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Visit to Romania

Report of Marta and Ynse Stapert of our working-visit to Romania,

October 2001

Ynse and Marta Stapert come from the Netherlands. We bring focusing, especially for children, and supervision-training to several countries in the world.

Ynse Stapert is andragologist, Focusing trainer, senior-supervisor and lecturer in supervision.

He is psychotherapist for partner-relationship therapy.

Marta Stapert is child-psychotherapist, Family-therapist and Focusingtrainer. Coordinator for Children’s Focusing Corner and coordinator for the Netherlands and Middle And Eastern-Europe.

Children’s Focusing Corner is a workgroup of The Focusing Institute, New York

The cooperation between Ynse, my husband and me is, that Ynse is the group-moderator and my coach when we have a focusing-program. I am the moderator of the group and his coach when we have a supervision-program.

For all our work we have 3 learning-principles: 1) it needs to be experiential, 2) we learn from modelling, 3) integration by conceptualisation. Our aim is to find the balance between these three learning-principles

Aim of this report is to let you know about circumstances in Romania, together with how Focusing can get meaning for people in other countries with others history and culture. Second goal is how we build program’s for education, training and presentations. Third goal is to describe how I was present with Focusing with severely ill baby’s in an hospital.

I hope you find some inspiration.

We are for the 5th time in Romania. April 2001 will be the next time.

It is heart-warming to be welcomed every time and again in this open, compassionate atmosphere that focusing-people share all over the world. After one year coming back we feel immediately at home.


We have several parts on our program which were already organized before. Other programs develop while being there:

I A Focusing-course 4 on guiding in Focusing with 8 participants. They are the pioneer-group

II Child-Focusing-Psychotherapy-Education, with accreditation by the Romanian Association for Psychotherapists

III Supervision-experience and –training

IV Visit/presentation to a State-school for sharing about Focusing in the school

V Visit/presentation to a Medical Day-care-centre for Focusing with disabled children

VI 2 Visits to a State-Hospital-department for baby’s with severe malnutrition and

digestive problems

Part I

We learned to know these 8 focusers already in 1998. In their heavy circumstances they use Focusing at first for themselves. They are starting now to integrate Focusing more and more in their therapeutic work.
We come together in the Clinic for Family-planning. This Institute gives very important help in these countries where they still loose many times their baby or child. Getting more children seems also to give a kind of safety for the family to survive.

Part II

We started an Education-program for becoming a Child-focusing-psychotherapist, together with Madeleine Walder-Binder, Child-psychotherapist, Focusing-trainer and PCA-Educator, from Switzerland.
In the group are 24 child-psychologists, child-care-workers, speech-teachers, etc. who so much need training as child-focusing-guides/psychotherapists. They all work with severely damaged and traumatized children.
I need to tell we worked in a small room where 27 small chairs could just stand next to another. Everything else was removed (desk etc.). Sometimes they sat in the middle on the floor. Working in small groups they even used the bathroom of 2-3 meter, one sitting on the cover of the toilet. No single complaint.
During the Ceaucescu-regime psychology and psychotherapy was forbidden. The philosophy was: ‘in Romania are no problems’. After 1990 they did not yet have the possibility to build up any educational program in child -psychotherapy. The Romanian Association of Psychologists is recognizing and supporting this first Child-Focusing-Psychotherapy Education through accreditation.

The Education consists of 200 hours training, including 5 courses Focusing-training for their own experience, 80 hours training in focusing with children, and 20 hours supervision. In the meantime they will work 8 times in Focusing-partnerships for own focusing and intervision. Writing their ‘learning-essentials’ of those sessions through email is required.

Afterwards they can choose to continue to become a Child-Focusing-trainer.

We will write down the details of the program and send this program in the Homepage, hoping other trainers can use this.

In these first part we had the intentions: to learn

- to know and experience their bodily Felt Sense about something

- the essentials about the Felt Sense

- the process of Focusing

- to experience the Focusing attitude / approach towards children

- Focusing with drawing with a child

- clearing a space with drawing

I know: an ambitious program, and they are so eager. They left with a lot of enrichment, inner space, hope, with organized partnerships (in groups of 2, 3, 4 colleagues) and guiding tools for the children.

