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From the voice of distress to a narrative of agency and reconciliation: trauma and resilience in multi-stressed families Rapunzel Leuven, 7 th June 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "From the voice of distress to a narrative of agency and reconciliation: trauma and resilience in multi-stressed families Rapunzel Leuven, 7 th June 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 From the voice of distress to a narrative of agency and reconciliation: trauma and resilience in multi-stressed families Rapunzel Leuven, 7 th June 2013 Dr Peter Jakob, Consultant Clinical Psychologist 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be1

2 Accommodating Aggression When family members accommodate themselves to aggression and other controlling behaviours, hostility and abuse become normal. The message we give those who are affected by violence is then: I cannot protect you. The message we give ourselves is: I am helpless. The message we give the aggressive child is: You cannot change. A narrative of victimhood ensues, in which the parent is helpless, and the child demonized. 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be2

3 Nonviolence as the active pursuit of peace In peaceful interaction, people or groups of people encounter one another without threat, fear or aggression. They are mindful of one another’s needs, can empathise, and become proactive to alleviate distress in the other. Actively pursuing peace, one does not accept violence or coercion in oneself, or violent or coercive behaviour directed towards others. Pursuing peace also implies an effort at reconnection between groups of people or individuals. Such a position requires the therapist to strive to act as non-violently as possible, and to support his or her clients in acting as non- violently as possible, where family relationships have been fractured by harmful and often coercive behaviour. The aim of nonviolent therapy then becomes the facilitation of re- connective interaction within the family. 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be3

4 Non Violent Resistance NVR (Omer, 2004) is an organised form of nonviolence in the family, community, school or any other social environment. In order to practice NVR, parents, teachers, carers and members of the community take action as a group. Developing solidarity in the support network gives direct action its strength. There are no enemies or opponents to the nonviolent practitioner. NVR does not punish; it uses adult presence and reconciliation. Cornerstones of NVR: –De-escalation in behaviour and mind; –Refusal to give in to controlling behaviour - adult disobedience; –Raising presence and protest; –Emotional self-regulation rather than control of other; –Developing a network of support among adults; –Reconciliation and re-connection with the child. 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be4

5 Joint escalation 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be5

6 ‘ Try to avoid eye contact…’ 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be6

7 family trauma broken down caring dialogue between parent and child prescriptive, critical, dominant, controlling interaction in the larger system post-traumatic stress in family members 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be7

8 family recovery re-vitalising the caring dialogue through reconciliation and child focus creating exceptions, promoting safe support utilising the energy of dominant others in helpful ways resisting abuse by other adults using NVR as trauma therapy: parents become protective and containing by acquiring strength 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be8

9 The caring dialogue One key dialogue between parent and child is the “Caring Dialogue” - It requires and generates mutual trust. The caring dialogue: distress signals by the child, parental sensitivity to such distress signals, caring responses and feedback to the parents about the outcome of these caring responses. The child –believes that the parent is internally strong –will be able to respond sensitively to his needs, rather than in an injurious or neglectful manner. The parent –is attentive for distress signals, –can distinguish between: basic physical and psychological needs, wishes and inappropriate or harmful demands of the child, –learns to respond to these different kinds of child signals in differential ways. 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be9

10 When the caring dialogue breaks down Parent and child draw on negative internalisations of one another (Grace et al, 1993). Survival responsiveness makes it difficult for the parent to remain attentive and attuned to the child, receptive towards distress, and feel and show empathy, support and protection – resulting in blocked care (Hughes and Baylin, 2012). 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be10

11 Restoring the caring dialogue: reconciliation A child focus in systemic therapy creates conversational space for the unheard voice of distress in the child (Wilson, 1998). A child focus in NVR allows the parent to look behind the curtain of aggression and destructive behaviour, and become perceptive of child distress (Jakob, 2011, 2013a). By planning care-oriented reconciliation gestures, parents re- sensitize themselves to the child’s distress, and the unmet psychological needs it signals: –The need to feel safe and protected –The need for support in one’s development –The need to feel a sense of belonging –The need for a coherent and benign narrative of self and family When parents carry out the gestures that address these needs, they show the child they are prepared to care. 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be11

12 integrating this internal representation… 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be12

