result in somatic disorders (Maric et al. 2013;Kushnir and Sadeh2010).

However, a beneficial school environment and a positive psychological climateallow for attaining better learning results. Studies have found that students with morelearning experience are less inclined to f ear and less often experience stress causedby tests, homework and other factors relating to demonstrating one’s knowledge(Barrett et al.2012). Compared to the majority of their peers, students who experi-ence more school fears view the same situations as potentially dangerous, causingfear (Huberty 2010).

3 Psychodrama and school fears

The studies analysing the effectiveness of psychodrama reveal that psychodrama is an effective technique that changes many personal features of a human being and positively affects his or her interpersonal relations. Psychodrama positively affects self-perception (Ulupinar 2014), self-esteem, creativity, empathy, problem-solving and skills of expressing emotions (Kooraki et al. 2012). Research shows that psychodrama techniques may be applied effectively to manage anger (Bilge and Keskin 2017) and resolve interpersonal conflicts (Samantaray et al. 2014). Researchers analysing the effect of the psychodramatic method have found that this has effective and healing results on such conditions such as anxiety (Tomasulo 2011) and depression (Dehnavi and Pooee 2015; Dehnavi et al. 2014).

School fears are temporary. However, it often occurs that school fears that students experience stay with them and remain for a long time and negatively affect psychosocial well-being of young people (Полетаева 2015). Scientific literature reveals that positive emotions experienced increase resistance to and help overcome such fears. Resistance to and the ability to overcome failure is the essential solution for coping with school anxiety and fears (Leppma et al. 2015). Psychodrama researchers state that spontaneity is one of the most important protective factors in relation to the reduction of anxiety. Moreno emphasised the importance of spontaneity in the process of problem solving, stating that psychodrama was based on the premise of mutual interaction of spontaneity and anxiety: the higher the level of spontaneity, the lower the level of expression of anxiety (Akinsola and Udoka 2013). Therefore, psychodrama as a method may be effective for mitigating school fears experienced by senior school students. Psychodrama, which is based on role-play, allows students gaining new experiences by analysing their own personal experience. During their psychodramatic experiences students engage in different roles, which they can identify with real life situations and later apply in real life, by undergoing inner process of change. Recent research analysed by the author has revealed that when exploring the effectiveness of psychodrama in changing students’ thoughts, feelings and behaviour, scientists analysed the effect of psychodrama on self-concept and understanding of loneliness (Orkibi et al. 2017a); involvement, behaviour and interaction with the therapist (Orkibi et al. 2017b); reducing frustration and increasing emotional regulation of street children (Geram and Dehghan 2016); reducing social impediments for autistic children (Li et al. 2015); communication skills and aggressive behaviour of aggression-prone girls (Khoubani et al. 2014).
When analysing the effectiveness of psychodrama, researchers usually compare the results of students targeted with psychodramatic intervention with those of the control group (to which the psychodrama method was not applied and no other interventions were undertaken). Despite the objectives raised by the authors of different studies, all psychodramatic interventions were characterised by positive impact in changing thinking, feelings and behaviour of school students. It was found that psychodrama had positive impact on improving students’ global, social and behavioural self-awareness and on reducing the feelings of loneliness (Orkibi et al. 2017a); on developing productive behaviour (Orkibi et al. 2017b); on reducing frustration of street children and increasing their ability of emotional regulation (Geram and Dehghan 2016); on developing resilience and spiritual intelligence (Salehi and Shokri 2016), communication skills and reducing aggressive behaviour (Khoubani et al. 2014); on mitigating social obstacles faced by school students (Li et al. 2015).
In functional terms, school fear experienced by school students acts as an early warning sign for difficulties in the future and encourages looking for early interventions (Kostyunina and Drozdikova-Zaripova 2016). Senior students experience twofold reactions to school fears: constructive coping with school fears, consisting of looking for social support and assistance, harmonisation of emotional balance, active search for solutions; non-constructive coping with school fears, namely avoiding the problem, demonstrating negative emotions (such as anger), showing behaviour harmful to health (such as smoking). This article is based on the view of Rost and Schermer (2008), stating that senior school students use the following to cope with school fears: control of feelings of threat by productive activity; situation control by evasion and cheating; fear control by relaxing and anticipating; suppressing fear by diverting attention and by underestimating the requirements of the situation.

