Helen Kramer Biography
Helen Kramer is a prominent author, therapist, educator and lecturer and licensed psychoanalyst. She has taught her groundbreaking system of Emotional Education to therapists and educators across the US and internationally. She has also developed groundbreaking programs for executives, middle managers, doctors, nurses and educators. Helen has an unusual gift that enables her to transform behavior that feels frightening, off putting and confusing, into dialogue that invites understanding, trust and intimacy. She helps people discover the basic human needs that unite them. Helen’s experience has proven that people will change when they are given the appropriate tools. Her optimism is contagious and is equally matched by her ability to create an environment that is conducive to fast and permanent change.
In the 1990s Ms. Kramer developed a revolutionary theory about why people have so much difficulty attaining and maintaining psychological change. In her book, Liberating The Adult Within, Simon & Schuster 1994, she identified the biological reflex, she calls Emotional Dyslexia or ED Her discovery of Emotional DyslexiaTM offers a revolutionary, scientific explanation of the physiological process that interferes in attaining and maintaining lasting personal change. Kramer identified a reflex that is biological, not psychological, that prevents people from fulfilling themselves personally, professionally and spiritually.
“Too often, we blame ourselves and others for a failure to attain these goals when in actuality we simply haven’t been given the “emotional education” we need to learn effective emotional responses. That is why I have developed a special kind of teaching to help people develop effective emotional responses and override the biological reflex that produces much unwanted behavior. Once they have been taught to identify and override this reflex, they can develop mature, fulfilling emotional responses, even in stressful situations.”
Ms. Kramer's approach is grounded in the belief that human beings are fundamentally oriented toward mastery or self-actualization…unless something impedes them. This desire for mastery is reflected in what she calls her theory of “positive intent.” She believes that we all have a basic desire to reach our goals. Her “nonjudgmental” “non-pathological” model liberates people from feelings of failure and shame allowing them not only to reach their pragmatic goals, but to also enhance their positive connection to themselves, others and their environment. Her theory of positive intent is fundamental to the development of a truly spiritual way of being in the world.
Most spiritual teachings are aware of our need to be able to overcome feelings of anger, blame and guilt so that we can truly accept and forgive ourselves and others. By teaching people to discover the positive intent in their behavior and the behavior of those around them , Ms. Kramer provides the foundation for this forgiveness and acceptance. As she teaches people to "peel the onion," to get to the core of what motivates them, they are able to identify with the positive desires and motivations that we all share. Discovering this commonality is what allows us to connect on a deep level to ourselves and those around us. Our positive, energetic, loving natures are revealed and we naturally become truly powerful. Experiencing and expressing this natural part of ourselves encourages others to do the same. The fulfillment we experience is fundamental to developing our personal sense of spirituality.
Accessing the positive intent is made difficult when we live in a culture that is too often judgmental. Too often, we have been taught that if an outcome is unsatisfying, that if we fail to reach our goals, that we have done something "wrong." When people experience difficulty they may be described as either "self sabotaging," "self-defeating," "masochistic." There is a tendency to assume they are in some way responsible for their suffering, as if they would deliberately choose to be in pain. According to Ms. Kramer, people don't deliberately choose to suffer. She believes that most of our unsatisfying and even painful behaviors occur when people have not been given the proper tools to fulfill our positive intent.
It is also very difficult for people to access the positive intent in other’s behavior when this behavior is different from their own. When we don't know how to access this positive intent we often experience these differences as threatening. When confronted with differences people are often afraid that they, themselves, will be judged as "wrong," so they try to prove that they are right by being critical of others. Ms. Kramer's theory of positive intent allows people on a personal, social and global level to connect to their common goodness and their common humanity. As people do this, the need to fight, diminish others etc. is transformed and true support and cooperation is possible.
Educational and Professional Experience
Ms. Kramer majored in child development and received her Bachelor of Science from Cornell University in 1967. In the 1970s she did graduate work at Brooklyn College, New York University and the New School For Social Research.
Ms. Kramer continued her training at The Gestalt Center, in a postgraduate program accredited by the State of New York. After graduating, she was invited to be a staff member. In this capacity she taught and supervised professional psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers seeking postgraduate training. She also provided individual and group therapy for trainees, while maintaining her private practice. As director of community outreach she developed programs for a variety of organizations. She was a consultant to Self-Help, an organization providing psychological services to Holocaust survivors. She also developed a program for educators working with special needs children and their families. She contributed to a book dealing with the psychological issues of disabled adults. She conducted seminars and workshops dealing with "dream-work" for an independent group of practitioners and had an article published in their Journal.