13 …with this one 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be13

14 An example of child-focused reconciliation: the need-focussed question sequence a guided, imaginary exception to the problem… So, if you imagine that for once things are different when Charlie has had trouble. Charlie comes home from school one day, and he’s upset… but he doesn’t kick off right away… he goes to his room looking grim… Imagine you wait a while, and then bring him a cup of tea… you quietly step into his room, waiting a little bit, while Charlie just looks at the wall… you gently place the cup of tea on his bedside table and sit down. After a while, you say something like “bad day at school, huh?” Remember, this is a different situation, and Charlie is showing himself as vulnerable… What does he say? What do you notice, as he’s saying it? (Parent shares, what she thinks child would say.) Now I’d like to invite you to notice what’s happening inside yourself, while you keep this image in mind (Ask parent about her thoughts, emotions, body sensations.) What reconciliation gesture could you make that will show Charlie, that you get it, that you really get him…? 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be14

15 I will keep reaching out to you, no matter what you do… From reconciliation gesture to relational gesture Reconciliation gestures- acts of unconditional love and care, that re-assure the young person: “We care about you”. Instead of saying “we love you, we just don’t like what you do”, parents act. Acts speak louder than words. Reconciliation gestures can communicate a parent’s or carer’s awareness of the child’s unmet need and distress. They become relational gestures, which bring the caring dialogue between parent and child back to life. However, for parents to re-engage in the caring dialogue, they need to acquire a position of strength. 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be15

16 Acquiring a position of strength Parents or carers need to have agency in the kind of support they obtain. Intervention by others is only supportive, when the parent’s psychological needs are met in the interaction. Alliances require the offer of support is open to the parental needs (Grabbe, 2007). There are often high levels of critical, prescriptive, dominant and coercive interaction in the larger systems around parents in multi-stressed families. These parents require a transformation of the larger system, in order to access genuine support, which will enable their strength to emerge (Jakob, 2013b). 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be16

17 Three principles of developing safe support Utilization: Well-meaning but dominant interaction can be channelled into productive support. Plan action together with parent and dominant other adult. Support parent in voicing their needs and expectations from the other adult, e.g. how they need the other adult to behave in the planned sit-in. Exception: Identify safe relationships in the parent’s life; reframe safe interaction as potentially strong and powerful; engage safe other adults in direct action. Resistance: Support parent in using nonviolent methods to resist the intrusion of coercive, abusive and dangerous others. This ranges from identifying the parent’s pathway into requesting intervention from the dangerous other adult, and what escape routes they can use, to getting support from safe others in resisting unrequested intrusion. 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be17

18 Exception There are almost always other adults, in whose company parents feel safe and comfortable. If you ask parents to scan their body when they imagine being in the presence of this other adult, they will generally have a more comfortable body experience. Often, traumatised parents have not considered asking such safe others for support in responding to their child’s aggression – believing the other, non-dominant adult cannot be powerful. Invite safe others into therapy and enable a sense of mutual support to develop, by planning joint NVR action, such as a sit- in. 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be18

19 The exception principle: promoting safe support Support focused questions: –How close would you like your friend (helper) to sit? Do you want her to touch you when you are beginning to feel overwhelmed, anxious, angry, when you begin to give up? How do you want her to touch you? What effect will that have on you? –How will you (supporter) recognise she (mother) is beginning to feel (upset, anxious, angry) and will need to feel your supportive presence? 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be19

20 Utilization When other adults act in critical, blaming, dominant, or prescriptive ways, parents experience discomfort, confusion, uncertainty, guilt, shame, a reduced sense of efficacy and negative beliefs about themselves. They delegate their authority to the other person, whom they perceive as powerful due to their dominance, and act submissively. Invite critical others into therapy and create a positive connotation of their well-intentioned communication. By opening conversational space for the needs of the parent, you help the parent acquire a sense of self-efficacy: they become agents in requiring the kind of support that meets their needs, in order to exert authority. 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be20

21 The utilization principle: promoting parental agency Support focused questions: –During the sit-in, what will you need (e.g. grandfather) to do/say, if Jack provokes you by swearing at you? How is that different from the way your father has attempted to help you in the past? How will it effect the way you feel about yourself, when your father responds in that different way? –Do you (grandfather) believe you will be able to remain quiet in the way that Jack’s mother has requested, instead of trying to help her by taking over? What will help you remain quiet? –How will that mark a change in the relationship between the two of you (between mother and grandfather), when you do it in that way? What will that different way of interacting between the two of you mean for the future? 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be21