They understood that Focusing yourself alone and in partnerships is the key to develop as a child-focusing-psychotherapist, and to be able being in the Focusing attitude with children.

Part III

In Romania Ynse gives Supervision and training in Supervision for a group of 8 psychologists. Their request has 2 sides: getting supervision themselves so they also learn to know what supervision really is. At the other side the need for supervision will grow in Romania in due time, so they also want to become supervisors.

In Romania so-called supervision is incorporated in the profession of psychology. We should call it ‘case-guiding’. Neither is supervision a kind of control about the practice.

Supervision in the Dutch working-concepts is a work-related self-discovery and developmental process in which the supervisand is the central person with similar standards as in Focusing. An important tool is asking questions, particularly reflective questions to enhance the self-reflective capability of the supervisand.

Ynse as focusing-trainer is integrating also Focusing in supervision in special situations.

Part IV

Two participants of the Education for Child-Focusing Psychotherapy brought us to their school where they work as child-psychologist and speech-teacher/psychotherapist.

We visited a school for children in the age of 7-14 years. The school has 450 students. An old building as I remember in Holland from 50 years ago, impoverished, obsolete, and with care. You can’t imagine the rooms of the psychologists comparing to other circumstances in the world. Next time we will bring materials which belong to a child-play-focusing-therapy-room.

We could share Focusing with 20 teachers, among them the principal and the vice-principal. We did Focusing together, sensing their connectedness with their Felt Sense. I started asking them how it was to sit in the students-desk instead of in front of the classroom; if they could feel this somewhere in their body and how it felt there. We shared the experiences from the Felt Sense.

They told us about their problems of poverty and too many tasks.

They experienced ‘clearing a space by drawing’ and we picked up the methodical steps of it, so they can use this in the classroom.

We played roles about the different attitudes, approaches towards, and with the child: listening and following, raising their own wisdom from within.

In the last round, sharing their word or picture about the whole of this afternoon, what their felt sense is bringing them, we heard several times the sentence: "I feel hope again", "freedom". I’m still and again a little bit crying that focusing can bring hope in 2 hours in these circumstances. We saw shining eyes and energy in their faces.

In this school there are also 2 groups of gypsy-children, who live at the rubbish-heap.

They start each morning with showering and clean clothes. They eat a meal at school, and after school-time they make their homework in school. In this way they try to prevent them becoming beggars. We saw them several times in town. Those gypsy’s who live in houses/apartments (only very small ones, whole family’s in one room), can be integrated in the classes.

Next year April we will try to do ‘clearing a space by drawing’ in these gypsy-groups and will have the opportunity to be with the teachers again.

Part V

We visited also the Medical Day-care-centre Bethania for disabled children from 4 – 7 years old.

In the middle of a rather poor town-district we arrived in an architectural beautiful 5-years old building. We were so surprised. A Dutch Association for Christian Education has built this Centre and is responsible for the whole exploitation. The team is Romanian/Hungarian, because in this part of Romania live many Hungarians through historical /political decisions. This region has been a former part of Hungarian.

We visited the children in their groups. Because no specialized education comes from the State, this Institute gives the only possibility for children with Down-syndrome, autistic, mentally retarded, ADHD children, children with physical and emotional problems, traumatized children.

After that we met the team of 14 workers and the director for introducing them to Focusing. We started with their recurring problem of the children who cried when they come in in the morning. Their request is how to deal with the tears of the children. Their solution was to guide them away from their tears, by caring and starting another activity.

I asked them to take their tears seriously and mirror them with sentences from their own felt sense how they sense the grief of the children, and then inviting the child to draw from the bodily felt feeling.

We proposed to play it in the roles of the child and the caretaker. The caretaker played her role as a child with sincerity and I guided her with symbolization through drawing. She felt how it changed inside by expressing her tears by drawing.

From here the team was ready to go with me in an group-focusing experience, emphasizing how self-experience with focusing is an important help in surviving the heavy circumstances they are in and saving their energy, being more balanced in their interaction with the children.

The team agreed on asking us back for furthering their expertness with focusing .

