Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Laura Wood, Ph. D, BCT/RDT


This thesis engages two concepts in conversation: thirdness, which is a quality, awareness, or point of reference between two people in a relationship (Benjamin, 2004), developed within relational and intersubjective systems theories; and drama therapy’s guide from Landy’s role theory, a role in a story that emerges between two other roles and brings balance, perspective, and growth (Landy, 2008, 2009). Both are referenced as essential components of the therapeutic relationship. This thesis is a review of the literature on relational, intersubjective systems, and role theories, focusing on how theorists conceptualize the way a person interacts in relationship to others, the approach to clients in treatment, and how thirdness develops in treatment. This thesis expands from a traditional understanding of countertransference and transference, summarizing how the transtheoretical construct has evolved in modern approaches. It includes a deeper look at modern concepts of two-way psychodynamic practice. An overview of relevant concepts of drama therapy and role theory is included, especially as it sets the foundation for role theory-based interventions that explore unconscious dynamics in the space between the therapist and client. This thesis theorizes thirdness as a guide. By putting these ideas in dialogue, this thesis helps make invisible relational concepts concrete and useful through drama therapy tools and interventions, both in the clinical space and in supervision. It contributes to the ongoing discussion of best practices for building and managing clinical relationships with clients, and it highlights ways drama therapy research connects to psychoanalytic theories.

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