Supporting children who have disclosed trauma

Content type
Webinar
Event date

8 June 2022, 01:00PM to 02:00PM

Presenters

Kate Headley, Clare Klapdor, David Tully, Dan Moss

Partners
Location

Online

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This webinar was held on Wednesday, 8 June 2022.

Self-blame is a common experience for children who experience mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, following sexual or physical trauma. This self-blame can be exacerbated when a child has a pre-existing relationship with the perpetrator.

Without the language to help them move past a story where the abuse was their fault, children may develop ‘loser’ or ‘failure’ conclusions that have negative effects on mental health, safety and the ability to live connected or meaningful lives.

Practitioners have an important role in safely introducing strategies that help children and parents to make sense of their experiences, in ways that challenge self-blame. There are many aspects of children’s stories that contradict self-blame, or that can uncover examples of resilience, strength and hope. Developing a relationship with a child and parents or caregivers that supports the development of these stories is a key skill in helping children to move beyond negative or self-blaming conclusions about themselves.

This webinar will explore:

  • how self-blame operates and how perpetrators may manipulate children to blame themselves 
  • how to help children challenge feelings of complicity in their trauma experiences by focusing directly on the power difference between children and adults
  • children’s stories of protests or choices they have made throughout their experiences that kept themselves, or their loved ones, safe, to acknowledge that no child is a passive recipient of trauma.

This webinar is of interest to professionals working specifically with children who have experienced trauma or who work with infants and young children, and/or their caregivers, across early learning and care services, maternal and child health and other family support services.

Audio transcript (edited)

DAN MOSS: So welcome today, everybody, to today’s webinar, Supporting children who have disclosed trauma. So my name’s Dan Moss, and I’m the Practice Development Manager here at Emerging Minds. And for the past few months I’ve been lucky enough to work with our esteemed panellists on a suite of products, which really looks at supporting practitioners, like yourself, who are working with children who you know have experienced physical or sexual trauma, or may disclose this as part of their process with you.

Now, before we meet Kate and David, I’d just like to take this opportunity to recognise and pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the traditional owners of the lands that we work, play and walk on throughout this country. We acknowledge and respect the traditional connections to their land and waters, culture, spirituality, family and community, for the wellbeing of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families. So today’s webinar is part of a series of webinars that are facilitated in partnership between CFCA and Emerging Minds, focusing particularly on the mental health of infants and children.

So today we’ll be considering how, in particular, self-blame and secrecy can affect children who have experienced physical or sexual trauma, meaning that children can take responsibility for their experiences, assuming that the trauma was their fault, or they were complicit in the trauma. And how secrecy can make children feel that they can’t share with you some of the context or the details of what happened, for fear of your reaction. So throughout this webinar we’ll be discussing what we call the ‘four Ps’ of supporting children, which are outlined in the new Emerging Minds course, supporting children who have disclosed trauma.

So that’s available on a handout as part of this webinar. You do need to register, if you haven’t done so, to Emerging Minds, to be able to access that course. And we’ve also, in the handout, got a paper, which has some animation of Taj Ilan, for those of you who are interested. And we’re now joined by Clare as well. So welcome Clare. Lovely to have you here. Clare’s just been having some technical difficulties, so we’re very pleased that they’ve resolved.

So anyway, the four Ps. I should talk to you about the four Ps before we begin. So as outlined in our course, and developed by people like Clare, Kate and David, they are Power – helping children to recognise the power differences between children and adults, and in the case of abuse, how adult tactics can manipulate children and accentuate their powerlessness, to ensure that the abuse remains a secret. Protest – how to make sure that children’s decisions and actions that they have made throughout their trauma are made visible to them throughout your process with them. Particularly using the assumption that no child is ever a passive recipient of trauma.

The third P is Purpose – so in developing a clear purpose, practitioners avoid children just recounting traumatic experiences for unclear or unknown reasons. And so from a very early stage of your work with a child, you are letting them know why you want to ask particular questions and understand the context of particular events in their life. Participation is how to help children to fully participate in their engagement with you. How to make sure that communication skills or language, for all children, doesn’t remain a barrier to them accessing the kind of support or help they need from you. So that they can overcome secrecy. They can overcome self-blame in their lives.

So without further ado, the wonderful people that have helped us develop the four Ps – and if you do access our supporting children who have disclosed trauma course, you will see all through it – Kate Headley, who’s a speech pathologist. Kate’s got a particular history in working with children around trauma, particularly those children who might have communication or language difficulties. And we’re going to look forward to talking to you about that later, Kate. Thanks for joining us.  

KATE HEADLEY: Thank you. Great to be here.

DAN MOSS: David Tully, who’s got years of experience working both with children and their parents who are affected by sexual violence, but as well in his current role works a lot with men who are using violence, and as well with children who are affected by that family violence. So thanks for joining us, David.

DAVID TULLY: Thanks Dan. Sure, I’m really looking forward to this discussion. Really good people we’ve got together here, so great. Looking forward to it.

DAN MOSS: And Clare Klapdor, who you’ll notice, if you have had a look at our paper, co-authored a paper with us that looked at the experience of Taj and how we can support him and children like him in our practice. And Clare, as I said, has been trying to log-on for the last 30 minutes, and has thankfully made it! So well done Clare!

CLARE KLAPDOR: Thank you!

DAN MOSS: Clare comes – Clare’s a practice manager at Centrecare, with a range of different services who deal with physical and sexual trauma, for children and their families. So before we get started today, the paper that I talked about, which Emerging Minds has developed in collaboration with Clare, had within it Taj. And Taj is working with a practitioner who has become aware that Taj was sexually abused as a nine-year-old – this is a couple of years later now – by his Uncle Craig. And in this particular snippet, the practitioner is working with Taj to make power differences between Uncle Craig, who is a 40-year-old man, and Taj, overt. So we’ll just play that now.

<video plays>

CLARE KLAPDOR: I’m thinking a nine-year-old would be in Year 4? Is that about right? Yep? And what about Uncle Craig? I wonder if he was still learning stuff, or if he knew a lot already.

TAJ: He knew a lot. He used to come and fix Mum’s computer all the time. He was pretty good with that stuff.

CLARE KLAPDOR: Okay. Should we write that down? “Uncle Craig knew a lot”?

TAJ: Definitely.

CLARE KLAPDOR: And how do nine-year-olds make decisions about what’s right and what’s wrong? How do they work out the difference?

TAJ: When you're nine you still do some pretty dumb stuff. Jason is always kicking the ball inside, and he never puts his chip packets away. Mum’s always on at him. It’s so annoying.

