Proje c t
Refle c tion in Clinical Super vision
A u s t r a l i a n C h i l d h o o d Tr a u m a G r o u p Issue 06 July—September 2015
Dr Russell Pratt
Trauma Group Training
Pro-ac tive Prac tice:
& Events Calendar
Trauma-Informe d Teaching & Learning
A Better L ife for Foster Kids
The Artwork for this issue of ACTUAL was created by Caroline Bas.
Emerging issues and challenges in the sexually abusive behaviour treatment field
The field of adolescent sexually abusive behaviour treatment has been slowly maturing since its early beginnings in the mid to late 1980s (O’Brien, 2008). At that time, whilst the community was developing an emerging understanding that “children did this to other children” (Scott & Swain, 2002), therapy relied predominantly on adult sex offender models of treatment, or treatment for adolescents heavily based upon these same adult models (Creeden, 2006; Rich, 2003). Also, at that time, there was very little focus on, or understanding of, the relevance of child developmental, trauma-centric treatment principles within sexually abusive behaviour treatment programs. Fortunately, from these early, somewhat punitive, adult-based treatment beginnings, the field has moved to child-developmentally appropriate, trauma-centric treatment modalities and this has predominantly occurred over the past fifteen years. What will we see over the next fifteen years? In this article, I want to briefly discuss four issues that we might wish to think about at this time, particularly in regards to how these emerging issues may impact assessment, treatment and understanding of the risk that is posed to others of being sexually harmed by “our” adolescent clients who exhibit sexually abusive behaviours. Here, in no particular order, are four of my “big” issues that I believe should hold our attention. Changing sexual practices in adolescence Children are sexual beings from birth, with sexual
development being a part of the process of child development. Thinking biologically, this makes perfect sense, as sexual activity has an obvious reproductive and thus “survival of the species” motivation. However, moving away from this biological imperative, research into sexual practice over the past three decades indicates that sexual practices over that time have changed for both adults and adolescents. A recent snapshot of “what” youth are doing is provided by Latrobe University research (Mitchell, Patrick, Heywood, Blackman & Pitts, 2014). In their fifth research survey on the sexual health of 2136 Victorian year 10-12 secondary students aged 15-17 years, researchers asked students questions regarding their sexual practices and activities, surveying rates of engagement in a variety of sexual practices, such as penile-vaginal intercourse, heavy kissing and oral sex. Surprisingly, findings suggested that rates of most of these behaviours had slightly reduced in this sample compared with the 2008 survey. Mitchell and colleagues also looked at “technology-driven” sexual behaviours, including sexting, sending and receiving nude pictures, and using social media for sexual purposes. Results clearly indicated that rates of electronic sexual activity were now normative for this sample, with over 45 percent having received a nude picture by text, 27 percent having sent a nude picture of themselves, and at least 45 percent having engaged in sexually explicit written sexting. When the sexually active students in the sample were polled (n=713), these figures go even higher, particularly
in relation to written “sexts”, with 73 percent of sexually active students having sent a sexually explicit written text and 82 percent having received one. Remember, some of these behaviours are criminal, and until recently, in regards to sexting nude pictures, were regarded as child pornography offences. In spite of this they now appear to be somewhat normative behaviours for youth. What link might there be to the treatment of sexually abusive youth? Simply that the sexual world of young people constantly changes. Treatment providers should stay up to date with what has become normative behaviour for young people, and assist sexually abusive youth, who often come into treatment with poor understandings of both boundaries and social norms, to understand the changing sexual world. Additionally, let’s make sure we do not put kids into treatment for doing what everyone else is doing. And if youth entering treatment generally do not decode their worlds particularly well, it will be vital to assist them with a moral social code to ensure they understand the context behind these “new” behaviours.
”Online pornography is big business. To see how big, type the word into a search engine and you should get 91 million-plus hits.”
