Presented by the Red Well Theater Group
This program was held on Saturday, December 6, 2014 at the Georgetown Day School Auditorium, Washington, DC.
Special thanks to conference coordinators, Maxine Arnsdorf and Jen Sermoneta.
Audience at the Conference Bob Schulte, LCSW Christine Courtois, PhD
Reflecting on our recent Bruce Wine Memorial Conference, a non-clinician attendee recalled feeling “dread” as she drove to the event. “I was prepared to find a quiet corner and disappear as silently as I had arrived. Entering a packed theater of accomplished psychiatrists and psychotherapists, I was greeted by a caring and comfortable environment and was able to focus on my reason for attending – further understanding of the lifelong effects of early childhood ‘asteroid strikes.'”
The program included Red Well Theater Group’s dramatic reading of Amy Herzog’s The Great God Pan, dyadic and large group work, and comments by Christine Courtois, PhD. The play portrays a young man facing one of those “asteroid strikes” in the form of a revelation that he may have been sexually molested in youth, and opens windows into some of the possible repercussions the abuse and secrecy/implicit knowing had on his family and relationships. The play and discussions together explored complex issues of trauma and memory processes, the impact of childhood sexual abuse on adult intimate relationships, the destabilizing effects of family secrets, and the complex impact of truth-seeking.
Robert Schulte, MSW, Founding Director of Red Well Theater Group (RWTG), expertly guided the performance. The group’s actors are also therapists who are united by a love of theater and a commitment to group psychotherapy training. The cast of The Great God Pan included Kavita Avula, PhD, Connor Dale, LPC, John Dluhy, MD, Mary Dluhy, MSW, Liz Marsh, MSW, Yavar Moghimi, MD, Rosemary Segalla, PhD and Rob Williams, MSW. Music by Tom Teasley added yet another, non-verbal, dimension.
Immediately after the play reading, audience members had the opportunity to spend 15 minutes discussing their reactions with a neighbor. Then, after a brief break, Christine Courtois, PhD offered insightful commentary about the difficulties of working with individuals who have had traumatic experiences like the one depicted in the play. The conference concluded with a large group discussion facilitated by Joyce Lowenstein, PhD. An attendee remarked, “the opportunity for two-person and whole group discussion helped to bring further understanding of how traumatic experience relates to memory and relationships. It also showed the immense responsibility of the therapist in finding the delicate balance between jogging memory and suggesting ideas beyond what might have been real.”
Perhaps there is some comfort, and there is certainly good practice, in sharing awareness of the serious and delicate considerations involved in trauma work. It is never easy. One clinician commented on feeling that the afternoon was a “clarion call for us to continue our work with renewed empathy and energy… The program design so amplified the effects, I am still filled with singing echoes.”
This conference was characterized by many of the values Bruce Wine embodied and modeled: intellectual curiosity and honesty, collaboration and co-creation of relationships, striving to perform our craft with excellence, and maintaining a warm ambiance for learning. Joyce Lowenstein introduced the day and MaryAnn Dubner, PhD offered a touching personal tribute to Bruce, recalling her friendship and professional collaboration with him.
Bob Schulte summed the experience up nicely, “Our work at RWTG is premised on group principles, and our joint collaboration with you to present the 3rd Bruce Wine Memorial Conference honors those principles… Bruce would have been delighted.”
The Bruce Wine Conference is co-sponsored by ICP+P and the Bruce Wine Memorial Fund. The event was held on Saturday, December 6, 2014 at the Georgetown Day School Auditorium. It was planned by Maxine Arnsdorf, Joyce Lowenstein, Bob Schulte and Roger Segalla, with the support of Jen Sermoneta and Eleanor Howe.
The Red Well Theater Group offers experiential learning for the group therapist-as-actor through dramatic play readings and for the therapist-as-audience member through a bearing witness experience and shared reflection. Red Well’s goals are to illuminate themes of recognition and well being both in and beyond the therapy group, to deepen the therapist’s empathy for the challenge of being in a group, and to provide a vitalizing experience in support of a therapist’s self care. They can be found online at http://redwelltheater.com/.