CLARE KLAPDOR: Right. So should we put down, “still learning about right and wrong, and needing help from some responsible adults”?

TAJ: I guess so. Yeah.

CLARE KLAPDOR: And what about Uncle Craig and other adults? Do they need reminding?

TAJ: No. You should just know by then. Like after you leave school and stuff.

CLARE KLAPDOR: Okay. You’ll have to forgive my maths, Taj, but Uncle Craig might have had about 20 years of knowing right from wrong. Does that sound about right?

TAJ: Yeah. Maths sucks.

CLARE KLAPDOR: It sure does.

<video ends>

DAN MOSS: Okay. So then we can see there that – many of you will be really familiar with this exercise, which is looking at the differences between a 40-year-old man and a young child. And so Claire, you were really involved with us in developing some of this storyline and the paper. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience? So if Taj was coming to you and you were working with him and noticing his feelings of self-blame or secrecy, why would it be important to help him describe the power differences that existed between him and his Uncle Craig?

CLARE KLAPDOR: Thanks Dan. Well, as some people may know, and other people may not be aware, one of the key groomer tactics when sexually abusing children is to place a lot of responsibility on the child, and that’s something that is done in order for the perpetrator to protect themselves, is to – for the child to feel like they have been complicit in the act, and that they’ve been part of the decision making around that. So when we’re working with children, it really is part of our role to shift responsibility really firmly back to the perpetrator, and to help children really take that responsibility off their shoulders altogether.

And a part of the way that we can do that is really helping them to understand the concept of power. We don’t talk explicitly about power with children often. It’s something that children are very used to; adults having power in their life. Whether it’s schoolteachers, parents, essentially adults in society have power. And that’s just something they’re used to. So actually having those explicit conversations about what power looks like, how it comes about, how we earn it.

And using a really child-friendly activity like that can help children make sense of the concept of power to start with, and slowly ease into understanding that adults who have power also have responsibility, and are therefore responsible for their actions. And really shifting that from the child’s shoulders. Because that is really how they will be made to feel most of the time, and always carry that around with them – “I could have done something. I could have stopped it.” When we know that’s just not the case.

DAN MOSS: Yeah, thanks Clare. David, I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about your work in making power overt with children who have disclosed abuse

DAVID TULLY: Yeah, no, thanks. And just building upon what Clare said, I think it’s really quite a fundamental skill, I think, in terms of practitioners, to understand that abuse occurs in what I call a social and political context. Obviously that’s not language we’d use with a child or young person, but as a practitioner we understand that abuse, even the word itself, it is an abuse of power, which is why itself has such great impacts and harms upon a child or young person’s life. But as a society we often obscure those power relationships and are – even as adults, people aren’t necessarily aware of the power relationships that they exist in, unless there’s something really overt that occurs.

So I think the importance is bringing that framework to the counselling approach. But I think as Clare said, and I’m sure Kate will build upon this, from a language or developmental perspective, a child can only make meaning of their experiences based on their current cognitive, emotional, physical level of development. And then also, adding in the layer of that social context of the information that they have, to make meaning and sense of this experience. And the vast majority of times, the only information they have is the person who chose to harm them, what they said about what was going on and the meaning made.

And then often just little fragments of different systems that they might deal with. Like Taj dealt with a criminal justice system, for example. He had fragmented meanings of that as well. So it’s really important that we can help that meaning-making process through understanding that social political understanding of abuse.

DAN MOSS: Yeah. Thanks David. Kate, as mentioned, you work often with children who have communication and language challenges. And often that’s been developed or exacerbated by experiences of trauma or abuse. Can you tell us how practitioners can be aware of power in a language that they use with children, and why might language be so important within this context?

KATE HEADLEY: Yeah. I think, as Clare was saying, in society more broadly, language and our use of language is actually one of the things that contributes to power imbalances. And so I think as helpful professionals working with children, we need to be able to reflect and ensure that we’re in no way contributing to a child’s sense of power imbalance. Because children are so susceptible to that expectation, as Clare was saying, that it’s adults in their life who are knowledgeable, and they’re already expecting that power imbalance. And I think if people do the practice package, further in the animation we actually see that the perpetrator of [Taj’s] abuse uses language to create that power imbalance.

So Taj actually reflects that his Uncle Craig must be really smart, because he uses big words that he can’t understand. So we can see how he – language has contributed to that power imbalance. So we wouldn’t ever want to be replicating that in our therapeutic relationship with children. And I think a way to do that is just to always ensure that we are giving information to children in a way that’s accessible for them. So we need to understand what their language skills are, what their communication skills are, and what they need from us, and then always taking steps, I guess, to create shared meaning and shared understanding.

So if there’s a concept we need to introduce that does sit outside, as David was saying, that child’s knowledge or perhaps their perceptions of activities, then we can take the time to teach the meaning of that so that we’ve got shared understanding whenever we use that word or that concept.

DAN MOSS: Thanks Kate. Clare, when we’re talking about power – and we’ve had several questions already from our audience around this – what might happen for children where practitioners decide not to ask questions, specifically related to trauma? Or waiting until a better time to ask these questions?

CLARE KLAPDOR: Yeah. I was having a big think about this question, Dan. And I just wanted to start with when we’re talking about not having blame and shame, about clinicians not feeling that blame either when they might make a decision not to talk to a child. Because whenever we work with children, all of us, absolutely our intention is on protecting the children at all times. And often our decision not to ask questions is because we don’t want to cause further hurt to the child, and we’re often afraid of causing further hurt, and that in choosing not to question, that’s what we’re trying to prevent.

So I’m hoping today it gives everyone a little bit more confidence, or at least knowing where to get the resources to understand that we’re not going to hurt children by being safe adults, asking questions of children. I think when we know that children have been abused; whether they tell us or their parents tell us, and if we choose to not explicitly ask some questions about that, or invite the child to talk about that if they should ever want, we can unwittingly contribute to maintaining secrecy. A lot of the grooming tactics and perpetrator tactics is very much keeping this secret. It’s always about secret – it’s not something we talk about.

And even once parents know, family know, professionals know, because it’s such a terrible experience for a child, because we’re all driven by the intent of keeping the child protected and safe from that experience, and not wanting to constantly bring it up, unfortunately the result of that can be continued secrecy. Continuing the taboo of this subject. And continuing the shame and the burden of the child having to hold that in because they don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. They might bring it up, and adults might say, “oh, let’s not talk about that now. We don’t want to talk about that in front of this person.” “Wait for your counselling session. You're better to talk about it with this person.”