The impact of pornography on SAB youth. Technology also has a significantly “darker side”. Online pornography is big business. To see how big, type the word into a search engine and you should get 91 million-plus hits. Porn has been around for thousands of years – but not like today. Now it’s a $10 billion industry (Berman, 2011). Additionally, with the advent of tablets, smart phones, gaming... ARTICLE Continued—Page 4
When I arrived in Australia 34 years ago as a young Officer Cadet, I was only 19 years old. I recall landing in a Hercules at Laverton just out of Melbourne and the temperature was 45 degrees! Coming from Dunedin in Aotearoa (New Zealand), where we were in our ‘speedos’ when it was just 21 degrees…. 45 degrees was more than just hot! Over the next few months I acclimatised to this hot, strange and beautiful land. What caught and energised me was the notion of a ‘fair go’ for all, which was projected worldwide. Anything was possible if one put one’s mind and efforts to it, irrespective of the circumstances of your arrival in this land. It is however with deep sadness that as I put these words to paper I am struck by how much has changed in this country since that time. Now the pervasive sense I have is one of misery, mean spiritedness and fear. We now seem to treat the poor, the disadvantaged or those that seek freedom and safety as bludgers and free loaders. Those that have more than one can possibly need in many lifetimes bemoan those that are seeking a fair go and indeed some government policies of late ensure those who have little will have even less. This is not the beautiful country that so attracted me to call home all those years ago and it is not the legacy I would think we wish to leave to our children and young people who will be responsible for this land and its people into the future. Gregory Nicolau—CEO
Creating Dreams Project
The Creating Dreams project seeks to acknowledge the achievements of disadvantaged youth in Melbourne’s Western suburbs. Young people up to 24 can be nominated for the award, in recognition of growth in areas of personal development, education, health, sports and employment. The project is primarily funded through The Salvation Army Westcare’s employee contribution scheme. Corporate donations and regular fundraising further sustain the project. Through an award, the project identifies young people who have their everyday accomplishments overlooked. It strives to bolster a young person’s self-esteem, self- value and inspire them to continue to make positive change in their life. Earlier this year, young person Zhack was acknowledged for his hard work through the Creating Dreams project. During his time in school, Zhack struggled with attendance. He also found it difficult to stay engaged in daily life. However, last year, Zhack made the decision to leave school and enter a trade. Five months on, he is now building caravans full time. He loves his work, enjoys learning from others and is passionate about getting involved in “hands-on” work. The Creating Dreams project recognised his achievements with a drill set and work radio, as well as a certificate.
to see the project through to completion. During his time in TSAY, Ryan has modelled proactive behaviour. He has further demonstrated a willingness to learn and engage in essential life skills such as cleaning, budgeting and cooking. Both Alyce and Transitional Services program manager Ralph Salera emphasised their confidence in Ryan’s ability to use the skills he has learnt and apply them to his everyday life. Ryan, an avid Collingwood Football Club supporter, was awarded a Collingwood club membership as well as a team jumper by Creating Dreams. It’s with pride that the Creating Dreams project is able to give back to these young people who are able to enact positive change in their lives and do good things for themselves. Giving young people a sense of pride and achievement is powerful in helping positively shape a young person’s life. Empowering young people is at the heart of Creating Dreams. And as most recipients come from Foster and Residential Care placements, Creating Dreams believes that every young person deserves to feel acknowledged and valued. To learn more about Creating Dreams and to donate, visit: www.creatingdreams.org.au — Lauren Lynch, Communication & Promotions Worker Salvation Army Westcare
“Creating Dreams strives to assist disadvantaged young people and help provide them with equal opportunity.”
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From late starts at school to enthusiastically getting out of bed at 4am to get to work, Zhack has completely turned his life around. Exhibiting personal growth and engagement in employment makes Zhack an outstanding recipient of the award. Like Zhack, all Creating Dreams recipients are presented with a gift along with a framed certificate. In the past, gifts such as bikes and met cards have been awarded to young people. These gifts are tools they may need in keeping their dream alive or gifts to inspire young people to continue to succeed. In 2012, AFL Western Bulldogs player Robert Murphy presented a young man with a club membership. Without the funds to pay for his own local club membership, the money raised through Creating Dreams paid it for him. Creating Dreams sought to ensure he could kick-start his own football career and allow the young man to continue playing the game he loves. Creating Dreams is a key program in Melbourne’s West. In the past 6 months, the project has had more than 10 presentations. This year, the project has also celebrated a young woman in Foster Care achieving an ATAR score that placed her within the top 14% in the state. With 6am starts to 7pm finishes, she not only earned herself an exceptional state rank but was also offered a place to study a double degree in Arts and Teaching. Creating Dreams strives to assist disadvantaged young people and help provide them with equal opportunity. This was also important in acknowledging Ryan, who has spent his childhood in Foster Care placements. After turning 18 and exiting care, Ryan transitioned into independent living with the support of The Salvation Army’s Transitional Services program (TSAY). His case manager, Alyce, has been overseeing his journey and remarked on his progress and determination to create a better life for himself. Alyce, who nominated Ryan for the award, noted his initiative to start a flower and herb garden in his property. She also reflected on the work he invested into the garden
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Emerging issues and challenges in the sexually abusive behaviour treatment field (Continued) ...devices, laptops and the like, these millions of pornographic sites are available everywhere, and to anyone. Many, if not most of our late primary school-aged children have internet-enabled laptops supplied by their school, and by the time they reach secondary school, the majority have a smart phone. These “necessary accessories” result in most children having the ability to access pornography when and where they like. The pornography that is available is hard core, graphic and makes debatably disturbing viewing for adults (debatable as the content is market-driven, and the market is big, with two-thirds of those adults who have access to the internet viewing pornography). For children with no or little sexual understanding, pornography might just provide a “how to” manual for every type of hard-core sexual activity down to the smallest detail of what goes where. In heterosexual pornography, women are portrayed as willingly submissive, and generally enjoying every imaginable sexual act and degradation. Thus pornography provides no healthy relational context to youth who view it. Even more problematically for young adolescents, porn is heavy in aggression (see Wosnitzer & Bridges, 2007), and whilst devoid of context to real life sex, is generally believed by young men to
“There is clearly community concern and outrage about sexual abuse and particularly about children assaulting other children, and rightly so.”
