2005: Issue 2

Dear Reader,

There has been considerable anticipation in relation to publishing this journal and the next one, both of which focus on the theme ‘Responding to Trauma’. We have been really involved in discussions around this topic over the last nine months. It feels great to be finally sending this first selection of papers to you.

Since the events of September 11th in the USA, the field of ‘trauma work’ has grown exponentially. This increased interest in these matters seems to offer many possibilities as well as a range of hazards! There is so much to consider. Some of the questions that are considered in this issue include:

– The concept of trauma de-briefing has been the focus of considerable debate in recent years. Are there ways in which narrative ideas can be helpful when meeting with people who have recently experienced trauma?

-Understandings about trauma and trauma work that have been developed in western countries are now being ‘exported’ across cultures. What are the implications of this, and how can care be taken not to replicate forms of psychological colonisation?

-How can workers understand their experiences in this area? Notions of ‘vicarious trauma’ are now commonplace and it is regularly assumed that therapists and counsellors can become traumatised themselves by witnessing stories of trauma. Are there alternative ways of understanding and responding to workers’ experience?

-What are some of the considerations when working with a heterosexual couple in which both partners have experienced trauma? • When therapists, or their loved ones, experience significant trauma themselves, how does this influence their work.

-Little attention has been paid to the experience of those who have been subject to rape and/or sexual violence within prisons. What would a support package for prisoner rape survivors look like?

-How can practitioners respond to communities who have experienced trauma related to war and conflict? How can ‘narrative theatre’ approaches be used in this work?

The papers included here describe work in Sri Lanka in relation to the tsunami, Australia, Israel, Uganda, Burundi, East Congo and Gaza (Palestinian Territories). In this issue, we’ve also included two papers on a different theme. These relate to work with children. One of these papers describes work from Bangladesh. The other relates to work that took place in Australia.

We would be very interested to hear your reflections and feedback on this journal issue. We look forward to hearing from you.

Warm regards,

Cheryl White & David Denborough

P.S. We would like to acknowledge the following people who have acted as readers and reviewers of papers in this journal: Norma Akamatsu, Chris Behan, Walter Bera, Pennie Blackburn, Maggie Carey, John Cramer, Saviona Cramer, David Epston, Gary Foster, Andrew Groome, Vanessa Jackson, Zoy Kazan, Natasha Kis-Sines, Tracey Laszloffy, Rick Maisel, David Moltz, Ron Nasim, David Newman, Margaret Newmark, Amaryll Perlesz, Amanda Redstone, Colin Riess, Mary Pekin, Ruth Pluznik, Bruria Rosenwaks, Shona Russell, Margaret Ryan, Yishai Shalif, Olga Silverstein, Jane Speedy, Lovisa Stannow, John Stillman, Gaye Stockell, Manja Visschedijk, Ruth Walter, Kaethe Weingarten, Michael White, Angel Yuen and Jeff Zimmerman.


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    Stories from Srilanka: Responding to the Tsunami— Shanti Arulampalam, Lara Perera, Sathis de Mel, Cheryl White and David Denborough

    This paper consists of a series of extracts from interviews from Sri Lankan community workers and psychosocial workers who are involved in responding to the aftermath of the tsunamis of December 2004. Three months after the tsunamis had devastated areas of Sri Lanka’s coastline, Cheryl White and David Denborough visited the country and witnessed the extent of the destruction and loss of life, and also the extent of the reconstruction efforts. They met with families who are now living in small tents one hundred metres back from the shore and are gradually piecing life back together again. Because it was exactly three months to the day of the tsunami, Buddhist remembrance ceremonies were being held in many parts of the country. A number of interviews were conducted with thoughtful and dedicated local organisations determined to hold onto and utilise local knowledge and expertise in responding to the experience of Sri Lankan communities. This paper includes stories from a number of these organisations.


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    ‘How can You Do This Work?’ Responding to Questions about the Experience of Working with Women Who Were Subjected to Child Sexual Abuse— Sue Mann

    This paper explores ways of understanding the experience of therapists who work in the field of child sexual abuse. The author describes how she is regularly asked by women who consult her, ‘How can you do this work?’ The first section of this paper explores the different meanings that this question can have for those women who ask it of their therapist. The second section considers the many different experiences that the author has in counselling conversations with women who have been subjected to child sexual abuse. The final section particularly focuses on those experiences of therapist distress that sometimes accompany this sort of work. A range of questions are provided in the hope that these will be helpful to other therapists.


