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The Erica Foundation

Historical background

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 from common.

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 research.

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.

Treatment

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.

Research

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 number of carefully selected toys such as animals, cars, houses, canons, people, etc. Today the Erica Method is used extensively in Swedish child psychiatric clinics.

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.

 

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Ericastiftelsen – Odengatan 9, 114 24 Stockholm – Tfn: 08-402 17 60 – Pg: 15 10 44-5 – Orgnr: 802005-8841