Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to Perth and Bunbury by Richmond Fellowship Western Australia. As well as working with the team over there to help support their bid to develop Hearing Voices Groups within Western Australian prisons, I was also happy to provide three workshops on subjects close to my heart.
Demystifying Dissociation & Psychosis
Tuesday 16th October, Perth
Using personal and professional experience, this workshop explores the relationship between dissociation and psychosis, to enable us to better understand the impact of trauma on young people and adults. Using safety and grounding as a base, participants will explore ways of supporting people in their journey towards recovery.
My reflections: This was a great start to a week’s workshops in Australia. As is often the case on these courses, attendees came with a range of personal and professional experiences and an open mind. During the workshop, I was impressed at people’s willingness to share and explore new ideas.
Many things have stayed with me from that day – but the one that springs to mind is the idea that both dissociation and psychosis can involve stretched communication wires between trauma and the way its communicated. Stretched, but not broken. It’s just that with psychosis it is, perhaps, easier to miss the link as it is stretched so thin.
Working Creatively with Young People who Hear Voices
Tuesday 17th October, Curtin University
After the day workshop, it was time to meet up with the lovely folks at Curtin University and give a seminar on working creatively with people who hear voices. They were particularly interested in working with young people, so we spent time looking at practical strategies using drama and creativity. All in all, they were a lovely bunch and it was great to spend some time thinking alongside them.
Inclusion: Removing The Barriers
Wednesday 17th October, Perth
Voice-hearing is such a stigmatised experience that many young people feel unable to ask for help when they need it. Instead, fearing ridicule or being seen as ‘crazy’, many struggle in silence. A teacher may notice them seeming distracted, self harming, seeming anxious or getting in to trouble – but have no idea what the real source of their problem is. Even when young people do open up, adults can feel unsure of what to say or how best to help.
The good news is that with understanding and support, children and young people who hear voices can – and do – get the best from education and life. The aim of this workshop is to give educational professionals and youth workers the skills and understanding to make this a reality.
Reflections: This was a smaller, but perfectly formed workshop. I really appreciated the smaller group size as it allowed us to spend more time discussing and reflecting together. One of the most helpful aspects of the day, for me, were some great ideas as to how we can work together to raise awareness of voice-hearing in young people. An interesting idea that I hadn’t considered before is working with young people and an illustrator to create a storybook. After the workshop, I also has the treat to chat with a couple of the participants and share some ideas and experiences.
Demystifying Dissociation & Psychosis in Young People: An Introduction
Friday 19th October, Bunbury
Dissociation and voice-hearing are relatively common experiences in childhood and adolescence, but they often trigger feelings of fear and anxiety in those adults who want to support them. This introductory workshop, suitable for anyone who works with vulnerable children and young people, aims to raise awareness of dissociation and psychosis in young people and their link to traumatic life experiences. Using personal and professional experience, explores some concrete ways we can support traumatised children, and help them towards recovery.
Reflections: Because of the larger numbers (60+) this workshop was more of a presentation, but the enthusiasm and warmth of attendees helped us maintain some interactivity. In a venue opposite a swimming pool, with the aid of some Wagtails who were wandering around soaking up the atmosphere, we spent the afternoon drawing some links between the often split concepts of dissociation and psychosis and how to best understand and support young people in distress. The mix of trainees was fantastic – with representatives from needle exchanges, mental health services and youth services (not to mention a fair few people with lived experience). It was a perfect end to my working week.