And the child can just feel a lot of rejection around that and start to internalise that. So really, if we’re uncomfortable to ask direct questions, it’s really important just to let the child know that it’s okay to talk. Just hear the child. If we do nothing else, just hear the child. Thank them and acknowledge them for sharing that child with us. Acknowledging the courage that it took them to share that, whatever they did share with us, and then letting them know that it’s okay to talk to us in the future, or that it’s okay to bring this up with grown-ups. That that is okay, and that we won’t reject any future time that they might bring that story up with us.

DAN MOSS: Yeah. Thanks Clare. I’m now going to move onto the second P, which is Protest. And we’ve done a lot of thinking with our three panellists and other practitioners around this assumption that children aren’t passive recipients of trauma. That throughout that trauma that they have been making decisions and making choices which often has helped keep other people, little brothers, sisters in their family, safe. Or has allowed for a connection to continue with Mum, Dad, extended family members. And David, a lot of what you’ve talked about, both today but also within the course, is that you have a real curiosity about the actions that children take to keep themselves safe from trauma. Or even making sure that the trauma gets found out by someone. I was wondering whether you could start off by talking a bit about that?

DAVID TULLY: Yeah, and I think it’s a really important entry point of meaning-making for the child, about what steps they actually have done, and made sense of. But just to begin with, I think it’s important to acknowledge when we think about protest or honouring, it doesn’t mean that a child or young person can actually stop the abuse. People often think that something only counts as resistance or protest if it manages to stop the abuser doing what they’re doing. And I think that’s an incredibly high bar, and a really unfair bar to understand a resistance response. Particularly when we understand those power relationships that a child or young person is up against as well.

And often – and children won’t necessarily use the language of ‘protest’. It will be more about, “he was being a bit tricky, so I went into the other room.” That sort of language that they use, around fairness and – if you ever want to get analysis of power with children and young people, I think just ask them about which teachers they like and which teachers they don’t. They notice those power relationships and the way teachers use power within an education context. But some of the things we’re obviously thinking about is stories that – about the protest.

The things they tried to do to say that they didn’t agree with what was happening, that they turned away or they refused to go on a – to the Taj example, didn’t want to go with the uncle anymore. Things like that. Things they actually did that were resistance; like hiding, trying to tell, running away. Really active things they might have done as well. And things that showed resilience in getting through incredibly tough times as well. And also we talk about connection; reaching out maybe to a really cared-for teacher, trying to let them know that something’s wrong.

Even being naughty in a classroom might be a way of – one young guy, he’s – “oh, it’s like I was setting off fireworks in the classroom, just so they’d come and ask me what the hell was going on with me.” Almost that sort of – he wasn’t actually setting off fireworks, but that was the metaphor that he used as well. And I really remember strongly one of the first clients. They were about third or fourth clients when I was doing sexual abuse counselling. Came in with a story of being really weak. And he just let the abuser do what he did, and rolled over and took it. And then what came out about third session was that this person had actually said if he didn’t let him do it, he was going to start on his younger brother.

Such a really beautiful story of resistance and courage. But for this particular young person was this story of weakness and, “I just rolled over and took it.” And what we were able to uncover through that protest was really an ethical core of incredible love for his younger brother as well. But that’s the doors that we can open. And I think therefore we don’t feel like we need to completely construct this completely damaged person from nothing, and just build them up with certain skills. There is some really honourable stuff, if we’re willing to understand and take some time to understand that protest and resistance. To honour that as well.

DAN MOSS: Clare, you talked a little bit about that before, about being really curious about the stories of love and connection, which stand against stories of self-blame or hopelessness.

CLARE KLAPDOR: Yeah. And I really echo what David has just said there, around the bravery that young people show when protecting, for instance, siblings from experiencing the same thing. Potentially there’s been threats of a pet being killed, so they’re protecting their pets. Unfortunately stories of potentially, “your mum will go to prison”, “you’ll be taken away from your mum if anyone finds out”, and they’re protecting their mother. Or they’re protecting the perpetrator themselves, who, in the very complex that is sexual abuse from a parent or a relative, is – there is feelings of love for the perpetrator. And they’re even trying to protect the perpetrator from being hurt.

So the strength and resilience and love that that young person who’s being abused has had is huge. And anyway we can harness that, like David was talking about, is fantastic. And again, like power, such a complex notion for young people around – and hopefully Kate might comment on some of the words that we can use around that. Because again, it’s very complex, particularly the younger the child. As they progress towards mid-teenage years, it becomes a little bit easier to unpack. But for younger children, particularly under the age of 12, 11, 10 and even younger, it’s such a complicated notion, understanding – when people say, “why didn’t you run away? Why didn’t you do this?” To be able to unpack that verbally is so difficult.

DAN MOSS: Yeah. Kate, maybe you might like to add to that. For children, if they have language difficulties or they’re a bit younger, those stories of protest or bravery or courage might be a little bit harder to bring to the fore. How do you manage that in the work that you do?

KATE HEADLEY: Yeah. Well, it is very difficult. I think you're – yeah, that’s one of the really unfair elements in abuse perpetrated by adults against children, is children are developmentally susceptible. Their vulnerability is so much greater. But I think sometimes, in terms of language, Clare, I’m often working with mental health professionals with young children where we might be looking at words like “safe behaviours”, “unsafe behaviours”, or, “helping people”, “dangerous people.” Trying to find language that is – maybe a bit easier to teach with examples too. So sometimes using a storybook, using a video example.

And sometimes having to steep that learning in something that actually is very black and white to begin with, a bit more explicit. So for example I have worked with a primary school aged student where, just to introduce this concept of safety, we used some YouTube videos of crossing a road holding an adult’s hand, versus not. Because that was something very tangible and exclusive that was in the lived experiences, and gave a way to introduce this concept, which we were then going to broaden and use in more abstract ways. But in her case, she showed amazing protection of a younger sibling.

So we were able to start that kind of recognition with those explicit activities, like, “you hold your sister’s hand to cross the road,” and then broaden in that explicit stuff to something a bit more abstract. I really love, David, when you're chatting about children’s behaviour. Because so many children that I work with who may not have well-developed verbal language skills. We are often needing to use their non-verbal communication. And one of the ways that I’m working with families is just to bring in that lens of curiosity, and to be proposing just questions as to why a child might behave in a certain way; what that could be telling us.

And I find that if we really view that behaviour as communicative, it helps people to start to, I guess, approach that child with more empathy and more curiosity. And that can then open a conversation around what might be happening for that child. What unmet needs might be there? So I think that’s really helpful. I think we need to think about the fact that all of us find it difficult to use our words to the best of our ability when we’re experiencing really strong emotions. So any ways that we can make our interactions with children more visually mediated are going to be really helpful.

