Everyone who works with people also work with trauma.  From natural disasters to violent crime, everyone is affect by trauma – directly or indirectly.  When people have significant resources, such as access to good medical care, strong support systems, stable employment, safe living circumstances and low to moderate stress they are likely to recover normally from exposure to trauma.  In South Africa however, this can not be said for most people.  When people have few resources and many stressors, such as lack of access to good medical care, lack of stable employment, high levels of conflict, living in unsafe neighbourhoods, mental illness or social isolation, they are likely to experience a complicated recovery from trauma and may need professional help.

Social service professionals are often the only frontline mental health workers that will be able to identify individuals at risk for complicated recovery from trauma and respond to their situation.  Knowing what to do and what not to do is essential.

Trauma Support and Counselling is offered online and consists of a series of 2-hour sessions presented over the course of 2 weeks.  The next workshop starts on 29 September 2020 (click here to register).

The workshop includes the following content:

  • An understanding of trauma, including the symptoms of trauma
  • Complex trauma, including childhood adversity
  • Trauma support work or debriefing
  • Trauma-informed care
  • Trauma counselling for professionals (integrated approach)
  • Secondary and vicarious trauma

The workshop is accredited with SACSSP for 9 CPD points.  The cost of this workshop is R550 per person.  This special rate is only available during September 2020.  Workshop participants receive an electronic copy of the workshop notes as well as an electronic certificate.  CPD points can only be awarded for full participation and attendance.

Implementing interventions for trauma requires an understanding of trauma, in particular normal and abnormal responses to trauma.  Not everyone exposed to such incidents require counselling, in fact, counselling can do harm.  It is important for early responders and counsellors to be able to assess the circumstances of each individual in order to formulate the most appropriate response.  This workshop therefore deals with prevention, early intervention and secondary intervention (counselling).

Prevention deals with childhood adversity and toxic stress which leads to complex trauma.  Understanding the origins and pathway of trauma allows practitioners to educate parents, teachers and community support systems on trauma and prevent or interrupt its development early in the life of the individual.

Early intervention is a focus on trauma support work or psychological first aid – interventions designed to address the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event.  This is a very practical session and the focus is on teaching workshop participants how to intervene immediately following exposure to a traumatic event.

Secondary intervention or counselling deals with the development of long-term negative effects of trauma such as post-traumatic stress disorder and interventions to facilitate recovery.  Discussion of various approaches will take place with an emphasis on the “strategy” rather than teaching the skills of various interventions – this would require additional training.  In particular, the WITS-model will be highlighted as a South African intervention that is appropriate in most instances where counselling is needed and the steps of using this model will be discussed.

Practitioners are often called in to assist when trauma occurs in the workplace, e.g. in the form of traumatic workplace injuries or crime.  Providing support to groups of people require special considerations and these are discussed with reference to practical examples.  Managers often do not know how to respond and can unknowingly add to the trauma of their workers.  Often there is a call for immediate “debriefing” of a group of workers to take place.  This “group debriefing” is discussed in a very practical way and suggestions are made for the best way to proceed in such situations.  Reference is also made to the ethical difficulties often encountered with group support. Trauma can be addressed on micro (individual) and meso/macro (groups/communities) levels. 

Some focus is therefore devoted to strategies for creating trauma-informed environments, in particular organisations who deal with trauma as well as schools.  In some schools, 100% of children are exposed to trauma – this makes individual counselling an impractical response.  Creating trauma sensitive environments in schools can greatly reduce the negative impact of trauma and pave the way for recovery.

Secondary and vicarious trauma is a risk for every practitioner who works with trauma.  It is important to identify the early signs of secondary and vicarious trauma and to work to prevent or respond to it.

For more information, e-mail Werner at werner@changeworks.co.za