4 Method

The objective of this study was to determine the effectiveness of psychodrama for mitigating school fears of senior school students. The study encompassed the period from April 2017 to February 2018. Two groups were created, which consisted of the students of the target group and students of the control group. The students of the control group were necessary to assess the spontaneous changes of school fears, i.e. the trends of increase and/or decrease. Spontaneous changes among senior school students are very likely and typical.
The students of the target group took part in continuous psychodrama sessions. A student was treated as a participant of the psychodrama sessions (i.e. the impact was present) if he or she missed no more than one session. Four groups consisted of 16 (a group of ninth-graders), 17 (a group of ninth-graders) 13 (a group of eleventh-graders) and 15 (a group of eleventh-graders) school students respectively. The students of the target group came from schools/gymnasiums of Kaunas city. The comparative group consisted of school students who did not take part in the psychodrama sessions (i.e. they received no impact). The students of this group came from other schools/gymnasiums of Kaunas city than those of the target group. The aim was to achieve that the students of the impact and target groups were homogenous in terms of sex and age. The study participants of both groups were evaluated twice with the help of DSFD questionnaires. The target group was evaluated twice: first time before the intervention (psychodrama sessions), by organising an additional meeting with the participants, and then after the intervention (psychodrama sessions), by organising an additional meeting with the participants.
The students of the comparative group were evaluated twice: the second evaluation followed approximately one month after the first evaluation. This period was chosen due to the duration of the impact on the students of the target group: four psychodrama sessions continued for around one month, by organising one meeting per week.

The participants of both groups were informed about the confidentiality of the study results and were aware of the fact that these results would be used only in a generalised form, without identifying individual participants of the study. When completing their questionnaires, the participants did not disclose their names. The date of birth given by the participants helped comparing the results of the first and second evaluation.

On 10 April 2017, authorisation No BEC-SP(M)-108 was obtained from the Commission for Bioethics of the Centre for Bioethics of the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences. The students’ parents signed written consent forms for their children to participate in psychodrama sessions and to complete the school fear questionnaires included in the study. The parents of the school students involved in the study were informed about the objective, tasks and results to be achieved.

4.1 Participants

The study sample consisted of school students from ninth and eleventh grades. The author chose school fears of senior school students as the object of her study. According to the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Lithuania, senior school students are those between ninth and eleventh grades. In tenth and twelfth grades, senior school students must pass basic educational performance and final (maturity) exams. The study was carried out over a period of one year and involved the analysis of everyday school fears such as test of knowledge, communication with teachers and peers at school, homework and similar tasks, instead of exploring the possibilities to mitigate fears caused by examinations. This was done by choosing senior schoolstudent groups that did not have to pass the exams that year, namely ninth-graders and eleventh-graders.

A probability-based selection method was used for creating the study sample involving the target and the comparative groups. The students of the target group came from the randomly selected schools/gymnasiums of Kaunas city. Parallel classes for the students of the target group were also selected randomly. The control group was created by randomly selecting any school/gymnasium of Kaunas city but with ninth-graders and eleventh-graders. Random selection was made with the help of the SPSS statistical package.

At the beginning, the study involved 65 students of the target group and 189 students of the comparative group. Four students of the target group were later excluded from the study data analysis, as they missed more than one psychodrama session. 26 students of the comparative group were also excluded from the study data analysis, as they did not take part in the second assessment.

4.2 Procedure and measuring instruments

In order to determine the effectiveness of psychodrama for mitigating school fears of senior school students, two instruments were applied for the purposes of the study: impact method and evaluation method.
Psychodrama was used as an impact method to mitigate the manifestations of school fears. The impact consisted of a sequence of four psychodrama sessions, each lasting for about four academic hours (i.e. group exercises). Psychodrama sessions were organised uninterruptedly once a week, on the same day of the week. The choice of psychodrama intervention as the possible tool for mitigating school fears of senior school students is a scientifically based action method that creates safe and trust-enhancing environment for the participants and reduces their fears of opening up. Psychodrama techniques help improve the emotional condition of the participants and reduce anxiety and fears. Psychodrama elements, such as role reversal, sociometry, monologue, sharing and feedback allow contemplating and analysing the experience and comprehending the issues surrounding the group and oneself by active participation. Therefore, this study was aimed at directing the psychodrama method at a particular problem among senior school students, namely school fears.

