October 20, 2011, Kigali, Rwanda
The second day of our conference with NGO caregivers. Today Bishop Nathan Gasatura joined us from Butare. It is always a pleasure to meet with the Bishop. We had a good lunch meeting with him where we discussed future possibilities of counseling/trauma training in his city. I learned why the national university is not in the capitol but 3 hours south in Butare. When Rwanda and Burundi were one country,
the capitol was Butare and thus it made sense to have the national university there. Oh, and another reason it is good to see the Bishop is that he can really dance.
Carol King and I started this morning’s session with a short counseling vignette. I counseled Carol in order to illustrate the skills of bad listening and then good listening, stabilization, and grounding during dissociation. We then talked with them about ways to get another person’s story in bits (rather than all at once) and with their lead (rather than having the counselor pull it out of them). The role play was something that few had ever seen and we had lively discussion afterward, including why I didn’t push Carol (she played a hesitant, fearful counselee) and the issue of exploring emotion. At the end of the conference we learned our role plays were some of the most important parts of the conference.
Later, Josh presented some material on trauma, attachment, and the impact on the brain. To make this presentation practical, we did another role play where I was the counselee and Josh the counselor. We illustrated (in a rather speeded up illustration) portions of the levels of repair: telling the story, re-framing the story (in a wider truth), re-writing the story
, and re-connection with others. We concluded this time by having them practice counseling each other with a focus on drawing out emotions in the story. We had another great discussion about culture and emotion as well as the cultural differences between the US and Africa (counseling as listening vs. counseling as advising and solving problems).
The evening concluded with a party and hors d’oeuvres. It was an amazing celebration where many of the women wore traditional attire. We danced (I tried), sang scripture songs, heard silly riddles, and cultural stories. Then, we concluded with a ceremony of giving out the certificates. Normally, we would do this on Friday night at the conclusion of the conference but many wanted to receive their certificate in their traditional dress and we were leaving immediately after the conference ended on Friday so we determined to do this tonight. It was a time full of celebration and joy and a wonderful reminder of one antidote to trauma–communal celebration.