Origin of the Kvebæk Sculpture Technique (KFST or KST)

Sculpture has been used through the ages to depict both individuals and relationships among people. In 1967-68 David Kvebæk, family therapist at a famous psychiatric hospital in Norway (Modum Bad Nervesanatorium at Vikersund), was searching for a means to clarify complicated family situations when presenting cases in team meetings. Kvebæk began to use carved wooden figures to illustrate the client’s relationships and family dynamics to his colleagues. This was so effective that he soon began exploring the technique with clients, and found that clients quickly became engaged in picking up and moving the symbolic figures, alone or in the presence of family members, to show their internalized view of their family.

Kvebæk Invention Crosses the Atlantic

Kvebæk came to America in 1973 on a lecture tour arranged by the Norwegian Embassy to speak about family therapy in Norway. Kvebæk demonstrated his assessment tool, “The Kvebæk Family Sculpture Test” (or KFST). During that visit, David Kvebæk met with Professor David H. Olson of the University of Minnesota Department of Family Social Science and with a number of Olson’s doctoral students, including David Fournier. When Kvebæk lectured at the University of Missouri, he interacted with family systems theorists including Watzlawick.

Family social science researchers and theorists received Kvebæk’s visit enthusiastically. It was clear to them that the Kvebaek Sculpture Test was an ideal research instrument: using this assessment tool with the grid resulted in quantifiable configurations (sociograms). Kvebæk was invited back to the United States and he made a second tour in 1975. At that time, he met Murray Bowen in Washington D.C. Kvebæk also made a presentation on his Sculpture Test in Kansas City and in Tacoma, Washington.

American psychiatrists also were exposed to this tool at the Ninth World Congress in Psychotherapy held in Oslo, Norway in the autumn of 1973. A group of American practitioners spent a day with Kvebæk at Modum Bad Psychiatric Hospital. At that time it was still a new concept for psychologists and psychiatrists to treat individuals within the family context (whereas social workers had been taking an ecological approach since the inception of the social work profession). When the Fourth World Congress for Family Therapy convened in Zurich, Switzerland in the late 1970’s, Kvebæk was invited to be a panelist in a forum following a presentation by Virginia Satir. Satir, an American social worker, pioneered “family sculpture” through a process of encouraging her clients to create living sculptures by placing themselves and family members in positions that expressed their notion of their relationships to one another. In a subsequent World Congress also meeting in Zurich, Kvebæk was invited to present on the topic of treating families in the psychiatric hospital setting. He sent a video to this international Congress showing how he used the Kvebæk Family Sculpture Test in family diagnosis and treatment.

Kvebæk Collaboration with Hardeng

Stein Hardeng, social work clinician and educator, worked together with David Kvebæk at Modum Bad Nervesanatorium for several years, beginning in 1971. Hardeng continued to use the Kvebæk Sculpture Technique both in teaching social work at Diaconia College in Oslo, Norway, and as a family therapist, supervisor and director in outpatient clinics.

Hardeng came to the United States for several months in the late 1970’s as an exchange social worker under the auspices of the Fulbright Program, and shared this tool with colleagues in the child welfare agency where he worked in North Carolina. Due to the work of both Kvebæk and Hardeng, “The Kvebæk Family Sculpture Test” influenced other theorists and practitioners at the time, and stimulated many research projects.

Further Development of Kvebæk Technique in America

The Kvebæk invention became widely known and applied in pedagogical, research and practice settings in Scandinavia, and became known in Germany also, beginning with Heidelberg, through the work of Helm Stearin, who had met Kvebæk some years earlier in Washington, D.C. Even so, for years the Kvebæk Sculpture Technique remained relatively untapped in the practice setting in the United States. Then in 1991 Julie Thorsheim, a clinical social worker from Minnesota, spent a professional leave in Norway, combining independent study with meetings with Norwegian social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists and special education teachers in clinics and hospitals in Oslo, Bergen and Vikersund (home of Modum Bad Psychiatric Hospital).

While in Norway, Thorsheim was introduced to the Kvebæk Sculpture Technique by Stein Hardeng.  She was immediately impressed with its power, both as an assessment tool and as a medium for concretely illustrating the “who, what, when” of client systems in teaching and supervisory settings. Thorsheim began using the KST in her clinical work at Fairview Riverside Medical Center in Minneapolis (now University of Minnesota Hospital-Fairview) in assessment work with clients.

