Friday, December 20, 2013

How Rudolph became a sociometric star

Rudolph, the reindeer with the red nose, is the classic character of Christmas lore. You know, the lonely reindeer bullied by other reindeer because of his unusual difference.

Rory Remer, a TEP and professor of educational, school and counseling psychologist the University of Kentucky, reminds us that this story is a lesson in the effect of changing the sociometric criterion of choice and the impact of aristotele.

Sociometry is the science of surveying preferences in relationships in groups of people -- or reindeer! -- and  aristotele is [x]. The reindeer bullied poor Rudolph until he was selected by highly respected Santa for his special talent -- which had been seen as a defect. Yet Rudolph was the perfect choice to guide the sleigh on a Foggy Christmas night because he fit the role that was needed.

Truly, Rudolph has guided our values in cartoon and song. since the 1940s and beyond. Originally created as an advertising gimmick to lure customers to the Montgomery Ward department store in Chicago, he has become the protagonist in a charming often-told story.  

For more on Rudolph lore and legend, see Snopes.
As Ronald Lankford noted in his cultural history of American Christmas songs, Rudolph's story was a classic reflection of American values during the 1940s and beyond:
Much like the modern Santa Claus song, Rudolph's story is for children; more specifically, it is a children's story about overcoming adversity and earning, by personal effort, respect in the adult world. As a young deer (child) with a handicap that turns out to be an unrecognized asset, Rudolph comes to the rescue of an adult (Santa) at the last minute (on Christmas Eve). When Rudolph saves the day, he gains respect from both his peers (the reindeer who refused to include him in games) and the adult world. The story of Rudolph, then, is the fantasy story made to order for American children: each child has the need to express and receive approval for his or her individuality and/or special qualities. Rudolph's story embodies the American Dream for the child, written large because of the cultural significance of Christmas.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Adam Blatner talks about "Beyond Psychodrama"

Adam Blatner, M.D., TEP,  is one of the biggest voices to assert that psychodrama is more than therapy -- and of the great need to contribute this method to education, law, personal growth, theater improvisation and coaching and the like.

In this video, he discusses "Beyond Psychodrama: The Global Reach of Moreno's Ideas and How They Merge with  Other Trends" as the opening plenary session of the 71st annual conference of the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama in April 2013.

Life, art, play looks like psychodrama

Don't know if the playwright and actors of this new play "Psychodrama! A Tender Love Story in Five Sessions" in Cedar Falls, Iowa, actually know the meaning of psychodrama or not.

But they do appear to understand its therapeutic possibilities.

Grant Tracey, one of the playwright-actors, says the focus of the play is "the interface between life and art and how art can create transformations in identity." Here's the description: "A therapist tries to get a young married couple to open up about the dissonance they are experiencing.  In the course of their first session together he has them do a number of exercises that are more akin to theater than to therapy."

The writers developed the text through improvisational methods, crafting three-dimensional, quirky characters and exaggerated situations the audience will recognize. Read full story here.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sociodrama conference in Italy looks at all the problems in the world

Just recently we shared details about Rosalie Minkin's new book about sociodrama, a kind of cousin to psychodrama.

But we forgot to tell you about the Fourth International Sociodrama Conference in Iseo, Italy, in September 2013. Psychodrama and sociodrama -- while always not well known in the United States -- are popular and growing in Europe, South America and elsewhere. Topics included political activism, creating groups and community, multiculturalism, diversity and working in organizations.  We can see the main part of the gathering took place in a basketball court, making the event highly accessible, and was offered in both English and Italian.

Watch a sociodrama gathering in action below and another day here. See sidebar for additional videos.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

New "home birth dads" calendar shows the value of role reversal

We're always looking for good examples of the psychodramatic tool of role reversal and how it creates more empathy in our world.

Here's one -- in the form of the new "home birth" dads calendar coming up for 2014, just delivered by Kimberly McGuinness-Rook, a midwife in Racine, Wis., who happens to be a colleague and professional neighbor.