22 Resistance Traumatised parents often call on other adults who have abused them in the past to support them, e.g. by perpetrating domestic violence, when they feel especially helpless due to their child’s aggression. As with critical other adults, they mistake the abusive coerciveness for power, and delegate their authority to the violent person such as an ex-partner. It is necessary to help the parent overcome their propensity to engage the abusive other, and support them in using methods of nonviolent resistance to successfully fight any intrusion. 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be22

23 The resistance principle: overcoming parental victimisation Resistance focused questions: –I’m sure that in some way I don’t yet understand, it makes sense that you have been asking (the violent ex-partner) to step in when Jack is especially difficult. Can you help me understand your thoughts and feelings, when you call him? –Next time you’re desperate, who could you call instead, who could help you overcome that knee-jerk response to involve (the violent ex)? –Can we think together about how you might involve Jennifer, when (the violent ex) becomes threatening and tries to push his way in again? In addition to Jennifer, who else could you ask to witness his behaviour? 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be23

24 Adding strength: NVR as trauma therapy Traumatised parents become re-traumatised, when their children are aggressive. When the parent escalates, she stimulates too many aggressive post-traumatic triggers in her child’s behaviour to cope with. Instead of “walking into hellfire”, a parent can reduce the number of post-traumatic triggers to a level she can cope with. The parent can then overcome her avoidance behaviour, by treating nonviolent action, such as the sit-in, as a de- sensitization scenario. Integrating trauma-focussed methods into the preparation of nonviolent action supports the parent to overcome her traumatic response to the child. 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be24

25 An example of nonviolent trauma-focused therapy: using the sit-in for desensitization with the help of the inter-personal grounding sequence Ask parent to determine how close the supporter needs to sit for them to start feeling calmer (physically move chairs). Ask the parent to look at the role player playing the child (or imagine the child sitting there in the sit-in). Body scan: what does she notice in her physiological response? What emotions does she notice? What thoughts? Ask the parent to look at the supporter. What does she notice in the supporter’s body? What effect does this have on her own body response? Her emotions? Her thinking Ask the parent to look at the role player playing the child. Then, in her peripheral vision, the supporter. What does she notice in the supporter’s body? What effect does this have on her own body response? Ask the parent and supporter to develop a cue for the parent’s awareness of her supporter’s physical presence. 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be25

26 Grace, N.C., Kelley, M.L., and McCain, A.P. (1993) Attribution processes in mother-adolescent conflict. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 21: Grabbe, M. (2007). Rhetoric of Alliance Forming and Resiliency in Nonviolent Resistance. (German: Bündnisrhetorik und Resilienz im gewaltlosen Widerstand.) In A. Schlippe, von und M. Grabbe (Eds.), The Parent-coaching Workbook. Parental Presence and Nonviolent Resistance in Practice. (German: Werkstattbuch Elterncoaching. Elterliche Präsenz und gewaltloser Widerstand in der Praxis.) (25-43). Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Hughes, D.A. and Baylin, J. (2012). Brain-based parenting: The neuroscience of caregiving for healthy attachment. New York, London: W.W. Norton. Jakob, P. (2011). Re-connecting parents and young people with serious behaviour problems – child-focused practice and reconciliation work in Non Violent Resistance Therapy. New Authority Network International, Jakob, P. (2013a). Die notvolle Stimme des aggressiven Kindes – von der Beziehungsgeste zur Wiederherstellung elterlicher Sensibilität. (Engl.: The voice of need in the aggressive child – from relational gestures to restoring parental sensitivity.) Familiendynamik, in print. Jakob, P. ( 2013b). Geweldloosheid en gezinnen in crisis, cocreatie van positieve gezinsnarratieven tegen de achtergrond van trauma, deprivatie, middelenmisbruik en belastende sociale contexten. (Engl.: Nonviolence and Families in Distress – Co-creating positive family narratives against the backdrop of trauma, deprivation, substance misuse and challenging social environments) Systeemtheoretisch Bulletin, 31 (1), 5 – 27.) Omer, H. (2004). Nonviolent resistance: A new approach to violent and self-destructive children. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wilson, J. (1998) Child-focused practice. A collaborative systemic approach, Karnac. 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be26

27 PartnershipProjects promoting new service models in social care, camhs and education PartnershipProjects (UK) Ltd Pepperstitch Cottage Bishopstone Seaford, UK BN25 2UG 7 juni 2013www.rapunzelvzw.be27


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