Part VI A

We are visiting the Clinic for baby’s of the State-Hospital for the second time, after last year November being in the Clinic with Zack Boukydis,

We are invited to visit the baby’s by the medical doctor Carmen (about 35 years old) who is taking care, together with her young colleague Dana, of 40 baby’s, who are all severely ill: baby’s who were underfed with already chronic physical deviations; physical birth-illnesses which need surgery; harelip, severe digestive problems. Often the family-situation can be very bad. Some parents already resigned their baby’s because they are so poor that they imagine a better future for their baby in a foster-family.

Goal of our visit is to give personal support to both doctors, who know how important it is to give more emotional care to the baby’s and not only the medical and most needed physical care, but they don’t know how and where to start. The psychologist had to leave her 20 hours job in May because the American Fund stopped its payment.

Both doctors would like to learn more about focusing with baby’s, and they need support for this because nobody of the board, directory, nurses, caretakers understand them, even rejecting it. They hope we can help them so colleagues, nurses, the director and the board can be convinced of the urgency of more attention than only medical care.

Ynse and I go from one room into another room with 4 or 5 baby’s together, making contact as much as possible with the baby’s, reflecting what we see. Several nurses, the psychologist, the interpreter are eagerly watching us.

Some baby’s in the clinic are waiting for foster-parents because the parents are too poor to take care of them.

I would like to tell about 2 baby’s what happened with focusing attention from my own empathic felt sense, focusing with the baby’s.

Adrian, a boy, 2 months old, severe harelip, split palate, duodenal disease with probable deviation of the gullet, stomach and intestines. ..

He has a catheter in his nose to be fed, because he doesn’t drink. His mother brings everyday her mother milk. With his split …he can’t swallow. He has his left hand against the opening of his mouth. He is wailing with a soft voice

Here I stand, hardly knowing what to do, looking in his face with his narrowed eyes, and something that I hardly can see as a mouth. I am with my quivering for a moment and something turning around in my stomach. I look into his eyes. I bend my knees to be on same eye-level with him. I try to get eye-contact. I start to give only a kind of the same sound, and then asking him: may I give some English words to all that what makes you wailing. With that he gives me his attention with his eyes. The doctor, noticing something is happening, removes the catheter. She tells that he likes to move his mouth when they try to put something in it. I mirror this to Adrian. You like to move your mouth when something comes in. You know what your mouth is meant for…for sucking…

I feel my inner aha-shift by saying these words: of course also with his mouth in whatever shape, he has the need for sucking. Then comes my doubt "maybe his hand is enough". I look more carefully, but with his hand it is only ..’sabbelen’…(this is the dutch word for sucking without energy)… I ask the doctor if there is a dummy...(no baby has a dummy, obvious they are not used the baby’s have one). Their word is ‘biberon’.

…may we give you this biberon .in your mouth…? He looks at me…we give him the biberon in his mouth, and he start immediately to suck vehemently…yes your mouth knows obviously what it needs…he is very involved in the sucking…we can see his cheeks going in and out, but he looses soon the biberon because his lips aren’t there to hold it. The doctor asks for a bigger biberon. This one fits better…We put Adrian on his side with a small towel against the biberon. I hear the sounds of surprise and enthousiasme around me how content he is now The doctor tells me they never saw him so content on his own.

Ynse saw a little bit later that he lost the biberon and then he made movements with his mouth and tongue to get it back. After Ynse helping him, he fell in a very relaxed sleep. The nurses made aah’s and oooh’s, so surprised they were.

Andreea, 4 months old came in with enterocolitis already for a long time. She had a malnutrition of

II. degree. When we come to her bed, she is sleeping. The doctor tells such a sad story. I’m struck, if not shocked that they made the assumption of an autistiform disorder.

Standing next to her bed the doctor is telling all this. I don’t understand all the medical words exactly. I only can feel the deep concern of the doctor Carmen about Andreea’s condition. Carmen tells us also that she feels that Andreea doesn’t like her, maybe even hate her. The doctor only got once a little bit of a smile, but she feels Andreea is really rejecting her and she feels hurt and pain about this. Andreea gave one smile at a nurse. Andreea doesn’t eat enough except at the moments that she seems to decide to eat as little as she wants. The doctor even considers to give G. under the care of her colleague.

