Workshops for Visitors to South Africa

Four Day Workshop for Group of Family Therapists from Trondheim, Norway


In October 2005 a group of 19 therapists from The Norwegian Church’s Family Counselling Agency in Trondheim, Norway attended a four day workshop with me. This trip to South Africa and workshop in Cape Town was initiated and organised by Anthony Hawke, a clinical psychologist and ex-South African who has been working in Norway for the past 18 years. I met Tony at the Conference of the South African Association for Marital and Family Therapy (SAAMFT) in Durban in May 2004.

The group expressed an interest in being exposed to teaching about therapeutic work that was contextual to South Africa yet relevant to their own work-context.

I put the following programme together for them. We worked at the Cape Town International Convention Centre except on the Wednesday when we went out to visit Paarl to witness community projects.

Workshop Theme: Creating and Sharing Community as Therapeutic Practice

Day 1: A Therapist’s rites of passage in post-apartheid in South Africa

I used the rite of passage metaphor to tell about my personal journey as I migrated from innocence to accountability as white South African therapist who lived a very privileged and protected life. Using my work in the Strand Muslim community as example I explained my professional migration from consulting room to community work. I described the many ways in which this journey from living apart (apartheid) to living/working/sharing together (saamheid) became a public and political journey for me. As the story about the Strand Muslim community includes stories of forced removals a visit to the District Six Museum (click website) provided the visitors with a wonderful illustration of the effects of the apartheids legislations on the lives of thousands of South Africans. Our tour guide, Joe, touched people with his passionate yet dignified tellings of the history.

Day 2: Engaging with responsibility, restitution and resolution in the light of abusive practices.

On the second day I used the story of my therapeutic engagement with a man who sexually abused children to illustrate and discuss themes of responsibility for abuse, restitution and resolution. I chose this work in order to deal with issues that the Norwegian therapists are familiar with, but I made many connections between this kind of abuse and the relationship between perpetrators and victims to illustrate our efforts as a nation to engage with and deal with our abusive past.

Day 3: Creating and sharing community in the context of poverty, violence and HIV/AIDS

We kept this day open to visit community projects that I am involved with in Paarl. I chose these specific projects as HIV/AIDS, poverty, violence, unemployment and crime are such prevelant problems that healers in our context have to confront. At Drakenstein Hospice Elizabeth Scrimgour, the Executive Director, did a power-point presentation to give some of the back-ground of the organisation and the challenges they face as well as the projects that they run to address the needs. Estelle Raymond, a pastoral therapy student who does voluntary work with a group of boys who raped and tried to burn a young girl showed a visual presentation of the children and the farming community in which they live. Thereafter the group visited the day care centre and met some of the cancer patients. Everyone was very touched when Tony led them in singing N’Kosi Sikele Africa which they had been practising as a surprise!!

The group then split up and joined Estelle and various staff members of Drakenstein Hospice to go out into the community to visit people/patients in the informal settlements of Paarl. When we got back we were served lunch at the Hospice and we used the opportunity to talk about and reflect on the experiences and catch others up on what each smaller group had experienced.

Day 4: Compassionate witnessing, trauma and community work

This last day was spent on giving an opportunity for de-briefing after the experiences of the previous days. I shared some theory on witnessing and how it fits with therapeutic practices. This was also a good opportunity to talk about my approach to trauma work as well as answering questions regarding community work.

Students from College of Sør-Trøndelag, Trondheim, Norway

Groups of social work students visited South Africa in January and February 2006 and February 2007 to do some research and voluntary work at Cotlands, a hospice for babies and toddlers, and Macassar Haven, a place of safety for children. During the month of their stay the institutions benefitted from their work and they gained very valauble experience. I supervised parts of their learning and coordinated their stay in South Africa in collaboration with their College in Trondheim.