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    Debriefing After Traumatic Situations – Using Narrative Ideas in the Gaza Strip— Sue Mitchell

    This paper describes the use of narrative ideas in debriefing Palestinian adults and children in the Gaza strip after traumatic experiences. The author was working as a volunteer psychologist for Medecins Sans Frontieres in Gaza.


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    Prisoner Rape Support Package: Addressing sexual assault in men’s prisons — David Denborough and the Preventing Prisoner Rape Project

    The following support package has been developed to try to provide assistance to men who have been raped or sexually assaulted in prison. It has been developed by the Preventing Prisoner Rape Project. This project, based at Dulwich Centre in Adelaide, Australia, is hoping to: raise awareness about the issue of rape in prisons; reach out and support prison rape survivors; support those workers both inside and outside prisons who are trying to deal with the issue of sexual violence in detention; and bring about appropriate law reform and changes to prison administration in order to prevent prisoner rape. This package relates to men’s experience. In the near future we hope to be able to develop a similar package for female survivors of prisoner rape. While currently in written form, we hope to make CDs and tapes of this information and distribute these within prisons. We would value your feedback as this is a continuing project.


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    The Story of Ruthi and Miki: Working with a Couple Where Both Partners Have Experienced Trauma— Saviona Cramer and Yael Gershoni

    This paper describes work by two therapists with a heterosexual couple in which both partners had experienced trauma. The man, Miki, had been traumatised ten years earlier in a suicide bombing on the bus on which he was the driver. The woman, Ruthi, had been traumatised in the years since the bombing by Miki’s abusive aggression. The therapeutic conversations described here involved ways of addressing the experiences of both partners, while prioritising Ruthi’s safety. This paper was created from a series of interviews. The interviewer was David Denborough.


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    Responding to Families at Times of Trauma: Personal and Professional Knowledge: Personal and professional knowledge An interview with Yael Gershoni

    In this interview, Yael Gershoni, an Israeli therapist, tells the story of how a suicide bombing affected her relative’s family and how this, in turn, has influenced her life and work. Particular emphasis is given to ways of responding to the traumatic visual imagery that is often an after-effect of experiences of trauma. The interviewer was David Denborough.


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    A Narrative Theatre Approach to Working with Communities Affected by Trauma, Conflict & War— Yvonne Sliep

    This paper describes a narrative theatre approach to working with communities affected by trauma, conflict and war. The approach was initially tried in villages within rural Malawi in relation to issues of HIV/AIDS. It has been developed further over the last ten years in different parts of the world and is currently being engaged with in Uganda, Burundi and East Congo. This paper explores the effects of trauma on community life and grassroots, theatrical means of responding. This approach has been influenced by the ideas and practices of Narrative Therapy and Forum Theatre.


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    Responding to the Working Children of Bangladesh: The Work of Ain o Salish Kendra

    The following interview describes the work of a drop-in centre and flexi-school for working children in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We have included this here in the hope of offering readers a glimpse of the different dilemmas facing those who are working with children in developing countries. Ain o Salish Kendra is a legal rights organisation. One aspect of their work involves trying to reduce the amount of hazardous work performed by children in Bangladesh and to provide working children with access to education, health and legal services. The Protection of Working Children Unit aims to provide meaningful opportunities to children who have no choice but to work to support themselves and their families. We were introduced to the work of Ain o Salish Kendra by Margaret Ryan (via Narrative Connections!) and visited one of their drop-in centres for working children in March 2005. Sitting in a small classroom, children somewhere between six and ten years old, all introduced themselves – proudly describing the work that they did. This ranged from selling flowers in the street, to working in a glass factory, to making paper containers, to domestic work. After they had finished their introductions they turned to us and asked: ‘And what work do you do?’ Many of our assumptions about childhood, about work and about child labour were questioned at that moment. After introductions, we witnessed the children share news from their day with their teacher. A number of children told of positive events. One described a fire that had occurred in the factory in which she worked. Another mentioned that his family was having difficulties due to his older brother’s drug use. They then moved on to read the book of the day which involved a family that was trying to get enough food to eat, to study the letters of the alphabet, and to learn how to draw pictures of ducks and people’s faces. This drop-in centre and school provides a forum for these children to speak about their lives with other children and with caring adults. As the following interview describes, the work of Ain o Salish Kendra also tries to provide pathways for these children towards safe work and opportunities for further education.


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    The Goodbye Feelings: Working with Children Living in Two homes – One with Mum and One with Dad— Carolyn Markey

    Through descriptions of counselling conversations, this paper explores ways of working with children who are affected by parental separation and who move between two households. It includes extracts of conversations, therapeutic letters and a graph drawn by the child concerned.