Ms. Kramer presented in numerous conferences conducted by The American Humanistic Association of Psychotherapists. She conducted an ongoing training program at The Gestalt Institute of Cincinnati and provided seminars and workshops for The University of Georgia Graduate School of Psychology. Ms. Kramer also developed a training program for Brazilian analysts and psychotherapists and alternated between conducting sessions in New York and Brazil. She also was a frequent guest lecturer at Brooklyn College and the Hunter School of Social Work in New York City.
Helen also co-directed a training program for paraprofessionals and corporations utilizing Gestalt principles of communication to facilitate effectiveness in the workplace. Ms. Kramer developed two programs for Booth Memorial Hospital. The first program was for dental residents and dealt with stress reduction and communication with patients and other staff members. As a result of the success of this program she was asked to develop a program for middle management. She also consulted in developing a stress reduction program for emergency room nurses and doctors and was a guest lecturer at Hahnemann Medical School.
In 1979 she helped found the Gestalt Association for Practicing Psychotherapy, a post-graduate psychotherapy institute where she continued to teach, supervise and provide psychotherapy for professional psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers seeking postgraduate training. As a staff member, Helen trained therapists, lectured at conferences extensively, and initiated Gestalt programs at universities in the US, Canada, Europe and South America. Her training programs reflected an integration of Gestalt therapy, organismic theory, psychoanalysis, communications and family systems theory, contemporary existentialism, object relations theory and self theory.
In her capacity as staff member for she also, she participated in the following;
- Program Development
- A four-level Clinical Fellowship Program
- Experiential workshops and seminars
- A mental health clinic with a sliding-fee scale
- Introductory lectures, film showings and demonstrations
- Individual and group psychotherapy provided by training faculty
Helen continued to develop her work in the area of emotional education and in 2000 she and Joan Erskine MSW, CSW co - founded The Personal Change System. "PCS" is a unique and comprehensive system of emotional education that allows people to accelerate the change process. Participants learn to identify and transform emotional dyslexia and are given specific tools to promote change. These tools are based on cutting edge brain research, providing practices that "anchor in" new patterns and facilitate desired changes. Her work in emotional education and life coaching focuses on teaching the emotional skills people need to make their lives more satisfying.
Her work in emotional education and life coaching focuses on teaching the emotional skills people need to make their lives more satisfying. Ms. Kramer works with individuals, families and groups who desire to;
- Become more intimate
- Improve the quality of their relationships
- Transform feelings of depression, anxiety and fear
- Increase self-esteem
- Improve parenting skills
- Overcome eating disorders, addictive, obsessive or compulsive behaviors
- Heal from past pain
- Cope with illness
- Attain career fulfillment
- Find greater meaning in their lives
- Post traumatic stress
She has recently developed a program for working with couples to increase their communication skills. This program integrates an understanding of psychotherapeutic issues with Ms. Kramer's unique form of emotional education. She has used this approach prophylactically with couples planning to marry, providing them with the tools they need to avoid the most common communication problems. These tools have also been used effectively with couples that have moderate to serious marital problems.
Ms. Kramer has developed similar communication programs that show how to adapt her form of “emotional education for corporations, educators, dating services, families, couples and individuals. She has also developed an “off the shelf” program for corporations to improve communication in the workplace. She is currently developing customized programs for CEOs and executives. These programs teach participants how to maximize their resources and remove any interferences to success.
Some of the skills that are taught in these programs include:
- how to communicate in ways that minimize conflict
- how to develop a comfort with differences so that individuals are encouraged to utilize their stress and make unique contributions
- how to become aware of the impact you make on others so that you are prepared for the outcome of your behavior. (It is only when participants can anticipate this outcome that they have appropriate control. Too often people are not aware of when their style of communication may have a negative impact. PCS teaches individuals both the pluses and minuses of their style. We also help them to develop alternative ways of behaving and communicating so that they are better able to meet their goals.
- how to clearly identify your goals and then develop a communication style that is efficient in meeting those goals
- how to understand the communication style of others so that miscommunications don't occur
- how to better tap into your own resources and their resources of others
Ms. Kramer also has worked as a consultant to Sixty Minutes and 20/20 and was profiled in New York Woman. Helen has appeared on over 40 radio and TV talk shows across the country including Oprah, Today in NY and Good Day New York. She also has written dozens of articles for a variety of national and international magazines, including: Mademoiselle, Cosmopolitan, New Woman, New York Woman, the Daily News, Newsday, Family Circle and numerous others. Her expertise has also been called upon in the development of children’s educational TV programming. She was interviewed as an expert on addiction by Harvard researcher Henry Wechsler, Ph.D. and science writer Bernice Wuethrich for their book on binge drinking. Her interview was published in "Dying to Drink" Rodale Press 2002. She was also invited to teach this approach at the Learning Annex and has conducted workshops in a variety of settings.