So even the child who may not have the vocabulary to describe some of these examples of protest or resistance, they may be able to look at pictures of other children doing behaviours with siblings, younger siblings, and categorise those, or sort them into piles. Or we may be able to support their building knowledge of protest and resistance by using some picture supports as well for those conversations.

DAN MOSS: Thanks Kate. Just acknowledging we’ve got about 2200 people at the moment who are tuned in, so that’s great. Thank you all, and thank you for the questions that are coming in. There’s some really intelligent and insightful questions being posted. So we’ll try to get through as many as we can in the next half an hour. Now I want to go to Participation. And this is really allowing children to participate in a process that will give them the best chance of your sessions being useful to them. Will give them the best chance of being able to add their voice to a process which shifts or has a chance of shifting the way they think about self-blame or secrecy, which has a chance of proposing new universes to them, that offer new ways of thinking about themselves, which are more possible, and provide more hope.

So Kate, I want to hear a little bit from you. And we hear Taj reference that talking to someone about his experience just hasn’t helped before. And we have lots of children like that, don’t we? That come into our sessions almost under sufferance, because they’ve been told to. So how do we support children like Taj to participate with a practitioner again? How would we know – what messages will Taj get which kind of tells him that, “actually, this session might be a little bit different”? Or this practitioner might actually offer him something which might be useful?

KATE HEADLEY: So I think what comes to mind for me is that, straightaway, I want to set a tone that shows Taj that I’m really appreciative that he’s let me know that he didn’t find that previous engagement with a clinician helpful. I think it’s really important to reinforce to him that that was a really great thing that he expressed that. And I don’t want to in any way, my body language or my tone of voice, show any negative judgment around that. And I think it offers a great opportunity to start talking to Taj, and fully engage him in some investigation, some enquiry, about the different elements of that engagement, and what might have worked or not worked in that engagement.

So potentially in that position, I might actually do – maybe use a visual scale, or some kind of continuum with Taj, where we might talk about the different elements of that engagement. So, for example, I might list – we might write on some Post-Its around where he met with that clinician, when, what time of the day, but also introduce this concept of when he met with that clinician in regards to where the abuse had occurred. So that timeline in his life. What they talked about. The activities he did. And I think potentially by empowering Taj to give feedback on all those elements, I will hopefully be opening up a conversation with him that will help me learn a lot about Taj. What’s important to him, his values, his boundaries, his priorities.

But I’m also engaging him, I would hope, from the get-go, and empowering him, in what essentially becomes a co-design of how our intervention and engagement is going to start and move forward. And then I’m a massive fan – like most professionals I work with – of making sure that we have regular opportunity for the participant to give feedback on how helpful they’re finding a particular session, a particular activity, more broadly a series of intervention. So with children, again, I'm predominantly doing that – we might have a casual conversation about it, but I’m often using visuals.

And it just depends what the kind of goal might be. Sometimes for kids, it might just be their level of comfort in attending the appointment. That’s what we’re going to measure to begin with. And I might literally say, at the start of the session, “you've told me that you don’t really like meeting new people. I know I’m a new person for you. So maybe your body is giving you some feelings that make this a bit uncomfortable.” And I might have some pictures of a body showing a lot of stress, and a very relaxed body.

And just get the child to rate that and then repeat that at the end of the session, just so we’re finding child-friendly ways for that child to give us an opinion, and also reflect on how helpful that appointment has been for them.

DAN MOSS: Yeah. And throughout this process, Kate, I would imagine you're sometimes, or often, joined by a parent or a carer. How is it that you open up ways for them to participate within the process, but also to ensure that they participate in ways which build the child’s sense of themselves in a strength-based way?

KATE HEADLEY: I think when I reflect on how I manage that as a clinician, personally, I think a lot of that is about being explicit with that, and setting some boundaries and expectations at that initial point of engagement and referral. Because often, in my experience, parents and caregivers are so keen to help a child, and to minimise their distress – the child’s distress – that part of that might be that they want to jump in and answer questions for the child. Or they want to protect the child from participating in the activity in case it causes distress.

So I think actually just cooling that from the get-go. Introducing that concept. Saying to Taj and his carers, “sometimes, when we talk about these things, it brings up difficult memories. It brings up difficult feelings. But it’s important that everyone has their turn to talk about these things, or to do the activity.” And then modelling, I guess, those boundaries, if one or more participants overstep those, I think really strengthens your therapeutic alliance then with the child. Because they know that you're an ally in that room, in adhering to those kind of boundaries that you discussed as a group to begin with.

So I will just literally say, “oh, thanks Mum. Can we wait a minute? Because we talked about, at the start, that we’re all going to take a turn. And this turn is [Taj’s] turn,” or whatever it be.

DAN MOSS: Yeah, thanks Kate. And we are getting quite a few questions about working with children and their parents or caregivers. So Clare, I might ask you a question, because I know that you've done quite a bit of this, and particularly in working with parents or supporting parents where their child has experienced trauma, often perpetrated by their partner or ex-partner. Yeah, can you tell us a little bit about your process in supporting those parents?

CLARE KLAPDOR: Yeah, sure Dan. And I think this leads really nicely into the topic of purpose that you mentioned as one of the topics, and how we create purpose with a child and their family around our intervention, which is really important. So this leads very nicely into that; linking with what you said, Dan, about sessions being useful and making sessions useful. And I think sometimes, particularly as non-specialists, we fall into the trap of really focusing so much on building a fantastic rapport with everyone, and creating such a safe environment for children, that we can get stuck in that for four, five, six, seven sessions of creating this safe space.

And also, my experience is with – particularly in a non-specialist field, when you're not specialising in this, is the thought that, “well, if I create a safe environment for the children, they will bring it up themselves. They will talk to me when they’re ready to share it with me.” And as we know, what we’ve been talking about already with power is that the chance of a child doing that, even if you've spent six, seven, eight sessions building rapport, is that that might not happen. And it potentially could take a year of work for a child to feel comfortable to bring it up out of the blue, with no one else – with the adults in their life not taking responsibility to raise that difficult conversation.

And it goes back to us, as the adults, taking responsibility. So leading on from what Kate was saying about working with parents, and particularly she mentioned co-design, and working with the parent, carers, adults in the child’s life who’s coming to the service, around what that intervention would look like. And being very clear around the purpose for that. If we look at [Taj’s] example, he had disclosed 18 months prior to his mother. Things played out 18 months prior. And then there’s ongoing what seems to be trauma behaviours at school, in the home, and his mother’s seeking support.