portray real relational sex (Crabbe & Corlett, 2013). Viewing rates are worryingly significant; Sabina and colleagues (2008) found that 93 percent of males and 62 percent of females in their study reported exposure to pornography prior to 18 years of age. As well, Haggstrom-Nordin, Hanson & Tyden (2005) found youth aged 12-17 to be the most frequent consumers of online pornography. Anecdotally, treatment providers, child protection services and law enforcement agencies are worried about the large numbers of increasingly younger children engaging in more penetrative sexual acts in a quicker timeframe than what was previously seen (Pratt, 2015) and are talking about the phenomena as being linked to pornography exposure. It’s a somewhat logical conclusion, with the matching logical question being “Where did this child get this level of knowledge to commit this act?” Whilst robust assessment must always be applied, particularly to rule out traumatic re-enactment of one’s own sexual abuse, logic suggests a likely link between watching pornography and re-enacting what has been seen. Assessing such situations must include questioning and understanding whether pornography has played a role. “Pornographic sexually abusive re-enactment” may be our next epidemic of sexually abusive behaviour.
Family and community-inclusive treatment Current best practice tells us we must treat young people within the context of their lived experience (Lambie, Robson & Barriball, 2010; Pratt, 2014). One of our big challenges will be to create physically and emotionally safe home-based placements for sexually abusive youth. Residential care placements just do not replicate home, and isolate young
people from their support networks. This can be highly problematic for sexually abusive youth. We have to strive for more inclusive practice with parents, carers and significant others in the community who are important in our children’s lives, to both recruit them as co-therapists and providers of safe placements, and to ensure that caring adults around sexually abusive youth can relate to our young people in so many more ways than just as a “sexually abusive youth” or as a “budding adult sex offender”. Additionally, including parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors and others can assist in ensuring safety, rehabilitation and extending therapy into the world outside of the treatment room. In this way we move from situations where youth are controlled in the community to situations where they integrate in safe ways into their communities. When we as professionals treat, we have from one to three hours a week. We need our community partners to engage our children therapeutically for the other 165 hours.
Selling our message: Good work, done well, makes a difference. There is clearly community concern and outrage about sexual abuse and particularly about children assaulting other children, and rightly so. Whilst any recidivism is hard to sit with, recidivism rates for sexually abusive youth remain extremely low, at between 2 and 15 percent (Alexander, 1999; Chaffin, 2008; Prescott, 2006). Yet the public seems to believe that the majority of sexually abusive youth continue abusing into adulthood. This is simply not the case. This message has been lost and we must reclaim it and ensure the public hear it in a sensitively appropriate way (remember any recidivism means more victims;
References Alexander, M. (1999). Sexual offender treatment revisited, Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol 11, pp. 101-116. Berman, N. (2011). Gonzo Barbie – Empire of illusion. Retrieved from https:// ninab er m an .wordpre ss.c om / p a g e / 11 / Chaffin, M. (2008). “Our minds are made up – Don’t confuse us with the facts: Commentary on policies concerning children with sexual behavior problems and juvenile sex offenders”,
Child Maltreatment, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 110–121. Creeden, K. J. (2006). Trauma and neurobiology: Considerations for the treatment of sexual behavior problems in children and adolescents. In R.E. Longo & D.S. Prescott (eds) Current perspectives: Working with sexually aggressive youth and youth with sexual behavior problems, NEARI Press, Holyoke, MA.
bottle: Understanding and responding to the impact of pornography on young people. In Psych: The Bulletin of the Australian Psychological Society Limited. April 2015, 38,(2) 12-13. Prescott, D.S, (2006), Risk assessment of youth who have sexually abused: Theory, controversy and emerging strategies, Wood & Barnes, Oklahoma City.
Crabbe, M., & Corlett, D. (Directors) (2013). Love and sex in an age of pornography. Australia: Rendered Visible and Looking Glass Pictures.
Rich, P. (2003); Juvenile sexual offending: Understanding assessing and rehabilitating, John Wiley & Sons, West Sussex.,
Haggstrom-Nordin, E., Hanson, U., & Tyden, T. (2005). Associations between pornography consumption and sexual practices among adolescents in Sweden. International Journal of STD and AIDS, 16, 102-107.
