Highlights from April 2016 Psychodrama Conference

By PCS - 04/13/2016


Cristine Toel, MA, LAC, S-PSB PCS Staff Therapist and Psychodrama Trainee at the Arizona Psychodrama Institute

The American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama (ASGPP) held their 74th Annual Conference (“Desert Oasis: Healing the Spirit Within”) at the Phoenix Sheraton Crescent this past weekend.  PCS had a strong presence at the conference and was acknowledged for continuing to use Psychodrama in our intensive program.  We hold psychodrama group on Monday and Wednesday evening led by two wonderful directors, Soozi Bolte and Grayce Gusmano.  I’ve had the privilege of working with both of them and they are generous and supportive mentors.  My trainer from the Arizona Psychodrama Institute, Marlo Archer, did a great job co-chairing the event.  I’ve never seen such a calm, positive presence in the midst of so much movement!

I started the conference on Friday, and walked into a ballroom filled with national and international participants moving to the music of Tony Redhouse, a Native American Sound Healer, Spiritual Teacher, and recording artist.  The group then shifted to a life-sized sociometric choice where participants could walk the room and land on a topic they’d like to work on.  I found myself at a sign that involved feeling stuck in a role and wanting change.  From there we followed our group leaders from the Hudson Valley Psychodrama Institute, Regina Sewell, PhD, LMHC, PCC, and Jennifer Salimbene, CASAC, LSCW-R, PAT, to a separate ballroom.  They referred to themselves as “Reggie” and “Jen” and their dynamic was inspiring.  I’ve never played the Protagonist in Psychodrama before (probably because this is only the second time I’ve ever volunteered), but I wanted to explore my role as mom and was chosen by the group to do that.  Reggie and Jen asked me to pick one of them to direct the psychodrama, but I really wanted the two of them to work together, and they agreed.  From that experience I discovered the following to be true:  Psychodrama does get at things in a different, deeper way, if you don’t make a move you will stay stuck, and Brene Brown is right about connecting through our vulnerability.  I met some wonderful people Friday morning and that carried through the rest of the weekend.

Some highlights from the weekend for me included seeing Dr. Meg Givnish’s Problem-Solving Theater Troupe (Palm Beach, FL); a group that uses theatrical improvisation in combination with psychodrama.  Her troupe chose the “problem” from a hat, assigned themselves roles, and played out the drama with humor and truth, while Meg directed, and the audience participated.  I also loved Katrena Hart, LPCS, CBT, ATA, CETT, TEP, from Texas, who chose the theme of the “Big, Bad Wolf,” to illustrated what she referred to as the “Satten Slide,” based on the work of West Coast mentors, Dorothy and Mort Satten.  The technique involved role reversal, which helps the client express the perspective of the person who possesses the title of “Big, Bad Wolf.”  The illustration of that technique was powerful and showed the group the language we all share is emotion.  On Sunday afternoon the group was pretty tired but we spent our last session working on the Canon of Creativity with Deborah Shaddy, LCPC, who is involved with psychodrama in both Kansas and New York.  After she explained the concept we worked as a group to build it in the center of the room.  From there the Canon provided a resource for all of us to explore where we were at in our lives (warming up, spontaneity, creativity, or the cultural conserve).  The exercise provided a recognition that being hard on yourself is a direct detractor to spontaneity and creativity. So yes, I’ll keep working on that!

Thank you PCS for participating in this awesome event!

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