And it’s really important to sit with mum, to gauge her understanding of something that’s happened in the past. How much would that be coming in for Taj now and his behaviour? What’s her understanding? Really understanding from her about how much of the sexual abuse have they talked about at home. Like Kate said, she’s probably so protective of Taj, she doesn’t want to bring it up at home, because we don’t want to feel like we’re re-traumatising children. And then really doing that contracting at the very beginning, starting with the adults who are bringing him into the service, around, “This is something I’d like to talk about. Do you think there is a good way that I could bring this up with Taj? If we talk about it in session, what do you think might happen at home?”

And supporting the parents to understand that there might be conversations that come up at the home. There might be a behaviour that Taj demonstrates that he’s not done before. And how that can be managed safely, which is about that ongoing, therapeutic relationship, not just with the child but with parents as well, or carers, sorry. Whether it’s at session, whether it’s follow-up phone calls where you can. And then being explicit. Just like Kate said. With Taj about as well. We’re focusing on why has this child been brought to counselling? Being explicit with the child about what you know. You know, “Mum brought you here, Taj, and she told me about what you experienced with Uncle Craig. And that is something I would like to talk to you about today, because -” – and normalising it in that conversation.

“A lot of the children who have experienced sexual abuse, like you did -” – or however you might phrase that, depending on age of the child – “they can have troubles at home. They can have troubles at school, much like you're having. And I think it’s really important that we talk about what happened with Uncle Craig. What are your thoughts about that? What do you think? Is that a conversation that you want to have with me? Is that okay to talk about today?” So it’s giving them the power, where they can, but taking the responsibility for introducing it, and about why you're introducing it.

DAN MOSS: Yeah. Thank you for that Clare. And I think a really great introduction into this idea of Purpose. Making sure that when we ask children questions, or caregivers questions, that we’re really clear about the function that that question serves, so that we’re not engaging in a “how long’s a piece of string?” questioning of children. That there’s a real understanding from us about what – yeah, what we want for that child, and some new understandings that we think we can help create.

David, you've been really useful in helping us at Emerging Minds to think about purpose within a counselling session. And lots of your experience is working with children who are affected by sexual or physical violence. So tell us a little bit about how you ensure a sense of purpose within your sessions with children?

DAVID TULLY: Yeah. I think in establishing that purpose, it’s really important to know that if a child’s coming in around the experience of sexual abuse, or violence, or bullying at school – whatever the context is – that that’s not the only experience they’ve had of having their rights, feelings, or sense of self, being disrespected by other adults, and a context. So really setting a purpose that understands that. But I think as the other presenters have said, that expecting a child to come in with a well-developed understanding of, “I need to address my experiences of sexual abuse. And these are my three particular symptoms I want you to work on.

And let’s set some goals, and this will take seven sessions,” is really, again, expecting, developmentally, something that’s not available necessarily to a child. Maybe an older adolescent might have some more clarity. But even as we know, as a society, the understandings around the power context that abuse occurs in – because obviously there’s the age and developmental stage, there’s language skills, there’s a whole range of other things. But there’s obviously that intersectional stuff that comes into this as well. In the context of Taj, he was abused by a man as well. So potentially Taj is making meaning of that in terms of dominant context around heterosexual dominance, and homophobia, and, “what does this mean?” as well.

So there’s a whole range of things that we really need to set some really clear purpose of, and that show that we’re okay with having those conversations. That regardless of the level of experience, that a good social response to the experience of abuse, isn’t going to make it worse. Even if someone’s upset, it’s not necessarily – if we’re really clear about certain things, which is those politics of abuse, which we talked about; that we’re really taking a process where we’re really honouring that child; and co-design. I really like that idea, Kate, as well. That we’re really being really clear about understanding the developmental context the abuse occurred in. And we understand those beliefs or those concepts that are being learnt as well. Because I think that idea of concept development is what we do a lot in counselling.

And we wouldn’t necessarily expect a child to initiate all those conversations for us to be able to bring those in. And what I really like about the example we saw of that video earlier on, and some of the other aspects of courts, is that making that developmental context, those power relationships visible, is our purpose as well. A lot of my work initially in this space, is why I was specifically named as a child sexual abuse counsellor. So in some ways I understand that’s a bit of a different role than, say, someone in a generalist role.

But I think, like Clare says, if you know that information and it’s been put in front of you, it’s really important that, in an age developmentally appropriate, we share that with that young person about our role and purpose. Because the things I got taught early on was that it’s not necessary you have to go into the actual really explicit details. But a child or young person may want to do that. But it’s – we need to have some understandings – three things that I got taught, which is really important, about the relational context the abuse occurred in, because that has huge meaning of that. He might still really love his uncle, and really appreciate aspects of what he’s done, as well as being really angry about that.

So that developmental context is really, really important as well. Understanding the developmental stage when the abuse occurred in. For Taj, we know it occurred over a period of about nine months when he was about 19. So that’s another important thing we can then bring to the purpose for how we make that understandable as well. And I think you can do a lot of work about the experience of disclosure – what he found helpful about disclosing, what he didn’t find helpful about disclosing. And really echoing what Kate said about, “well, if he hasn’t found counselling helpful, we don’t need to go, ‘oh actually, you did find that counselling helpful. You just haven’t realised yet’.”

That’s – it’s about exploring what they find helpful and not helpful. And if we have some of those elements, as I said, of understanding the politics of abuse, understanding the developmental context, honouring – in this language, understanding a protest, and understanding the concepts or the beliefs they’ve formed about ourselves, we’re in a place to do a lot of good. Because having worked with adult survivors as well, you realise how making meanings as close to the experience of abuse at that time is really important.

Rather than coming – working with someone who has, for 20 years, believed that they were really weak or stupid, or should have known that when his uncle didn’t take him fishing and took him back to his house – and that – he should have known that that was meaning abuse was going to occur. So that’s the thing I think that empowers us. But I think really importantly, and a bit like in terms of doing this webinar and the training, that we shouldn’t, as practitioners, just isolate ourselves. We should be building communities of practitioner support for each other to get better at doing this stuff, and checking out some of our thinking as well.

DAN MOSS: David, as you've just mentioned, you work and have worked with adults who experienced child sexual abuse and may not have disclosed that sexual abuse for quite some time – 20, 30 years sometimes. What’s your sense of what response or what a different response those adults might have liked as children from professionals in their life?