At a certain moment Andreea opens her eyes, wakening up. She stretches her right arm a little bit, without looking. She is a very little baby for her 4 months. Her eyes are as if turned inward and look very sad. Her face has a kind of a frown and she looks so worried. I remember in this split moment the videotape of Zack Boukydis of the mother who so barely wanted the attention of her baby that she pushed herself towards her baby with overwhelming attention. After Zack’s proposal for the mother to wait and only to be there for her son, the baby reaches out with his hand and gives her a smile. This came for me as a warning: go even slower than you are used to.

I mirror lightly Andreea’s stretching movement with my arms with an inner knowing that I can only wait for her step to carry forward her coming out. I ask Andreea permission to talk to her in English since the doctor can understand me. I could heave talked in Dutch as well, supposing the baby can understand beyond language, although reflective words are crucial in the changing process.

The reader should imagine the pauses between the sentences. The subtle changes can hardly be described. The doctors, psychologist, interpreter and some nurses are around. I can feel their hope and expectations for the baby.

I write my words in italics.

Andreea’s arm nearest to me is lying above her head. I slightly touch her hand with my finger. Knowing how important, even how basicly necessary it is to ask a baby permission for each step I make, I ask her "is it alright to touch your hand a little bit?" At that moment I see the skin on her skull moving just a tiny bit, as a sign of relaxation of the frowned tension. I stay with my finger available for her…she takes my finger…I only reflect "you found my finger"…her head turns towards me looking somewhere to my body…"you can see I am here" …her face is relaxing a little bit…

I ask the doctor if we can bring the fence of the bed down.

I am there to catch her eyes, waiting for her…"you are a lovely girl…is it permitted to give some words about how you are here?"…her eyes turn towards me…"you lye in this bed here in the hospital…something in your body is not as it should be…maybe it feels so strange inside…maybe you feel pain…is it alright for the pain to stroke it softly with my hand?…being with it?… and maybe under all that you can sense a feeling of being Andreea…such a cute baby…can you feel that somewhere?"…we see a little winkle in the corner of her mouth as if she discovered something again what she forgot…she still holds my finger…and looks open into my eyes now…I feel a deep connection of mutual understanding with her…

"maybe something inside feels alone here in the bed…missing your mom…missing your daddy…all of them…of your family…yes, we can say to this feeling: ‘of course you are there at the inside, missing your family’…we just can be with that feeling"…somewhere here she really starts to smile big smiles…her whole face is in one big changing movement…as if she is telling: ‘at the end I can understand all that what I felt inside…now it is not that bad anymore…’

In between I ask the doctor information about the family-situation so I connect with Andreea. in the right way. "and I am sure they love you…and are waiting for you being home again"…deep from her throat comes an incredible sound I can’t describe…as if pain, relief and joy all together find their way out…

the doctor is very close to me…I feel her being moved with tears in her eyes…up till now Andreea. never made one single sound in the hospital…

I am with Andreea. with all that what came out, giving it little words…I ask the doctor if I may take her out of the bed in my arms."…Andreea,.,. may I take you in my arms.." .her body is relaxed in my arms, her eyes attached with my eyes…holding my finger…I feel the togetherness…

I feel and know there is still one important issue to share with her in these circumstances…I am hesitating, being with my felt sense if this is still the right moment…if it is not too much for her…overloading her…so much changes in her inner sensing body…though I don’t have a second time to be with her as far as I know now…

…May I still bring one more thing to you, Andreea?…She looks at me, no withdrawal at all…no change in her smiling face…so I feel a ‘yes’ inside that I can bring it…could you tell inside that all this is not your fault…you are a good girl as you are…it is not your mother’s fault, and not your father’s…you are a lovable person… it is unbelievable how her whole face becomes one big smile, moving her legs with joy…I am with her in all her joy…that she can feel herself…and keep this alive feeling with her .. the doctor and the sisters will come they will help you to keep this feeling alive…

I tell her: I will put you in your bed again …I’m going to leave you now…you are Andreea…"

It was wonderful for me to be with her…very content she is back in her bed…it is difficult for me to leave her…

Ynse took these pictures. I hope you can recognize the process and the difference in G’s face in the beginning and at the end. It was an only 12 minutes-process.

