Wellbeing At The Heart Of Support: Khulisa’s Trauma-informed Model For Young People
I was really excited about this workshop; I had the privileged to support Khulisa’s work in 2015 and saw the transformative impact their Face It programme had in a school. At the time I was training in Person-centered talk therapy but feeling like the counselling experience was lacking in the creative and embodied approaches I like to use with clients. When I met Robin Lockhart, one of Khulisa’s associate facilitators, I could really see how Khulisa’s creative and targeted intervention could be useful in the school where I headed the mentoring programme. I watched those young people engage in the programme which used poetry, videos, masks and group discussions to encourage the young people to Face It – face up to the cycles of violence, face up to their own impulses, face up to their feelings, face up to the trauma they had experienced.
My other reason for choosing this workshop was that I had an interview to become an Associate Facilitator with Khulisa scheduled for a few weeks later.
“Khulisa, meaning ‘to nurture’ in Zulu, is a UK charity focused on improving social and emotional wellbeing in young people. Our methodology is underpinned by Dramatherapy and trauma-informed practice. Our programmes build emotional resilience and help participants to address root causes of violence and conflict, by increasing participants’ coping skills and personal agency.
We know that violent behaviour is often rooted in trauma:
• each additional Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) increases the likelihood of a person becoming a serious and violent juvenile offender by 35%. McAra, L. & McVie, S, (2010).
• school exclusion (by 3rd year of secondary education) remains a key predictor for a criminal record. Fox, B., Perez, N., Cass, E., Baglivio, M., & Epps, N. (2014).
In this session, which includes both an experiential taster workshop and supporting theory, we will explore the impact of trauma on the body and mind, how amygdala hijack presents (self/others), and how practitioners can work alongside clients using trauma sensitive, developmentally informed methods.
There will be opportunities to explore Khulisa’s model of psycho-social education. We will also learn how, as practitioners, we need to understand our own triggers and survival responses, and deepen our knowledge of self/co-regulation.”British Association of Dramatherapists (BADth) Annual Conference and AGM 2019 programme. Page 50.
Khulisa offer two programmes:
• Face It is aimed at young people in schools or Pupil Referral Units.
• Silence The Violence is aimed at men in prisons.
Khulisa’s model consists of intensive short term interventions which seek to be therapeutic but not therapy. This means they are delivered by a trained therapist and include a lot of therapy content but the groups do not seek to go into depth for any one persons personal material as might be explored within a therapy group. There is lots of psycho education, and where clients need therapy the programme will refer them to that support but the programme aims are to meet the needs of the whole group.
Khulisa seek to:
“facilitate a safe space for learning, support the development of participants’ emotional resilience and you increase the likelihood of their desistance from crime and violence”Caroline Brindle, PowerPoint Slides at BADth Conference 2019
Trauma informed care is at the heat of Khulisa’s work; from the physiology of how trauma impacts the brain and body to the psychology of how parental attachment and Adverse Childhood Experiences impact the individuals mental health and sense of self. A large part of their work is training other professionals such as teachers and prison officers in trauma informed approaches so that there can be a systemic change to make a lasting impact.
Recent research on the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences was shared as part of this exploration
Persistent disruptive behaviour is the number one reason for school exclusions but for many young people the behaviour is a cry for help and is a signal of their poor social and emotional well-being. The same is true for the prison population where 60% were previously excluded from school.
The reality is that there is simply not enough support for people who are struggling. Young people in the UK reported the lowest levels of well-being, second only to Japan. But there is a long wait for support services and 2 out of every 3 young people referred for support receive nothing. With so many young people needing yet not receiving adequate, trauma informed support, the disruptive behaviour increases and school exclusions rise – to 40,000 per year or 54 students every day in England.
Half of all violence perpetration and victimisation can be explained by adverse childhood experiences. Half of all children in young offender institutes are looked after children.
With support it does not have to be this way. Trauma impacts on the brain, sending young people into fight, flight or freeze responses which they can only begin to regulate from if there is enough safety. Khulisa’s programme then works through other brain regions, from that instinctive brain stem, through the mid brain (movement), limbic system (emotional responses) and cortical area of the brain where the participants can begin to respond with empathy.
Face It Programme in Schools
Caroline spoke about how young people need a safe space for learning and creating this safety was one of the first aims of the Face It programme. The Face It programme is targeted at young people who are struggling and may be at risk of school exclusion. This includes young people who have been physically or verbally violent, are gang affiliated, have difficulty interacting with a group or have mental health needs. Khulisa’s intensive programmes seek to address the root causes not the behaviour.
Khulisa believes every person has the capacity to grow and change; they aim to plant some seeds and nurture that initial growth to lead the person towards better outcomes.
Young people feel respected and feel no judgement as part of the Face It programme. 85% of participants put the coping skills they learn into practice and 68% of participants from pupil referral units report that being part of the programme increased their resilience and coping.
Silence the Violence (STV) Programme in Prisons
Working in men’s prisons, the STV programme works with prisoners who are verbaly abusive, physically abusive, have difficulty interacting in a group and who self harm.
While the programme is designed for young people, in some cases they work with older adults who have a younger developmental age.
Only 7% of people who complete the Khulisa programme go on to reoffend – this is much lower than the national average. The restorative, trauma informed approach of the programme also leads 98% of participants to report a positive impact on their behaviour and a 92% decrease in prison based violence.
Khulisa know that “what happened to you” is a more important question than “what is wrong with you”. Their work in schools, pupil referral units and prisons is ground breaking and transformative.
I loved this workshop because I love Khulisa’s model. A few weeks later I told them that during my interview for Associate Facilitator. I am thrilled to have been offered a position and I am really looking forward to my induction training with them later this year.
Investing in programmes like those run by Khulisa is essential if we as a country want to reduce offending and support people who have experienced difficult starts in life. We know that hurt people hurt people. We also know that people need support to grow towards well being.
“Caroline Brindle is ‘Khulisa’s’ Programme Manager for the North West. She is a Dramatherapist, and is responsible for delivering safe and successful psychotherapeutic interventions across ‘Khulisa’s’ schools, prisons and community partners. Passionate about the intersection of neuroscience and mental health, Caroline strives to bring a trauma-informed approach to all her work.”British Association of Dramatherapists (BADth) Annual Conference and AGM 2019 programme. Page 50.