A technique of human relations training and psychotherapy in which the individual acts out social roles of other people, or tries out new roles for himself.Role playing was originally developed as a technique to be used in psychodrama, but it is now widely practiced in industrial, educational, and clinical settings. Unlike psychodrama, it is a highly informal procedure that does not require a stage or specially chosen personnel. As a training device, it is frequently employed in developing the ability to meet practical situations such as making a speech, conducting an interview, handling sales problems, or applying for a job. In most cases the individual not only practices his own role, but takes the roles of others in order to see the situation from their standpoint and gain a more objective view of himself. As a treatment technique, it may be used either in individual or group therapy, though it is more often applied in the latter type of situation. Playing various parts in realistic but “safe” situations gives the patient new insight into himself and other people. It also provides him with an opportunity to rehearse and test out new attitudes, relationships, and ways of coping with conflicts and stresses.Role playing has proved highly effective in family group therapy. By playing each other’s roles in facing troublesome situations the various members of the family bring their deeper feelings to the surface, achieve a new understanding of each other’s point of view, and gain a different perspective on their own place in the family picture. This process often leads them to approach their problems on a new plane and reach a resolution that is acceptable to every member of the family.The technique is also employed for a variety of purposes in hospital and clinic settings. As part of her training, a nurse might act out an encounter with an irritable or resistant patient, then switch roles and play the part of the patient himself. To increase their understanding and acceptance of the staff, patients are asked to show how they themselves would handle typical hospital situations. To provide the patient with a chance to release pent-up emotions, he might be requested to dramatize the last quarrel he had with his wife, or act out what he really wanted to say to the doctor who refused him a special privilege. To prepare mental patients for discharge from the hospital, it is common practice to have them act out some of the situations they are likely to meet, such as answering questions about their illness or applying for a job. In all these cases, the role playing not only brings troublesome feelings to the surface, but paves the way for free and open discussion.