The differentiated school fear descriptor (Differentielles Leistungsangst Inventar (DAI) in German) developed by Rost and Schermer (1997) was used to measure whether the school fears of senior school students had changed after the psychodrama sessions. The study involved two questionnaires: Manifestations of school fears (MA) and Strategies for coping with school fears (CO). The Manifestations of school fears (MA) questionnaire consists of three scales:

  • Physiological manifestations of fear (PHY)—school fear may take different forms of physical fear. The scale only reflects how an individual subjectively realises the physiological changes relating to school fear, which may not necessarily describe the objective physiological manifestations.
  • Emotional manifestations of fear (EMO)—school fear may manifest by unpleas-ant emotions or feelings. The unpleasant part of the state of fear involves suchunpleasant feelings as low self-esteem, helplessness, loneliness and others.
  • Cognitive manifestations of fear (COG)—reflection, information acceptance, pro-cessing and activity disorders, most often expressed as attention concentration dis-orders, reflexion blocking and disturbed memory.

These scales (PHY, EMO, COG) are used to evaluate the manifestations of fear, i.e. the aggregate score of the scales shows the number of fear manifestations per study participant. They consist of 37 statements, to be assessed in terms of their intensity. All statements begin as follows: ‘When I am afraid …’. The statements here are graded according to intensity, with five levels of intensity: 1—almost never, 2—sometimes; 3—moderately; 4—intensively; 5—manifestly. Therefore, higher score of the scales shows more expressed physiological, emotional and cognitive manifestations of fear.

Inner compatibility of the scales of the Manifestations of school fears (MA) questionnaire at the time of the first and second evaluations was between 0.746 and 0.926, i.e. perfectly suitable for group calculations.

The Strategies for coping with school fears (CO) questionnaire consists of four scales:

Threat control with the help of productive working activity (TC), consisting of early preparations, learning and working process planning and anticipation skills, as only this can lead to better learning results. Controlling threat with the help of productive activity shows personal skills in different challenging school scenarios. The scale consists of statements evaluating threat control with the help of productive working behaviour.

Situation control by evasion and cheating (SC)—although organisation of general education for senior school students most often prevents constant evasion or avoiding compliance, the student may attempt reducing the threat by inadmissible means. The scale consists of statements assessing situation control by evasion and cheating.

  • Oppressing fear by diverting attention and underestimating the threat of the situation (OF) occurs when a person is focused on their inner mental processes and attempts to regulate a specific emotion of fear. This includes diverting attention and underrating threat. Most often, a person tries to divert attention from threatening irritants towards pleasant elements unrelated to the source of fear. The scale consists of the statements evaluating suppression of fear by diverting attention and underestimating the threat caused by the situation.
  • Inner compatibility of the scales of the Strategies for coping with school fears(CO) at the time of the first and second evaluations was b etween 0.720 and 0.877,i.e. perfectly suitable for performing group calculations.
  • Strategies for coping with school fears consist of 53 statements to be evaluated interms of frequency, with four scales (TC, FC, SC, OF). Each statement starts withan introductory phrase: ‘I overcome fear when …’. Five-stage frequency scoreswere set for evaluating the statements: 1—almost irrelevant (i.e. relevant for lessthan 10% of cases); 2—sometimes relevant (i.e. around 25% of cases); 3—fairlyrelevant (i.e. around 50% of cases); 4—usually relevant (i.e. around 75% of cases);5—always relevant (i.e. more than 90% of cases). Therefore, higher score on thescale shows that fear is accordingly more often overcome with the help o f produc-tive working activity, by evasion and cheating, by relaxing and anticipating and bydiverting attention and underestimating the threat of the situation.

