A Community of Heart Profile: Maria Elena Aduriz
The powerful ability to observe is a skill that is rarely taught in schools. The lenses through which we look at life can allow us to see –or not to see-what is around us. Francine Shapiro observed a “small,” naturally occurring phenomenon that when your eyes move back and forth rapidly while thinking of something unpleasant, it, actually, goes away. Had she not been a keen observer of her own process, we might never have known the joy of transforming traumatic memory into “old stuff.”
Maria Elena Aduriz has been an astute observer of life from the time she was very young. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Castor Aduriz and Elena met, then married, Maria Elena grew up in a household that encompassed two worlds: her mother’s family from the South of Spain where the Arab influence enabled them to enjoy life together in the warmth of the family, laugh a great deal, and share every good moment together; and her father’s family from the traditional Spanish Vascos family in the North of Spain where the norm was being responsible, hard-working and well-educated. They fell in love and, in doing so, integrated two ways of being in the world into their newly formed family. Maria Elena embodied the diversity and the challenges of these different worlds.
As the youngest daughter, with two older brothers, Maria was expected “to be a lady, perfect, and to marry a successful man.” However, it was an era of change, and, at seventeen, she proclaimed that she would follow in her brothers’ footsteps and go off to University and become a psychologist; she wanted to do this because she loved people and always felt drawn to help the poor and lonely. Her shocked parents took her to a famous priest to seek his counsel and with this observant man’s blessing she went off to create her fate at the Catholic University. Drawing on her father’s gift of responsibility and her innate curiosity, she applied herself and thrived in this environment; and in 1965, she received her degree from the Universidad Catolica.
Finishing at 22 years of age, life stopped for a moment. What to do next? Her life plan did not go beyond finishing school and having a family. Out of school, she was the Clinical Psychologist of Adults and Adolescents at the Vilella Medical Center where she stayed from 1965-1976. During that time, she worked several years at the Medical Psychology Center at the Medical School Hospital of the University of Buenos Aires and practiced her craft with childless couples, groups of foster parents and adopted children at the Foster Parents’ Center in San Jose from 1969-1973. It was during this time that Maria Elena met her husband, and she married at 27 years of age.
Children were the center of her life. She was born into a family who treated babies as blessings. Her brothers were having children and this informed her choice to learn and specialize in children in her career. When she and her husband went to London for her husband’s job, she had the opportunity to study at Tavistock Clinic with Drs. Bion, Meltzer and Dr. O. Massota and Mrs Harris. It was here that she was accepted into a group of fellow observers and she learned to articulate what she always had seen in front of her. However, probably the greatest gift was to be supported in learning to think on her own – not just to repeat what her teachers were saying to her. It was the first time that she had ever been asked what she thought and she blossomed. In observing, infants and their mothers from their first week together through two years of age, Maria Elena truly learned to appreciate the importance of the bond of mother and child and within the holding environment of Tavistock, the reciprocal bond that was reinforced between her self and her teachers. When she returned to Buenos Aires, she had rediscovered her own internal child and activated her natural ability to see through the eyes of a child; she had learned how to use her own internal child part to assist her in establishing a bond with her clients both young and older.
As the Coordinator of the Child and Adolescent Department of the Mental Health Service Medicus from 1982-1987 and Medicien from 1982-1987, she used all of these skills. It was a natural development for her to go on to study family therapy. She studied at the Family Therapy Center for Families and Couples (C.E.F.I.P.) and the Sistemic Family Therapy program at the School of Medicine at the University of Buenos Aires. Also, she attended seminars with M. Glaserman, J. Rabinovich, Salvatore Minuchin, Vicent Moley, C. Slutzky, G. Masieres, and Peggy Papp. At the same time, she was working as a private practitioner specializing in anxiety disorders, attention deficit, posttraumatic stress disorder, attachment disorders, grief and counseling for parents.
After she had integrated her psychoanalytic studies with systemic family therapy, in 1993, she discovered EMDR. Always curious, she wanted to see how EMDR would work on some symptoms that had not resolved with the five day a week psychoanalytic treatment she had during her stay in London. In her first session, she completed the Impact of Event Scale and, for the first time, understood her old symptoms in a new way; she learned the language of trauma and how her unresolved grief from the past was more accurately described and treated within this conceptualization. Through a course of 10 sessions, her EMDR therapist and Maria Elena had processed these situations successfully.
With a treatment so effective, Maria Elena thought to her self, “How could I not share this with my own patients?” Her curiosity took her to New York City in 1995 to take the EMDR Institute’s Part 1 training and went back the following year for Part 2.
