Taunton Association for Psychotherapy (TAP) held its annual conference on Saturday 30th March at the race course, which has splendid facilities.
TAP has been holding these conferences for more than 30 years, attracting audiences from around the south west. As usual, more than seventy-five attendees, mainly but not only counsellors and psychotherapists, enjoyed an interesting and informative day.
The subject this year was “De-mystifying Trauma’, and the speakers, John Hendon and Dr. Robert Sharpe, have both lectured and run workshops in the UK and around the world.
The conference was opened by Helena Trump, the TAP Chair.
John Hendon told TAP that many avoid working with survivors of severe trauma for the fear of making it worse; or of re-traumatising. His approach is one known as ‘Solution Focused’, which is described as ‘practical techniques, balanced with well documented scientific research’. He exemplified this by examples from his experience which includes extensive work with military veterans and survivors of motor accidents. John has written a very accessible ( and successful ) book aimed at ex-military personnel.
His aim is help people through three stages, that of ‘victim’ where the story can be told and the isolation broken down, ‘survivor’, involving the identification of personal strengths and resources, as well as external support and finally the ‘thriver’. This is about learning to live in a fulfilling way, exploring dreams and hopes for the future and strengthening relationships.
Some of his techniques were illustrated in practical ways in his second session. One example was the use of elastic band on the wrist, pulling and releasing it to recognise that ‘that was then and this is now.’ Some people might have intrusive thoughts up to eighty times a day and with this and other methods that number could be reduced significantly.
Dr Robert Sharpe has a humorous style which he has used to engage audiences such as top lawyers and bankers. He wrote some of the original books on stress management back in the 1970s when the field was still developing.
Both speakers believe ‘There is no one right way’, but their talks were entirely complementary.
Dr Sharpe started by getting the audience to think of their needs and wants and then to think of recent successes. The audience was encouraged to identify their core ‘bedrock skills’ and not be embarrassed, in an English way, to acknowledge them.
It is important to give attention to people’s successes rather than raking over failures, and Dr Sharpe used as his example Arsene Wenger and his period as manager of Arsenal Football Club.
Trauma can damage self-esteem and it is important to ensure that is dealt with. Dr Sharpe talked about turning ‘whys into hows’, stating that it is about finding the necessary resources within one’s self.
He then turned, briefly, to the neuro-science, explaining how therapeutic interventions can affect the functioning of the brain.
One entertaining example was a woman who had been involved in an armed bank robbery and had to lie on the floor, when she noticed one of the robbers had odd socks on. Robert was able to use this to interrupt the flow.
Trauma can lock people into a loop of re-occurring thoughts, but therapists can find ways of breaking into that circle and leading them out of the ‘misery go round’.
Both speakers left attendees with informative handout sheets.
Audience feedback was overwhelmingly positive and TAP is already planning for Conference 2020.
The conference was closed by the vice chair Andrew Wilcox.