In this fun calendar, the husbands and partners of women who gave birth at home don skimpy sarongs and cooling head cloths  as they play act what it's like to be fully pregnant and ready to give birth. The men volunteered to take part in a photo project that recreated some of the experiences of their partners' most memorable pregnancy and birth moments -- holding a bulging belly, stepping into a warm-water birth tub, gritting teeth after a particularly strong contraction ...

Kim of InnerBirth Midwifery collaborated with professional photographer Katie Hall to create the calendar. She also created the fake "baby bumps" -- using a stretchy maternity support band stuffed  with soft sweaters and scarves for a mold-able shape.

The calendar, meant to be comical,  stirred strong emotions in several of the men. For sure, it was a consciousness-raising experience to find out what pregnancy and delivery "might" be like -- and at least one man started weeping when he was presented with his real-life baby during the photo shoot. That's the idea of role reversal -- to step into the place of the "other" and get a sense of the other's experience.

Oh, yes -- news of this calendar has gone viral! It's been picked up by NBC's Today Show and The Huffington Post, and news has landed in England, London and Vietnam along with a few mommy blogs like this one.

Ten percent of profits will benefit the Greater Racine Collaborative for Healthy Birth Outcomes since this community has one of the highest African American infant mortality rates in the United States, affecting nearly 20 per 1,000 babies born.

Order the calendar here.

Midwife Kimberly McGuinness-Rook, left, and a birthing couple reverse roles. Check the differences!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Stories we tell, in film and psychodrama

I'm told Stories We Tell is an intelligent, sensitive, quietly moving documentary film about family secrets and lies, myths and truths, memory and forgetting. I've not seen the film, but this single clip reminds me so much of the value of psychodrama and it's ability to tell our stories -- and reframe them.

The narrator says:

"When you're in the middle of a story, it isn't a story at all -- but only a confusion, a dark roaring, a blindness. It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story when you are telling it  to yourself -- or to someone else."

Oscar-nominated director Sarah Polley offers a genre-twisting film about her mother, released in 2012, that playfully excavates layers of myth and memory to reveal the truth at the core of a family of storytellers.

Rosalie Minkin's sociodrama manual is ready!

It's here -- the long-awaited sociodrama manual Sociodrama For Our Time by Rosalie Minkin which has been in the creation stage for the past couple of years. With the emphasis on psychodrama  -- working on one person's issues in dramatic form -- sociodrama has taken second place. In sociodrama, we work on social and cultural issues that affect a group, culture, country or globe.

Rosalie, TEP, MSW, ATR-BC, LCAT, has focused her work in the area of sociodrama through the years and has created sociodrama programs at drug treatment centers, hospitals, community organizations and in a variety of public and private settings. She has  worked with an assortment of groups, ranging from corporate lawyers to first-time youth offenders and drug-addicted teenagers. See her web site here.

J.L. Moreno described sociodrama as an action method dealing with inter-group relations and collective themes and issues. Rosalie's forthcoming book will offer the reader some of the following subjects: What is sociodrama?, New procedures of a sociodrama, New ingredients, The role of the director, Tools of a sociodrama, and offer ideas for sociodrama settings.

The book Sociodrama: Who's In Your Shoes? by Antonina Gracia and Patricia Sternberg is the classic in the field. Eva Leveton also wrote about sociodrama and drama therapy in her book Healing Collective Trauma Using Sociodrama and Drama Therapy in 2010. Now we have another addition to that section of the library!

Ann Hale speaks on fine points of sociometry

I like to call Ann Hale the grand mistress of sociometry, the science of evaluating the social relationships in our lives.While most of us divide our skills between sociometry and psychodrama, sociometry is Ann's true love and she is very, very good at it. She's the go-to person when most of us have a sociometric question.

After J.L. Moreno died in 1974, the training program at the Moreno Institute in Beacon, N.Y., was re-established by Dr. Moreno's widow and collaborator Zerka Moreno. Zerka was the main trainer  and enrolled Ann Hale and John Nolte as additional trainers.

