Sunday, December 2, 2012

Chris Stamp: from rock and roll to role play and addictions

Christopher Stamp 

Chris Stamp, the star-making co-manager of The Who – who became a psychotherapist and brought psychodrama and experiential therapy to many organizations that served the addicted and the homeless – died of cancer on Nov. 24 in New York City at the age of 70. 

Never far from theater, he began his career as a young man as a prop handler in his hometown of London. He co-discovered the rock band The Who in 1963 and created Track Records, the first independent record label in England. He later served as executive producer of Ken Russell's 1975 film adaptation of The Who's rock  opera "Tommy." 

Chris went to rehab for serious drug and alcohol problems in 1987 and later returned to school, obtaining credentials as a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) and a credentialed alcohol and substance abuse counselor (CASAC) and a certified experiential therapist (CET).

He worked in the addictions field since 1995. I met Chris when I worked at the Caron Treatment Centers in Pennsylvania and he was associated with Caron's New York City office. I imagine that he must have brought the same considerable energy, talent and creativity to treatment that he had brought to the music business, initiating and innovating experiential groups at Gracie Square Hospital and at Arms Acres and  work with the homeless population for two years at the Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter.

He worked for a decade as a consultant at the Freedom Institute in New York, bringing psychodrama to expand its addiction treatment programs. He maintained a private practice in New York and East Hampton, Long Island -- where he became a kind of guru to many recovering alcoholics and addicts -- with his wife Calixte Stamp, a certified experiential psychotherapist.

He was active in the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama as a member of its executive council and its international committee.

In addition to pursuing training in psychodrama, he became a certified auricular acupuncturist and a Reiki Master. At the time of his death, he had been the subject of a documentary film titled “The Stamp and Lambert Story,” based on his business relationship with drug-using Kit Lambert, who died of a brain hemorrhage in 1981; he was reportedly  writing his autobiography.

Pete Townshend remembered Stamp with a touching essay on The Who's web site, calling him "loved and respected" by hundreds of people who he met in his work as a counselor. News of his death has appeared around the world, including Rolling Stone and The New York Times, no doubt introducing many more readers to the presence of psychodrama and experiential therapies.

His  funeral service is scheduled on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at Old Whaler's Church, Sag Harbor, N.Y.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ann Hale talks about the consciousness cycle

 Welcome to

Ann Hale is the mistress of sociometry, and she consistently puts out great information about sociometry and groups. If you haven't seen her web site, you should check it out -- it's brimming with great resources and links  that relate to groups and other good stuff -- plus her original art work.

She also puts out books every so often. They are always sterling representations of how sociometry fits with other aspects of psychodrama.

If you want to know more about sociometry and her latest publication, check our her new monograph, "Three Cyclical Models which Enhance Consciousness of Interpersonal Connection."  The 57-page monograph  includes the origins, design and ways each cycle may be used in action. The three cycles are: The sociometric cycle, the harmonic-conflictual cycle and the interpersonal neurobiology cycle. 

Appendices include signage of each cycle for use in action explorations; a section on the three cycles and Moreno's Canon of Creativity; a section on the holographic nature of the cycles, and an update on consciousness related to brain research.

Find ordering info here.

Monday, September 24, 2012

ASGPP has a sparkling new web site!


The American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama has a brand new web site, with lots more information, photos and history, plus free books to download, classic articles and updated guidelines for making submissions to the journal. Take a look.

Monday, September 17, 2012

2013 psychodrama conference in Virginia

Save the date!

The American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama is planning its 2013 conference April 11-15 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott, Arlington, Va., just minutes from Washington, D.C. The theme for the 71st annual conference is "Psychodrama; Being, Seeing and Acting that Connects Our Global Community."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

More psychodrama blogs are out there!

Friends, this isn't the only psychodrama blog.

Oh, yes, there's a number of other psychodramatists who write about the method of psychodrama and how to use it. Others write commentary about life and emotional well being.