Sabina, C., Wolak, J., & Finkelhor, D. (2008). The nature and dynamics of internet pornography exposure for youth. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 11, 691-693.
Lambie, I., Robson, M,. & Barriball, K. (2010). Why community treatment of sexually abusive youth is important, In Prescott, D.S. & Longo, R.E. (eds), Current applications: Strategies for working with sexually aggressive youth and youth with sexual behavior problems. NEARI Press, Holyoke, MA. Mitchell, A., Patrick, K., Haywood, W., Blackman, P., & Pitts, M. (2014). National survey of Australian secondary students and sexual health 2013, (ARCSHS Monograph Series No 97). Melbourne: Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, Latrobe University. O’Brien, W. (2008). Problem sexual behavior in children: A review of the literature. Australian Crime Commission, Canberra. Pratt, R. (2014). A therapeutic treatment model for sexually abusive behaviours in Victoria, Australia: What does treatment look like? Sexual Abuse In Australia and New Zealand, 6(1), pp. 21-31. Pratt, R. (2015). The “porn genie” is out of the
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“. . . actually ONLY five to fifteen percent go on to do this again” is not a respectful message even though it tells the good story). Of course we have to ensure we remain practical about risk - we do not want to be our own worst (naive) enemies. The message has to be that most do well, and we should talk about how we are trying to do better with those who don’t (and can the community help us in our more difficult situations). In conclusion, it’s clear there will be other issues that catch our attention, including: scarcity of resources, community perceptions of sexual offenders, young or old, and clearer understandings of why girls sexually abuse and how we should work with them to name just three. We have, however, achieved a lot. Let’s continue to work together to provide our children good, ethical treatment, to assist in relieving victims and survivors pain and trauma, to reduce the risk of further potential victimisation, and to assist youth to move from being sexually abusive to being non-abusive, healthy young people. The proof of our good work can only be seen in our, and thus their, good outcomes. — Dr Russell Pratt, Statewide Principal Practitioner Office of Professional Practice – Department of Health and Human Services
Scott, D, & Swain, S,,(2002). Confronting Cruelty: Historical perspectives on child abuse, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne. Wosnitzer, R. J. & Bridges, A. (2007). Aggression and sexual behavior in best-selling pornography: A content analysis update. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, TBA, San Francisco, CA: Online<APPLICATION/ PDF>.2013-12-15 from http://citation. allacademic.com/meta/p170523_index.html
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ACT Group Training Connect More: The importance of play in relationships with children Professionals & Carers Parkville, VIC
Mad, Bad or Sad? A Pathway to Healing — Illawarra Aboriginal Corporation Carers Wollongong, NSW
Mad, Bad or Sad? A Pathway to Healing — Illawarra Aboriginal Corporation Professionals Wollongong, NSW
Mad, Bad or Sad? A Pathway to Healing — Parkwood Green Primary School Hillside, VIC
Trauma during critical periods of development impacts both neurological and psychological development. Early relational trauma establishes core dif-
Many children and young people who have experienced developmental trauma and attachment disruption have not had the opportunity to learn how to be in a relationship. The use of play can provide such learning. This training will focus on understanding why play is helpful and how to increase relational connection through play.
Royal Commission Training — Beyond Survival Carers CLAN Geelong, VIC
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ACT Group Training The Truth About Lying: facts to help you deal with fiction Professionals & Carers Parkville, VIC
ACT Group Training Understanding & working with children and adolescents who engage in sexually abusive behaviours Guest Presenter: Dr Russell Pratt Professionals & Carers Parkville, VIC
19 ACT Group Training — Developmental Implications of Childhood Trauma Guest Presenter: Professor Louise Newman Professionals & Carers WEBINAR
ficulties with the regulation of feelings, coping with anxiety and interpersonal understanding. Lack of recognition and understanding of trauma issues can result in inappropriate "diagnosis" of mental disorders and failure to address underlying trauma-related issues. A developmental framework is important in understanding the impact of early trauma and adversity on a range of core neuropsychological processes.
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10 Ripple: An app for professionals to assess, collate and analyse clients’ progress in their physical, emotional and psychological health in real time.