DAVID TULLY: Yeah, and I think really importantly they’re not expecting – they were never expecting a textbook understanding of every aspect of how trauma impacted their brain and developmental process. What they really were looking for – and talking to adults who did have really solid responses – is someone that believed what they said, and said that these things shouldn’t happen, and it’s not a child’s or young person’s responsibility to know or understand what these things are. Because if we come back to, I think, a quite fundamental understanding why a child or young person can’t consent to these things is that –

There’s a value that we have that a child or young person, developmentally, emotionally, psychologically, is not at a stage where they can consent to understanding if it’s sexual abuse – sexual behaviour. So we really – an adult who can be really clear about those issues can do incredible good for a child’s life, in terms of providing that social response that allows that person to process that experience, seek other help, disclose to a partner. Maybe they’re struggling with aspects of parenting because there’s some echoes of abuse happening for them as well. So I think that honouring, understanding and belief stuff is really important, and it can make an incredible amount of a difference, I think.

KATE HEADLEY: And Dan, it’s really interesting. I just met a teenager not that long ago. And all I said to her – she was trying to understand her difficulties with language throughout her life. And in talking about that I said, “now, when you were referred, I was given some information. So I know that you had some difficult experiences as a child.” And she said to me, “oh, you know that.” And I said, “yeah, that’s part of the information.” And she goes, “I never know when I meet people if they know that happened in my life or not. And I get sick of trying to think whether I need to tell people or not.” So even in terms of purpose, the [sharing of] 00:50:43 what info we know about a child, and what we don’t know about them, is just so helpful for that young person.

DAN MOSS: Yeah, thanks Kate. And I suppose your role, being a speech pathologist, is different to Clare and David’s. But within that, establishing a purpose is still vitally important.

KATE HEADLEY: I think vitally important as a generic therapeutic skill, regardless of what discipline you work in. But I think even more so in the context of working with children who’ve experienced trauma is we don’t want to contribute to that sense of secrecy for children. And I think that if we’re not 100% transparent as to the pathway of referral, why that child is meeting with us today, we can be inadvertently contributing to that sense of secrecy. And if we’re not sharing with them what we already know about them, I feel like we’re adding a further burden that’s not fair on a child, that they should be able to communicate that info to us, when actually it might be our hesitancy around sharing that information that’s making it harder for them really. So absolutely, I advocate that level of transparency around purpose more broadly for the referral, and then, as David said, session-by-session, just to maximise every opportunity for that young person.

DAN MOSS: Yeah. Thanks Kate. So David, in the – just going to back Power for a second, in the continuation of the animation with Taj, and in the course that we provided links to, the practitioner becomes interested in whose idea were the events that surrounded the sexual abuse. And I’m just wondering - and I know this is an exercise that you've used in your practice – what is it, do you think, is important about establishing this context that helps children overcome self-blame?

DAVID TULLY: Yeah. Because I think in terms of the meaning they make of that situation, they often would, through the tactics of the perpetrator or societal misunderstandings around that, give themselves a sense of agency and choice where there was none. And that’s why some of those questions – “whose idea was it that you didn’t go fishing, you went back to your uncle’s house? Whose idea was it that you went into the bedroom and the door was shut? Whose – was that something you wanted to do, or was that something your uncle chose to do? And whose feelings, whose interests was that in? Was that something you were wanting, or was that about something that your uncle chose to do?”

In terms of establishing that, because then you can then move, eventually, to hopefully a line of questioning about understanding how their agency or their choices were manipulated. To about, “well, who was responsible for actually doing the – you wanted a friendship. You wanted to go fishing. You wanted all those other things. But you didn’t want the abuse. And that was really about your uncle’s choices and his decisions.” So it’s a general principle about all violence, is actually for the person who was subjected to the abuse to actually see that the choice was about the person that did the harm.

The simple metaphor I often use is the idea of when you have a victim looking in the mirror, looking at themselves, “oh, I shouldn’t have done this. I should have known. I should have stopped it. I should have, could have, would have -” – to actually flipping that mirror to actually question the choices and decisions. In this case, [Taj’s] Uncle Craig, I believe – sorry, just trying to do it from memory – sorry, we had a discussion about just remembering the uncle’s name! – about what his Uncle Craig did. His choices and what he’s responsible for, as opposed to what you’d expect a 10 or an 11-year-old child to understand.

And really underline that an 11-year-old could never consent to those types of interactions. And that’s why I choose to call it sexualised violence. It’s a form of violence, what his uncle did. It’s not a sexual relationship. But we still see that in the papers, “a teacher had inappropriate relationship with an 11-year-old student.” Well, it’s not an inappropriate relationship. It’s violence. And that’s what that societal discourse – understanding that we’re still pushing against and trying to shift as well.

DAN MOSS: Claire, I’m just wondering whether you had a final comment around that kind of need to establish context, in terms of whose idea was it?

Claire Klapdor 
Oh yeah. And I think that’s probably one of the most important things that we can do, because it really stems to the feelings of shame and blame that are carried around. Power and – particularly because children will be children for a significant amount longer after they’ve disclosed. So for them not to feel hopeless to any other adults that might come into their life, exerting more power for them, to really have a strong understanding about that, I think is one of the most basic things that we can provide children.

DAN MOSS: Yeah, okay. Right. So another question that’s come through quite a lot from our audience members is this feel or concern around evidence contamination. Particularly where we’re working with a child who might currently be going through a legal proceeding, particularly as it pertains to child sexual abuse. Clare, I’m wondering if you might be able to provide some details of how you approach this in your practice?

Claire Klapdor 
That’s a really important question, and the example of Taj was deliberately designed to come after the police investigation, in order to us to really go into depth around how you can support a child. If a child has recently disclosed, there will be child protection and police investigations happening. And at that point in time it is important to consider evidence contamination. And one of the first things that I would be looking to do, as a practitioner in that space, is to communicate with the other professionals involved. So if there is a current child protection worker, get in touch with them. If the Department of Public Prosecutions are involved, get in touch with them, to see where everything is up to.

And to give you a sense of what kind of counselling experience or other Allied Health professional experience you can provide the child. In my practice, we have provided therapeutic counselling after the disclosure and the initial investigation, whilst the matter is going to court. Because once the child has had that formal interview with the police – and it is different state from state, so that’s something to keep in mind as well – but once there’s – it gets to a certain point, it can be 12 months, two years, while the court process is going on. And of course you need to provide the child with support, and a therapeutic journey during that time. And that is okay, as long as you're liaising around that.

