VSOF Newsletter – Spring 2009

Windowsill Spring 2009

The Oaklander Model Travels to Kyrgyzstan
by Lynn Stadler


Thanks to the Violet Solomon Oaklander Foundation Scholarship Fund, I recently had the peak experience of bringing the Oaklander Model to Kyrgyzstan – a small, impoverished, mountainous country in Central Asia. It was not easy to find a part of the world where Violet had not already provided training, but alas, Central Asia is indeed virgin territory for the Oaklander Model.

My Kyrgyz adventure actually began in July 2008 when I met four therapists from Kyrgyzstan (officially the Kyrgyz Republic) at the GATLA (Gestalt Associates Training Los Angeles) Summer Residential training in Lithuania. It was there that Dr. Alexandre (Sasha) Eremeev, founder of the Kyrgyzstan Gestalt Development Society, asked me to teach a three-day training on Gestalt Therapy with Children and Adolescents in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. I admit that I had to look on a map to see where in the world Kyrgyzstan was situated. If you look very closely to the west of China, south of Kazakhstan, north of Tajikistan, and east of Uzbekistan . . . Viola! You will see the tiny country of Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan (KG) was one of the 15 Soviet republics until 1989, and since that time it has been suffering with serious growing pains as a budding democracy. When I arrived there in late March, my colleagues met me at the airport before dawn after my 30-hour journey from Los Angeles. When I asked “what will we do today?” their response was “we’re going to have a revolution.” I laughed, thinking it was a joke in reference to the 2005 Tulip Revolution that took place in Kyrgyzstan, but as the day went on and we neared the main square of the city, I saw my friends looking around a bit nervously for signs of something amiss. In fact, there had been some rumor of demonstrations and a “small” revolution planned for the very day of my arrival.

There was no political drama during my stay in Kyrgyzstan, so I was able to focus on the work at hand. After a day or two of recovering from the journey, my Kyrgyz colleagues and I hit the street markets for supplies – drawing pads, pastels, markers, crayons, pencils, sharpeners, clay, clay boards and tools, plastic bags and twisty ties, newspaper, plastic drop cloths, all the usual fare for three days of an Oaklander Model training. Finally after much ado, we were ready, and on our first day, the training room was packed with approximately 20 students, plus 20 onlookers in the “fishbowl” or as the Kyrgyz say the “aquarium”.

For the first time I worked with a translator, actually a team of translators. After a sentence or two of my English, my new Kyrgyz friends – Erjan, Sasha, Salta, or Jyldez – would translate my words into Russian. And so we began three days of intense learning and playing, and gaining a mutual understanding of the similar and different problems children face in our respective parts of the world.

Early in the training I began to understand that my subject matter was quite revolutionary for my students. Prior to my visit, there was no child therapy training of any kind in Kyrgyzstan. I had no idea I would be starting “from scratch” rather than offering a new and interesting approach.

The enormous challenges associated with developing an independent, well-functioning, economically viable nation are hard for me to comprehend. It seems the biggest challenge for Kyrgyz therapists who want to help children is a serious lack of social services for children. There is nothing like Child Protective Services (CPS), or child abuse awareness, or related laws. There are not many (if any) services related to domestic violence or substance abuse. I found myself in a sea of practitioners very hungry for information about how to start working with children at every level – how to interface with parents, teachers, physicians, and of course, the children themselves.

The Kyrgyz psychiatrists and psychologists who participated in this training were extremely enthusiastic about the Oaklander Model and they are ready and eager for round two – a second, advanced three-day training. Hopefully the VSOF scholarship fund will grow to fuel this exciting work in Kyrgyzstan and other parts of the world where therapists lack the necessary resources to travel abroad for the training they need to help children grow and heal.

There is a huge need for the Oaklander Model in Kyrgyzstan, and there is plenty of enthusiasm for more training. The VSOF scholarship money that enabled me to make the very long trip was extremely well spent, and I’m looking forward to getting back to KG to pick up where we left off as soon as possible.

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VSOF Scholarship Fund Doors Open!

From its earliest hours, one of the goals of VSOF was to provide financial assistance to students who were eager to learn about the Oaklander Model, but who were unable to afford full fee trainings. The plan was to bring these students to trainings, and/or to bring trainers to impoverished places.

The recent VSOF scholarship granted for the Spring 2009 training in Kyrgyzstan was a dream realized, as this early VSOF goal came to fruition. The $2500 scholarship brought the Oaklander Model to nearly 40 students in a country completely void of child therapy and related services. What an amazing accomplishment!

After the success of this first pilot program, the VSOF Scholarship Fund is taking a more solid shape with a new Scholarship Committee, including VSOF Board members Karen Fried and Patric White, and the always helpful and generous Mha Atma Khalsa (Violet’s son).

The Kyrgyzstan training tapped the fund dry, so the first mission of the newly-formed committee is to replenish the fund. There is a new page on the VSOF online store so that tax-deductible donations can be made directly to the Scholarship Fund via PayPal. The committee will also contact Friends of the Foundation about the Kyrgyzstan success story, as well as other training opportunities for less advantaged students. The committee is ready for suggestions regarding how the fund can be developed and used to help those in need. The committee will review all scholarship applications and trainers’ proposals.

To make a donation, please go to our store.

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Violet’s Madrid Trip Report

Violet Oaklander
Joaquin, Violet, and Gordon Wheeler

I had a fabulous time at the XI International Gestalt Therapy conference in Madrid, Spain. The conference theme was “The Union of Differences.” Sixteen countries were represented and 700 people attended. During the conference I gave a keynote talk “What Brings Children Into Therapy: A Developmental View” and received a 10-minute standing ovation! I’ve never experienced anything like it. I had a wonderful translator, Joquin Blix, who had attended one of my two-week training programs in Santa Barbara 15 years ago. There were many workshops offered, some had simultaneous translation and others had a live translator. I admit that I only attended two workshops since my daughter, Sara, and I needed to explore Madrid as much as possible. One day we took a day tour to an old walled city, Toledo. The day after the conference I gave an all day workshop “Gestalt Therapy With Children and Adolescents” for 64 people, with Joquin’s amazing translation. I truly felt like a rock star—I was constantly bombarded wherever I went in the hotel with folks grabbing me, kissing me, wanting to have their picture taken with me, and wanting me to sign their books. The conference had both my books, which luckily are translated into Spanish. It was an experience I will never forget.

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Board Meeting Highlights – April 2009

Website & Store

  • Board approved addition of store items: El Tesoro Escondido (Spanish version of Hidden Treasures), and Gestalt Therapy with Children DVD featuring Violet from psychotherapy.net.
  • Other new additions to the store include pages to sign up as Friends of the Foundation and to contribute to VSOF through PayPal. Tax-deductible donations to the new VSOF Scholarship Fund will be able to be made through the store as well.

Trainings & Conferences

  • Discussed VSOF plans for the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Anaheim in December 2009.
  • Trip report on Lynn Stadler’s Spring 2009 training in Kyrgyzstan (see related story and update about VSOF Scholarship fund)

Documentary Film Update – Claire Mercurio is working on the script, and planning some additional footage of Violet playing guitar with kids and doing a puppet show.

Archives – Sue Talley and Chris Orpen are “archiving” and creating a detailed inventory.

Networking/outreach – Chris Orpen and Patric White are leading the project of setting up reciprocal links from the VSOF website to other organizations/sites and informing other organizations of VSOF activities.

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