Ann's site is the International Sociometry Training Network, which is rich with content on social relationships. Recently she posted an essay on Grouptalk, the psychodrama community's discussion list, that I snagged to offer to the larger audience.

She writes about sociometry as it relates to spontaniety, action, tele, role theory and more. 

Read on:

As anxiety increases, spontaneity decreases. Taking time to create an environment where participants find ways to become receptive to one another, their differences and similarities, helps decrease the anxiety related to belonging, fitting in and the creation of a "mistakes allowed" atmosphere. This is often referred to as group building. group building can occur with a sequence of psychodramas. However, if you do not take time to look at patterns of choice making for roles, people get lost and their needs for roles unexamined.

If your energy is tied up with hiding your authentic self you have less energy for action.  Being playful is a great energizer.  Being happily connected to others is a springboard to more and more spontaneity. It is important to remember that "play" for some people was fraught with cruelty and humiliation. The action increases opportunities for integration rather than repeating old patterns which once promised safety and which now keep you stuck.

Sociometric exercises may be useful; however, they can be quite hurtful if leaders and group members have inadequate training and haven't the skill to slow the process down to connect choices people make with their personal story.  This is one reason why I do not separate sociometry from psychodrama.  Once the story is explored in action (even short sequences of action), there is a greater awareness of what prevents authentic connection.

I see tele and empathy as a result of having integrated life events; and transference as a result of an internal push within a person to attain completion of a life event in order to reach true integration. The transference is projected onto a likely auxiliary ego who may or may not choose to assist the person's integration.

The cultural conserve where the role perception and role expectation reside,  once challenged,  begins a process of warming up to something new and leaving the role taking position.  Internal or interpersonal supports help a person in their warmup to role playing the options that occur to him or her.  Role creating results from an energetic state where the momentum received from interpersonal connection and enthusiasm generates an "over the top" experience of novelty and usefulness.  Throughout the connections necessary to engage in this process is enhanced by being connected with positive sociometric relationships.

She notes that she has always liked Jonathan Fox's definition of spontaneity:  "Knowing what is happening, and when to articulate it and to act on it. And, when not to articulate it and act on it."  Sociometry is walking that path.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Explaining psychodrama info with an infographic

Infographics are everywhere -- and I just had some fun creating a brand new infographic about psychodrama. 

If you've been trying to explain the basics of psychodrama to your friends, clients, trainees or marketing prospects -- or are looking for a quick pictorial synopsis to add to your Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter pages, feel free to borrow!

In the meanwhile, take a visit to my own Pinterest page where you can find board about psychodrama.

Have a tour and enjoy more boards on topics of creativity for helping professionals and journaling where you can find warm-up ideas, art projects, info on music for healing, sand tray arrangements, constellation ideas and lots of other fun stuff.

As always, I offer supervision and training -- in southeastern Wisconsin and will travel! -- for how to integrate these ideas into the practices of all who are interested in action methods, psychodrama, constellation work and other experiential modalities.

On sustainable relationships and psychodrama...

Jackie Bergman is working with leadership for sustainability and Phil Carter leads work in psychodrama. Phil, a psychodramatist in New Zealand, provides a safe scene for exploration of the self and relation to others. Jackie, the author of  Fear or Love? You Choose! from Sweden,  finds this type of work essential for our striving for a sustainable society.

They talk about the future, spontaneity, life, connecting people who have been alienated by society and how group heals.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Explaining that "strange" word of psychodrama

My friend and colleague Marlo Archer, Ph.D., does a great job of explaining the strange word of psychodrama and how  -- although it's not a great word in the current marketing world -- is wonderful for growth, change and learning in Psychodrama -- A Powerful Approach to Healing, just published the new print and online issue of Together AZ.

Here's the start, as Marlo writes:

"I was in a family feud over money and needed some advice. I invited my dad to have a talk with me about it on a picnic table near Lake Michigan at the Summerfest grounds, under the Hoan Bridge on a bright, sunny day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He told me I didn’t need to worry about what my aunt and uncle thought, and he knew I’d make the right decision. We spoke of other things as well. We laughed and cried as I caught him up on everything that had happened in my life since he had died. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that my dad is gone?

