Thursday, June 18, 2015

Celebrating psychodrama at St. Elizabeths Hospital


In the history books of psychodrama, St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C., has a special chapter.

The venerable Saint Elizabeths (yes, no apostrophe) Hospital Psychodrama Department received the 2013 Collaborators Award from the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama.

Psychodrama was introduced to the hospital decades ago by James Ennis, one of Dr. J.L. Moreno's first trainees, and Dr. Moreno visited there to demonstrate his method. Dozens of trainees learned the art and craft of psychodrama there before moving on to training centers and their own practices and businesses. The psychodrama department was dissolved in the early 2000s, although a strong creative arts department continues to function. There is behind-the-scenes discussion to bring psychodrama back to the hospital.

St. Elizabeths Hospital is a psychiatric hospital operated by the District of Columbia Department of Mental Health. Founded in 1852, it was the first large-scale federally run psychiatric hospital in the United States. Housing several thousand patients at its peak, St. Elizabeths had a fully functioning medical-surgical unit and offered and psychiatric residencies. It has since fallen into disrepair and the grounds are mostly abandoned, although the east campus is still operational and it opened a new facility in 2010. Well-known patients include would-be presidential assassins Richard Lawrence (who attempted to kill Andrew Jackson) and more recently John Hinckley, Jr. who shot Ronald Reagan, as well as the successful assassin of James Garfield, Charles J. Guiteau. Other notable residents were Mary Fuller, James Swann, Ezra Pound and William Chester Minor, former Civil War Army Surgeon.

Lots of great hospital lore at the Wiki site.