Triumping Over Trauma Pamela Trotman

“Living Life to the Fullest” with Pamela Trotman

Pamela Trotman

Pamela’s Trotman’s social work career began in Redfern over 50 years ago.  She has worked in a range of settings from child protection to mental health, taking her on many journeys of healing alongside trauma survivors including the Stolen Generations, refugees and those experiencing family violence and sexual abuse.   It is these experiences as well as her own journey of recovery from child sexual abuse and multiple traumatic losses, that has inspired Pamela’s new book ‘Triumphing Over Trauma: Journeys Beyond Woundedness”.

It is a pleasure to have her back on the show, after our first interview in 2017 to talk about her own experience of personal and family trauma and how it has inspired her first book. 

In episode 33 of ‘Talk the Walk’, we explore:

  • The journey of writing a book as a wounded healer for the traumatically wounded
  • The nature of Pam’s personal and family tragedies, and the realisations that informed her understanding of the impact of trauma and what truly matters in recovery
  • What is traumatic wounding and the seven forms of traumatic wounding
  • The capacity for the brain to heal and factors that promote trauma recovery
  • The metaphor of crossing the bridge and how family members can help their traumatised loved ones take that first step to get help
  • Finding other forms of justice when legal justice is not an option
  • The case study of Joanna, a young Aboriginal woman who found her voice, to heal from child sexual abuse
  • The role of the therapist in walking alongside people in triumphing trauma, as enrichment rather than depletion

Things to follow up after the episode

Noah Publishing – where to purchase ‘Triumphing over Trauma: Journeys beyond woundedness”

Mark Moran – Serious Whitefella Stuff:  When Solutions Became the problem in Indigenous Affairs

Pamela Trotman author and social worker on Facebook

Access YouTube videos by Pamela Trotman including Crossing the Bridge to Trauma Recovery

Contact Pamela Trotman info.noahpublications.au@gmail.com

Check out Pam’s other interview on ‘Talk the Walk’

coronavirus

Stay Safe, Stay Sane: Supporting you Through the Pandemic

You may be wondering what changes are being made to our counselling services during the pandemic?  Well, to put it simply, I am still here and still connecting with you but perhaps it might look slightly different.
Like everyone else, I am following the recommendations set out by the Department of Health to minimise the spread of the virus.  The pandemic has the potential to increase anxiety and other mental health concerns, so it is my priority to ensure you have the support you need during this uncertain time, while keeping us both safe. Therefore, I am doing two things differently.

  1. Social Distancing.
    I am practising social distancing.  That means, if we meet face-to-face we will be sitting at least 1.5 metres apart from each other and avoiding physical contact.  Hand sanitizer or a place to wash your hands will be available to use at the beginning and end of our sessions.  I will advise you in advance if I am unwell and unable to meet with you.  I hope that you will do the same and advise me if you are unwell.  If you are uncomfortable meeting face-to-face, please discuss this with me, as Telehealth (videoconferencing and phone) services are now available (see point 2).
    I continue to see clients at Bowraville Community Health Centre and HealthOne, Nambucca where social distancing measures can be practised.  I also continue to offer therapy in the outdoors like ‘walk and talk’ sessions, as nature provides lots of space and a good healthy immune boost.
  2. Telehealth services.
    Videoconferencing services (via Zoom or Skype) is available to those who are in self isolation. We are also able to offer telephone consultations if you do not have internet access.

My priority during this time of uncertainty is to help you ‘stay safe, stay sane’.  There are multiple ways we can stay connected, wherever you are.
If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to Contact Us.

stories matter

Facing the Climate Crisis: What’s Your Story?

As many of you know, I am all about story.

At the heart of narrative therapy is listening to the problem stories of people’s lives.

Right now, I am hearing stories of young people being crippled by eco-anxiety, feeling despair at the future that unfolds for themselves and future generations.  I am hearing stories of despair and sadness at the unfolding crisis on our planet and frustration through lack of climate action by our leaders.  I am hearing stories of the sense of powerless people feel over the melting ice-caps, the loss of biodiversity and the extinction of species. 

According to Joanna Macy, we are now seeing and understanding what is happening in the world through the lens of three main stories or versions of reality.  The Business As Usual story is the one that has people living the way they always have, with economic growth and getting ahead as its goal.  The story of the Great Unraveling acknowledges the disastrous consequences of living by the Business as Usual story, through the collapse of biological, ecological, economic and social systems.  The Great Turning is the story being created by those who recognise the Great Unravelling and are rising to create a different future for our planet.  Joanne argues that there is truth in all these stories.  They are all happening right now.  And we can choose where we put our attention.