Maria Elena had entered the world of EMDR and she and EMDR would never be the same. The learning that she had accrued concerning the importance of the reciprocal interaction between mother and child and teacher and student, she brought to her EMDR development. Immediately on her return from her training, she formed a study group with other colleagues. They read Francine Shapiro’s 1995 text “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic principles, protocols and procedures”, translated articles into Spanish and revised their whole way of thinking about and practicing therapy. She attributed their ability to overcome the shock of such an important paradigm shift to the support that they received from each other. She began to attend the annual EMDR International Conferences and found the interchange of ideas with EMDR colleagues from all over the world invaluable to her development as an EMDR therapist. She admired the generosity with which expert EMDR clinicians shared their knowledge throughout the world-wide EMDR community through the Discussion lists and how they were always willing to answer emails that held the normal types of questions arising when integrating any new learning into a practitioner’s work.
When John Hartung arrived for the first training event in Argentina, he brought with him a group of Spanish speaking facilitators. Hearing the concepts in her mother tongue helped her to understand them more fully and Maria Elena integrated them in a new way. In 1998, she completed facilitator training and her natural interest and enthusiasm increased exponentially–nurtured by the awe-inspiring ability John Hartung has creating respectful, cohesive units with whatever group of individuals he touches. During that same year, this group founded EMDRIA Latino-America in Buenos Aires associated with the EMDR International Association. Maria Elena was part of the Founding Board and sat on this Board for many years. She supported the growth of EMDR in Argentina with specialty presentations on “EMDR with Children” and “EMDR and Ego States.” In her own words:
I supervise several groups of colleagues in the use of EMDR. I give special presentations on trauma in “Children and EMDR.” I love doing this as I feel I am helping to prevent, at a very early age, the pain and symptoms of traumatic origin that would appear in later years. Each time I see an abused child getting relief and regaining confidence in the world, I give thanks to Francine for having persevered in her observations.
She then went through all of the credentialing in EMDR possible: in 2000, she become an EMDRIA Approved Consultant, and EMDRIA Approved Provider of EMDRIA Credits; by 2001, she was an EMDR Institute Approved Trainer; in 2005 was among the first group designated by Francine to be an EMDR Institute Trainer of Trainers for the Spanish-speaking trainings; and in 2007, she became an Approved Consultant or Group and Individual Supervision.
Of all her many accomplishments in the world of EMDR, perhaps, her humanitarian work is the closest to her heart. She began as a member of the EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program (EMDRHAP) Board for three years (2001-2003). From 2003, she went on to coordinate the Committee of Humanitarian Assistance of EMDRIA Latino-America over the past 5 years. With this group, during the catastrophic economic crisis in Argentina in 2001 and later after the Santa Fe flood in 2003, they went in to the field to train other clinicians and work with survivors of these terrible events. In 2003, she wrote a manual, “Confronting Catastrophe and trauma; The flood in Santa Fe Argentina Manual and a paper that is in press for the International Journal of Stress Management, “Using EMDR group intervention in Argentina: Treatment outcome and gender differences.”
Also, she was the Vice President of the EMDRIA Latino-America Board from 2001-2003 and then was a Board Member from 2003-2006. Since 2006, she has been President of the Board of the EMDR- Programa de Asistencia Humanitaria and from 2008 she is the principal representative in Argentina to the EMDR-Iberoamerica-Argentina Association. She has been Vice President of the EMDR-Ibero-America Association since 2007.
At this time in her life, she feels it is time to dedicate her experience –in the tradition that John Hartung modeled and mentored - to assist other professionals to be competent EMDR Trainers and Practitioners who value the EMDR work and the greater EMDR community of fellow travelers. She is working in Peru and Uruguay to support their mental health practitioners to take on the leadership in their countries. For her other love, she has created an advanced course about how to use EMDR for children of different ages and different situations incorporating Family Therapy. She has taught this successful course in Spain, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and other Spanish-speaking countries.
To the EMDR community she would like to say the following:
"Go with that. You make your life. EMDR is a good example of what is life. It is changing all the time and that is part of life. As a therapist, it allows you to change and become wiser. Life is a surprise. No matter how much you think of the future, life takes your hand and you have to learn from that. I lost my two brothers and father when I was very young. I learned from that. They all died from heart attacks. You have to accept and learn from that and you find peace.”
Maria Elena’s future plans include bringing what she has learned with her EMDR Latin American colleagues to the different countries. She wants to continue her writing about working with children during and after catastrophes and support research on EMDR with other clinicians. Life also includes music, dancing and spending time with her close group of friends. These friends are her forever companions, and since three years of age, they have shared their lives as they have moved through all the transitions of life.
As they laugh, cry and experience all that life has to offer, we can be grateful to have such a gifted and dedicated woman in our EMDR community. She has had the courage to see inside herself and communicate what she has learned inside herself and through others to all of us.