"In fact, it was his estate and another estate that got us all into feud to begin with. However, through the power of psychodrama, I did, in fact, have a conversation with him and get all the advice I needed to move forward with my dilemma. Oddly enough, he was played by an Australian woman I had never met before, and she was perfect for the part."

What is she talking about? Here's the rest of the story.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Patricia Sternberg, drama therapist and friend of psychodrama, dies at 82

Patricia SternbergPatricia Sternberg died of acute respiratory failure in Hospice of Palm Beach County in Boynton Beach, Florida, on June 23 at the age of 82.

She played many roles her life, including drama therapist, friend of psychodrama and professor. She served on the faculty of the Theater Department at Hunter College in New York City from 1978-2005. she had previously taught in the Theater Department at Pennsylvania State University's Ogontz (now Abington) campus from 1971-1978.

She believed theater could heal. She wrote two basic textbooks in the field: Sociodrama: Who's in Your Shoes? with Antonina Garcia, a psychodramtist and drama therapist, and Theatre for Conflict Resolution: In the Classroom and Beyond

She wrote numerous plays for young audiences. While at Hunter College, the performances she directed were often the first theater experience for many of New York City’s public school children, an audience she cultivated through her commitment to public outreach.

Long before disability studies became known, she devoted her life to issues of accessibility in the performing arts.  Believing that theater was the route to achieving your full expressive potential, no matter the physical limitation, she gave acting classes for Hunter’s disabled students every semester as a voluntary overload.  She taught her colleagues to be disability-blind by example, as she cast students from those classes in the 27 productions she directed at Hunter.

She was the recipient of the 1998 Gertrud Schattner Award to recognize her distinguished contribution to the field of drama therapy in education, publication, practice, and service.

“The Theater Department mourns the loss of her generous loving spirit,” said Mira Felner, chair of the Hunter College Theater Department.

Born Patricia Sikes in Detroit, Mich., in 1930, she received her bachelor of arts degree from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, in 1952. After college she moved to New York City where she studied acting with Lee Strasberg at the American Theater Wing. She  received her master's in arts degree from Villanova University in 1972.

In 1956 she married Richard Sternberg to whom she remained happily married for 53 years until his death in 2009. While raising their family in Riverdale, N.Y., in the 1960s, she founded the Riverdale Children's Theater, the Riverdale Teen Repertory Theater and the Riverdale Community Theater, which is believed to have been the only active community theater in New York City at that time.

“My three greatest productions are my children,” Ms. Sternberg told the Palm Beach Post in a 2006 interview.

A memorial service will take place in Fall 2013 in New York City. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Patricia Sternberg's name to: The Drama Therapy Fund, 1626 Leavenworth St., Manhattan, KS 66502.

See more of her obituary in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Moreno as celebrity poster

Thanks to Marcia Karp, master psychodramatist from England who travels and teaches internationally, for this photo of a giant poster of Dr. J.L. Moreno being adored by a red-shoed fan. From the street sign, it looks like it comes from Russia, but we are told it is actually Brazil.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

An opera based on a psychodrama group (sort of!)

Rebecca Walters, co-director of the Hudson Valley Psychodrama Institute, found mention of a contemporary opera  based on a psychodrama group. "Sort of," she says. 

The opera, titled Sylvia, is the creation of Julia Adolphe, and is about a young Jewish woman's affair with an older man. Julia discussed her idea with her college master's adviser, and he seized on the idea of psychodrama as the framework through which to tell the entire story.


"I began researching psychodrama extensively and found that there were fascinating parallels between the goals of psychodrama and the goals of opera. Both seek to open the creative mind, to provoke new thought patterns and solutions, and to evoke a collective memory. Both are larger than life and engage the wildest parts of our imaginations. With the psychodramatic format as my guide, the structure of the opera fell into place. I was able to move fluidly through past, present, and an imaginary future."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Eating disorders & psychodrama book is out!

