Kaethe Weingarten, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, peace psychologist and family therapist who is an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology in the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry at Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA). She is founder and director of The Witnessing Project (www.witnessingproject.org), a nonprofit organization that consults to individuals, families, and communities locally, nationally, and internationally to transform passive witnessing of violence and violation into effective action. Dr. Weingarten was a faculty member of the Family Institute of Cambridge from 1982 until it closed in 2009 and it is there that she founded and directed the Program in Families, Trauma and Resilience. In 2002 she was given the award for Distinguished Contribution to Family Theory and Practice by the American Family Therapy Academy. She has over 70 publications, including six books, and her most recent book, Common Shock – Witnessing Violence Every Day: How We Are Harmed, How We Can Heal, won the 2004 Nautilus Award for Social Change. In 2009, she was a Fulbright Specialist Scholar to New Zealand. Her current work focuses on reasonable hope.
Dr Kaethe Weingarten visited Cape Town in March 2010 on invitation of the Department of Psychology at the University of Cape Town to present a paper at a symposium on Continuous Traumatic Stress in South Africa: Towards a collaborative research agenda. On 18 & 19 March Kaethe presented a two day workshop in Somerset West.
The focus of the two day workshop was:
Intercepting intergenerational transmission of trauma
Whether we like it or not, all of us are witnesses to disturbing events and transactions daily, but few of us are prepared to deal with this as a constant feature of our lives. In this workshop, Kaethe described the multiple pathways by which we witness violence and violation, focusing on the family as a pathway. We considered how events in previous generations &ndash even ones that are not explicitly known&rdquo can have lasting effects on generations that come after. She presented frameworks for understanding the mechanisms by which knowledge is passed from one generation to the next and the multiple impacts that can arise. Working with our own stories as well as the stories of our clients,&rsquo we explored responses we wish to strengthen and ones we wish to modify in relation to intergenerational messages about past/current traumatic experiences. We considered how best to intervene clinically to help clients heal from domestic and/or political trauma and we will imagine small acts&rdquo that can contribute to global peace.
Being With people with trauma histories, a relational and transparent approach
Traumatized people often benefit from long-term, caring relationships. But the very relationships that heal clients may deplete the therapists who provide them. Forming strong collaborative partnerships is key to long-term work and yet it is often difficult to develop these alliances. We looked at several areas of practice: review the neurobiology of trauma as it affects the brain of the traumatized person and notice what relational options arise from this understanding identify how adding public purpose enriches the life of the person with a trauma history and discuss self-care. Finally, we looked at our expectations and see if they align with coaching people into modest mutuality.
Supervision in the context of trauma (Smaller group consultation the afternoon)
A small group of experienced practitioners spent the afternoon following the workshop reflecting on the application of the learning from the workshop on our work as supervisors of colleagues who work in contexts of trauma.
A special thank you
I want to express my appreciation to Dr Debra Kaminer at Dept of Psychology, UCT, for inviting Kaethe and for enabling me to organize this workshop. This collaboration allowed us to keep expenses low and enabled maximum opportunity for attendance. Thank you!
Participants express their appreciation:
- I have really learnt a lot in the past 2 days. In my personal life this workshop really helped me with my trauma and how to leave the past in the past.
- I appreciate the way in which there was a superb balance between lecture and participation, references to international situations and such respectful acknowledgement and understanding of South African context.
- I work exclusively with traumatized children on the Cape Flats and I feel inspired to move from the despair I was feeling to a place of reasonable hope. Thank you.
- Thank you really beneficial to my work and myself applicable now. Love the idea of happiness through appreciation! Most grateful for this opportunity.
- Thank you to a wonderfully humble, well prepared, presented and learned teacher. I only hope I can achieve a fraction of what you have in my attempts to do hope and be a deep listener that can effect a change, even a small one, in someone or in many, many lives.
- Thank you Kaethe for your strong message as a clinical student your guidance, your knowledge as well as your passion has activated my reasonable hope within our SA context once again as I was feeling very aware however extremely disempowered and after your course I am feeling aware and a lot more empowered and so I thank you for that experience.
- The presentation was alive with imagery, stories and rooted in knowledge. I felt very awake and engaged throughout.
- Kaethe is an incredibly strong teacher with a very unique way of being. Thank you Elize for bringing her to our shores. We are very fortunate!!
- Excellent teaching slides were very powerful! I enjoyed the richness of metaphor, language and also that you bring in a variety of repetitions that allow me to hold on to ideas and languaging long enough to mull over. Love the way you dance with words.
- I found the emphasis on resilience and what the characteristics of resilience and the meaning of deep listening and the impact of this skill in therapy very useful.
- It was practical. I can use it in my work and I am excited about using all I learnt at this workshop.
- Excellent presenter well prepared and very organized. I enjoyed and valued the different and interesting methods of teaching such as the interaction with the audience sharing of yourself and your stories the slides the group exercises.
- Kaethe’s amazing ability to hold the process to teach and train. Your sensitivity is awesome. The reasonable hope aspect so fundamental.
- This has been a journey at a deep level thank you. Has opened up opportunities within.
- Relevant to every aspect of my life personal, professional and political.
- The second day was great. The info was new and very well structured/presented. Also enjoyed the intentional listening task
- This has been an empowering and inspiring day and half. It was also not just educational but personal growth was exceptional.
- I found the workshop invaluable! I could relate everything to my work in private practice and will definitely use it in future.
- I really enjoyed the practical exercises. I like how well prepared and organized the speaker was. I also appreciated the inclusion of visual slides in the presentation.
- Kaethe’s manner of presenting and engaging with us made the workshop feel interactive and kept me engaged throughout. She was so easy to follow and understand.
- It was such a privilege to have been taught by such an experienced teacher and a wonderful human being.
- What participants found valuable:
The academic focus based on empirical research
The number of resources the presented made available to us
Exposure and the neurobiology of trauma
Discussion on resilience, silence as a means of transferring trauma and discussion of biological mechanisms
Discussion around moving from passive witnessing to effective action
Characteristics of reasonable hope and that it is a verb vs noun