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Hanna KENDE: “Psychodrama with Children”
It is a great honor for me to introduce Hanna Kende’s book.
I first met Hanna in 2005, at the 23d Congress of the IAIP in Turin.
Along my colleagues from the A. Adler Institute of Turin, we were interested in meeting clinicians who worked as we did in the domain of childhood. We wanted to meet experts belonging to the Adlerian community and to learn about their methods of working with children and to exchange knowledge with them about the therapeutic methodology that we had developed and nurtured in Turin over the course of our many years of research and experience in this area.
At that time, there was no Section in Child Psychotherapy Research in the organization of the International Association of Individual Psychology (IAIP), and we had not yet considered it possible to propose creating one, as happened later in Vilnius during the 24th Congress of the IAIP in 2008.
So this is how, among the participants at the 23d Congress, we met Hanna Kende. From the outset, she drew our attention not only by her Lectio Magistralis, (“On the injustice against man from his compensation through culture”) but because during the pre-Congress, several of our colleagues had become familiar with her method of psychodrama with children, this extraordinary treasure that was still hidden underground in the realm of Adlerian therapists working in the territories of childhood.
In Vilnius, besides discovering the guiding principle that we shared, the emotion generated by of our meeting Hanna went beyond our common passion for working with children; we were excited to discover her training method for psychologists wishing to lead such groups for children. This is how we came to discover the world of Adlerian psychodrama in the fullness of its complexity, its rich experience, its “good” therapists and its solid theoretical foundations. This was a world of a thousand colors and nuances, called upon for use in prevention as well as to treat children of different cultures and different ages, which made it possible for us to embrace them, to understand their secrets and to relieve the suffering entailed in the lives and histories of each of these children.
This was a fruitful encounter for us in Turin in a number of different ways. Completely consistent with the theory and methodology we had developed through our research and our experience in individual psychotherapy with children, we were now deeply enriched through a group dimension of particular interest because of its efficacy and its plasticity.
What was especially fascinating for us was the “discovery” of a theoretical approach in Adlerian methodology for the psychotherapy of children, articulated starting from the ideas of A. Adler, with valuable contributions from other relational psychoanalysts and specialists in developmental psychology, matured through time, practice in different countries and languages (especially Hungarian and French), and which was entirely compatible with the analogous directions of research and practice that we had developed in Italy.
It was beginning with this encounter that the opportunity took shape to create a section at the IAIP in research in child and adolescent psychotherapy. This section would now give “Cinderella” the chance 1) to attend the ball with her sisters, princes, kings and queens, who had long been official protagonists in the scientific discourse at the heart of Adlerian thought around the world, and 2), to make the first concrete steps in the direction of exchange and comparison between the Associations and our Adlerian colleagues from other nations.
And remarkably enough, the possibility came up in Turin for a training experience in psychodrama in Italy with Hanna Kende and Melinda Varga (Hungary), with the collaboration of Alessandra Zambelli (France). Thus began a trajectory that is still continuing today for a first group of psychotherapists and a second group assisted by the Turin psychotherapists who are in the process of being trained as trainers.
To read Hanna’s book that I have the honor of introducing today gives one a taste of what “experiential” training in psychodrama according to Hanna Kende’s method offers psychotherapists engaged in working with children. Considering the problems presented by our young patients and the specific challenges of working with them, we all know that it is essential for every psychotherapist and analyst to have undergone a personal analysis, but this is not all. An “experiential” pathway of training, focused on sensorimotor and symbolic play and on non-verbal relationships, enables us to explore aspects of pre-verbal communication, the “implicit memory” that is so fundamental for relating to children, and places us in touch with the personal functional register stemming from the realm of the physical body that is the repository of the earliest relational experiences.
To work with Hanna is to become immersed in a dimension of symbolic play, of self-narration in this register, and to become passionate about the infinite creativity in every individual, about the multiplicity of narratives, the recognition of self with the other, and it means reactivating a capacity for attention and listening that passes through personal, physical and emotional involvement and refines one’s understanding of children’s fundamental ways of being at different ages, lets us recover an experimental language and modality that we lived, loved and desired, recaptured from those times when we were children ourselves.
“I am passionate about play, says Hanna, but also about understanding play.”
Immersing oneself in play and investigating its meaning, tolerating the anxiety of not knowing everything right away, entering into the “magical” realm and negotiating the relational space as a “transitional space” between reality and imagination, encountering emotions in the intensity and urgency of expression that must not overwhelm us, giving form to listening to oneself and the other in the possibility of shared communication permit a new understanding of oneself and of relationships that does not neglect theory and the rational register, but relies above all on the capacity to “put oneself in the place of the child” and to back him up in the search for “good solutions” that will help him face his difficulties in growing up.
The possibility of ‘living’ the group as a relational dimension implies discovering resources for verbal and non-verbal communication, emotional sharing, and the complex interplay of transference and countertransference as amplified by the group, while at the same time, lends simplicity by staging one’s own story and the story of the other. Along with these elements comes the pleasure of experiencing a “social sense” that emerges from the depths of a self-narrative that is shared and acknowledged, and mastery of how to recognize the other and offer him listening and aid, an indispensable skill when caring for children. One can experience together the pleasure of dialogue, of reciprocal comprehension, and solidarity at its most deeply authentic level.