If it’s a fresh disclosure, and child protection and police are just coming on board, it is best to hold off and wait until you have liaised with those organisations, before you look at raising the issue with the child and doing any curious questioning. However, if the child initiates the conversation with you, just keep to the usual, “thank you so much for telling me this. It is so brave of you to come forward and tell me this, and you can talk to me about this,” without being leading in any of that type of conversation.

DAVID TULLY: Yeah. That is just – David here, and I just – I really agree with what Clare – it’s obviously important, each state and each process is a slightly different system, and linking in with those other professionals who have got really important work to do as well. But that primacy of that therapeutic need for the child is really important. One of the catchphrases I always say is, “a child or young person isn’t a crime scene. They’re a human being who’s experiencing incredibly traumatic experiences.” And as Clare – a court case might take 12 months, two years. It could collapse.

So it is really important that we make sure that whatever part of the system can have those conversations – it doesn’t necessarily have to be us – but they are happening though. Because that meaning-making is still going on. And having dealt with a child with a non-guilty finding, then that could even leave a whole meaning of, “Oh, well, maybe I did do it then,” or, “maybe it wasn’t wrong.” So just making sure that we’re not treating children as crime scenes is a really important ethical part around the system as well.

KATE HEADLEY: And I think when we talk about this conversation, one thing that comes to mind for my professional of speech pathology is just we know that complex trauma experiences do impact children’s language skill development. And that needs to be considered in the court process and the investigative process for children. So if people are involved with children around that time of disclosure, when the police investigation starts or the court process is happening, there is an opportunity to advocate for that child to work with an intermediary as part of that process.

That can be just one small way that we can advocate for that child’s difficulties with language, to be somewhat supportive and mitigated to give them the best opportunity through that process.

DAN MOSS: Thank you Kate, and Clare and David. Another question which has come through quite a bit today, and always actually comes through when people look at some of our emerging lines of practice examples. Where practitioners are saying, “yeah, this is a really great example of good practice, but the child in this example is playing ball. They’re answering so many questions at a first stage.” Whereas what we know is that some children are really – don’t want to be there at all, and are making that sense of unwillingness or reluctance really clear to you. How do you, as practitioners, ensure or enable as much as possible participation within that kind of context? Kate, I might start with you with that question.

KATE HEADLEY: Sorry, did you say Clare or Kate?

CLARE KLAPDOR: I got mixed up too!

DAN MOSS: Sorry, Kate!

KATE HEADLEY: Sorry.

CLARE KLAPDOR: It’s all right.

KATE HEADLEY: I think for me – and obviously as a speech pathologist, my mind always goes to language. But I always reflect that participation actually doesn’t need to be verbal. And there’s many ways that we can show participation as humans and people. So often, for children that I work with, where maybe I’ve been told that they are a reluctant participant, or I’ve got a heads-up; lots of reports saying they’ve constantly failed to attend previous appointments or what-not – I might try and actually have an initial meeting with them that’s around a doing activity, more so than a talking activity.

So if there is the opportunity to meet in the park and kick the soccer ball, play some Frisbee – if it needs to be in a clinic, I might be setting up a mega domino run, or a giant Jenga set, or just something, so that we have a way to participate through doing rather than saying and talking. And I guess my goal with that is I’m able to then have participation to positively reinforce, and hope that that becomes a bridge then to increasing participation. Which I might then scaffold in. I might still do doing-based activities, but maybe it’s sorting some strengths cards, or maybe it’s doing an activity where I’m now collecting information from the child.

But still in a minimally verbal kind of way, and more still doing, as we build hopefully some positive feelings around participation, and some positive engagement that may then lead to something we can build on for participation.

DAN MOSS: How about you, Clare?

CLARE KLAPDOR: Yes, I definitely agree with Kate that moving out of verbal work and making together, creating together, doing together, is such a joiner. And earlier in the webinar I mentioned, as adults, taking responsibility to raise the topic, but then checking in with the child around if that is – then being child-led from there. Taking the responsibility to raise it, put it on the table, open it up, and give the child permission. But if they don’t want to go there, and that’s not something they really want to talk about at that time, then being led by that. And maybe going where you need. And then maybe it does come back to spending more time relationship-building.

As long as you are bringing the purpose in at the beginning of all your encounters, and laying that permission out. And then that allows you to go and be child-led from that stage. But yeah, I love the doing and the making and moving out of the front cortex area.

DAN MOSS: David, have you got something you’d like to add?

DAVID TULLY: Yeah. Obviously there’s just a really practical line about whether a young person or child can engage or not. And sometimes we also need to think slightly broadly in terms of not being completely focused on what we’re doing, being within the four walls. Can we work with the natural support system of a child or young person to support their parents, or their caregiver or their guardian, or other people around that child? Because that might be part of where that child or young person is in, like, “I don’t want to, but I really get some good support from my mother.”

So there might be some ways we can actually work with those natural ecosystems that – and supporting them with that in place. Because it’s about concept development. It’s not the only way – counselling therapy is not the only way you can do some of these tasks. You can take these concepts outside of the therapy room as well. So yeah, but just to add another angle to that, I think it’s always important to work with – and they might be able to – if they’ve got a good understanding of some of these issues, you can support caregivers or parents – can actually then, in a more naturally way – because I used to work as a youth worker.

So I used to have a lot of conversations with young men driving cars and things like that. No eye contact, but they would tell me these amazing things. Sit in a room and look at them – nah! So it’s just being aware that there’s some different contexts that can sometimes help as well.

KATE HEADLEY: And I think also we talked a bit earlier in the webinar about co-design. So many young people I work with have never felt a sense of empowerment in how they work with the professionals, in their life. So if there’s opportunity to co-design what that engagement is going to look like, where, when, how, what – sometimes that in itself is incredibly powerful at encouraging participation from someone who may appear reluctant, but actually maybe they’re just a product of their previous experiences with professionals.

DAN MOSS: Thanks Kate. Another question which is coming through quite consistently from people, from participants, is this idea of supporting yourself or being kind to yourself within this work. David, I wonder if you’ve got some thoughts on self-care in work around trauma?

DAVID TULLY: Yeah. The first thing I always bring too, when I’m thinking about self-care, care of the self, is this idea that – going back, that social – we’re working in an area where people experience a high level of oppression, injustice, unfairness, and systems that actually often make it worse, not better, for children and young people. So that is the context we’re working in, and always reminding myself of that. It’s not just about this individual client. And how I bring that activist sense around those issues to my work, as part of me, around my wellbeing, in constantly naming that and working through.