We -- Linda Ciotola and I -- show and tell how psychodrama and other action methods are especially helpful in the treatment of the classic eating disorders as well as dieting struggles, body dissatisfaction and associated issues of fear, sadness, silence and shame. This book provides clinicians with sound theoretical information, practical treatment guidelines and a wealth of clinically-tested action structures and interventions.
We tell how we have introduced action methods to work with a diverse range of clients, and suggest ways in which psychodrama practitioners, experiential therapists and others may integrate these methods into their practices.

The book offers fresh ideas for tailoring psychodramatic standards such as The Living Newspaper, Magic Shop and the social atom to eating disorder issues, with extensive examples of psychodrama interventions - classic and specially adapted for eating disorders - for experienced practitioners and those new to experiential therapies. We demonstrate how how psychodrama can be used in combination with other expressive, holistic and complementary approaches, including family constellations, music, art, imagery, ritual, Five Element Acupuncture, yoga, Reiki and other energy work.

Read the first two chapters of the book here.

We have been honored with wonderful endorsements not only from Zerka Moreno, the co-developer of psychodrama, and other respected practitioners and trainers in the psychodramatic community but also from other disciplines:

"Thanks for this creative way in which you both jointly have composed a book like this, on a very serious and little understood disease. A book on this disorder has been badly needed." -- Zerka Moreno, TEP, co-developer of psychodrama and most recently author of To Dream Again: A Memoir.

"Here is a creative and refreshing integration of action methods, and the use of other creative and expressive arts, well-grounded in current scientific research on what really works in therapy. There is a wealth of vivid clinical vignettes and the authors also offer variations, making this truly useful to practitioners. -- Adam Blatner, M.D., TEP,  blogger, author of Foundations of Psychodrama: History, Theory and Practice

"With a focus on action methods, neuroscience and trauma, this book gives experienced psychodramatists and clinicians new to the field effective and safe ways of using action to heal both women and men struggling with eating disorders, and help them transform their lives. A valuable addition to the library of anyone in the field." -- Rebecca Walters, LCAT, LMHC, TEP, co-director of the Hudson Valley Psychodrama Institute 

"This innovative book on eating disorders and safe action therapy is a seminal contribution to both fields of psychotherapy.  The authors, Carnabucci and Ciotola, share their experience as clinical practitioners of safe psychodrama, constellation work, and other body-based healing practices such as the Therapeutic Spiral Model, in eloquent stories of important healing work with people healing from eating disorders.  A must have for your library if you work with people that have eating disorders in themselves or their families." -- Kate Hudgins, Ph.D., TEP, developer of the Therapeutic Spiral Model

"The authors have managed to span the human experience, the science and the healing experience in  dramatic and intellectually challenging ways. They write not only from highly developed professional selves but also from deeply attuned experiential selves." -- Nancy Alexander, LCSW-C, psychotherapist and author, Columbia, Md.

"This book is a wonderful tool to the therapist who specializes in eating disorders and is looking for psychodrama techniques to assist with the healing. It is comprehensive in its approach to eating disorders, and issues with the body, trauma, and food. I know the authors who are dedicated healers. A welcomed addition to the psychodrama and eating disorder fields." -- Mary Bellofatto, MA, LMHC, NCC, charter member of International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals, Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and trainer, educator and practitioner of psychodrama, sociometry and group  psychotherapy.

"Karen and Linda bring both their skill as psychodramatists as well as their sensitivity as healing practitioners to their writing, creating a work that is long overdue in the field. It is thoughtful, practical, and eminently readable; a valuable resource for anyone working with this population." --  Mario Cossa, MA, RDT/MT, TEP, and author of Rebels with a Cause: Working with Adolescents with Action Techniques

 "This work represents a synthesis of tremendous knowledge and skill acquired over years of working with people with eating disorders. I highly encourage everyone to take advantage of the wisdom, creative ideas, and concrete techniques included. Linda and Karen bring a wealth of talent -- in psychodrama, yoga, bodywork, holistic health, spirituality, nutrition, Constellation work, and many other areas -- to their collaboration. The book is clearly written , well-organized and contains many ideas and techniques readers can readily apply to their practice settings." -- Catherine D. Nugent, LPC, TEP, psychotherapist, psychodramatist, Laurel, Md.
"Clear, graceful writing and terrific content." -- Joan Lewin, dance-movement psychotherapist and author of Dance Therapy Notebook

"I'm using your book for my eating disorder group -- beautifully written, user friendly and warm, plus great exercises and cases." -- Nancy Kirsner, Ph.D., OTR, TEP,  South Florida Center for Psychodrama, Miami, Fla.

