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Yale 62

A Psychological ‘Club Med’

By Steve Buck

  • Hala and Steve Buck in a Romanian town

In 1988, worn out by two years being Deputy Chief of Mission and Acting Ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during the Iran-Iraq war, I joined Hala and our then eleven-year-old daughter on a Greek island for ICASSI*, a two-week summer institute in a different country each year. Participants take courses based on the psychology of Alfred Adler, a contemporary of Freud and his disciple Rudolf Dreikurs, who popularized Adler’s cognitive approach. Courses cover all aspects of life and are reinforced by evening programs and eating breakfast and dinner together. There is a program for children 4 years old and above. At the end of the two weeks our daughter insisted that we come back every year, which, with a couple of exceptions, Hala and I have done. It’s a great opportunity for grandchildren in ICASSI’s children’s program to experience a foreign country and get to know children from dozens of countries.

This summer Hala and I flew to Sibiu, Romania, a beautiful UNESCO world heritage city, for ICASSI. Hala gave an all-day all-week course titled Cross-Cultural Art Therapy: Understanding Self to Understand “the Other.” I presented a special interest men’s group: ten men from eight different countries who had never met before but who were able, by pairing off, to have deep conversations about their lives and challenges.

At a time when the U.S. and many other countries are riven by vilifying “the other,” ICASSI provides an oasis of safety where people from many countries can cross barriers and be real. It helps people discover self-set goals of which they usually are not aware and stresses that mental health is understood in terms of a person’s or a community’s striving for contribution, equality and mutual respect between groups. It makes it possible, to cite an often-used quote, “to see with the eyes of another, to hear with the ears of another, to feel with the heart of another.”

After the fall of the Soviet Union, ICASSI made the decision to spread Adlerian ideas to Eastern Europe. It has done so by holding its summer institute in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania (twice), Lithuania, Latvia and next summer, Belarus.

Before ICASSI this summer, I feared that I had taken every course and there was little more to learn. ICASSI created the safety and tools for me to get in touch and deal with habits and reactions that get me in trouble and to realize that there can be growth, even at 79!

Have a look – the website is and I’m happy to answer any questions. My email is



* ICASSI – International Committee of Adlerian Summer Schools and Institutes