The Erica Foundation
In the 1930´s, very few psychiatric institutions in the
world were specialising in the treatment of children and adolescents. With
the development of psychoanalysis came a heightened awareness of
children´s psychological needs, and the number of agencies for parental
counselling increased. An understanding of children´s mental development
and the view of children as unique individuals, however, was still far
The Erica Foundation was established in 1934 by the retired teacher
Hanna Bratt, a woman with great vision and unusual courage. Together
with the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Gunnar Nycander, she
gathered physicians and educators, and created a setting where laymen
and professionals integrated psychology, psychiatry and education.
The objective of the Erica Foundation was to "practice mental health
care among children and adolescents". It was modelled on Margaret
Lowenfeld´s Institute of Child Psychology in London, one of the few
clinics for psychiatric treatment of children at the time. The Erica Foundation continues to this day to work for a better
understanding of the psychological development of children and
adolescents. It is a unique Swedish institution, combining psychotherapy for children and adolescents with professional training and
Education and professional training
From the very beginning, the Foundation has focused on furthering
knowledge of children´s development. A counselling service opened in
1936, and in 1937 a course in theoretical and applied development
psychology was offered. Seminars were also held. This variety of
activities is still being developed. The first training in child- and
adolescent psychotherapy started in 1948. Today, advanced
comprehensive courses, as well as more limited seminars and workshops,
form an integral part of the institute.
A child guidance clinic was founded in 1934. The method of treatment
used at the time was called "curative pedagogics" ("Heilpädagogik"). The
first child psychotherapist was employed in 1942, and thus the process
of developing the psychodynamic method of treatment that is used today
was launched. The educational element of treatment is most noticeable
today at the Erica foundation´s day treatment unit, "Trasten"
for children under 6.
The first major research project, performed by the head psychiatrist
Gunnar Nycander, was a study of the children treated at the Erica
Foundation. In the beginning of the 1940s Gunnar Nycander´s sucessor,
Dr. Gösta Harding, and clinical psychologist Allis Danielson developed
a diagnostic method, the "Erica Method". This work was inspired
by Margaret Lowenfeld and her "World Technique", whera a child
is asked to construct his/her world in a sandbox by choosing from a
carefully selected toys such as animals, cars, houses, canons, people,
etc. Today the Erica Method is used extensively in Swedish child
Between 1976 and 1980 the majority of staff were involved in a broad
study regarding psychotic children and their diagnosis, prognosis and
treatment. Since 1988 the amount of research has steadily increased.
Research and treatment development are seen as essential, both in
increasing our scope of knowledge and justifying our work to the
politicians and administrators who control the limited resources and
research grants. Several projects of varying size are being conducted,
involving both clinical treatment, and evaluation and analysis of
different professional training programs.
The name is
associated with a flower, its Latin name Erica tetralix, a small but
hardy plant. The symbolic meaning of the name is still relevant today.