4.3 Group sessions

Before the start of the group psychodrama sessions, the participants of the study received comprehensive information on the project. The psychodrama director discussed the motivation of the participants to take part in the group sessions. The exercises were organised in spacious premises where participants could move freely (usually in the school auditorium). Several simple rules to be complied with by all the group members were adopted at the start of the group sessions, such as: confidentiality, respect for one’s own and each other’s privacy, each person decides on their own on the level of opening up to others, sharing and talking in the group, possibility to say ‘no’, punctuality, switching mobile phones for the entire session. All sessions were structured identically and consisted of three psychodrama phases: warming-up, action and sharing/feedback. It should be noted that the structure of the sessions and the applied techniques were universal for the psychodrama method, but the sessions were structured by Daiva Rudokaite based on her longterm working experience and practice in the field of psychodrama.

5 Results

In order to assess whether the manifestations of school fears of the students belonging to the target group have changed after the psychodrama sessions, the manifestations of school fears experienced by target group students were compared before and after the psychodrama sessions with the help of the Student’s  test for dependent samples (Table 1). The results of the study revealed (Table 1) that the physiological manifestations of school fears of the students in the target group underwent no statistically significant changes after the psychodrama sessions, with the level of effect lower than 0.2. However, the emotional and cognitive manifestations of school fears of the students in the target group lowered in a statistically significant way after the psychodrama sessions, with an average effect level.

Table 1 Comparison of manifestations of school fears of the target group students before and after the impact: psychodrama sessions

Table 2 The use of strategies for coping with school fears by the students of the target group before and after the impact: psychodrama sessions

V average total, SD standard deviation, PD psychodrama sessions

In order to assess whether the manifestations of school fears of the students in the comparative group changed during one month, the manifestations of school fears were compared in one month among the students of the comparative group, by using the Student’s t test for dependent samples. Physiological, emotional and cognitive manifestations of school fears of the comparative group underwent no statistically significant changes during one month.
In order to assess whether the strategies used by the students of the target group for coping with school fears changed after the psychodrama sessions, the use of coping strategies among the students of the target group was compared before and after the psychodrama sessions with the help of the Student’s t test for dependent samples (Table 2).
The study results revealed (Table 2) that after the psychodrama sessions there were no statistically significant changes in the use of coping strategies by the students of the target group, such as: evasion and cheating, relaxation and anticipation and diverting attention and underestimation. However, after the psychodrama sessions, the students of the target group started using productive working activity more often for coping with fears and this was statistically significant, however, only low level of effect was found. In order to assess whether the strategies used by the students of the comparative group to cope with school fears changed during one month, the use of coping strategies was compared during the first and second evaluations among the students of the comparative group, with the help of the Student’s t test for dependent samples. The use of strategies for coping with school fears among the students of the comparative group during the period of one month did not show any statistically significant changes.

Table 3 Comparison of the manifestations of school fears among the students of the target group and those of the comparative group before and after the impact: psychodrama sessions

First evaluation before PD sessions / Second evaluation after PD sessions
A
average total, SD standard deviation

 

Table 3 shows the comparison of the manifestations of school fears among the students of the target group and those of the comparative group before and after the psychodrama sessions.
The results of the study showed that the manifestations of school fears among the students of the target group and those of the comparative did not entail any statistically significant differences before the psychodrama sessions. However, after the psychodrama sessions the students of the target group stated that they experienced lower emotional and cognitive manifestations of school fears, compared to the students of the comparative group, which appeared to be statistically significant, with the average effect level (Table 3).

 

Table 4 Comparison of the use of strategies for coping with school fears by the students of the targetgroup and those of the comparative group before and after the impact: psychodrama sessions

First evaluation before PD sessions / Second evaluation after PD sessions
A
average total, SD standard deviation

Table 4 shows the comparison of coping strategies used by the students of the target group and those of the comparative group before and after the psychodrama sessions.
Before the psychodrama sessions, the strategies used by the students of the target group and those of the comparative group for coping with school fears (such as productive working activity, evasion and cheating, relaxation and anticipation and diverting attention and underestimation) did not differ significantly. However, after the psychodrama sessions, the students of the target group started using productive working activity for coping with school fears more often, which was statistically significant, with the average effect level. The use of other coping strategies among the students of the target group and those of the comparative group after the psychodrama sessions did not differ significantly (Table 4).

In summary, it can be noted that the effectiveness of psychodrama was the most prominent in mitigating emotional and cognitive school fears of the students taking part in such psychodrama sessions and in increasing their productive working activities in order to cope with school fears.