While the ‘doom and gloom’ problem story is getting lots of airplay, as a narrative therapist, I am also interested in shining the light on the alternative story.  For it is in feeling despair and sorrow for the planet, that we can speak about our preferences for living. It is in losing hope that we can speak to the kind of future that we wish for.  It is in feeling the pain that we can speak about the values that are so precious to us. 

In 2020, my goal is to uncover the alternative stories of people’s lives around the climate crisis, unearthing the ways they are surviving and thriving, living out their true values and taking action.  The intention in collecting and publishing these stories is to give richer attention to the Great Unravelling that is happening across our communities.  Perhaps these stories will bring back hope to someone who has lost theirs and cannot pull themselves up out of the pit of depression or anxiety.

I am looking for people just like you to share your story.  I would love to speak with you about your relationship with the planet, how you are standing strong in the face of uncertain times and explore opportunities for developing superpowers for future actions. 

Just to be clear, you do not have to have a big story, you may not feel you are changing the world or even coping all that well with the climate crisis.  I envisage that my reflective interview questions will be a therapeutic and healing process for you, as we give voice to the downs and unearth the ups together.

If you are interested in participating, please get in touch and I will send you some questions inviting your written response, to become part of a narrative collective document on Facing the Climate Crisis Together.

Surviving the Child Protection system

From Victim to Survivor to Teacher

Alicia is one of those people that knew from the beginning of our work together, she wanted to share her story with a wider audience.  Having re-authored her narrative from a problem mother as defined by the Child Protection system to one that never gave up loving her children, Alicia then decided to publish her story with a view to helping others.  Alicia believed her skills and knowledge for surviving the Child Protection system would be useful for other parents who are trying to get their children back. 

In narrative therapy, finding another audience beyond the therapist for people’s preferred stories makes a big difference in how people experience themselves (Denborough 2014).  The story teller not only has this new version of their story validated, but feels a sense of contribution to the life of another; that in some way their life will be changed too by reading about the author’s experience.  

Being heard by outsider witnesses can also feel like a small step towards justice for someone who feels like the system let them down.  Putting one’s story out for others to read turns a personal experience into a political issue, highlighting where systems are failing people instead of continuing to blame mothers for failing their children.

This therapeutic process moves people not only from a position of victim to survivor, but through to an influential teacher who has hard-won knowledge and skills that are of benefit to others.  What an empowering position to be in for someone who has felt completely powerless over their life!

For anyone out there who is currently in a situation where their children have been removed, feeling devastated by the separation, and have lost hope, what more powerful way of reaching out to them than reading a real-life story from someone who has already ridden that roller-coaster.

On that note, I am privileged to be able to share in Alicia’s own words, her tips for parents who are currently riding the roller-coaster that is ‘surviving the child protection system’. 

And if you haven’t already, you can read Alicia’s full story here.

I hope Alicia’s words bring comfort, support and hope to those who are possibly on the worst ride of their life right now.

References: 

Denborough, D., 2014, ‘Retelling the Stories of Our Lives:  Everyday Narrative Therapy to Draw Inspiration and Transform Experience’, W. W. Norton & Company, N.Y.

nature-therapy

7 Reasons for Choosing Me as Your Therapist

So it is just about to clock over into a new year and a new decade.  Are you filled with excitement or dread?

Perhaps it’s time to finally do something about that Anxiety that has stopped you from getting a job or going outside.  Or maybe you want to shine the spotlight on the plans Depression has had for your life, because it doesn’t fit for you anymore.  Or perhaps your life experiences or the state of planet have you believing that life will never be safe again?

If the idea of therapy, freaks you out (yeah, Anxiety can stop you from getting help too!), then here are 7 reasons why you might like to consider reaching out to me.  Unlike other counsellors, I do have a few unique features that you won’t find elsewhere, as an alternative from traditional talk therapies.