Some bloggers are funny and some are erudite. Some give advice. All give an interesting take on their thoughts about society, psychodrama and how to use the method to make the word a better place.

  • Lives In Progress, from Jude Treder-Wolff and Nick Wolff, the psychodramatic-creative arts therapy couple in Smithtown, N.Y., with always interesting articles about creativity and psychodrama.
  • The Psychodrama Companion, from William Wysong, a a longtime TEP in Colorado and popular presenter at our annual conference. 
  • Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner, from the author of so many books about psychodrama including the often-revised and popular Foundations of Psychodrama.
  • Today's Drama, from Stan Smith, who writes about everything from group safety and ethics to Facebook and role theory.
  • Ask The Therapist, an advice column from Daniel Tomasulo on Psychcentral, plus The Healing Crowd for Psychology Today.
  • Psychodrama (just Psychodrama!) comes from Sue Daniel, one of the psychodrama pioneers  in Australia. A nice mix of pictures, poems, book reviews and more. 
  • Psyberspace is the creation of Walter Logeman, Christchurch, New Zealand, who subtitles his blog "Exploring the psyche in cyberspace."
  •  Krayna Castelbaum contains Krayna's thoughts on topics such as rest, love, joy and life, as well as the poem of the month and information about her practice in Oregon.
  • Daily Affirmations from Linda is the blog offering of Linda Condon, a Florida psychodramatist.
You can subscribe to most by RSS feed, a format for delivering regularly changing web content. Read more here about RSS.

Am I missing any? Contact me and I'll write more in this future blog.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Psychodrama, on TV & on the web with Jean Campbell

Jean Campbell, a TEP who is the founder of the Action Institute of California, has been starring in a few videos as psychodrama director.

Here, she presents a psychodrama segment on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. Although the site refers to Jean's work as "drama therapy," it really  is psychodrama. The snippet shows Jean requesting the protagonist reverse roles with his disease and then directing an anger release segment. The scene ends as Jean begins preparing the protagonist for a vignette. Let's watch:

Psychodrama scene on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew

Jean also discusses the magic and process of psychodrama at a recent program for TEDxConejo, which explores the always fascinating and often inspiring interconnectedness of our world, produced in association with the Conejo Valley Unified School District. Let's watch:

These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx; the TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.

Jean uses action methods in businesses, agencies, clinics, schools and hospitals to facilitate staff trainings, team building, strategic planning, crisis management and role training seminars. Her web site is here.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Tian Dayton's new book on adult children of alcoholics

Tian Dayton's newest book, The ACOA Trauma Syndrome: The Impact of Childhood Pain on Adult Relationships, takes a look at what it means to be an adult who grew up in an alcoholic home, the childhood pain that results from this experience and the way to find happiness in adult relationships.

Tian, who has a Ph.D. in psychology and is a sister psychodramatist, writes not from ivory tower research -- although she does offer plenty of research to back up her information about neurobiology -- but also from a very personal perspective:

"My father had two very distinct personalities. The same father who tenderly gave me café au lait on a spoon and fresh-squeezed orange juice in a baby glass, who listened to my childish sentences with such pride and pleasure, who dreamed impossible dreams for my future and worked all of his life to give me the best of everything—that same beloved father had a monster living inside of him. And that monster was as frightening to me as the other side of him was beautiful. And that monster grew stronger with each drink he took. At different times of the month, the week, and eventually the day, the monster would take over my father, and I would have no idea where my 'real' dad had gone."
Tian, who has been awarded the Scholar's Award from  the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama, is the executive editor of the organization's journal. She has written a number of books about psychodrama and experiential therapy including The Living Stage and  The Drama Within, and has also documented much about pain and trauma associated with dysfunctional families, including Heartwounds, Emotional Sobriety and Trauma and Addiction.

Here she talks about emotional sobriety and growing up in a family that hurts:

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A psychodrama rhyme!

What's your favorite psychodrama song?

(Wait a minute. Does psychodrama have songs?)

Well, kind of. This one comes from the Saturday night celebratory dance at the 2012 conference at the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama -- with a group of slightly revised lyrics -- popular since the founding the ASGPP in 1942.

