Refugees and asylum seekers experience betrayal at a ‘meta level’. Subjected to persecution and danger often at the hands of a government that is meant to protect them, trauma is compounded by ongoing danger and often years (or decades), of no safe haven or permanent resettlement. Child refugees and asylum seekers are not only exposed to the same trauma as their parents but also witness parents who are rendered powerless and struggling with their own trauma. They may also be separated from family members. Dissociation is a frontline defence against overwhelming emotional or physical responses to trauma. Intrusive thoughts, images, sensations and emotional flooding are frequently one of the long-term legacies for trauma survivors. Relational issues underpin much of the inner and external conflicts common with survivors of trauma, compounded by dissociative defences.
Paradoxically, it is within the context of relationships that the opportunity to heal presents. Rapidly shifting and complex client transference, coupled with the therapist’s countertransference can quickly find the client and therapist partnering in the ‘dance of the triangle’. This can lead to serious rupture of the therapeutic relationship, boundary crossings and therapeutic impasse. Based on the principles elucidated in her book co-authored with Dr Colin Ross, Trauma Model Therapy: a Treatment Approach for Trauma, Dissociation and Complex Comorbidity (2009), Naomi will outline four core trauma dynamics. She will explore how holding these at the forefront of consciousness, mindful attunement to self, the client’s inner processes and supported by trauma-informed strategies, client and therapist can partner in steps to stay off the triangle.