In the Carmen’s office we are together, full of aw. The doctor asks us to give a presentation for the nurses and the director so they will understand the importance of the emotional needs of the baby’s and how focusing with them is the way to fulfil those needs.

We agree it will not only be information we give, but also give them the experience of focusing. We will have about 11/2 hour. We hope we can go from there with an ongoing training-program when we are here once in half a year.

Carmen will also arrange an appointment with the professor to let him know the importance of the focusing being with the baby’s.

Part VI B

Carmen arranged a meeting with the carers and nurses next week. We will see the Professor and the Director next time in April

At first we have time to visit the baby’s. Adrian is already home! Aftere they discovered he can suck so well with the ‘biberon’ they asked the mother to feed her milk with the bottle. After 2 days he drinks very well and may go home, waiting for his first operation at the age of 4 years old.

Andreea is now a smiling baby who can be with herself in a good mood. She is drinking without blockage or resistance. They call her a happy baby.

Ynse, Madeleine and I sit with the nurses and carers with the translator. Both doctors are also there.

I can feel their tension, their closed faces. I start with mirroring where they are: the heavy circumstances in which they work, with many baby’s and too little time. And I say (now in short): "I respect your involvement with the baby’s and how I see you working here…maybe your thoughts are now that Marta can easily talk about giving attention to the baby’s being her only task here…" . I see a little smile, some relief. Then Ynse proposes: "we hear several baby’s crying …why shouldn’t Marta be with one of them here, so you can all see how she is doing that special way talking with the baby".

Yes, I thought, that is the way to make this meeting experiential and at the same time giving them a modelling.

The nurse brings me István, 2 months old, being for 2 weeks in the hospital. He was very close with his mother, who carried him all the time around. He was vomiting all the time.

István started to strech his body, making a bow, crying loudly, his face turned away from me, asif he didn’t want anything with me.

I used sentences like before. Slowly on he is turning his head to me and I may look into his clear blue eyes. He stops crying, and his body relaxes. I only want to share one sentence with a remarkable reaction. I say:

hallo…you are István…

He looks carefully at me. I feel somehow the need to introduce myself to emphasize our reciprocity:

I am Marta…

He turns abruptly his head from me to the other side. I am still amazed how he understood and showed me that he didn’t want to hear this sentence. I mirrored something like:

- this is not what you want to hear…sorry…

Slowly he turns his head back to me,

his eyes come again back to me and helooks at me with great attention. From here I don’t remember too well the sentences I used. I only remember him, lying in my arm, content, and I still see his clear blue eyes. I say goodbye to him. Back in his bed, he cries for a short time and then he is falling asleep.

The nurses and carers are touched by what happened. I tell them about being in a focusing way with baby’s. They start to talk about the importance of really being with the baby’s and talking with them. They exchange experiences. They make plans to take better care of dry diapers, so it is easier to take the baby’s in their arms and on their lap.

We take a little time to turn our attention inwards to ask inside what this afternoon brought for all of us. Everybody has enriching words of encouraging, warmth, importance, hope. They shared also that :they felt that they came closer as team to each other. Others emphasized they want to continue next time with us with more time available.

It was a touching experience for us.


Part VII

The Romanian professionals can hardly pay for their training. Most psychologists and doctors earn as much money as they need to pay monthly for the rent of their small apartment. Double income is necessary in a family.

The play-therapy-rooms are poor and with little play-materials, not comparable with the Dutch play-therapy-rooms. In the baby-hospital more special play-things are a necessity.

More groups are already waiting for training in Child-focusing-psychotherapy. The focusing-trainers who are giving training need financial support for the costs of continuing and expanding the work.

A donation is very welcome.

Payment is possible to:

The Focusing Institute,
conc. Children’s Focusing Corner
MasterCard / Visa / AmEx: Card number and Expiration date with signature
Check or money order enclosed (in US currency drawn on a US bank)
Please make checks payable to The Focusing Institute.

Only in Euro:

Inz. Children’s Focusing Corner
M.Stapert-Wezelenburg, Schardam 9, NL1476NA SCHARDAM
Bankaccount Rabo 356926249

Rabobank Purmerend e.O. Postbus 6

NL 1440 AA PURMEREND, Netherlands