This is my personal favorite, sung to the tune of "My Favorite Things":

High chair and low chair and concretization
Doubles and mirrors and showing creation.
Stand in the doorway and share your issue, 
then one of the members will give you a tissue.

When the protagonist cries
and the director replies
Role reverse right now.
we simply remember our favorite techniques and then
we can be in the  now.

Watch for our next conference April 11-15 in Arlington, Va.

Friday, August 31, 2012

A mini-dissertation about that empty chair.

Karen puts on her "schoolmarm" role - notice the pointy finger! -- and explains a bit about that Clint Eastwood empty chair thingy.

You'll also want to read Jonathan Moreno's excellent New York Times essay, What the Chair Could Have Told Clint.

And enjoy Adam Blatner's thought-provoking Pseudo-Psychodrama as Rhetoric.

Clint Eastwood's empty chair? He needs a director!

Photo with Clint and chair, borrowed from CBS News site.

Actor Clint Eastwood tried out the "empty chair" technique last night at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., talking to an invisible Barack Obama.

His drama was self directed -- we in psychodrama call that a monodrama -- and everyone from The Huffington Post to The Washington Post is talking about it this morning. Rachel Maddow called it weird, and a few others thought it was a joke. Obama got into the act by Tweeting a picture of himself, sitting in his presidential chair, saying, "This seat's taken."

Politics aside, the empty chair started out as a sociodramatic invention, when Dr. J.L. Moreno introduced it in 1921 in his famous theater presentation, asking for a leader to take the "throne" that he placed on a stage in Vienna, Austria. (No one stepped up.) In later years, Moreno's wife and collaborator Zerka Moreno expanded the technique for psychodramatic purposes, with the protagonist talking directly to a  significant person during a drama.

See my video here.

I don't think Clint would pass our practitioner's exam. He could have used a director to keep him on task and to encourage him to role reverse with the "other" in the chair. Role reversal -- feeling into the experience of the other -- creates empathy and understanding of the other's viewpoint.

...Something that politics needs more of.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Psychodramatist and musician offers her songs for healing

Kathy Amsden | Awakening
Kathy Amsden, musician, psychodramatist and clinical social worker is making her songs available.

The album is Awakening, which she recorded back in 2003, and until now has only been available at conferences and by directly contacting Kathy, who lives in Auburn Maine, and won the Collaborator's Award in 2007 from the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama for her work in combining psychodrama and music. 

"Writing and recording these songs has been a remarkable journey along a road to recovery for others, the world-at-large, and for myself. It has meant following a dream, choosing a path, taking a leap-of-faith, and reclaiming my voice. There IS a road to recovery; a pathway to joy and it begins with awakening the power of love."  

The songs, all original, are perfect for use in group and individual therapy. There is "Peace of Mind," "Wounds of the Warrior," "Road to Recovery" and "I've Found My Voice Again," among others. As for my unsolicited testimonial: I use them and they are always well received.

The album is here, where you may listen to short samples, purchase and download. Kathy, says that the individual songs will also be able to be downloaded  very soon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Psychodrama: truly a global movement!

If anyone has ever doubted it, psychodrama is truly a global movement. Here's a photo from the recent congress of the International Association of Group Psychotherapy and Group Processes in July in Cartagena, Colombia.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What about research about psychodrama?


 Here's a topic for conversation with psychodrama students, practitioners and trainers. 

Actually there are several topics:
  • Why don't more people write for the U.S. journal known as the Journal for Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy?
  •  Do we need research? 
  • And what kind of publishing venue should be research and other writings be circulated?

That last question is a topic that I've heard discussed as a consulting editor for the U.S. journal, published by the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama. Do we need a print journal? Or should we go for an online presence? We're still talking and thinking about it, and it's a topic that's bandied about in academia as well, with this article titled Why Do We Need Academic Journals in the First Place?