ACT Group Ripple Presentation — 16th International Mental Health Conference Gold Coast, QLD
Punishment vs Discipline — Anchor Inc TBC, VIC
someone had taken the time to explain how the real world worked. I had not even seen a supermarket until then; it was like being in another time zone. I always wanted to help other children in similar situations, so at the age of 56 I took the opportunity to make this dream come true. I completed a Diploma of Social Services with the intention of working in the child welfare sector. Whilst doing a work placement, I realised I could do more good advocating for children in foster care and this is what brings this charity, A Better Life for Foster Kids Inc, to life. The principles underpinning the establishment of this charit y are:
A Better Life for Foster Kids
My name is Heather and I would like to share my story about what has encouraged me to travel down the path of helping children in foster care. After being in an orphanage and many foster care placements from around the age of 2 to 17 years old and experiencing many horrible situations, the one thing that was etched in my mind was going to school in our “rags” and all the other children knowing that we were “in homes” from the way we were dressed. I always remember wishing and praying that I could have nice things like all the other children. Once I left “the homes” at the age of 17 nearly 18 years old, it was a real struggle to fit into the world I knew nothing of. The easiest way to cope with my life at this stage was denial. How I wished
• To provide for the direct relief of poverty, sickness, suf fering, dist ress, misfortune, disability or helplessness among children and youth in foster care. • To provide direct benevolent relief by way of education programs to overcome and alleviate the causes of low self esteem and the effects of disadvantage among children and youth in foster care. • To provide direct benevolent relief to children and youth in foster care through the provision of clothing, toiletries, bedding and other essential items. Since starting in June 2015, we have helped 57 children from newborn to 18 years old. These are children who have been removed from home and placed in care, or young adults transitioning from care to living independently. We have provided e v er y t hing from clothing to furniture. T his has been achieved from the donations we have so generously received. Through generous donations we have been able to provide a 5-year-old boy, with a range of chronic medical and care needs, a specialised hospital-style bed and change table
that assist him and his carers with his needs. His carers wrote: “ . . . we are lucky to have him. Watching the progress he is making, however big or small, brings us so much pleasure. He has learnt to crawl and even pull to stand, things he was never expected to do. The most beautiful thing though is his smile . . . Thank you again for your kindness . . . .” We are looking for any donations including children’s clothes, toys, baby items, household furniture and children’s furniture. Gift cards are a great donation. With these we can buy items to suit individual children. Donations are fully tax deductible. We will be doing fundraising and holding regular garage sales to raise much-needed funds to help and support these beautiful children. Pick-ups are available for any donations. For more information we can be contacted on 0412 154-424 or you can look us up on Facebook “A Better Life for Foster Kids Inc”. —Heather Baird A Better Life for Foster Care Kids Inc
“I always wanted to help other children in similar situations, so at the age of 56 I took the opportunity to make this dream come true.”
and is not being influenced by personal factors. “Good” supervision has clear guidelines regarding role expectation and boundary setting – along with a way to manage any problems/issues should they arise. Supervision contracts (with timeframes for specified review) can assist with this process. A supervision contract may cover expectations of both the supervisor and the supervisee regarding: goals of supervision, expected outcomes, mutual obligations, structure, agenda, resources, preparation, records, confidentiality and how problems may be dealt with. I find it important to be supervised by somebody I can learn from and who is able to guide me in extending my pro fe s si o n a l development. As a supervisor, I think it is imperative to ensure supervision is meeting the needs of the supervisee. It may also be helpful to offer the opportunity for clinicians to experience other models of reflective practice. For example, at the Australian Childhood Trauma Group we are arranging a Balint Group supervision session for the team in order to offer clinicians different experiences/learnings in undertaking reflective practice (http://www.balintaustralianewzealand. or g /w ha t - ha p p e ns - in - a - b alin t - g roup / ) As workers in the field, many of us hear about or know of vicarious trauma (also referred to as secondary stress, burnout, compassion fatigue etc). When the demands of our roles become too great, supervision can often be one of the first things to slip. It is at these times that it should be our priority to maintain it as it is then that we need it most. It is important, not only for ourselves but for our clients and the agencies within which we work, that supervision is prioritised, that uninterrupted time is provided, that it is considered a sanctuary space. —Felicity Quirk, Clinical Psychologist Private Practitioner
“Regular reflection in supervision has allowed me to maintain longevity in my chosen field.”