 

6 Discussion

Lithuanian and foreign academic society shows little attention to studies of effec-tiveness of psychodrama for mitigating school fears of senior school students, whichis why the study conducted by the author of this article could be the starting pointfor systemic research of school fears and coping possibilities with the help of thepsychodrama method.
With the help of the psychodrama impact method applied during the four con-tinuous psychodrama sessions, the changes of involvement of the participants inthe psychodrama activities, their ability to actively participate, relax, trust in theother group members and the director of the group were measured. Already in thefirst session, the students were open enough to share their experiences and emotions.Students were encouraged by the idea that they were not the only ones to experienceschool fears and that many of their p eers experienced similar feelings but lackedin communication about their experiences. However, if the first sessions were morefocused on creating trust between the group members and towards the director ofthe group, introduction to the psychodrama method, its techniques and the selectionof school fears, the subsequent sessions were more concerned with school fears inparticular and with their coping strategies, by employing psychodrama techniquesand encouraging to learn n ew behavioural models, and by conceiving and testingnew roles.

The differentiated school fear descriptor (DFD) (Rost and Schermer 1997) wasused to determine how the school fears experienced by school students changed afterK 382 D. Rudokaite, V. Indriunienethe psychodrama sessions. The study involved two questionnaires: Manifestationsof school fears (MA) and Strategies for coping with school fears (CO).

The comparison of the manifestations of school fears experienced by senior schoolstudents (ninth- and eleventh-graders) taking and not taking part in the psychodramasessions showed that the emotional and cognitive manifestations of school fearsof the target g roup changed after the psychodrama sessions and this change wasstatistically significant, with the average effect level (p < 0.5). The physiological,emotional and cognitive manifestations of school fears of the comparative groupunderwent no statistically significant changes during the period of one month. It could therefore be stated that the application of the psychodrama method positivelyaffected the emotional and cognitive manifestations of school fears experienced by the target group. Positive effect of the psychodrama method was also recorded afterevaluating coping with school fears of the students involved in the target group, asit was found that after the psychodrama sessions the students of the target groupstarted using productive working activity more often for coping with school fearsand this change was statistically significant (p < 0.5), but only low level of effectwas recorded. At the same time, the use of coping strategies by the comparativegroup (such as productive working activity, evasion and cheating, relaxation andanticipation and diverting attention and underestimation) during the period of onemonth did not undergo any statistically significant changes (p >0.5).

The results of the study have revealed the effectiveness of psychodrama for mitigating school fears of senior school students, however, the results of this study reflect the school fears experienced by ninth- and eleventh-graders and the coping strategies used by them. It is still unclear how the results would change after involving younger school students in the study and applying the psychodrama method to work with them.

7 Outlook

This study may be viewed as an initial attempt to gain insight into school fears and their mitigation possibilities with the help of the psychodrama method. The results of this work reveal that further research is needed in the field of mitigation of school fears with the help of the psychodrama method, by involving younger school students and by analysing the school fears and coping strategies of tenth- and twelfthgraders. It would be desirable to double the number of psychodrama sessions in future studies, which would allow more space for the participating students to open up. It would also be useful to measure the effectiveness of the effect of psychodrama for mitigating school fears of senior school students in interim sessions, which would allow the director of the psychodrama group to know the participants better and to realise their experiences and changes (in their mind and behaviour) after attending the psychodrama sessions. Furthermore, higher number of psychodrama sessions would allow focusing on case-specific analysis. Thereby, the student could analyse on stage their particular situation of fear experienced at school, which would have positive impact on the effectiveness of coping with school fears.

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About the authors

Daiva Rudokait˙e Jg. 1969, Health psychologist, psychodrama thera-pist, certified psychodrama trainer, lecturer at Kaunas Vytautas MagnusUniversity and Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. For 25 yearsnow she has been w orking as an actress in the Lithuanian National Kau-nas Drama Theatre, TV and cinema. Former President of the LithuanianPsychodrama Association (LPA) (from 2009 to 2018) and current Hon-orary Member of the LPA.

Vinga Indriuniene Jg. 1983, PhD, health psychologist, lector at theDepartment of health, physical and social education, Lithuanian SportsUniversity (Lithuania). The main research areas are solution focusedbrief counselling, healthy lifestyle, identity.