Research helps us define our work and its value. Although it is probably accurate to say that it is never really possible to quantify the amazing human spirit, we can also say that research studies offer a beginning point to observe the value of the action method and how it can be applied in the world at large. However, the journal is more than research -- it also includes case studies, examples of action processes by practitioners, book reviews and creative contributions such as poems and pictures. 

If you are interested in writing for the journal on a topic related to psychodrama, sociodrama, sociometry or group psychotherapy, here are the guidelines.

If you're a Facebook denizen, join the page for U.S. Psychodrama and Sociometry Journal.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Good news -- you can pass the psychodrama exam

In just about 60 days, candidates for psychodrama certification will have the opportunity to take the written exam.

Good news -- the written exam CAN be passed and can be passed without a lot of agony and anxiety. If you have had good trainers and have read the basic books while in the training process (before and after watching and participating in psychodramas), and take time to read, outline and answer past questions on the test and get assistance with a coach and/or study group, you should be all right.

Some basic books:

The Essential Moreno edited by Jonathan Fox
Psychodrama Since Moreno by Marcia Karp, etc.
ActingIn: Theory and Practice by Adam Blatner
The Living Stage by Tian Dayton

And yes, the Moreno psychodrama volumes, plus Zerka’s books, plus her very new memoirs will give history and basics.

My e-book, The Psychodrama Notebook, as a good study guide for candidates. It’s contains my passing essays for my CP and TEP tests along with other essays that are designed to be user-friendly. I am in the process of revising to self publish online, but in the meanwhile, folks can order the e-book directly from me as they wish. Click here for details or contact me directly.

In addition, those with test anxiety may find it useful to read an earlier blog post Getting Ready for the Psychodrama Exam? Some Tips.

I also tell my supervisees: if you have writing anxiety, start writing now. Write online for Grouptalk. Offer an article to Psychodrama Network News, the organization’s newsletter. Write a short article (including a bit of research) for our journal.

Friday, August 10, 2012

New book coming on supervision and psychodrama

When I work with in clinical supervision with my supervisees, a good portion of the supervision experience is based on "experiencing." Just like action creates deeper learning and change within clinical, educational and business settings, action is invaluable for teaching and supervising those who want to gain skills in psychodrama and sociometry.

A new book focusing on the art of supervision for psychodrama is coming in September and I am eager to see it. It's anthology of mostly European authors from various countries and it’s titled Supervision in Psychodrama: Experiential Learning, edited by Hannes Krall, Jutta Fürst and Pierre Fontaine and published by Springer Verlag in Germany. 

Many experienced psychodrama trainers and supervisors contributed to this book, which is written in English. It gives an interesting overview of supervision in psychodrama training in various countries. The full price of the book is 34,95 in Euros and $42.83 for us in the United States.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bruce Springsteen knows warm up (and more)


I like what Bruce Springsteen says in the New Yorker's massive profile of his life and work, just published in the July 30 issue. Actually, he says a lot of great stuff in the interview with David Remnick, but fair disclosure: I am a big fan. This good quote  is all about what we psychodramatists know as "warm up," and I think that's what makes him such a commanding and exceptional performer. He talks much about performing and how he gets ready for a show that unites the audience.

Here's one of many great quotes:

“The top of the show, see, is a kind of welcoming, and you are getting everyone comfortable and challenging them at the same time,” he says. “You’re setting out your themes. You’re getting them comfortable, because, remember, people haven’t seen this band. There are absences that are hanging there. That’s what we’re about right now, the communication between the living and the gone. Those currents even run through the dream world of pop music!”
Then he speaks of what he wants to achieve in a session, er, preformance:

"You are isolated, yet you desire to talk to somebody. You are very disempowered, so you seek impact, recognition that you are alive and that you exist. We hope to send people out of the building we play in with a slightly more enhanced sense of what their options might be, emotionally, maybe communally. You empower them a little bit, they empower you. It’s all a battle against the futility and the existential loneliness! It may be that we are all huddled together around the fire and trying to fight off that sense of the inevitable. That’s what we do for one another."

