Tuesday, October 8, 2013

International Hope Alive Counsellors Association 11th Annual Conference, Baku,Azerbaijan

Today's program consisted of Country reports followed by case presentations and discussions. Counsellors had brought their difficult cases, presented them and asked for feedback from the group as to understanding or what the next stage should be.

Counsellors presented case conferences of the group therapy that they had with clients in their countries.  The clients had in common any of the following:
CAN - childhood abuse or neglect
Post Abortion Syndrome  - had had an abortion themselves and experienced subsequent depression, anxiety, cognitive difficulties associated with the abortion
Post Abortion Abortion Syndrome Survivor - a person who may not have had an abortion themselves but are affected by parents having abortion. 

In the groups the clients discussed their personal experiences. In the Hope Alive training manual and program each stage of therapy is built upon with homework exercises of writing letters to address damage they experienced.  

In the process of therapy the clients health improved physically and emotionally with cognitive clarity restored to varying degree.

In the case presentations - the counsellors described the individuals in the group and the insights that the clients experienced.  What was found commonly was that clients progressing through stages of therapy became more open and shared much that had not been previously shared.  Disclosures of incest, rape, physical and sexual abuse might arise and be worked through in the process of the group and individual therapy

One client was unable to have sex with men before therapy, since their abortion,  and went on to develop a loving relationship with a man.

Role plays resulted in clients having resolution of physical symptons such as abdominal pains and pelvic pains.  

After months of therapy a client described becoming angry and feeling she wasn’t getting better but getting worse but continuing in therapy passed through this phase to resolution of her psychological symptoms.

Individuals recognised in therapy that they had been overcompensating in their behaviour, a woman who had to be a good mother with her children “all the time” because of her guilt over her abortion.  After therapy she felt her behaviour wasn’t so forced and her children said they liked her better for being more real.

Another client was able to address her seeking abusive relationships with men as distraction.  

Orpah, from the Phillipines  and Beata from France presented cases.

A most interesting case was presented where a married minister was having sexual relationships with men, living a double life, related to his mother having had abortion of his siblings and distrust of his mother.  He was in a session in which another man was having difficulties with pornography after his wife had an abortion.  The two sharing helped each with addressing their anxiety provoking behaviours.

A woman who had presented very together turned out to break down and talk about her own abortions and her life in the bars before becoming a very made up married mother having difficulty at times with her old life breaking through the armor. She was able to look at her past and address the source of her anger and depression.  She had lost the ability to feel and regained a sense of experiencing emotions again after a long time of being emotionally dead while putting on a show.

There was a movement in the cases from people who would be described as ‘hard heartened’ to a ‘softening of their hearts’ and increasing depth of feeling with grieving their losses and embracing their lives.

The French psychologist, Beata, in her presentation drew the lines of interactions between the clients in the group. Her French group had been with 4 women aged 46 to 67 years old , 3 of which had had other children despite their abortion while one had none after.  

An interesting feature of a couple of groups presented  was that some had worked through with translators and clients with different languages but able to do the work independently then return to the group and share the experiences with translation and gain the benefits of process regardless of the limits of language.

Opah, the Phillipino counsellor had worked with leaders in the music and movie business who found great benefit in coming to an understanding of their past experiences and how these were influencing their present lives.

After the presentations the group discussed various hypotheses regarding the individuals and therapy, where the strengths and weaknesses lay.  What was questioned was where the emotion was directed, who was one really angry at, who was loved.  

Ann, a Polish counsellor saw that one of the women in the therapy group hadn’t accepted her own life, with alot of anger for herself.  She had particularly telling comments about one of the therapy group members who was involved in an assisted suicide and subsequently had somatic emotional responses “emotions she couldn’t express verbally but could only express with her body.”

Rosemary, an Israeli counsellor identified the sense of failures in a woman’s life.  

Nancy, the Baku counsellor commented on the relationships female clients had with men and how they’d taken offence to being told by the counsellor not to enter into new relationships during the period of therapy ( a standard recommendations because of the emotional upheaval experienced).

Bobby, a counsellor from Bangladesh , addressed the cultural issues in a case where a woman was struggling with her family.

“What do we say in Hope Alive,” Dr. Ney commented, “That we can’t see in others what we can’t see in ourselves.”  With this he explained the various fantasies that therapists might have to avoid dealing with reality and how if they are holding onto any of these fantasies then it’s hard to see them in their clients.  He touched on the various romantic fantasies and the family fantasies and how we have to let go of fantasies to move on.  He talked of wonderful dreamers and how dreamers have difficulty recognising other dreamers.  Here the question arises of what a person could have become in a family and how one copes with the failure of families.

In the process of therapy there’s a process of saying good bye to childhood ideas to move on to adulthood.

Further discussion addressed accepting abandonment in relationships.  Discussion of the fantasies of ‘orphans’ and ‘idea of real father was a prince”.  Dr. Ney described this as a child’s way of coming to terms with bad circumstances.  Bridgitte described a client whose mother died of aids at 14 as a prostitute but insists that she was from a very successful home. 

The group therapies of Hope Alive last 9 months.  

Dr. Ney discussed the importance of letting God do the healing, that in therapy the work is to allow the authentic person to come through, that the process allows the individual to throw away masks and false aspects of themselves so they can grow and allow healing to occur naturally.  “We have to get rid of the phoniness to allow God to do the healing.” 

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