  1. I come to you. 
    If transport is an issue or the idea of meeting a stranger in an office doesn’t float your boat, no problem.  I can meet you at your home, your workplace (if there is a suitable private space), or school (so you don’t have to run around delivering kids to their appointment)
  2. You are not the problem here.  Your problem is the problem.   
    Your problem is not inside of you, but perhaps it has been coming and going for so long now, it has you convinced there must be something wrong with you.  Maybe other people also think that you need fixing.  Together we will expose the problem for what it really is – something external to you.  Something you can have control over.  Something you can change.
  3. I will meet you outside (if you like). 
    From a Western viewpoint, it’s called eco-therapy.  If you’re from an Indigenous cultural background, yarning on country is what you have always done.  And it’s a much better option for people who don’t feel comfortable eyeballing their therapist between four enclosed walls.  I meet people on beaches, riverbanks and in parks, while taking the utmost care to maintain your privacy as much as possible.  Being in nature provides a whole host of health and well-being benefits. I learned all about the healing aspects of being connected to the land from my time working in remote communities of the Northern Territory.
  4. You may not have to pay. 
    I am committed to offering therapeutic experiences to people who can least afford it.  If you have a mild to moderate mental health issue and are experiencing financial hardship, you may be eligible for 12 free sessions over 12 months through the Connect To Well-being program.  A further 10 sessions per year are available through Medicare’s Better Access, with a Mental Health Care Plan and referral from your GP.  Check your eligibility here.
  5. I am here to stay.  
    There is nothing worse than building a relationship with a therapist, then learning that they are leaving their job or moving away.  The Nambucca Valley is my home and my work space.  I am really passionate about my community and making it a great place for everyone to live, work and play.  I would be crazy to leave what is the best micro-climate in the country that makes me thrive.
  6. I will ‘Walk and Talk’.   
    Sitting still doesn’t suit everyone especially if you feel fidgety or restless.  Sometimes moving your body is part of what’s needed to help you relax or express yourself.  We can do this in private or you can join a group.  Why not try a whole day of bush walking along the coast, while working on a problem in our Narrative Walks program!
  7. I am the only Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide in the region. 
    If the stress of daily life has taken its toll, let me guide you into the forest to help you slow down and reconnect mindfully with yourself and nature.  You can book a private walk with a group of friends, colleagues or just yourself.

So what are your plans for your life in the decade to come?  Let’s work together to make it happen. Get in touch.

therapeutic letter writing

“Unearthing Unspoken Words” with Annette Dudley

Annette Dudley stumbled her way into the therapy world after being supported by her foster carers to pursue her passion for education and having a number of mentors, supervisors and children cheering her on from the sidelines.  A significant milestone was the completion of her Masters of Narrative Therapy and Community Work in 2015.   In this interview, Annette reflects on her project ‘Unspoken Words’: Creative Letters to Elders of my Past and Present’ utilising the narrative practice of therapeutic letter writing.

Annette Dudley

Annette is a descendent of the Bailai Nation from the Gladstone area in Central Queensland, Tanna Island in Vanuatu and Murray Island in the Torres Strait Islands.  Annette has held a variety of therapeutic and support roles within mental health, Aboriginal health, family violence legal services, criminal justice, sexual assault and youth services.  She currently supports youth and families as a Project Officer for Indigenous Wellbeing at Central Queensland University in Rockhampton. 

This is what we explore in episode 32 of ‘Talk the Walk’:

  • How Annette came to study narrative therapy and community work, and why she thinks it is a culturally sensitive approach to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people
  • What led to Annette undertaking her ‘Unspoken Word’ letter writing project with Elders of her community, and the impact it had on her work and life
  • Reflections on her work on Healing Camps with the Woorabinda community and the Taroom to Woorabinda Trek
  • The impact narrative letter writing honouring people’s legacies can have on recipients and their families
  • The significance of writing a letter from an oral culture perspective
  • How the ‘Unspoken Words’ project shaped Annette’s therapeutic practice with clients
  • Exploring the fit of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with Indigenous clients
  • What Annette loves about using the Tree of Life methodology with clients
  • Reflections on Annette’s journey from foster child to therapist
  • Rolemodels, motivators and admirers
  • Annette’s career highlight – a sparkling moment!

To listen, simply click on the Play button below or listen via the Stitcher App for iOS, Android, Nook and iPad.

Listen to Stitcher

You can subscribe to future podcast episodes from our Subscription page. Don’t forget, if you or someone you know would make a great interview on ‘Talk the Walk’, send us an email from the Contact Page.

Things to follow up after the episode:

‘Unspoken Words’: Creative Letters to Elders of my Past and Present”

David Denborough
Cheryl White
David Epston
Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo and The Tree of Life

Contact Annette at dlzmmettswplsg(at)gmail(dot)com

Mindfulness made simple

Coping with Uncomfortable Feelings: Embodied Mindfulness Made Simple

I invite you to imagine putting on a pair of sunglasses, metaphorically of course.  These glasses have blue lenses that reflect judgement and criticism.  While wearing these glasses you only notice how bad you feel, think how hopeless you are, and leave you wanting to push away uncomfortable feelings.  It is really hard to notice anything good at all.  These are the glasses our human brain wants to reach for first without too much thought about it.

