In the face of Trauma and Disaster what are group therapists doing today - First Part - (Simutaneous Translation)

Date: 5 September 2019 from 11:30 to 13:15

Type: Symposium

Speakers: Richard Beck, Agnes Dudler, Eva Fahlström Borg, Maurizio Gasseau, Marco Longo, Melinda Meyer, Khader Rasras, Judith Teszáry

Chairmen: Richard Beck - Maurizio Gasseau

Richard Beck (USA)

How humanity survives disasters - by using groups!

Richard is President of IAGP. 

As the  former  Chair of the  IAGP Task Force for Disaster/Trauma Management, Richard  coordinated responses internationally after both natural disasters and acts of terror.

After the terror attack on  9/11, Richard conducted well over 1000 hours of  groups with survivors, survivor  families, witnesses,  rescue workers and mental health professionals.

Richard has led groups in countries where terrorism has taken place such as in Boznia-Herzegovenia, Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom, Croatia and Spain in addition to coordinating  “help for the helpers” in other countries after terror attacks.

Richard lectures,  teaches and leads demonstration groups nationally and internationally that deal with trauma, terror and the importance of group intervention following such events.

Richard is a Lecturer at the Columbia University School of Social Work, where he teaches the Treatment of Childhood Sexual Abuse and Comparative Group Approaches.
Richard published the “Unique Benefit of Group following Traumatic Events” and co-authored an American Group Psychotherapy Association Trauma Protocol entitled  “Lesson’s Learned in Working with Witnesses, Survivors and Family Members after Traumatic Events”.

Richard was the 2019 recipient of the Group Foundation for Advancing Mental Health's "Social Responsibility Award."

Richard  awarded the co-authored  2007 AGPA Alonso Award for Excellence in Psychodynamic Group Theory for their article, : “In the Belly of the Beast: Traumatic Countertransference”.

Richard’s latest publication, “Only the Lonely: Trauma and Group Identity focuses on the dimension of “loneliness” following traumatic events, including acts of terror.

Richard's latest opening Keynote at the IAGP Research Congress in Thessaloniki, Greece, was entitled, "Culture, Context and Resilience after Traumatic Events."

Agnes Dudler (Germany)

The psychodrama group is our safe place.

Impressions from a Psychodrama Project in Gaza

Following the pioneer work of 2 Swiss colleagues from 2012 until today Stefan Flegelskamp and me trained colleagues in Gaza in psychodramatic work with children and youth. Experiences from the work with complex traumatized colleagues who work as therapists or councilors with traumatized people will be shared in this symposion. While the political situation is hopeless the personal contact and the ongoing engagement in group work and developing a reliable, safe group over the years instills hope on a human level.

Eva Fahlström Borg (Sweden)

Founding member of FEPTO Task Force for Peace Building and Conflict Transformation

Chair of Trauma and Disaster Intervention Team IAGP


When we created FEPTO Task Force for Peace Building and Conflict Transformations we did not only talk about peacebuilding and conflict transformations we did not only discuss peace and conflicts but we spent a lot of time to think of ”who heals the healers”? How could we reach out and be helpful to our international collegues who had to deal with real traumatic events like war, natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunami. Or man made, like terorrist attacks.

It became clear that it is not of help or use nor wished that we should go to a foreign country in the immediate situation. What we can do is to connect, send mails or messages, but not to expect an answer back!

We realized we had to have a plan for ”what do you do between the disasters”.

Asking our international collegues they often said: ”We know how to do deep traumawork in our clinic – but how do you work with groups?”

Treating trauma victimes was traditionally done in the clinic on a one-to-one basis. The so called ”De-briefing” was, and still is in many places the ”right” way to work. Talking about and reliving the traumatic event was supposed to decrease stress. Nowaday, with the new reseach and knowledge about the brain and stressdisorders it is by many clinicions considered dangerous. It most often increases the stress.

(If a trauma is awakened another scene needs to follow – there is a ”window” of a couple of hours where the original event can be replaced by a new memory of the same event usinf for instance asurplus reality – ”the way you wished things would have happened”. This can be done talking, drawing or by action methods like psychodrama. This is a way to defreeze a frozen Trauma and replace the toxic memories by more healthy ones. The event will remain in your memory but destressed.).

Working on a deep level with trauma is still important – but not the way it was considered 10 years ago when that was supposed to be the starting point of trauma work. Nowadays we think perhaps 30% need that it. Today we think we should assist nature.and the body and brain Preferable let 1-3 months pass. (Unless the patient insists. Trust their needs).

We also took seriously the second part of our name – but at that time we calledo urselves: and Conflict Resolutions..JL. Moreno said: ”Solving someone eleses conflict is a theft!” – So we don´t pretend we are solving someone eles´s conflicts. But to help transforming them.That is why we we changd the name-

To create a healthy society we need to find good ways of dealing with conflicts.