Springsteen also discusses his family, with his grandparents constantly mourning their young deceased daughter; his father coming home as a World War II veteran plagued with drinking and verbally abusing Bruce -- as well as his own depression.

Read more here

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What the "empty chair" is not! (But funny!)

The empty chair is the famous therapeutic tool that first started with J.L. Moreno in 1921, when he invited members of the theater audience to take the role of a leader in post-war Austria.  Much of the audience apparently did not appreciate or understand Moreno’s message, and no one was seen as worthy of taking the role.

Later, his collaborator and wife Zerka Moreno expanded the empty chair to use for the protagonist rather than the community. And the famous Fritz Perls, the developer of Gestalt therapy, who was Moreno’s student at one time, borrowed the empty chair and turned it into the “hot seat.”

Here's a funny scene from the television show 30 Rock, in which Jack pretends to be Tracy's parents in a role-playing therapy session

(No, we psychodramatists really don't do this kind of role play in quite this way, but this clip is funny. Enjoy!)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

New book mixes 12 steps & abuse survivor healing

Adena Bank Lees’ new book 12 Healing Steps for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Practical Guide shows how the 12 Steps can be converted into a useful guide for recovery from childhood sexual abuse.

The good psychodrama news is that Adena, a licensed clinical social worker and an advanced psychodrama student, is now developing action methods to go along with the book and presenting them on behalf of the Arizona Psychodrama Institute, which is certainly a second contribution to the field.

In this small book, she demonstrates her creativity as a clinician and as a writer. She has taken the venerable 12 Steps – based on Alcoholics Anonymous and that have been successfully employed by millions of people since originating in the 1930s – and illustrates how survivors of abuse can follow these steps to come to peace with early pain.

A big plus of the book is that she converts the sometimes stodgy writing of the 12 Steps to approachable and accessible language. For instance, Step 2, “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity,” is changed to “Willing to ask for help.”  The traditional Step 4, which states, “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves,” becomes simply, “Write your autobiography.”

Each chapter explores a single step, giving a user-friendly explanation of the step and how it promotes healing for abuse survivors. At the end of each chapter is a list of suggested actions to further the recovery process, which may include journaling, making a collage, writing letters, list making, talking to a trusted friend and the like.

Men and women who are already in recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Al-Anon and other programs will find this book both familiar and useful. It’s also a valuable guide for  mental health clinicians, addictions counselors and other health professionals who should consider this book a valuable addition in working with individuals and groups.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Our eating disorders & psychodrama book is on its way!

I'm thrilled to report my new book with psychodramatist Linda Ciotola, M.Ed., TEP, titled “Healing Eating Disorders with Psychodrama and Other Action Methods: Beyond the Silence and the Fury,” has just been accepted for publication by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

We don’t yet know the publication schedule but we're excited and want to share the good news. We think it is the first book to address the topic of eating disorders and psychodrama and in addition to clinical applications, we will be including some great new info about incorporating education, yoga, movement, nutrition, Reiki, family constellation work, mindfulness and more.

We are both psychodramatists and psychodrama trainers, and representative of the many fields  -- mental health, education, law, business and consulting -- that use the valuable method of psychodrama.  I am a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist and personal growth coach and Linda is an educator, fitness trainer and yoga instructor and the founder of Healing Bridges in Maryland.

We'll keep you posted as details arrive from the publisher. In the meanwhile, join our Facebook page and see an earlier blog post which includes a training handout here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Moreno & sociometry get mention from Facebook watcher

An enterprising writer just posted the article The Future Of Facebook Was Born In 1932, commenting on the origins of social networking -- our very own  J.L. Moreno, physician, mystic and social scientist.

As we all know, Moreno was a genius of social systems, developing sociometry, sociodrama and sociatry in addition to the more well-known psychodrama. Moreno has been so long relegated to the footnotes of psychology books that it's great to see him get some recognition.

We blogged about this Facebook and sociometry connection back in 2009; revisit here.

The current online article links to a journal article Network Analysis in the Social Sciences. More serious readers can find the scholarly article here. The graphic below accompanies the article.

