That Trauma Conference: a postscript

So the Club has moved on. Yes, a conference is like a club, attended by the devout, come to witness the main attraction, star names who know one another so well since they are imagesmembers of yet another, more exclusive club: Men of Science who circulate the globe almost endlessly as their reputations attract ever more and more invites to speak.

When you sit back and reflect [as we are always told] the ages and reputations of many of those speaking at international conferences are broadly similar. In other words, these are individuals of considerable expertise, who have made significant contributions to their respective domains [PPPM: psychiatry, psychotherapy, psychology and medicine] over the decades and, as such, know one another extremely well. They dine out, drink out, probably share the same hotel.

In other words, and words of another century, these are ‘clubbable men’. Perhaps that’s why a Conference is little other than a Con. I know saying this will not attract my immediate invitation to any such gathering any time soon [if indeed I had any expertise to offer], and it is not exactly ground-breaking either. Yet it is necessary to underscore. After all Science is not and never has been, in my view, Objective [save maybe for the Pure regions of Math]. The Cult of the Personality intrudes particularly in the grey sciences of PPP, even M. It can be no other since humans are competitive, and no more competitive are men who want to climb, and are afforded every opportunity, to climb to the pinnacle of their chosen field of endeavour. How to get to whatever pinnacle is the same: the strongest will survive, the most assertive will win over, the one who speaks eloquently will bring the audience to an ovation. [TED talks beware.]

Yet there is another group of delegates at the Con-ference. On Friday I sat in with carers of children. These women and men are those who seven days a week and 24 hours each day have the responsibility of being parents to children who have been placed in protective care. These carers came to learn about how they might be better equiped to look after children and young people in their care. As I sat in the audience, I began to sense that what they most needed was not intellectual clap-trap, not some further guidance on attachment or the latest spin on the very popular [at the present time] Polyvagal Theory or even PACE [spelt out in capitals to make it seem even more impressive]. What they actually wanted were tips on how they might control a child who was running around the house in circles, or who wouldn’t eat cereal with milk. In other words, they wanted answers. Simple answers to everyday problems.

I had to leave before the end of the presentation to get my flight home so I will never know if in the last hour some of those questions were answered. I hope so. But during the final tea break I spoke with a man about my age who introduced himself as a carer. He said he had been looking after a young man, now 21, who had come back to stay with him as he wasn’t coping with the world. I noted that it was good the young man had returned. The carer shrugged. Not so good? I asked. He nodded.

Forget the Clubbable Men of Science. Pay attention to the Carers. They have no club to join. They do not comment on peer-reviewed journal articles that might [might] add to the evidence-base yet have no bearing on the reality-base.

I am not advocating for no science, for no evidence. What I am seeking though is a check in with reality. We may well be making wonderful inroads to understanding the workings of the brain [though I think we kid ourselves as to what and how much we really know] but we cannot place all our understanding on neuroscience.

We have to draw back and engage with the world and those who are actually living day-to-day with traumatised children and youth. Hear what they say. Hear what they want. Toss out the jargon and get real.


Author: john pitt


2 thoughts on “That Trauma Conference: a postscript

  1. God Bless you. As a professional therapeutic care giver (mother to my child) who has lived in the most traumatic and tragic of circumstances for all of his “child-protected” life), I continue the pretence that is required in order to be allowed to do that real work with this beautiful child. In 30 years of value adding to the lives of kids and their families, I still do not see any true movement towards the respect and value that should be afforded those genuine ‘rolled-gold’ carers. Carers that I can pick a mile away (even without uttering a word). But those goodies (rolled gold carers) are the ones that can see the value in the child and keep scaling that bloody wall that is being built in their way continually. Children being institutionally abused again and again due to greed, not the love of the professional, but commodification of the child as a means of profit.
    Carers are treated in the same way that birth parent are; made to line up at Centrelink and treated like they have no worth. Not fit to sit at the table of the expert without cowering appropriately. Coming cap in hand looking for crumbs with which to provide, what they know are skills of a qualified parenting model. Yet are forced to seek out conferences like this in order to understand what others already do not, but expect them to magically be able to. Most carers are volunteers, but should not be. All carers should be qualified and have lived experience – therefore paid as professional therapist (as I am) and therefore they should be expected to meet targets and produce consistent forward measurable growth. That style of funding would be an economic investment in a positive social reproduction for each child who comes into the system.

    Thank you again for bringing light to the inequity between the paid and unpaid contribution to a child’s needs. I am employed with a business who are building their professional programs on a Germany evidenced based model, that has been around for 25 years or so. A model that has a foundation in relationship through nearness.
    This work is from home, and one on one with a child who’s diagnoses form a list longer that your arm. However, what I see there, is a healthy happy kid who is emerging just like a butterfly.
    For nine months he was the kid from hell (trauma affected from birth) the next three have seen a wonderful metamorphosis. Lovely.
    Hang in there Mums and Dad’s they are really only frightened. Slow down, and never, never, never give up. That is the most important and key to this form of work – the child needs more than anything that you will never, never, never give up. That is when trust will bond you both and the learning will truely start.


    1. Thank you Robyn for that heart-felt comment. I believe it will be echoed by many others, and I deeply respect the work you do every day.


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