Now I invite you to put on a different pair of sunglasses that help you look through yellow lenses of compassion and kindness.  While wearing these glasses you still notice the ‘bad’ feelings, but they help you see its okay and it’s normal, and allow you sit in uncomfortable feelings with acceptance until they pass.  You also notice feelings like joy and pleasure, and relish them.  These are the glasses we can wire our human brain to reach for first, through the practice of mindfulness.

There are some problems in life that are hard to shift and might be out of our control.  Mindfulness won’t make these problems go away, but it will change the way you look at things.  From time to time, we are also going to have uncomfortable feelings arise like anger, sadness, jealousy, shame, guilt, pain and hurt.   I don’t necessarily consider these negative or bad feelings.  They are part of the human condition and serve a purpose.  When they arise, we can choose to allow our brains to put on the glasses of judgement and criticism, or the glasses of compassion and kindness.

Mindfulness does not have to become a burdensome new thing you have to schedule into your already busy day.  You can still keep doing those things but just wear a different pair of sunglasses doing them!   But it does take practice because our human brain wants to default to the negative.  You will have to consciously keep swapping glasses until your brain gets the message that you want to wear the yellow glasses right now not the blue ones.  

So you notice an uncomfortable feeling arise.  You start making judgements or criticise yourself for feeling this way.  You realise you have the blue glasses on.   Now what?  How do we do this mindfulness stuff?  Okay, time to put the yellow glasses on.

  1. Tune Out.  At the first sign of an uncomfortable feeling or sensation in the body, it helps to become grounded.  Notice what is happening externally in the environment around you.  Using all your senses, explore what you can see, touch, hear, smell and even taste. 
  2. Tune In.  Now take your mindful presence inside by noticing your breath.  Observe how the breathe moves in and out of your body.  Notice what you feel in your body.  What feelings or sensations are arising?  Where in your body are they sitting? 
  3. Stay With.  Bring you awareness one at a time to each of these body sensations.  How strong and how big is it?  Does it have a colour, shape, texture?  What temperature is it?  Does it move?  What else are you noticing?  This is all about observation without judgement.  Get to know this feeling or sensation as if you are a detective having to write a factual report on what you find.
  4. Breathe.  Take a deep breath and send this air into this part of the body you are focusing on.  Allow the air to create some space around this sensation.  Keep breathing just observing what this does to your body. 
  5. Notice.  Keep focusing your awareness on this sensation as you mindfully breathe and simply observe what changes.  Stay with the experience and see where it takes you.  Do you notice a shift of some kind?  How does it feel now?  How is the whole of your body responding? 
  6. Reflect. When you are ready, bring yourself back slowly from your internal focus of attention to the external environment.  Use your sense of touch, sight, sound, smell and taste to bring yourself back.  What are you noticing about this experience?  What is different now or new?  What have you learnt?

Warning:  Please don’t despair, if you notice unhelpful or uncomfortable thoughts arising during this exercise.  The brain will try many times to distract you.  That’s perfectly OK.  Just don’t get caught up in the thoughts or let judgement or criticism take over.  Simply acknowledge the thought, allow it to float away and bring your awareness back to whatever is the current focus of your attention – be it your sensory experience, the breath moving in and out, or the sensation in your body.  The more we do this, the more we develop our mind muscle so it eventually learns your preference for wearing yellow sunglasses.

In short…

My favourite place to practice mindfulness is in nature.  The sound of birds, the smell of the salty sea or the touch of the grass on your feet can be beautiful focus points to ground us before stepping into the journey inside. 

So next time you feel emotion rising inside, step outside.

Connect to Well-being

There are some new changes on the horizon.
The Healthy Minds program is currently in transition to Connect To Well-being.
The way I deliver my counselling service won’t change, but the way of accessing it will.

From Monday 23 September 2019, the Healthy Minds patient intake currently with the North Coast Primary Health Network is transitioning to become part of the Connect to Well-being service being delivered by Neami National. This initial transition is part of a broader intake, assessment and referral service for mental health and drug and alcohol supports across the North Coast that will be rolled out over the coming months.

