10 Questions with Elizabeth Synnot - Sociodramatist, Trainer, Community Developer

10 Questions with Elizabeth Synott - Sociodramatist, Trainer, Community Developer

What got you into working with people? What made you decide it was what you wanted to do?

In my final year of law at Adelaide University, I was a volunteer giving legal advice to folks at Port Adelaide. Port Adelaide is on the outer limits of the city and was mostly working class and welfare. It was blindingly obvious to me that I was turned on by helping them rather than giving them legal advice alone, I wanted to make a difference more holistically in their lives.

What did you do before embarking on the Moreno venture?

In the eight or so years before joining the workforce in earnest I traveled the Americas, Asia and northern Europe, took short term jobs and smashed some of my parochial attitudes.
I have been working directly in the professional development field for about 35 years. For the past 25 years I added in organisational development, and for the past ten also community development. It was around 1990 that I formed my first business. That was the genesis for me for Moreno.

Describe your first experience of group work.

My first group psychotherapy experience was at a neo-Reichian body work workshop at Marnie’s Barn in the Adelaide Hills. For a country girl who had only ever attended group tutorials at uni as an adult learner, I was pretty well blown away. I also knew that something good was stirring in me.

You now train people in group work, but in what other fields have you used the methods you teach?

My main arena of application as a sociodrama group worker is with work groups. Family development, organisational development and psychotherapy are also areas I have worked extensively as a group worker. Mainly now I enjoy working with groups to more fully develop so they then can go forth and do the work with more capability, less stress, and more enjoyment.

Describe your perfect student?

The perfect student is one who is committed to expanding wholly, not just simply learning a new theory or technique, but one committed to ongoing learning and development. Group work is not something you can just ‘learn’ you really need to take it on and become a group worker.

What difference can you see these methods / your students making?

The method promotes the integration of learning into the trainee’s personality and psyche. We expand as human beings one with another, thus, these methods and those who practice them can make a real difference more broadly by offering people opportunities to heal, expand, learn, grow and generally become more complete versions of themselves.

What’s been the scariest moment working in a group?

When working with large groups who have a well established culture that includes rejecting any outsiders, i.e., me. This has happened a few times when I’ve been contracted to be an interloper into an established community. My job was to create a renaissance in the leadership culture. I had to work hard to overcome my own reactivity to their gang like behaviour towards me. I did manage this – just. This experience was a catalyst for me to expand my purview of myself as a sociodramatist and to hold my ground in the face of gangs in emotional survival mode.

What’s been the funniest moment working with a group?

Fun for me is learning so I get lots of fun in groups.

One piece of advice for budding group workers?

Having a strong commitment to continual learning and the openness to have a seasoned companion in your practice is something many people across all profession neglect. For a group worker and developer, regular supervision, companionship, and improvement is vital. Peer groups also offer a great resource for people looking to strengthen their practice, we have a few that meet at Moreno and it’s something we really value.

Moreno is about understanding people, what is it that helps you most to understand someone?

I most understand another when I can stand beside them as a companion, entering fully into their values and outlook. After doing this for some time I am able to experience their world through their eyes and imaginatively walk a mile in their shoes.