Stavanger, Norway October 2010

Feedback on visit to Stavanger, Norway October 2010

I visited the Norwegian Churches Family Counseling Office in Stavanger Norway from 15 to 26 October 2010 on the occasion of their 50th jubilee celebrations. Anthony Hawke, the leader, and the rest of the South African Committee, Astrid Rasberg, Finn Christensen and Vigdis Eriksen together with the staff made my stay a memorable one in many ways.

Consultations and teaching:

During the first three days of work I consulted in the Stavanger family office with the staff. The three teams of therapists each took turns to present different themes for discussion and consultation.

Monday was spent with the team under the leadership of Arnhild Bakker who presented a very thorough and moving summary and reflections on the staff group’s visit to South Africa in 2008. The purpose of this presentation was to include the new staff members in that experience and to provide context for the rest of the week. I was deeply moved by the detail of what has been witnessed and the impact it has had on the group in the past two years since I last saw them.

Tuesday it was the team under the leadership of Kristi Lise Bernhardt who chose to present a “case” that reflected the complexities of consulting with elderly couples. The staff has concerns about including minority groups who are not currently well-represented in their work at the family office. This gave us the opportunity to “unpack” the discourses and challenges that impact the lives of elderly family members and what it entails to consult with them in a respectful and meaningful way.

Wednesday’s team under the leadership of Astrid Rasberg presented a very interesting family where violence and drug abuse had a very long and destructive influence on the lives of a young mother and her daughters. Anne Sofie Saeb&oslash worked with this family for a year in collaboration with two other therapists from other agencies. I was able to interview the family while the rest of the staff watched and later also interviewed the team who worked with the family together with the mother. These interviews developed into a “Consulting your consultants” kind of interview where we were able to reflect on the knowledges gained and progress made in the year of the therapy.

Thursday and Friday: Two day national workshop

Healing relationships: A participatory therapeutic approach from South Africa

This workshop was attended by a big group of therapists from around Norway. I started by presenting a summary of our context – historic and present – and the main social problems facing us. I then spent most of the two days talking about, illustrating and inviting discussion about the main features which informs a participatory therapeutic approach. I referred to the work of Kaethe Weingarten as her Witnessing Positions Grid has been extremely useful in developing my own practice and also in assisting the Norwegian groups that visited South Africa in the past to respond in meaningful ways to our context. Her work with reasonable hope formed part of the workshop content as it fits well with a participatory approach to therapy.

I was very encouraged and strengthened by the participation and response from the audience and found this workshop to be a very rewarding experience.

Personal highlights:

The visit to Preikestolen (Pulpit rock) one of the most visited attractions in Norway on the Saturday following my arrival was something that I hoped for and looked forward to, but as the weather is critical this was not something I took for granted in autumn weather. It was a perfect day and a wonderful outing lead by Finn Christensen, his son and Jorunn Lunde Olsen and her two children. The two hour walk up the mountain was rewarded by the most spectacular view of the rock and the Lysefjord.

I have never been in fresh snow before and as Stavanger is in the southern part of Norway where it hardly ever snows in the city, I did not even dare dream that I will experience snow in autumn. On Thurday I arrived at the hotel for the workshop with snowflakes on my coat – completely out of season for Stavanger! Then I was driven by Astrid to the mountain cabin of Vigdis and Jorn Eriksen in Stirdal for the weekend following the workshop. What an experience to be able to touch, taste, see and be in the snow landscape in the sun shine and later in a full moon night.

The dinners with the Stavanger staff, friends from Trondheim and the Jubilee Dinner were wonderful opportunities to celebrate connections and enjoy delicious food. I was spoilt and taken care of with true Norwegian hospitality!