Thoughts on Reflection in Clinical Supervision
Regular reflection in supervision has allowed me to maintain longevity in my chosen field. The majority of my work over the last 15 years has been with children, young people, adults and families who have experienced significant abuse and neglect. Early in my career, when working as a sexual abuse counsellor, reflection in supervision provided me with a space to consolidate my thinking, develop helpful frameworks for intervention, learn how I may be best placed to assist the people I was working with, take time to reflect on the impact of this work on me personally and prioritise self care. In this role, I remember a specific instance when I was exposed to some information which began to impact on me personally. As I was new to the
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field, I thought that if I told my supervisor she might not think that I was able to manage the work. I eventually discussed this in supervision. My supervisor was understanding, normalised the impact given the material, provided a framework for understanding why this had impacted and assisted me to develop a plan to address this. Along with the main purposes of supervision – development of expertise and skills; assisting sustainability of the work within a supportive setting; and ensuring maintenance of professional standards, when working with young people in particular – it often includes c o mp o ne n t s of : Confidentiality vs. Duty of Care (particularly when ethical issues arise, for example recreational alcohol use); discussion regarding Gillick Competence (is the young person deemed to have the capacity to consent to intervention without their parental guardian’s knowledge?); and inclusion of the parents/schools/other systems in the therapy vs. the young person’s growing autonomy. I see supervision as a safe space where clinicians are able to consider, process and integrate these sometimes conflicting components and determine an appropriate course of action in light of their legal, ethical and practice considerations. Clinical supervision also provides a helpful space to reflect on the issues a person is presenting with and how their behaviour fits within the realms of “normal” development. Particularly when working with young people who have experienced developmental trauma, I use supervision to consider not only a young person’s chronological but also their developmental age – and this assists me to tailor intervention accordingly. “Good” supervision provides a safe space to ask the “dumb” questions (there is no such thing as a dumb question), to discuss clinical uncertainties and personal responses/impacts of the work. It is a space to ensure practice remains informed by theory, is evidence based, utilises practice wisdom
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Pre-emptive and Pro-active Practice: Trauma-Informed Teaching & Learning
Despite the combined efforts of diligent teachers, school leaders, and allied education professionals to meet the complex needs of trauma-affected children, schools struggle every day to maintain ambitious expectations concerning learning and behaviour for vulnerable students. We work closely with a number of experienced and graduate teachers through our implementation and research of the Berry Street Education Model (BSEM; Brunzell et al., 2015). In this model, we have ordered the five domains of developmentally informed classroom practice: Body, Relationship, Stamina, Engagement and Character. This model is based upon a trauma-informed positive education paradigm (Brunzell, Waters, & Stokes, 2015). The young teacher, quoted above, is fresh from university and earned a teaching position in a Government school in a growing metropolitan suburb. She was assigned a classroom designated specifically for secondary students disengaged from their mainstream classrooms. Although she started her first year of teaching with the usual energy and optimism of a new teacher, she quickly realised that the strategies she was taught in her university teaching course required an overhaul; and in the process, her self-esteem and willingness began to take a tumble. We have also observed evidence of ‘‘battle weary’’ experienced teachers impacted by their exposure to trauma-affected students. The aim of the BSEM is to promote strategies to help all teachers in all learning environments. Childhood trauma affects school outcomes (Anda et al., 2005) and reduces the specific capabilities required for successful learning such as cognitive capacity, memory and concentration; along with impairing language, regulation of arousal and poor attachment abilities (Downey, 2007). Specific to the classroom, the effects of traumatic and/or chronic stress impact the two important capacities that children need to succeed in learning every day: the ability to self-regulate the body’s psycho, social and physical tasks; and the ability to form strong durable relationships which serve as regulatory buffers when encountering the potentially stressful process of new learning (Brunzell et al., 2015). Many trauma-informed models of teaching and learning rely on building self-regulation of physical and emotional responses and place a heavy focus on building strong relationships with struggling students (see for example ACF, 2010; Bloom, 1995; de Arellano et al., 2008). We find that these two strategy foci are not enough. We seek to integrate trauma-informed approaches with strengths-based paradigms and wellbeing research to promote both post-traumatic healing and post-
traumatic growth within classrooms. Through our research and work with schools across Australia, we argue that teaching trauma-affected children can be conceived within two practice areas: (1) Pre-emptive, proactive strategies to create a differentiated, strengths-based classroom; and (2) Triage strategies to ensure a strong regulatory and relational response to address resistant student behaviour. In this article, we will provide a handful of principles and strategies that have led to significant shifts in teachers as they approach their practice and nurture academic and social growth with their students. Who you are will be mirrored by your students As evidenced in the initial quote, teachers who see their vocation as meeting the needs of the most vulnerable students in their classrooms can take on a professional identity that is tenderly dependent on small daily wins with students. Guided by our understanding of co-regulatory mirroring (Crittenden, 2008) and mirror neurons (Kohler et al., 2002) we seek to strengthen teacher practice by pre-emptively helping the teacher understand that their personal identity can be a mirror of what they hope to nurture in their students. Specifically we pose questions to teachers, under three affective based-states, and help them develop personal strategies to maintain themselves as: • • •
De-escalated: Are you aware of the stressresponses and stress-arousal of both yourself and the students in your classroom? Have you learnt the strategies to pre-emptively predict the triggers of both yourself and your students? Mindful: Do you actively practice the art of grounding yourself and your students in the present moment? Do you give all students multiple opportunities during the day to connect and reconnect t he ms e l v e s to a g ro unde d and m in d f ul / pre s e n t state? Empathetic: What strategies do you have in place to insert empathy as a specific part of addressing resistant or avoidant student behaviours? Managing a classroom through empathy empowers both teachers and students to stay in a cortically strong, non-reactionary state. We, as teachers, lose our empathy for the students when blame, anger, and frustration impede our relational interactions with them. An empathetic mindset based on principles of unconditional positive regard must be pushed forward when things go wrong with a student. Empathy can help us frame difficult moments in the classroom with this mindset: This is hard for you. It’s hard on all of us to see you struggle. I understand and will