In October, 1995, Julie Thorsheim and Stein Hardeng were presenters at the national conference of NASW–the National Association of Social Workers–in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This conference marked the first major public presentation on the Kvebæk Sculpture Technique in the United States since David Kvebæk made his first lecture tour to the United States in 1973. Thorsheim again presented nationally at NASW in Cleveland, Ohio in November of 1996. Thorsheim provides consultation and training to social workers, educators and other health and wellness professionals in effective and efficient interactive methods for assessment, program design and intervention. KST Associates has expertise in providing resources to business management and organizational development leaders, and to communities seeking conflict resolution strategies.

Kvebæk Collaboration with Thorsheim

Kvebæk Certifies Thorsheim In January 1995 David Kvebæk Norwegian founder and inventor of the “Kvebæk Family Sculpture Test” (KFST) certified Julie L. Thorsheim to use the Kvebæk Sculpture Technique in therapy, research and supervision, and to instruct and certify qualified professionals in its use. He also conferred on Thorsheim the responsibility to provide advanced instruction in the Kvebæk Sculpture Technique (KST) in the United States, and to certify other professionals as qualified instructors in this method.  Kvebæk also granted Thorsheim exclusive rights to produce, market and sell Kvebæk Sculpture equipment (KST) in North America and in the non-Western World. In 1995 Julie Thorsheim established KST Associates to provide efficient and effective interactive resources and training to professionals working with human systems, large and small. Kvebæk, Thorsheim, and Hardeng continued to meet to share cross-cultural experiences and to plan means to further educate professionals worldwide regarding family sculpting techniques and to make Kvebaek Sculpture instruments more readily available in the English-speaking world and globally.

International Scope Broadens

Researchers, educators and practitioners from Europe to Australia and New Zealand, and from North America to Hong Kong and other parts of Asia are experiencing the Kvebaek Family Sculpture Test (KFST) or the Kvebaek Sculpture Tool and Technique (KST) as an exciting resource for assessment and intervention with systems of all sizes: individuals, families and communities.

> Beijing, China – 2006:

In October, 2006 Thorsheim traveled to China as a People to People Ambassador and delegate to a Joint U.S.–China Social Work Forum in Beijing sponsored jointly by People To People, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the China Association of Social Workers, and was an invited presenter to the Child and Family Section on Representational Family Sculpting for Rapid and Insightful Assessment, Treatment Planning and Intervention. A Chil Hope logo phsubsequent invitation followed to demonstrate the Kvebæk Sculpture (KST) at Children’s Hope International, the Beijing office, to the social workers, pediatrician and administrator. Thorsheim demonstrated how the KST family figures, used with the Resource Map (an ecogram), can be used with orphans who have lost their immediate family. They can use the figures to identify kin and other community supports, and this can be empowering for the child and point the way for the social worker to build a stronger “safety net.”

> Ongoing International Seminars and Conferences:

In October 2007 a core group of clinical practitioners, teachers and researchers with long-standing experience in using the Kvebæk Family Sculpture Tool met in Oslo, Norway to present our experience in practice or research in using the KST (KSFT). We were joined in this historic seminar by David Kvebæk. This event was coordinated by Stein Hardeng, then General Secretary of Kirkens Familievern, the organization of Family Counseling Centers of the Church of Norway, and Dr. May-Britt Solem, researcher at Oslo University College.

In June 2009 an International Conference on Family Sculpting was held in Northfield, Minnesota. The Keynote Address was presented by Dr. Anne Hollingworth, Psy.D., from Sydney Australia on the topic, “Using KST to open up the space between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in child and family assessments.”  This conference and experiential workshop was co-sponsored by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Minnesota Chapter, and by the St. Olaf College Department of Social Work and Family Studies, with additional support from the David and Karen Olson Marriage and Family Endowment at St. Olaf College. In addition to Hollingworth, presenters included Julie Thorsheim, MSW, DCSW, Jean Giebenhain, Ph.D., and Thomas Thorsheim, Ph.D. David Kvebæk sent a greeting to the participants, and Dr. David H. Olson, Professor Emeritus of the University of Minnesota, and founder of Life Innovations (formerly Prepare/Enrich) spoke of his early acquaintance with Kvebæk.

Augsburg College, Minneapolis, Minnesota, held an International Social Work Conference, Global Context: Local Solutions on June 14-15, 2012. Presenters and attendees came from around the U.S., India, Norway, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa and South Korea. The focus of presentations included response to needs of diverse ethnicities and marginalized persons in the U.S. and in Asia, Africa and Europe.  Hardeng and Thorsheim presented on, “Using Family Sculpting in Social Work Practice: An International Tool for Brief Assessment and Intervention.”