My gratitude at having given myself the opportunity to come out to Melbourne for The Child Trauma Conference 2016 knows no bounds. I am riddled with jetlag, stifled by enthusiasm and starved of sleep yet I have never felt more in synergy with where I am supposed to be than I feel right now.
In an attempt to keep you on this journey with me, I shall try to write about each day and post up for you with highlights of the learning. We’ll see how far I get when I’m on Day 3 of this 6 day conference with little sleep and a number of days’ worth of information to process, but I will do my best.
Before I begin, may I just say that Melbourne is amazing and being in Australia brings me a strange connection with a responsibility that people have at being here.
So today, wasn’t officially the beginning of the conference, more a warm up afternoon to whet the cognitive, emotional and spiritual palate. Today was an afternoon of two ‘conversations with’ style sessions. Madly tweeting and using the conference app, I have collected enough nuggets to formulate a write up that may be useful. I’m very aware that each one of the vast number of people who attended will have heard different things throughout the day so please do follow the twitter hashtag if you’re that way inclined on #childtrauma2016 every day this week for different views.
Conversation One with Jon Baylin and Dan Hughes
Dan and Jon turn out to be a bit of a double act sharing with us the kind of banter reserved for close friends. It was a pleasure to be party to that intimacy..
They were asked what brought them to the work of children and trauma and Jon starts by telling us he has been through every therapy and I chuckled to myself, ‘haven’t we all Jon.’
Dan says that he started working with children by accident. He was then asked to develop a child abuse program which he found had no success so he embarked upon the journey to become a plumber! Luckily for us, he realised what he had created with his own children could be remodeled for his program and he went from there.
Jon stated that he found that having a dialogue with Dan had really been rich which made me reflect upon how rich it is for all of us to have that dialogue, to be using a shared language, to be working towards the same goals. It isn’t always like that in our work.
Relational work is about the state of mind that we’re in…let go of other agendas and clear the space and be present Jon reminds us. The key is to not be defensive.
They were asked about their most important lessons that can be taken from their work. Jon said he was learning constantly about the deep mistrust a child may have yet having the courage to trust to learn to trust again. For Dan, it was about being a more active therapist and ‘going there’ where sometimes no one has been before. It’s important that we hold that space for children.
Be present & be curious. Learn to pay more attention to the non verbal content than the words….” Jon on attunement.
Mindfulness like empathy can be taught by being mindful with the child. Learning experientially rather than cognitively.
Teenagers hate empathy so have to be sneaky about empathy. Empathy brings up vulnerabilities. Instead, co-regulate, match the emotion. State what you see in a matter of fact way without emotion in your voice. Have no emotion in the content.
When asked how do you help foster parents? They said the most important thing is that its not an intellectual process. It needs to be experienced. The best foster carers need the capacity for warmth and openness much more than anything else said Jon.
Dan added that the characteristics of warmth AND strength are the most important so that there is no possibility for avoidance.
Conversation Two – Allan Schore and Pat Ogden
Pat talked a lot about the potential for healing through the body and how she had learned the most when working with women who had been sexually abused and she could not see anyone getting better. When she began to deal with their trauma through movement, she started to see people get better. She realised that the body can participate in healing. Movement and posture create so much healing potential.
Allan opens up be saying that we can only understand adults through the earlier stages of our development which is a view to which I completely subscribe, personally in my own journey as well as professionally and he is going further and further back right to the beginning of conception in his latest work.A discussion then ensued about creativity and how it is in all humans. How can we use our creativity to help clients tolerate new emotional experiences. We then entered into a conversation about safety for the therapist. Therapy is really risky for the therapist as well as the client. Pat on therapeutic safety then quoted Helen Keller – “life is full of daring adventure or its nothing at all.”
Alan – shame is a part of life, it is there for a reason.The ability to tolerate shame is so important. Unfolding research for Allan is that he is looking at boys at risk and the idea of gender differences in the womb in the neurobiology of development. Gender is essential and yet we have overlooked it. He will be looking at foetal development and the difference in gender and the susceptibility to trauma and the gender differences. Future work for Pat will be looking at how specific postures affect our neurobiology.
Until tomorrow my friends….