Skip to Main Content »


Drama Triangle

Drama Triangle

Availability: In stock


Quick Overview


Drama Triangle

More Views


Drama triangle



In the 1960s Stephen Karpman illustrated the drama triangle in his book Fairy Tales and Script Drama Analysis. Karpman stated that the roles played within the families usually correspond with the simplistic division of roles in old fairytales. Take for instance the fairytale called The Pied Piper of Hamelin: first he rescues the city from the rats (Rescuer). Then he feels betrayed by the city council (Victim) and then he even becomes the offender/accuser by kidnapping all the children. Karpman believed fairytales might affect the children, should they identify themselves with these roles. The model is usually applied in psychology.

Related Models: Drama TriangleTypology of CommunicationPrinciples of Effective LeadershipTeam BuildingPillars of CommitmentTypology of Knowledge WorkersCoachingHerzberg FactorsCoaching ArtsFace-to-Face CommunicationTrust EquationFormula of Trust


The model

The drama triangle represents the social behavioural and communication patterns between people in three different roles. These fixed patterns make sure a person is ‘locked up’ in the triangle. Usually unconsciously.

The drama triangle describes three roles which we sometimes perform to a more or lesser extent while interacting with other people. Some roles may be performed more than others, depending on the setting. The following roles are part of the drama triangle:





The accuser is making serious accusations. The other person is acting poorly. He makes sure to accuse the other person. In this way he is trying to control the situation.


The rescuer is not the person offering help during an accident. Surely these are the most sincere people. No, the rescuer is ‘helping’ in his own interest by prescribing the solution for the victim. The rescuer knows better and further intimidates the victim.


The victim usually suffers from a lack of self-confidence. The other person and the environment are always to blame or at least they have failed to help out. But he always thinks he is a failure. Therefore he usually spotlights his problem in a begging or manipulative way.

The effect

The way in which people interact within the drama triangle is called a ‘game’[1] in the Transactional Analysis. Such interaction is neither efficient nor purposeful. Nevertheless, people do not always realise that they are playing a ‘game’ inside the drama triangle. This explains the importance of being familiar with this model and recognising the situations in your environment or the cases in which you might become involved!


How to use it

First of all it is important to recognise this ‘game’ behaviour. Below are some optional quotes:

The accuser

 A sense of: “I’m OK. You are not OK.”

Explanation for rescuer and victim: “You are not OK.”


  • “This is happening because of you.”
  • “Do you realise what this means to me?”
  • “It’s not the first time now is it?”

The rescuer

 A sense of: “I’m OK. You are not OK.”

Explanation for accuser and victim: “I’m OK.”


  • “Shall I handle this?”
  • “Why don’t you act like ….?”
  • “I’m only trying to help.”

The victim

 A sense of: “I’m not OK. You’re OK”

Explanation for accuser and rescuer: “I’m not OK.”


  • “Yes, but…”
  • “Yes go ahead blame me.”
  • “All those roles I must follow.”
  • “It’s all so hard.”



The accuser is shirking every responsibility and is feeling superior. He is creating a distant situation.

The rescuer is singing his own praises. He is trying to claim the credits and blame the other person for every mistake. He does not carry the final responsibility.

The victim accepts guidance. One person mentions his mistake. Another person provides the solution. He does not have to think. He does not take responsibility, he does not make choices nor does he reflect on matters.

Try to recognise this behaviour. In yourself and in others as well. Then try to leave the drama triangle and communicate at a professional and equivalent level. Only then will you have the possibility to discuss matters effectively and reach good outcomes.


What is the drama of this triangle?

Communication at an equivalent level is non-existent. None of the ‘players’ is really taking responsibility. Parties involved are beating around the bush. The result is hardly effective.


How do you step out of the drama triangle?

  •  Try to recognise the ‘roles’ in the drama triangle
  •  Be the first person to take responsibility
  •  Criticise explicitly each other’s behaviour
  •  Give feedback information and be prepared to accept feedback
  •  Formulate carefully
  •  Treat each other as equivalent ‘players’ who together must come to a result. This has nothing to do with hierarchical structures.


Ultimately you will end up in the winners’ triangle.

We wish you a drama-free existence!


Related Models: 

-   Drama Triangle

-   Typology of Communication

-   Principles of Effective Leadership

-   Team Building

-   Pillars of Commitment

-   Typology of Knowledge Workers

-   Coaching

-   Herzberg Factors

-   Coaching Arts

-   Face-to-Face Communication

-   Trust Equation

-   Formula of Trust




[1] ‘Game’ definition by Eric Berne: a series of transactions with ulterior motives, leading to a predictable ending usually involving a change of roles


The product

- Cartoon (8000-6000 pixels)

- Description in PDF.

Click here for the license.