For everything you need to know check out

If you are a GP or service provider, who has referred clients to me previously under Healthy Minds, then you will need to download the new referral form.

Please note there is no space to allocate your preferred counselling provider on the new referral form. If your client would prefer me as their provider, feel free to write this in your email when sending off your referral.

I look forward to continuing to provide flexible, responsive counselling services to help you or your clients Connect To Well-being.

R2R

‘Drumming Up Connection in Community’ with Simon Faulkner

My guest on the podcast this week is the brains and the hands behind the therapeutic program, Drumbeat at the Holyoake Institute.  Simon Faulkner went on to set up his own business, further developing his Rhythm2Recovery model (R2R) which has now made its way into the UK, USA and Germany.

R2R combines experiential rhythmic music with cognitive reflection, as a therapeutic intervention suitable for one-to-one counselling, groupwork and community development.  Thousands of practitioners across Australia have been trained to use drumming to connect with their clients experiencing a range of life challenges.  Simon brings many years’ experience working cross culturally, delivering training programs and therapeutic interventions to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as well as First Nations communities in the USA and Canada.

In this conversation, we discover how Simon, who does not identify as a musician, came to appreciate the drum as a therapeutic tool for connection.

In episode 31, we explore:

  • Why drumming has been such an effective therapeutic tool for working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Simon’s discoveries working with First Nations peoples in Canada and the USA, and how this has influenced the development of the Rhythm2Recovery model
  • How the drum if used correctly can promote a safe therapeutic relationship
  • An overview of the research behind rhythmic therapeutic interventions
  • The ways drumming is being used therapeutically in Indigenous communities around Australia and how it is being received
  • What inspired Simon to develop this methodology, and the beliefs and values behind his intentions for the work
  • The biggest struggles Simon faces in working cross culturally and the skills and knowledge he has used to overcome them
  • What really makes Simon’s heart sing in his community and your chance to get involved

To listen, simply click on the Play button below or listen via the Stitcher App for iOS, Android, Nook and iPad.

Listen to Stitcher

You can subscribe to future podcast episodes from our Subscription page. Don’t forget, if you or someone you know would make a great interview on ‘Talk the Walk’, send us an email from the Contact Page.

Things to follow up after the episode:

Rhythm2Recovery – access to training, resources, evidence and fact sheets.
Drum Circle Facilitator Training.
Performing Arts in Prisons, Intellect Books.
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012) by John Haight.
Contact Simon Faulkner.

mum-and-child

Re-writing Stories of Identity: Alicia’s Story

The first day I met Alicia, not that long ago, she said ‘I want to share my story with other people.  I want to help others who are going through similar struggles.’

In the few months that followed, I sat down to interview Alicia on her experience of having her children removed and the many years that followed, fighting to get them back.  This alone appeared to be a very powerful and healing experience for Alicia.  Our narrative conversations allowed Alicia to reclaiming her identity from one which was defined by the Child Protection system as ‘a worthless mother who was not going to get better’ to her preferred identity as a ‘strong-willed, stubborn but patient fighter who never stopped loving her kids’.

In narrative therapy, Denborough says “while we can’t always change the stories that others have about us, we can influence the stories we tell about ourselves and those we care about”.  In telling our stories in ways that focus on our strengths for getting through difficult times, we have the power to re-author our lives.  No longer are we trapped by the problem story that we have come to believe is true; we now have a new and different story of what we stand for and value in life.

Our therapy together has allowed Alicia to reclaim her ‘storytelling rights’ (Denborough 2017) and tell her story in a way that fits for her, not defined by others.  The Charter of Storytelling Rights includes:

  • the right to define their experiences and problem in their own words and terms.
  • the right not to have problems caused by trauma and injustice, located inside them, internally, as if there were some deficit in them.  The person is not the problem; the problem is the problem.
  • The right to have their responses to hard times acknowledged.
  • The right to know and experience that what they have learned through hard times can make a contribution to the lives of others in similar situations.

It is this last right, that Alicia now wishes to exercise.  Today, is the first time that Alicia is going public with her story.  This is an opportunity for you, the audience, to be witness to the alternative story Alicia is taking on about her life.

We invite you to read Alicia’s Story of ‘never, ever giving up’ and then send a message back to Alicia about how this story has changed you.  

If you know what it is like to experience child removal, we invite you to continue the conversation with us on our Facebook Group.

References:
Deborough, D. 2014, ‘Retelling the Stories of Our Lives Everyday Narrative Therapy to Draw Inspiration and Transform Experience’, Norton.