Nick Duffell and Thurstine Basset, authors of Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege, are our Routledge Mental Health Authors of the Month for May! Read our exclusive interview, enter our giveaway and enjoy 20% off their fantastic new book!
Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege discusses how ex-boarders can be amongst the most challenging clients for therapists; even experienced therapists may unwittingly struggle to skilfully address the needs of this client group. It looks at the effect on adults of being sent away to board in childhood and the problems associated with boarding, which have only recently been acknowledged by mainstream mental health professionals.
Our book is the first dedicated guide for therapists working with clients who suffered broken attachments and trauma from being sent away from home to boarding school as children. The issues for those in this newly emerging and difficult client group have hitherto been hidden by the social privilege associated with such education and frequently disguised by high functioning.
After Nick ‘s success with The Making of Them (Lone Arrow Press, 2000), a follow-up book to explain the therapeutic work that he and other therapists linked to the organization Boarding School Survivors had been pioneering since 1990, seemed logical. He teamed up with Thurstine, who is both a survivor and a writer in the mental health field, to create what they hope is an accessible and inclusive resource.
The Making of Them named the problem and established the psychological problems that result from boarding school. Wounded Leaders (Lone Arrow Press,2014) set boarding in its social and political context. Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege gives therapists a tool-kit for working with survivors.
Psychology professionals have been slow to acknowledge that the British habit of sending young children off to boarding school impacts on psychological wellbeing. Although unsupported by any single theory of child development, boarding is still seen by many as a very desirable way to educate children. Even if the schools are less brutal than in the past, there is still a deliberate breaking of attachments between child and mother, father, wider family and home community, which affects development in latency, puberty and adolescence.
This is a trauma. Even if not all are ‘damaged’, all boarding children must learn to survive in a strange institutional environment. This survival has a future cost, both to individuals and society.
New neurological developments are helping us to assess this cost, and referrals for therapy from ex-boarders are increasing exponentially. Because of their ‘Strategic Survival Personality’, Ex-boarders can be amongst the most challenging clients for therapists; even experienced therapists may unwittingly struggle to skilfully address the needs of this client group.
Our book aims to help readers understand the emotional processes of boarding and the psychological aspects of survival; we discuss the repercussions of survival and outline a step-by-step path toward recovery. The book suggests interventions and strategies for therapists, counsellors and other mental health workers to work with ex-boarders and points out where they may fall into various traps.
If you grow up in an institution rather than a family you are going to struggle later on to manage family life; if you have had to disown your vulnerability from when you were very little you are going to struggle to be empathic to the needs of others; you’ll find being on task mode far easier than being intimate. This will adversely affect all your relationships.
Family members have the difficult job of living with adult ex-boarders who can be very cut off from their feelings and generally find intimate personal relationships extremely challenging. It would be best if they inform themselves with the literature first. Next they might want to ask the ex-boarder to consider the resources now available and/ or seek therapeutic help for their couple with an informed practitioner.
Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege is based on nearly 30 years experience with this difficult client group. We now have a growing body of evidence of ways to work with ex-boarders and have developed a range of theoretical understandings and methodology that are fitted to the client, rather than the usual way of trying to fit clients into the theory studied by the therapist. Alongside case-material, diagrams, illustrations and useful exercises which help bring the topic to life our book offers:
Since boarding school is part and parcel of the world of the privileged, this can lead to people feeling it is not a problem that deserves attention. However, the damage that is done is to children often as young as 7 or 8 and they have little or no choice in the matter. So the privilege can mask and hide the trauma.
The repercussions are that, since our society is a top-down one, it affects the whole and especially institutions where ex-boarders play a leading role. Since the syndrome is so widely unrecognized, our society goes on sacrificing the natural childhood of its most privileged and normalizing the habit.
We are currently enjoying Daniela Sieff’s Understanding and Healing Emotional Trauma, and some of our favourites are Donald Kalsched’s The Inner World of Trauma as well as Patrick Casement’s classic On Learning from the Patient. We mustn't forget Joy Schaverien’s Boarding School Syndrome and Sue Gerhardt’s Why Love Matters, or John Rowan’s Discover Your Subpersonalities, all referred to in our book.
We are both involved with running ‘The UnMaking of Them’, a training programme at post-graduate level for therapists, who want to develop their skills in working with ex-boarders. Nick is speaking at ‘Alter Ego’ Alternative Leadership Conference in June and at an international conference on Boarding and Social Justice in Hanover in November. Workshops for boarding school survivors continue in the autumn and next spring.
Thurstine’s next book is titled Working with Families and Carers in Mental Health and will look at the important role that family carers take on when a member of the family encounters emotional distress. Nick has just signed a publishing deal on his current co-authored venture, The Simpol Solution, which examines the psychological implications of globalisation and world-centric political cooperation.
Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege discusses how ex-boarders can be amongst the most challenging clients for therapists; even experienced therapists may unwittingly struggle to skilfully address the needs of this client group. It looks at the effect on adults of being sent away to board in childhood…
Paperback – 2016-04-19
Nick Duffell is a psychotherapist and trainer in private practice who pioneered therapeutic work with ex-boarders and specialist training for psychotherapists. He is the author of The Making of Them: The British attitude to children and the boarding school system and Wounded Leaders: British Elitism and the Entitlement Illusion - a psychohistory.
Thurstine Basset worked as a social worker, mostly in the mental health field, before entering the world of training and education in the 1980s. He has subsequently written and produced a variety of training packages, articles, book chapters and books in the mental health field. Early in the 21st Century, he attended a Boarding School Survivors Workshop and was a director of Boarding Concern, an organisation that supports boarding school survivors.
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