To work with Hanna is to learn the importance of the dimension of “being present” in body, emotion and mind, to be with and for the child, in an understanding of our work that is open to profound listening and an essential faith in the resources that each of us possesses to confront the difficulties of life. For Hanna and for all of us, it is important that the troubled child encounter a therapist who is able to stay in touch with herself and with the other, to be passionate about the relationship and in the relationship, and committed to give voice, form and sense to what happens inside and outside us at every moment. We can become therapists capable of maintaining our presence within and outside the play, in the internal and external world of the child, trained to hear and to reflect, to speak and to live the imaginative language of the child, to allow ourselves to be involved and included, to hear the ensemble and the soloist in the way of a “good orchestral conductor,” to accompany the child and allow him not only to express himself but also to develop, to understand, and to change.
In Hanna’s book, I find the essence of this way of staying with children and with adults, her indefatigable desire to listen and to understand, her ineffable curiosity, her attention that is never superficial or faded, her capacity to involve everyone in keeping with his individuality, to be present for and with the others. I find in her book echoes of her clinical experience with children, her theoretical sources, and her intuitive capacity. I find an extraordinary concordance with current orientations in psychodynamic psychotherapy (starting from the insights of new neuroscientific discoveries and of developmental psychology), which emphasize relationship as the primary agent of change, in the specificity of its implicit emotional and physiological components.In a series of passages between the clinical realm and the realm of theory and methodology, Hanna introduces us to the complexity of psychodrama, allowing us to appreciate the richness and the possibilities of this powerful therapeutic instrument.
This text is so valuable for us. It is truly a precious gift, just like the gifts that Hanna is so brilliant at giving at those times when, in her role of the wise sorcerer in the magic shop, during only a brief moment of encountering an individual, she finds a way to collect desires, fear, developmental possibilities, and concretize them in the form of a small object, a gift that is full of meaning, hope, and the courage to live.
What is so valuable for the Adlerian scientific community is not only a biannual testimony to clinical experience, but also this methodology through which children of different ages from different cultures can recognize themselves as “good enough” to let them to grow and to overcome their suffering, a methodology so consistent with current perspectives in the psychodynamic domain.
Thank you Hanna!
Anna Maria Bastianini
Training Analyst in the Italian Society for Individual Psychology
President of the Section Child and Youth Clinic of the IAIP
(International Association for Individual Psychology)
Secretary of the Scola Adleriana di Psicoterapia di Torino (Italia)
Psychodrama with Children
Healing children through their own creativity
1.Impressionistic Introduction: a recollection in three voices
Role of the ritual: alienating or liberating?
Mimetic violence and individuation
Social sense or group solidarizy
Basic trust, the primordial we (Ur-Wir)
The social dimension
2.Jacob Moreno, the God Syndrome, and Children’s Psychodrama Moreno’s family myth: the legend of his birth
Little Moreno in the role of God
Moreno with the children in the land of the King
Moreno’s self healing
From marginality to the development of a social sense
Moreno‘s nostalgia for children’s psychodrama
The paradox of Moreno
3.Modification of Morenian technique in Adlerian psychodrama with children
The history of children’s psychodrama in France
The characteristics of children’s psychodrama
4.Before psychodrama starts
Work with the parents
(The clown who was crying)
5.Phases of Children’s Psychodrama
1) Introductory Phase (Warm up and cool down techniques)
Journey to Wonderland
The first meeting
The magic shop
Specialties of the magic shop for children
Drawing, painting, coloring
Other introductory techniques
2) Choice of a topic, development of the story
Individual or group invention
3) Choice of role
4) The Disguise
5) The action phase: the play
6) Exiting from the role
6.Preventive and therapeutic functions of children’s psychodrama
Psycho-sociology of marginal families
Bruno, hunger and lilies of the valley
7.Group therapy with abused children 70
Family drawing by an abused child 71
Shanti’s Psychodrama about the abused child 72
François and the game of hide-and-seek (Freud’s fort-da)
Specifics of family relational systems in abusive families Anxiogenic love
Absent presence 80
The symbolic rehabilitation of a young abused girl: Karine and the ugly duckling
Group therapy of Clovis, a sexualy abused young boy
Doubling in the group situation 86
The lion and his cub 89
8.Behavioral Problems 92
Demobilizing aggression 96
Surgery until half death 99
The solitary girl 106
The Pirate Maid 108
The Headhunter 110
9.The role of the psychodramatists
Transference and/or corrective relationship
(Rebirth in a bubble)
Transference or potential family
10.The role of the group in the socialization of the children
General comments regarding the group
Isolation or participation – Narcissism or positive identification ( Gaspard) Social Hunger
The role of the group in structuring the self. The atmosphere of the group
Therapy group and family constellation 149
Fantasies of group 149
The group as transitional space 151
On the diversity of groups 152
The holding function of the group 153
The group, a network of relationships 155
The development of self consciousness in the group 156
11.Fairy tale and therapy
Functions of the fairy tale
Tale and Familial Structure 159
Strengthening the personality 161
Symbolic transposition of frustrations 162
The role of a fairy tale (performed) in the process of transformation 163
(The magic pearl)
Stories and initiation rites
The fairy tale and the meaning of life
12.Methods of dramatizing the fairy tale
Staging an existing fairy tale:
Little Red Riding Hood in the crossfire of learned and childish interpretations
Stories without an ending 169
Group Invention 169
The Chain-Story 169
The halted story 170
Targeted stories 171
13.Virtual World and Psychodrama 175
The Paradigm of the Zombies 176
The intrusion of the virtual world into children’s imagination
From bad self-image to the zombie 179
Virtual characters in the service of dealing with real problems 182
Examples of individual and group psychotherapy starting from identification with a virtual character
Identification with a virtual character in the fight against cancer 183
(Battle of the Little Pink Pony and the stone dog). Session of “equestrian therapy”
Virtual world to express a core problem 198
Self-healing with Superman
14.Final word on the function of psychodrama with children