help you determine a pathway that maintains your dignit y. Placing de-escalation, mindfulness, and empathy at the forefront of teacher professional practice can often cause significant shifts in the way that teachers approach their classroom agendas. It is often a catalyst for personal learning about themselves and their motivations regarding their vocational identity. Teachers report that attention to training these skills with their most resistant students encourages significant shifts in their own resiliency within their personal lives as well. This interweaving of professional and personal response can help to support the classroom teacher as a front-line traumaworker. It also provides a potentially powerful lens for personal growth towards a teacher’s own understandings of meaning and accomplishment. What comes first: Regulation or Relationship? In the BSEM, we have specifically listed Body before Relationship to positively disrupt the thinking of our colleagues. The Body domain addresses trauma’s devastating effects on child-development and specific effects on the body’s ability to self-regulate the most basic physical functions of temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and the stress response (Perry, 2006). We know that trauma-affected children can have a significantly altered base line for stress-arousal and stress-regulation. Strategies that help the body regulate these maladaptive functions help the child self-regulate within the classroom. When it comes to the Relationship domain, we teach the specific skills that teachers can employ to build strong, attached relationships which coregulate, attach, and attune students to the safety and belonging they need within the classroom. We know that students, who struggle in their own self-concept, will often attach to a trusting adult; and then achieve small steps academically due to their motivation for approval and respect within that student-teacher relationship. Teachers question which must come first — regulatory capacities or relational abilities within the classroom? We strive to clarify this question with teachers because we want to provide them with a clear, understandable roadmap for their successful student management in traumaaffected classrooms. Given the current context of classrooms we see across Australia, we often witness teachers building classroom relationships that can both help and hinder classroom management. We see students developing conditional relationships with teachers, and teacher expectations wavering for the sake of the relationship. For example, with a struggling, trauma-affected student, the teacher may be resistant to enforcing classroom rules around uniform, swearing, or work completion because they feel tentative that the investment in the relationship will not survive the test of the student’s own resistance and boundarytesting. This puts the teacher in a confusing and
Rhythm and Regulation Before we assist teachers with the strategies to build strong, attached, and attuned relationships, we want them to understand the importance of classroom rhythms associated with regulation, predictability, and de-escalation. The concept of rhythm can be applied to the body (e.g. regulating the trauma-affected body’s dysregulatory capacities such as heart rate, arousal continuum, and stress responses); it can have significant application to curriculum and classroom management; and rhythmic principles can guide wholeschool prac tices for school leaders and allied education professionals such as wellbeing staff, clinicians, c asemana g ers, and other support staff. Individual body rhythms: Rhythms for the body can and must be introduced throughout the school day. Many teachers like referring to these classroom interventions as brainbreaks with their students. A brainbreak can be a patterned, repetitive, and rhythmic opportunity for students to practice their body’s ability for self-regulation (Perry, 2006). Often, sensory-integrating body movements introduced by occupational therapists have been helpful to teachers when developing brainbreaks; clapping call-and-response games enforce classroom regulation. Many teachers are now incorporating mind-body practices in their brainbreaks borrowing from yoga or physical education programs. In addition, mindfulness and other breathing routines which allow the students to deliberately observe a particular focus for concentration such as the breath, a positive emotion, or a part of the body have been shown to de-escalate the classroom and prepare the students for learning success (Waters et al., 2014). Classroom rhythms: When helping teachers reenvision and review their learning environments as rhythmic classrooms, we urge teachers to create and maintain regular and predictable classroom routines. Of course, this can apply to the daily routines such as circle time, transitions, independent reading, etc. We also encourage predictability within the structure of academic lessons. Do the students have clear expectations for a focused, uninterrupted direct-instruction time; followed by shared practice of a new skill; and independent or collaborative practice time to develop stamina within that new skill? Are students given specific thinking routines to reflect on their learning? And do students have regular ways to check-in and reflect upon their emotional affectivity and identify possible shifts from hour to hour? Further to this domain of classroom rhythms, do the students have a predictable expectation
of the way resistant or off-task behaviour will be addressed? As mentioned before, this is where we see unpredictable or inconsistent classroom management become a necessary place for intervention. While some teachers can manage student behaviour and student willingness to engage solely on the strength of their relationships, those same teachers are often left without strategies or routines if a trauma-affected student unexpectedly questions or tests that relationship on a given day. Classrooms that are anchored in traumainformed practice must be clear and predictable to the student when addressing resistance. Teachers must remain in control of these processes. We heavily promote a system co-created with the students that incorporates both reinforcement and warnings when a student is offtask. These include co-designed safety plans with each student containing predetermined strategies towards self-regulation without consequence or fear of judgement. In addition, consistent use of restorative process assists when a student disrupts the learning agreements within the classroom. Such classroom rhythms require constant and regular refinement, and often require teaching staff to be in regular communication for mutual support and guidance from their teaching-peers when issues arise. Whole school rhythms: The importance of whole-school rhythms for students who struggle with dysregulation from trauma is emphasised in our work with school leadership. Often, traumaaffected students rely on the weekly and yearly rhythms of a school. Confusion impacts their expectations when school routines are disrupted by the interruptions, changes, and adjustments that all schools need to make throughout the year. Each time there is a whole-school gathering there exists an opportunity for the school to reinforce a sense of whole-school regulation, attachment, celebration, and strength-spotting to students and staff, parents and carers across the entire school community. Finding ways to incorporate vulnerable students into this process is challenging — but must be done in a way that values their voice and contributions in order to teach them the rhythms of community and society beyond. For instance, how might a school be able to incorporate the rhythms of the seasons, festivals, open-days, carnivals, and assemblies to bring a sense of positive expectation and savouring to all of its students?
