Psychology Arts, a project initiated by the delightful and inventive Azizi Marshall of The Center for Creative Arts Therapy in Chicago, Ill., recently interviewed Karen Carnabucci, founder of the Lancaster School of Psychodrama and Experiential Psychotherapies. Here is a transcript of that interview:
What do you do? Who do you help?
I use and teach psychodrama and other experiential methods that support people in rehearsing new roles and discovering new dimensions within themselves -- leading to more satisfying lives. With carefully directed experiences -- with both psychodrama and the newer Family Constellations – we are literally able to shift the molecules in our beings into embracing new realities.
I especially enjoy working with psychotherapists, educators and other helping professionals who want to learn these methods to integrate into their own work. For this reason, I've founded the Lancaster School of Psychodrama and Experiential Psychotherapies in Lancaster, Pa.
List your favorite therapeutic tools.
Psychodrama — meaning “psyche in action” — helps us explore our inner and outer worlds with action. Because it "shows us" rather than "tells us," we have the opportunity to experience and improvise the stories of ourselves and others in a fresh, powerful and immediate way. In psychodrama, we value the framework of role theory as the route to expand and change the roles we play in life. We use the basic psychodramatic techniques of doubling, role reversal, mirroring, surplus reality, concretization and others.
In Family Constellations, we consider how the "Orders of Love" may be disturbed within the larger family system and how we can identify and transform the disturbance so that love flows more fully within the system and within the person seeking change and healing.
In terms of actual physical items, I use my sand tray and my collection of small figures nearly every day. I also use props like pillows, scarves, mats, empty chairs and other items to aid in concretization and visual learning, plus Tarot and oracle cards, and art and collage materials.
What is a good course, website or book you would recommend and why?
Well, of course I would recommend my books. Show and Tell Psychodrama: Skills for Therapists, Coaches, Teachers, Leaders is a good starting place for beginners as well as new psychodramatists wanting an overview. My other books, including Integrating Psychodrama and Family Constellation Work: New Directions for Action Methods, Mind-Body Therapies and Energy Healing with Ronald Anderson and Healing Eating Disorders with Psychodrama and Other Action Methods: Beyond the Silence and the Fury with Linda Ciotola, look at these methods on specialized and deeper levels of practice.
Students and professionals may check out the webs sites American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama and Psychodrama Certification.
I like books by Brene Brown, Tian Dayton, Peter Levine, Stephen Porges and Daniel Siegel, among others. The Ted Talks video series are wonderful for their breadth of current thinking on topics such as the brain, empowerment, creativity, consciousness, leadership and more.
What makes your practice unique?
I've been practicing for a number of years now, and I've incorporated a number of methods, both conventional and unconventional, into my special blend of practice. This includes psychodrama, Family Constellations, guided imagery, sand tray, the Tarot and other oracle cards, energizing and calming body postures, mindfulness, meditation, and art-making.
In many ways, I am a “collector” of experiential methods and practices that I weave together to design experiences that create a shift. I really love teaching younger psychotherapists, coaches, educators and others about what I've gathered, modified and invented through the years.
My training schedule, which you can find online, lists the eclectic mix of my traning offerings based on my interests, training and synthesis.
What advice would you give to other creative arts therapists?
Learn everything you can. You, too, will find your own special blend of incorporating the methods and practices that are best for you and that you do well. Pay attention to your own growth, healing and process. Take time to refresh, imagine and play.
What is your self-care routine?
Oh my! Like almost everyone else, I am a work in progress on self-care. I pay great attention to my food plan, eating a nutrient-rich plant-based diet – organic whenever possible. I get regular bodywork sessions, which I treasure. I practice meditation, yoga and qigong – not perfectly and not every day but whenever and as often as I can. (I give myself permission to be imperfect!) I spend time with friends and family. I love to travel to retreats and professional trainings to take time, refresh and learn. I drink lots of water. I listen to guided imageries and music and dance in the hallways. I take walks, tend a small garden and stay connected to nature as much as possible.
List the products or items that are indispensable in your life.
Comfortable and interesting clothes and jewelry -- I don't like looking like everyone else! I treat myself to organic lotions and natural soaps scented with herbs or essential oils. I love books and right now I am reading voraciously about nutrition and health, in preparation for writing my next book about how what we eat and drink affects our mental health.
Who influences your work and why?
I have been lucky to have many wonderful mentors and teachers in my life. I count myself fortunate to have studied with and mentored by Zerka T. Moreno, the psychodramatist and wife and collaborator of Dr. J.L. Moreno. She was a strong and wise woman who died just a few years ago in her late nineties.
I am regularly in touch with many friends and colleagues in the psychodrama and Family Constellations worlds who inspire me with their creativity, intelligence, courage and empathy. I admire the work of Bonnie Badenoch, Brene Brown, Dan Booth Cohen, Donna Eden, Rick Hansen, Bert Hellinger, Peter Levine, Francesca Mason Boring, Daniel Siegel, Suzi Tucker and Bessel van der Kolk.
I am in awe of social justice activists-- mostly unsung and unknown -- who I read about online and in places like Yes Magazine.
Provide links to your social media platforms and website.
Find me at www.realtruekaren.com, where you can subscribe to my e-letter for professionals. I am also on several social media platforms including:
Summarize in two sentences the key takeaways you want everyone to remember about you and your practice from reading this interview.
Experiential methods like psychodrama and Family Constellations are worth learning about and better yet, learning and practicing. You may want to specialize and practice one or both in the classic way, or you may want to learn the basic framework and integrate them with your main work – both are beautifully versatile and life-changing.
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.