Trondheim, Norway June 2006

( Family Counselling Agency, South Trondelag, Trondheim, Norway, 19 – 23 June 2006 )

I visited Norway in June where I was the guest of the Norwegian Churches Family Counselling Agency, South Trondelag in Trondheim. The invitation to offer training and consult with the team of therapists who work in this office was a follow-up to the training I did during their visit to Cape Town in 2005. The group came to South Africa under the leadership of ex-South African psychologist, Anthony Hawke, and director of the office, Stig Winsnes.

I was asked to focus my training and consultation on working with couples. I gave a theoretical over-view of my approach to couple therapy on the first morning. For the rest of the week my time at the Family Counselling office was spent consulting with couples while two staff groups took turns to observe the therapeutic work from behind a one-way-mirror. Tony Hawke acted as interpreter while I worked with the Norwegian clients. Afterwards the team did reflections and discussions on the sessions and I had the opportunity to refer to my theoretical framework in discussing the therapeutic work that they witnessed. The feedback from clients and colleagues was very encouraging and I realised that the years of doing “live” supervision and interviewing in South Africa has paid off. I loved the opportunity to DO the work instead of just talking about it.

I was also invited to do a one day workshop with the theme “Witnessing trauma, political action and sustaining hope” at the City Mission of the Lutheran Church in Trondheim. This workshop was attended by priests of the Lutheran Church who minister to people who are affected by a diversity of problems such as HIV, drug and alcohol dependency, sexual offenders etc. This meeting was organised by Siv Lindstrand, a priest who runs a day care centre and programme for people affected by HIV.

During my visit an open day was organised by the Family Counselling Agency in collaboration with City Mission to share some of the impressions that the group brought with them after their visit to South Africa in October 2005. This meeting was attended by a larger audience of therapists, academics, theologians and judges from the family court. We gathered in an old church in the centre of the city for a moving liturgical ceremony of organ music, lighting of candles and prayer. In her message Siv Lindstrand reminded the audience of the plight of the poor and people living with HIV/AIDS, thus setting the tone for the day. I was asked to give a talk on “Conflict, oppression and restitution” and shared some examples of work that I am involved in South Africa. The team that visited South Africa used a power-point presentation of Drakenstein Hospice to share some of their experience during their visit to the Hospice as well as to the community where people are dying of AIDS. Upon their return from South Africa the staff of the Family Counselling Agency started sharing the dream of the Drakenstein Hospice staff to build a Day Care Centre for AIDS patients and their children in the community. They managed to collect money for this project and presented me with a cheque for NK 500 000 (R500 000+) ! What an emotional day for me! While the King of Norway and the Royal Family were walking outside in the street towards the Cathedral to celebrate their golden jubilee, people from Trondheim presented me with this generous gift through which they join us in our efforts to care for people in South Africa.


In a thank you letter to the staff at the Family counselling agency I wrote:
I felt a bit like a chameleon on a Smartie Box in that I had to change colours many times in that week – the teacher of Couple Therapy, the therapist doing trans-cultural work with couples with the help of a translator in the presence of highly competent and experienced colleagues, the theologian/therapist talking to a group of therapists/theologians that I have no previous experience with and little knowledge of their context, the public speaker from SA talking as Afrikaner and white South African to a very diverse group of people in a church about a highly political topic in a very personal way, the recipient of an enormously generous gift and amount of money on behalf of an organisation that I am connected to here in SA, and then back to being therapist/consultant/teacher in a highly professional environment!! No wonder I am struggling to find my “true” colour again – maybe my colour has forever changed as a result of all of these experiences?! Thank you for all of these opportunities. Thank you again, for taking the “call” of a suffering community so seriously and for responding with such care, commitment and generosity. Thank you for “spreading the word” about your experiences here in SA and making it possible for others in Norway to join you in the reaching out and care. I know that this is not part of your job and that this is part of a very personal response and for that I want to honour and acknowledge you. Thank you. I was extremely touched by the opportunity to participate in Trondheim, also as a theologian – the opportunities to do that here in SA are still limited, largely as a result of my critical voice and gender as well as the fact that I am not a trained or ordained minister. Being able to talk in the context of the church and a church service still moves me deeply and is highly significant for me as a woman who feels so passionately about the injustices that I have witnessed and the part that the church played and still plays in that. Thank you for working with me as a therapist in the very honouring and respectful ways that you have. Like I said to you on the last day – you are a group of highly skilled, highly experienced therapists and I was struck by the careful and thoughtful ways in which you approach your clients. I experienced a deep care and concern for clients and a very, very high commitment to providing skilled and professional services of the highest quality. That attitude in you as a team at the agency will serve as an inspiration to me in how I will continue to approach my own clinical work. Thank you.

A few words about the hospitality and generosity that I experienced in Trondheim: As I hear myself tell the stories and share the photos of the way in which I was hosted in Trondheim I find myself thinking – this is really very, very special!! I loved having you with me, Tony – what a friend/brother/companion/colleague/cultural guide all wrapped up in one. I think Tony was like those two blankets I needed wrapped around me on the veranda of Magnhild’s cabin – he just provided the warmth, security, care, protection that I needed. Thanks my friend! To all of you: Thank you for your generosity and hospitality – the lunches we shared at the office, the comfortable hotel, the assistance with travel arrangements on the trip after my stay, the treats of the play, the concert, meals, transport, visiting Roros, walk in the forest, coffee on the square, invitations, site-seeing, visit to the Cathedral with Siv etc etc – thank you again for just giving of your time and resources so generously and caringly.