In a recent blog post for this website, I talked about the early stages of NVR therapy with parents, focussing on the common factors in therapy as a means of assisting newly trained NVR practitioners to value their existing skills and abilities alongside their newer NVR training. I am involved with training many practitioners at Foundation level NVR and then continue to support a significant number through more Advanced training and sometimes act as a supervisor. I often get asked questions around how to introduce NVR to parents and how to distil the ideas into simple, understandable, manageable concepts. I think this is where a therapist’s own creativity is to be encouraged. I enjoy very much when practitioners in training are asked to devise their own NVR ‘maps’ for example. We trainers at PPUK have seen so many great imaginative ‘maps’ where practitioners have put the NVR concepts into pictures and words that encapsulate the key principles and methods so beautifully.
I really want to encourage practitioners to play with the NVR approach so that they can feel genuine when talking to parents while maintaining the integrity of the approach. This may take time, as experience brings confidence which will loosen up the mind and offer liberation from the fear of ‘making a mistake’.
Earlier this year, I attended the International NVR Conference, which was entitled ‘From Fear to Co-operation’. I really felt connected to this theme, as I have been thinking a great deal about what the journey is like for parents when they begin work with us, and what success looks like. Talking to parents about what their hopes are for their family often naturally brings up themes of peace – parents talk of their desires for a calmer home, no violence, more fun, fewer arguments, people listening to each other, children having friends, going to school, socialising and being happy. We may start by also talking in detail about what their family life is like currently and what they as parents are noticing about themselves and their values. This is usually a place of fear, anger, attempts to control by force, exclusions for the child and family from normal social situations such as school and social gatherings alongside underlying feelings of shame and blame. The journey from this place of suffering towards becoming peaceful and living together more harmoniously is then the focus of our talking and planning together. This is the landscape we travel together and for this we need a map. The practitioners I train have demonstrated that they can make very colourful, imaginative maps which clearly show a route available if the parents can trust them enough to let them lead the way, especially at the beginning when the terrain is rocky and unforgiving. As the journey progresses, and the hikers become fitter and more accustomed to the demands of the journey, the parents can take more of a lead in navigating the way they would like to go.
I have found my own way of talking with parents at the outset of the journey and I have played around with the words parents have used when describing their family life to me and what they dream of for their future. From my practice experience, I have devised an acronym which can be used to talk to parents about the NVR process and the landscape they will need to travel in order to move closer to attaining their dreams for their family.
SUFFERING to PEACEFUL
F ear F lexible
A nger A ssertive
C ontrol C aring
E xcluded E ncouraged
S hame S upported
From suffering FACES to peaceful FACES
I use images of suffering and peaceful ‘FACES’ as a way of talking about the subtleties of de-escalation, body language and parents managing their arousal levels.
I use the acronym ‘FACES’, as shown above, to talk about how fear keeps us rigid in our responses and closes down flexible thinking and the importance therefore of ‘striking the iron when it is cold’.
I also highlight how assertiveness differs from controlling, authoritarian responses and that their children need parents who know what they stand for in order to feel secure. When parents are less reactive, more regulated in their own emotional responses and can think more clearly they can recover their caring and empathic responses to their child. This counteracts blame and exclusion and encourages parents to begin to expect more for and from their child. In feeling more encouraged and connected to their child and their desires for a richer family life, parents connect with others and find support for themselves and their children. They begin to move away from secrecy and shame towards inclusion and building stronger bonds with others.
These are my ways of talking and attempts to create memorable and accessible methods for laying the path we need to travel together if there is any hope of the parents attaining the peaceful family life they dream of and deserve. Feel free to use these ideas, or even better, make up your own!
By Jill Lubienski
PartnershipProjects UK Associate, Accredited NVR Practitioner, Supervisor & Trainer