From La Nacion Argentina, Saturday, May 13, 2006

At that precise moment in which silence breaks into the psychotherapy session and there are no words that allow one to describe what one thinks and feels, a new tool helps to find a way to do it.

The “Kesem” Cards of Association are a new therapeutic resource used in Europe, Canada and the United States and already has a place in psychotherapy. In Argentina they appeared for the first time during the last Argentine Congress of Psychiatry, in the city of Mar del Plata “Kesem”, that in Hebrew designates the 18 card packs of an illustrated story which help to guide the therapy in cases of crisis. Kesem also means “magic.”

“To speak of magic in psychology? Yes, because it shows that the cards produce in the patients an effect different from the other methods”, explained Laura Landa, director of the Ikaron Institute, of Haifa, Israel, to La Nacion.

Landau, an Argentine psychologist who has been for 23 years in Israel, and used the cards in the group therapy to deal with the effects the uprooting in the South American immigrants in that country, as well as in individual therapy as a resource in cases of sexual harassment.
The use of cards “facilitate the evocation of repressed and/or denied situational images”, according to Landau during the course that she gave at the congress, when talking about the case of a patient who participated in research conducted at the University of Haifa.
But, how did the cards work in this case? “As a motivator, of images not only related in their content, but also in their associative capacity as much in terms of thought as in evocation.”

Barriers of defense

Pictures, abstract forms, landscapes, graphs of relation, words and silhouettes are some of the contents of the decks.
“The cards allow that the patient lowers his barriers of defense, that is what it is constructed in the conscious speech. When growing, we gained barriers and the cards help the person return to a stage of play, who are more projective”, indicated to La Nacion the psychologist Maria Florencia Russo, director of the Center for the Study of Therapeutic Resources (CERT), that foments the local use of the cards.

The therapeutic strategy consists of making available to the patient a particular deck, according to its personal characteristics and the situation that is intended to loosen.
The patient picks a card at random and she observes it while the therapist encourages a dialogue based on the meaning that the patient gives the image. Thus, little by little, the dialogue is constructed that silence had interrupted.
“The use of cards would be weakened if the therapist tried to interpret what happens to the patient from the chosen card –– emphasized Landau, who is part of the team of the Center for the Study of Therapeutic Resources. the person itself is the one who describes and it interprets, and the therapist is the one that listens to the conscious speech and analyzes the whole.”

Unconscious projections

Metaphors, signs and images help the unconscious to “speak” and the person can look at what was forced to remain hidden. The way to obtain it is through projection by means of which the person attributes characteristics of the unconscious to objects on the outside. The cards, that according to the psychologists are not a test, can be applied in the treatment of any pathology in adults and children. They are useful in group work, when what is wanted is to detect what prevents the group from working well, as well as with problems that are individual.

In general, the cards usually are introduced in the therapy to promote dialogue, relating, and building mutual confidence during the session, and to face situations of conflict and stress for the patient. According to the research conducted in the University of Haifa, the cards help to develop the imagination and the metaphoric thought.
“They encourage the patient to reflect on the sources of the description –– said Russo. It is habitual that the patient makes the card responsible for the history that she relates, that is where the magic of the name of this resource (kesem) resides.”

According to Laura Landau, the cards have no single (official) interpretation and neither are they mystical.
“They only help insofar that the person and the therapist can put on the table a certain problem so as to move on, even while the deepest crisis is being treated.”

Breaking the Silence

What are the “Kesem” Cards of Association?

  • They are 18 [card] decks with portraits, abstract forms, and words that help break the silence of a client.
  • At this time they are in use in Israel, Canada, USA, and various European countries, as a new tool in psychotherapy.

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