(Ms. Kramer integrates her understanding of emotional dyslexia with other psychotheraputic….relations theory, etc. Her approach brought a recognition of the impact of emotional dyslexia on the therapeutic constructs of id, ego and superego, life and death instinct, transference and countertransference. The result has been an effective method for improving one’s ability to change behavior and create more effective life skills.
Her work with emotional dyslexia has been integrated with other psychotheraputic modalities including analysis, behavioral cognitive therapy, and relationship therapy, gestslt therapy, object relations theory, etc. She uses her approach to gain new insight into other theraputic constructs including such id, ego and superego, life and death instinct, transference and countertransference
“I believe that my work integrates the best aspects of Traditional and Modern Psychoanalysis, Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy, Relationship Therapy, Short Term Psychotherapy with cutting edge brain research.
Freud recognized that our minds were somehow constructed so that we had a system of ‘default’ that kept us going back to the past. My theory of emotional dyslexia and recent brain research has identified for us the physiological explanations for why this happens. We are now beginning to understand the profound impact our neurological programming and our physiology has on our emotional lives. With this increased understanding I have developed a number of techniques that create a kind of neurological reprogramming to remove the difficulties that have kept people from overcoming childhood patterns and moving into adulthood.
While psychoanalysis has always recognized the importance of insight, and modern psychoanalysis has incorporated the importance of relationship and behavioral therapy, we were still missing the essential factor – how to physically change the brain so that insight and new behaviors could be fully integrated.
It has been exciting to understand more about the physiological impediments to our becoming the fully actualized adults we desire to be. The techniques and tools that I have developed are grounded in recent scientific research and are designed to accelerate the change process by changing both the form and function of our brains and nervous systems. Over and over again I am encouraged because I see that we really can change our neurological programming. We can transform debilitating patterns into behaviors and feelings that promote greater self esteem, enhanced connection to others and our environment and create meaning and spiritual connection in our lives.
Because until recently we didn't understand that what we previously thought of that as purely "psychological" reflects basic genetic and the physiological processes people too often were blamed or blamed themselves for not changing sufficiently. My belief that people are positively motivated and always want to do better I could accept that people really wanted to suffer i.e. were masochistic, self sabotaging etc. This positive police approach has allowed me to use current research to develop more effective approaches to change. This new understanding is inspirational because it liberates people from the feelings of personal failure they may have experienced as they repeated troublesome patterns over and over again. It is extremely satisfying to develop new tools based on our enhanced understanding of how our emotions are formed so that people have a more direct way to deal with the ineffective patterns and traumas of childhood.
We now know insight can’t alone permanently change self image, ability to relate to others, dysfunctional coping patterns, etc. Using this approach is appropriate when old patterns are severe enough to cause personality disorders and lesser neuroses. This form of emotional education is also successful with patient’s who generally cope well, meaning they are employed, have some significant relationships. They are able to learn how to handle inevitable life stresses more effectively and improve their ability to maximize their resources and the resources of those around them. They learn to deal with differences and conflicts in ways that promote greater cooperation and intimacy. This form of emotional education and life coaching provides people with the emotional tools to fully realize their potential and make their lives more satisfying.”
We use a combination of breathing and body awareness techniques to increase energy and promote healing on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.
Our organismic approach integrates healing techniques that operate on the physiological, emotional and spiritual level. We believe that we can change energy patterns on the deepest levels. How we experience ourselves on an energetic level affects our relationships, our health, our ability to find satisfaction and success in our work lives,our ability to be happy and increases our spiritual potential. We provide an atmosphere that fosters compassion, the essential ingredient for healing and spiritual development. Learning compassion for oneself and for others allows people to develop the sense of community and connection that is sustains and nourishes our own growth and the growth of those around us.
Our energy is affected by both physical and emotional injury. Old traumas interfere with energy flow creating patterns of anxiety, depression, anger, fear, confusion and isolation and physical illness thus limiting our potential. We believe that integrating traditional therapeutic modalities, biofeedback, meditation, visualization current brain research and energy healing promotes growth on many levels simultaneously.