"This book is perfectly compelling! I think it's a textbook for folks who are at the master's degree or better level. Yet it's written in such a way that even the layperson can read it with comprehension and be then inspired to seek help for themselves or a loved one!" — Antoinette Fiumos, M.Ac, DOM, AP, acupuncturist and nutritionist, Sarasota, Fla.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Tobi Klein shows the fun of psychodrama in new DVD

Psychodrama can be fun! That's the attitude of Tobi Klein, a psychodrama practitioner and trainer in Montreal, Canada.

Her new DVD, titled Psychodrama Unmasked: Essential Tools and Techniques, shows how psychodrama offers a wide array of action-oriented techniques that help clients get out of their heads and into their bodies, moving beyond what is possible in traditional talk therapy.

This DVD  is an excellent introduction to psychodrama for newcomers and offers a thorough introduction to its key concepts and methodology. It should be useful not only for those who facilitate actual psychodramas, but also for more traditional psychotherapists seeking tools and techniques to engage clients in new ways.

Watch excerpt from the DVD here.

Psychodrama Unmasked: Essential Tools and TechniquesCalling on teachings from psychodrama’s founder, J.L. Moreno, master psychodramatist Tobi Klein offers an enriching learning experience by directing three live psychodramas while simultaneously teaching viewers the how-to’s. Her demonstrations and explanations highlight how compelling, cathartic, and effective this approach can be when skillfully presented. As one participant in the video says, “In the psychodrama I cannot intellectualize away the emotions.”  

With Klein as the director, the group beautifully explores universal themes such as betrayal, loss, grief, guilt, and shame, and viewers get to see how Klein creates scenes that provide opportunities for full expression of each protagonist’s psyche. 

Tobi is the first Canadian certified as a psychodrama director by the Moreno Institute, is Director of the Canadian Institute of Psychodrama and Psychotherapy, a private practitioner treating interpersonal, sexual and divorce problems, and a certified Divorce Mediator. A lecturer and supervisor in the Creative Arts Therapies program at Concordia, Klein is affiliated with the Westmount Square Medical Clinic and the Institute Samara in Montreal.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Warming up for ASGPP's conference in April


Come to the conference! The 71st Annual Conference of the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama has the details ready.

The date is April 11-15, 2013 in Arlington, Va., with more than 100 workshops and presentations by many leaders in the field from the United States and around the globe, showcasing their work and the wide reach of psychodrama and sociometry in a variety of applications to clinical and non-clinical settings.

I'll be there with my colleague and friend Linda Ciotola and we'll offer "Healing Circles for Eating Disorders," from our new book Healing Eating Disorders with Psychodrama and Other Action Methods: Beyond the Silence and the Fury.

The conference is open to those who have an interest in psychodrama, sociometry and group psychotherapy for personal growth or professional development -- or both -- and includes presentations by  keynote speaker is Tara Brach, Ph.D., an internationally renowned clinical psychologist, author and teacher of meditation and mindfulness. who will also lead an experiential workshop. 

The plenary will be led by Adam Blatner, MD, TEP, and Allee Baltner. Both will highlight the global reach of psychodrama. Adam is really one of psychodrama's stars, and he and Allee are the authors of The Art of Play, one of the first books to recognize the healing elements of play.

There will also be the group's annual awards event -- where I'm proud to receive the David Kipper's Scholar Award this year -- plus regular events like the newcomers' gathering, Adam Blatner's Songfest with Lorelei Goldman and the traditional Saturday night party.
 Hope to see you there!