Monday, May 14, 2012

"Stop it!" Reprising the "role" of Bob Newhart's psychiatrist

A friend just sent me this link to a funny episode, reprising actor Bob Newhart's classic psychiatrist role. So for those of you who have worked in mental health or counseling, or have gotten psychotherapy, needed psychotherapy, didn't benefit from the psychotherapy, or just loves a wacky take on human dysfunctions, enjoy:

P.S. It isn't really like this in psychodrama. We who practice do it differently!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New Ritual Theatre book includes a chapter on psychodrama

New book out: 

"Ritual Theatre - The Power of Dramatic Ritual in Personal Development Groups and Clinical Practice." It's published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers and available through Amazon.

The book is a collaboration of different styles of work with ritual theater, including a chapter on psychodrama by Sylvia Israel and Elizabeth Plummer,  both psychodramatists in California -- and  edited by Claire Schrader in London. 

See a preview of their chapter Psychodrama and Ritual Theatre here.

Here's a link to Claire's blog where she talks more about the book and her own influences from different aspects of Ritual Theatre including African shaman Malidoma Somé.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Just for fun, a little "group" humor!

Doing group?

Here's a fun video from the United Kingdom -- and you are guaranteed to laugh! In this scene, all five actors are participants in a phobias workshop. The phobias include a fear of the word "Aagh!", a fear of apologies, a fear of repetition and awkward silences. Performed by Lee Mack, Jim Tavare, Tim Vine, Karen Taylor and Ronni Ancona.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Adam Blatner explains the potential of sociodrama

Sociodrama, the little-known cousin of psychodrama, has great potential. We see its potential in this video from the Department of Counseling and Human Development Services and the Torrance Center for Creativity and Talent Development at the University of Georgia, which hosted a presentation by Adam Blatner, M.D.

Adam spent the evening introducing participants to the concept of sociodrama, differentiating it from psychodrama and other similar processes, and explained how it can be used as a powerful tool in counseling and education. Participants engaged in  sociodramatic scenarios to give them a feel for the process, which is described as a powerful problem solving tool.

Adam describes himself as a multi-faceted fellow: amateur philosopher, contemplateur of contemporary cultural trends, confabulator, playful part-elf, and promoter of imagination as well as more rational modes of thought. Professionally he is a retired mainstream psychiatrist and a prolific blogger.

Part one, filmed on February 26, 2011, may be found here.

Part Two is here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

What's in the word "psychodrama"?


The psychodrama discussion list known as Grouptalk has been having a lively discussion lately about how to language the word "psychodrama."

Some wonder if the word is too loaded or too old or too strange for use in the 21st century. The word is the name of a musical group and frequently media persons use the word to denote an emotionally intense movie, book or politically charged situation.

We are sure to have more discussions on this topic when we meet next week in Jersey City, N.J., for our 70th annual conference of the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama.

From time to time, I have used a variety of word, including psychodrama and action methods to experiential therapy and interactive therapy – not to mention the phrase imagination activities. I like Adam Blatner's idea of “action exploration,” too However, whatever verbiage we employ, it is important that we know the background and history of this method and are able to explain it to our clients, trainees, students, visitors, web readers and others who are curious, including “why” it is called psychodrama and what it is good for. This keeps the method grounded in a context and theory, not just a bunch of cool and interesting techniques.

Note to the interested: Dr. J.L. Moreno named his method "psychodrama," as a counter to Sigmund Freud's "psychoanalysis." Moreno often compared his method to  Dr. Freud's work, claiming his was superior because it added drama -- action -- to personal exploration. In fact, psychodrama refers to "psyche in action." Psyche, of course, is the Greek word for soul.

As for the language, when I trained with Zerka Moreno, she was insistent that psychodrama was a method, not a mere therapy.

But she also frequently said, “There are lots of ways of doing it,” meaning many directions to go within a drama and many ways to direct a drama. So let's say that there are many directions to go in the language-ing of the method as well.