Making them not toxic but healthy.

Both FEPTO Task Force for Peace Building and IAGP´s Task Force for Trauma and Disaster Management/Intervention exist in order to reach out to collegues in different parts of the world. This is done by

Teaching groupmethods with dealing with individual and collective trauma.Teaching groupdynamics in crises interventions. Teaching about resilience and posttraumatic growth.

Teaching conflict transformations.

Support the collegues that are dealing with the crises interventions, Arrange groups for the helpers after the crise intervention is over  by arranging groups in a safe space, hoping that sharing their experience can help prevent secondary traumatisation.

Supervising when asked for.

Method. I personally use different techniqus. But most often reling on the basic Rites and Rituals as often used by 3rd nations as Maories, Samoans and Hawaiians – the latter a version of the traditional Ho´oponopono but without the traditional praying. (Replaced by a couple of minutes of cloesd eyes and deep breeting.)

This is a ritual where the leader is holding on to a strict structure. The problem is defined and each and everyone is invited, one by one, in a go-around, to share how they were affected by the crises or the traumatic event. No questions are being asked nor will comments be br appreciated until everyone in the circle has shared their feelings and/or thoughts.

The basic questions are:

  1. What happened?
  2. How have you been affected?
  3. What has been the hardest for you?
  4. What do YOU need to feel better?
  5. After a traumatic event it seems like everyone one sees her or his own ”movie”. Listening to everyone elses ”movie” it most often havs the effect of”defreezing” the individual frozen trauma and a new more complex shared ”movie” emerges often called the Great Story. The Great Story normally also contains previous cultural believes. events and believes. The Great Story belongs to the individual, the group and the community.The participatoss one dimentional perspective is widened and a multidimensional understanding takes place. When we work internationally, even if we try to be culturally sensitive –we may not always understand how the healing took place – but it often make sense to the groupparticipators. Now a new sort of discussion may take place.
  6. What needs to happen next? In this group? In our community?
  7. What are you willing to contribute in order to make it happen?

During the years in FEPTO Task Force we have also discussed the difficulty that when a family, a group or a communiy is in distress people mix the time perspective. Someone are talking about the Past, someone about the Future. The leader is struggeling to create the Safe Space where we can be Here-and-Now, be present in the Present.  A third Space is needed – a place where you can dream, play, build scenarios without being punished. This is also a place where you can safely try out new ways of acting using Surplus Reality”. Out of our discussions I created a Map of Time which we presented in Rome IAGP Congress 2009. Some of us use i some of us don´t. (It has been translated into several languages. (Italian. Spanish, English, Rumanian, Hungarian … so far)!

Feel free to try it!

Maurizio Gasseau (Italy)

Simposium - English - Italian


Maurizio Gasseau
Co-chair FEPTO Task Force for Peace Building and Conflict Transformation

The FEPTO Task Force for Peace Building and Conflict Transformation was founded in Vienna in 2005. The Task Force organizes seminars and conferences in which the members show their methodology for working with collective trauma such as wars, disasters and mass migration. Seminars have been held in Oslo 2007, Stockholm 2008, Turin 2009, Uppsala 2010, Sofia 2011, Iseo 2013, Istanbul 2014 and will be held in Granada in 2016.
The twenty members of the Task Force have actively intervened on collective trauma in Ukraine, Egypt, Gaza, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, El Salvador, Honduras, Brazil, Argentina, Columbia and Turkey.
Wars leave deep wounds in peoples and individuals , and destroyed social and occupational functioning. The resulting trauma is a wound , a laceration that brings permanent energy economy disorders of the psyche . Wars are made by people and people suffering by wars. In the wars 90% of victims are civil not military.
Now the battlefield are the houses. „The collective trauma makes profound after-effects are manifold and far-reaching collective trauma is like a nuclear bomb that disperses its radioactive fallout in distant places even long time after the actual explosion.“ (Kellerman)
SAFE SPACE - To work on conflict transformation it is necessary to bring the trauma victims in a safe place, a "safe place" often geographically and physically far from the place where the trauma was activated . A space in which to respond to basic needs : hunger , thirst , rest protection, and the safe place symbolically marks the conflict, the trauma, puts a limit to the destructive forces by create for the participants of a group the feeling that there is a limit to the emotions and the post traumatic stress, like a safe place in the play, and there is a safe place where you can bring a re - empowerment, self-esteem can grow undermined by the trauma , it is understood as a psychic space inside where they can feel more secure, and is a generator of resources including not least the hope and the new action.
THIRD PLACE it is a safe place where participants, group’s members may have experience of a new language with new expressive and relation modality.
It is he space of play, the space of theatre, the space of psychodramatic surplus reality.
It is the place of dreams, where the tension of opposit are hold through symbols.
It is the space of fairy tales that contains the archetypical energy of drama. The third place is a space for active imaginations, a mytical space, a symbolic a representative space.
RITUALS are similar to symbols, they are part of collective unconsciousness, they represent historical memory as well as historical traumatic events of certain large group.
Rituals are part of large group identity
DREAMS - One of most important duty when we work on collective trauma is not to retramautize the group members and protagonist, for this it is important do not play the traumatic scene, but can be very helpfull to ask to share dreams connected to collective traumatic experience and play those dreams.
Dreams convey the transformative wisdom of the unconscious, allowing emotionaly charged material to become easly accessibile to the consciousness, activating intrapsychic and intersubjective change. Psychodrama can safely be used to create paths of change for the most severe traumatization. Psychodrama creates a place to act out unprocessed trauma within the containment of therapy in order to stop the obsessive repetition of the past.