I think the other bit then, more on a personal level, is you'll be moved by this work. If you're not being moved by this work, you're not doing this work. If that makes sense! The story I spoke about where I said – that young boy who started with the story of, “I just took it. And even – I let my -” – I think it was actually his uncle, “- do these things to me.” And it shifted to the fact because his uncle threatened to start abusing his younger brother. That was years ago. And when I recount that story I can still really get a sense of that vibrancy of that person’s courage and sacrifice.

So you're going to be moved that way, and you're going to be moved in ways also that bring out hurt and outrage and injustice as well. So it’s being aware of all those experiences. But the importance for me, going back to that responsibility, that my emotional response is really important – that I manage that. That it doesn’t get in front of where a child or young person or a parent or any client is. That I need to develop a solidarity team, teams of support I have, as a professional, to manage that as well.

And just one thing. I think – it’s interesting if people are interested checking out recently is a woman by the name of Vikki Reynolds does a lot of work around support for workers working around trauma and social injustice. And she’s got this little video and a workbook around what she calls the ‘Zone of Fabulousness’. And I think it’s a really good one to check out, in terms of really thinking about that balance between getting really enmeshed, and becoming heroic in this work, or becoming very numb and just very – not engaged with it. So I think that one’s worth checking out as well.

DAN MOSS: How about for you, Clare?

CLARE KLAPDOR: Yes, really echoing David. And Vikki Reynolds is fabulous. So if anyone has a chance to jump on her website and look at her stuff, I totally agree with David on that. I think what David talks about in terms of being aware – there’s vicarious trauma and there’s systems burnout. And they’re two different elements. And I think sometimes we don’t understand maybe the difference between those two. And in my own experiences, both of systems burnout and vicarious trauma, it helped so much to go to a really good training session on that. It was actually through the 1800RESPECT organisation. But I don’t know if they still run it.

But for me, the one-day training was really quite changing for me, in a way, being able to recognise, “ah, this is vicarious trauma,” versus, “ah, this is a systems burnout issue that I’m experiencing.” Because I found that being able to identify the difference meant I could put different strategies in for each of those things, which was really quite important for me. And now being a supervisor, I make it a mandatory agenda item in my supervisees when they come. So as supervisees, we also have a responsibility of putting that on our agenda every time we get supervision. And hopefully we do. Or potentially, if we’re not fortunate, maybe seeking that out ourselves. Whether it might be through our EAP service.

And really just putting it up there and checking in on it all the time. Because it can be a slow creep, and it can catch up on us at some point without us realising the slow creep that it’s had. So it is something that, the more knowledge I get, I find the more I feel like I have some control over that, and can do more for myself in that space. And then also realising what I don’t have control over, and how to manage that.

DAN MOSS: Thanks. How about for you, Kate?

KATE HEADLEY: Yeah. Well, I’ve been on quite a learning curve with this, because I think for disciplines like speech pathology – and I’d encourage any of the viewers who aren’t in a traditional mental health position to recognise that we don’t actually get a lot of this as our – support around this as our core training, our core undergraduate qualifications. And yet the nature of our work means we are having very frequent contact with children who have experienced trauma or adults who experienced trauma as a child.

And so I guess I’d speak on behalf of those professions, to reflect how for me, like Clare has mentioned, accessing training courses was really important, a) for my skills in working with clients and their families, but actually for my own self-care – to understand what my emotional responses were, how I could put strategies in place that would give me longevity in this work, rather than feeling distressed and carrying that distress. And I think probably the most important thing for me has been finding a community of practice who’s doing this type of work in my profession.

And for some professions outside of the traditional mental health professions, that’s not always easy to find. But they do exist. And going through your professional peak body, looking online on social media channels, there can be pathways to find other people in your profession doing that type of work, and you can create that informal support network for yourself with that.

DAN MOSS: Thank you Kate. And once again, thank you to our panellists. I’m sure everyone will agree that they’ve done an amazing job today of answering so many of your wonderful questions. So thank you everybody, and it’s goodbye for now.

CLARE KLAPDOR: Thanks Dan.

WEBINAR CONCLUDED

IMPORTANT INFORMATION - PLEASE READ

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The Commonwealth of Australia, represented by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), is not responsible for, and makes no representations in relation to, the accuracy of this transcript. AIFS does not accept any liability to any person for the content (or the use of such content) included in the transcript. The transcript may include or summarise views, standards or recommendations of third parties. The inclusion of such material is not an endorsement by AIFS of that material; nor does it indicate a commitment by AIFS to any particular course of action.

Related resources

Related resources

Practice Paper

eLearning

  • Supporting children who have disclosed trauma 
    This Emerging Minds online course examines practice strategies for supporting children who have disclosed trauma or abuse. It will help you develop strategies and activities to support children to move away from the self-blame and secrecy associated with physical or sexual violence.
  • The Impact of trauma on the child 
    This Emerging Minds course will introduce learners to key understandings about trauma and adversity, and their impact on children.
  • Supporting children who have experienced trauma 
    This Emerging Minds course uses trauma-informed practice to study the explicit detail and skills of therapeutic engagement.

Podcasts

Presenters

Kate Headley

Certified Practising Speech Pathologist and Clinical Educator

Communication is a currency within our society. It is a means through which we connect with others, understand our experiences and express our thinking. Across my career I have had a passion for assisting people to be heard. This often requires us as service providers to modify our own communication style or to think about different ways to create shared meaning. I am looking forward to sharing and collaborating on ideas for how we can support children in order to maximise their participation in therapeutic relationships.

Clare Klapdor

Social Worker and Manager of Counselling and Education Services for Centacare Catholic Family Services, Adelaide

I worked in NSW Child Protection and Counselling for child protection for over a decade. This included working in partnership with NSW Police and Health in response to allegations of sexual abuse of children. I also managed a Child Sexual Abuse Counselling Service. I am looking forward to learning from the other panel members and hopefully providing some useful information for those unfamiliar with this area of practice.

Practice Manager for the Specialised Family Violence Services at Relationships Australia SA

David has worked in the field of domestic violence and childhood sexual assault for over 20 years. David’s role at RASA focuses on developing organisational practice approaches to working with perpetrators of domestic and family violence. He has participated on the research advisory panel for the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault and is a Peer-Assessor for Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety around perpetrator research.

Manager of Practice Development at Emerging Minds

In this role I have worked with practitioners to understand more about their skills in supporting children who have disclosed trauma. Having worked for many years with children and their families affected by abuse, including a doctoral thesis in men’s violence, this topic is one which has long interested me. I look forward to hearing more about how Kate, Clare and David have developed their practice in providing support to children.

Acknowledgements

Featured image: © GettyImages/Valeriy_G

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