Trauma, abandonment and privilege: working with boarding school survivors and their partners
In the media we are hearing more and more from those who have suffered from the effects of a boarding school education. As counsellors and psychotherapists we are faced with clients who are unaware of how much their experience of boarding school may be affecting their lives and the way they present themselves to us in the therapy room.
In order to adapt to the boarding school environment of privilege, deprivation and repression, the child has to make many self-betrayals and self-inventions.
Former boarders have learned to present a workable front by effectively employing splitting, denial and projection. They show the world only their façade – their strategic survival personality. As adults they find it virtually impossible to unlearn the strategies once put in place, leading to breakdowns in survival such as difficulties in intimate relationships, in parenting, or in the loss of an identity.
For these reasons working therapeutically with former boarders/boarding school survivors can be particularly demanding. Practitioners should be acquainted with these phenomena and understand how the trauma of childhood abandonment causes the psyche to structure itself to cope and survive the unique atmosphere of a boarding school.
The day will be part lecture and presentation on these little understood issues and part experiential with opportunities for clinical practice. Nick will introduce and illustrate the following topics:
- The psycho-social context of boarding.
- The British attitude to children.
- The formation of the strategic survival personality.
- Therapeutic endeavour with a hidden trauma.
- Cutting-edge neuroscience approaches to developmental trauma.
- Matching good practice to the 'slippery' boarding school survivors client.
The overall aim of this workshop is to give counsellors and therapists a clearer sense of what to expect and how to work more effectively with clients and partners who are affected by the experience of boarding school.
About James Fisher
Nick Duffell is a psychotherapist, psychotherapy trainer and author. He has pioneered the psychological understanding of boarding education and his work has been featured on TV and radio. Nick created Boarding School Survivors, an organisation providing therapeutic help for ex-boarders and training courses for counsellors.