Evoking emotional states in personality disordered offenders: An experimental pilot study of experiential drama therapy techniques

Marije Keulen-de Vos*, Elsa P. A. van den Broek, David P. Bernstein, Roos Vallentin, Arnoud Arntz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Web of Science)


Offenders with personality disorders (PDs) and the crimes that they have committed are regularly associated with emotional deficits. A renewed focus in forensic treatment is the use of experiential techniques: techniques that have a strong focus on eliciting emotions. However, there is little empirical evidence on the effectiveness of experiential techniques in forensic clients with PDs. In our pilot study, we examined whether three experiential drama therapy interventions are effective in evoking emotional vulnerability and anger in nine offenders with cluster B PDs, that is, clients with DSM-IV Antisocial, Borderline, or Narcissistic PDs. We used a 5 session drama therapy protocol that consisted of an introduction session, a general experiential session, a session to evoke emotional vulnerability, a session to evoke anger, and a wrap-up session. Emotions were assessed using the Mode Observation Scale. Participants showed significantly more emotional vulnerability within all three experiential invention sessions, comparing peak mood after the experiential intervention was initiated to baseline mood. In contrast, clients did not show more anger after the session to evoke anger, or in the other two experiential sessions. Our findings, though preliminary, suggest that experiential drama therapy methods may be effective in evoking vulnerable emotional states in forensic clients with cluster B personality disorders. We discuss the clinical implications of these findings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-88
JournalArts in Psychotherapy
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


  • Personality disorders
  • Forensic
  • Emotional states
  • Experiential techniques
  • Drama therapy
  • Pilot

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