and school leaders to ensure their classroom is strengths-based and pre-emptive when addressing the differentiated needs of their students. We have also seen that these same domains and their strategies can positively impact teachers with their own professional and personal development. Our research suggests that teachers choose this work because it is deeply personal, and they must be continuously supported with strategies that promote healing and growth in their students. Specific to the discussion in this article, the domain of the Body holds foundational relevance for the ways in which schools can reinforce individual body rhythms, classroom rhythms, and whole-school rhythms. Thus, together, we strive to collectively support both students and teachers towards belonging, resilience and growth. See more on the Berry Street Education Model at: www.childhoodinstitute.org.au/EducationModel —Tom Brunzell , Senior Advisor Teaching & Learning Berry Street Childhood Institute —Leonie Abbot, Senior Trainer Berry Street Childhood Institute
Conclusion Engaging trauma-affected students to a strong sense of classroom belonging and achievement requires diligent effort in a variety of school practices, processes, and planning. The effects of trauma on children, adults, and systems of care can erode the sense of meaning and efficacy that many bring to the classroom every day. We believe that the domains of Body, Relationship, Stamina, Engagement and Character can guide teachers
Perry, B.D. (2006). Applying Principles of Neurodevelopment to Clinical Work with Maltreated and Traumatized Children: The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics. In N. Boyd Webb (Eds.), Working with Traumatized Youth in Child Welfare. New York: The Guildford Press.
“The importance of whole-school rhythms for students who struggle with dysregulation from trauma is emphasised in our work with school leadership.”
References Anda, R.F. et al. (2005). The enduring effects of abuse and related adverse experiences in childhood: A convergence of evidence from neurobiology and epidemiology. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci, 256, 174-186. doi: 10.1007/s00406-005-0624-4 Australian Childhood Foundation (ACF). (2010). Making SPACE for Learning: Trauma Informed Practice in Schools. Ringwood, VIC: Author. Bloom, S. (1995). Creating Sanctuary in the School. Journal for a Just and Caring Education, 4, 403-433. Brunzell, T., Norrish, J., Ralston, S., & Witter, M. (2015). Berry Street Education Mo del: Curriculum and Classroom Strategies. Melbourne: Berry Street Victoria. Brunzell, T., Waters, L., & Stokes, H. (2015). Teaching with strengths in trauma-affected students: A new approach to healing and growth in the classroom. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 85, 1, 3-9.
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troubling space. How do I maintain classroom expectations and still maintain the relationship? Therefore, we propose that classroom relationships are key, but must first be built on the strong principles of rhythm and regulation.
Crittenden, P. M. (2008). Raising parents: A t t a c hme n t, p are n t ing, and c hild safety. Abingdon, UK: Routledge/Willan. de Arellano, M.A., Ko, S.J., Danielson, C.K., & Sprague, C.M. (2008). Trauma-informed interventions: Clinical and research evidence and culture-specific information project. Los Angeles, CA & Durham, NC: National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. Downey, L. (2007). Calmer Classrooms: A guide to working with traumatized children. Melbourne: State of Victoria, Child Safety Commissioner. Kohler, E., Keysers, C., Umilta, M. A., Fogassi, L., Gallese, V., & Rizzolatti, G. (2002). Hearing sounds, understanding actions: action representation in mirror neurons. Science, 297, 5582, 846-848.
Waters, L., Barsky, A., Ridd, A., & Allen, K. (2014). Contemplative education: A systematic evidencebased review of the effect of meditation interventions in schools. Education Psychology Review, 1-32.
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