Photograph by Sergio Guimaraes of Buenos Aires, Argentina
By Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP
We mourn: Zerka Toeman Moreno, the co-developer of psychodrama, has died at the age of 99.
When Zerka Toeman met Dr. J.L. Moreno in the summer of 1941, it was the beginning of a very successful partnership in the history of psychiatry and psychology. She would become his closest colleague, helping him edit and write books and journals and traveling with him throughout the United States and Europe to teach and demonstrate psychodrama, an action-oriented method which was considered an alternative to the psychoanalysis of the day, and sociodrama, which addressed social problems with enactment.
After her husband's death, she continued to teach and expand the method, now practiced on nearly every continent -- becoming a kind of rock star herself with dozens of training institutes, schools and associations named in her honor.
She died on Sept. 19, 2016 in Rockville, Md.
Mrs. Moreno was born June 13, 1917 in the Netherlands. In 1932, she moved as a school girl from Amsterdam to London with her parents. She immigrated to the United States in 1939, as the clouds of inevitable war were gathering over Europe. In 1941, she brought her elder sister from Belgium to Beacon, N.Y., desperate to find help for her sister's mental illness at the sanitarium of Dr. J.L. Moreno, an innovative physician who used improvisational drama on a circular stage to address mental health problems and even then was considered a pioneering figure in group psychotherapy.
He greeted her with open arms and a delighted “Yes!” and so began their collaboration.
Karen Carnabucci, LCSW, TEP, is an author, trainer and psychotherapist who promotes, practices and teaches experiential methods including psychodrama, Family and Systemic Constellations, sand tray, mindfulness and Tarot imagery.