Marco  Longo (Italy)

The evolution of the psychosocial intervention in earthquakes and other disasters

Today we know that every traumatic event that, like an earthquake or flood, involves an entire geographical area, and therefore an entire population, requires, in addition to the logistic assistance of technical assistance, a social psycho-emergency intervention, which takes care not only of individuals, but of the entire population involved. This intervention must however be well calibrated on the psychosocial characteristics of the population involved, taking into account culture, religion, myths and local customs and habits, because in these situations of traumatic disaster what is most fragmented is precisely the social fabric and working to take care of a catastrophe of the group and sociality it is therefore necessary to activate a whole series of psycho-emergency interventions for the population, based on the use of different types of groups, both support and revitalization of social relations, cooperation and collaboration, but in addition to interventions for the population involved, various psycho-emergency interventions for the caregivers are also necessary, with specific support and fluidification groups for fatigue and pain, but also with interventions that foster the full operational capacity of the various teams and different professionals involved.

Currently, therefore, the heart of psycho-emergency intervention in post-traumatic situations is based on the use of different types of group settings and will illustrate the different types of intervention that have been activated in Italy in the various traumatic situations that occurred between 1980 and today.

Melinda Meyer (Norway)

Empowerment and Resilience: EXIT: Spontaneity training with traumatised communities

Expressive Arts in Transition (EXIT) is a quantitative and qualitative research project with 208 unaccompanied minor refugee boys aged 15 to 18.
EXIT is developed for stabilizing people who live under extreme stress and/or have survived human or nature induced trauma. EXIT focuses on training spontaneity, enhancing movement, imagination, engagement, connection, here and now, safety and responsibility. EXIT groups have been implemented in Norway, Germany, Africa, Mexico and South America. EXIT is part of the Certificate Program in Global Health, Peace building and Conflict Transformation at the European Graduate School, campus Malta.
The results of the research and implementation will be shared.

Khader Rasras, Senior clinical psychologist (Palestine)

Multiple traumas and its complicated impact

Living in the occupied state of Palestine has never been easy. Looking back across the seven past decades portrays how a series of consecutive traumatic events can shape people’s perception of their lives, the world around them, their identity and their plans for the future, if they could plan at all in such an unpredictable context. Young people did not witness so many previous wars, yet they demonstrate a state of trans-generational trauma. Despite that one can notice that life is still going on slowly but steadily. People in Palestine got experienced how to deal with the uncertainty around they therefore always have alternative plans/plan B. This strategy sustains a good level of endurance and resilience. They are more preoccupied with their everyday life. They seem defiant to threatening elements and more determined to go on with life. They replaced the enforcement of helplessness with defiance and accepted the challenges, obstacles and shackles put in their already thorny way. Psychodrama based on several contextual and experiential fields proved very fit specially when approached gradually and after trust has been belt. People react with passion and with their immediate entity. Their reflection is often based on collective sense of “the need to survive”.

Judith Teszáry (Svezia)

Roma Women on the Stage

A presentation of an art based research and intervention project called "Our Theatre" org. financed by EEA Grants (Norway Grants, Financial Mechanism) for promoting Roma inclusion in Hungary.
After a nine months long work with Roma women from two villages, living in poverty, doing socio-psychodrama (recorded on film) a dramaturg wrote a theatre play. The women play their own stories on stage. The performance became a huge success both in Budapest and in the villages where they performed. The play was selected to an International Theatre Festival in Dresden 18.- 25. May 2019. Moreno's original idea with the open theatre where the actors are the people themselves, who write their own stories became realised in Hungary 2016-2017. Theatre history has been written.


Who shall survive?
IAGP International Psychodrama Conference 2019

4/9/2019 - 8/9/2019, Iseo (BS) - Italy

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