ACEs Recovery Toolkit Blog – Week Three

ACEs Recovery Toolkit

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6th April 2018

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Kirsty Mooney

Week 3 ACEs RTK BlogA room full of fireworks!

I didn’t expect a full house this week, given that I’d dropped the bomb last week, that Week Three is all about the science of ACEs.

However, we had 11 through the door, which I was really happy about. Parents were engaging with the material, and not one of them were being ordered to attend, they were here of their own choosing.

Several of the parents had completed a Thought Diary, so it was really useful to go through some of them at the beginning of the session, in the hope that it would encourage the others in group to start completing them.

One of the parents, who we’ll call Sarah, spoke about one of the nice things she’d done for herself.

Sarah decided that she would go out for a nice afternoon walk. However, Sarah was so scared about bumping into her ex-boyfriend (perpetrator of DA), this walk became so anxiety filled, that Sarah didn’t get far, and ended up turning back, and heading home.

Sarah explained that her Negative Automatic Thought, was that she was a ‘sh*t mom’, as she was taking time out for herself, and wasn’t spending time with her children.

The children were being cared for by their grandmother and were perfectly safe and happy.

Sarah explained that a rational response would have been that she was a good mother, and she needed to focus on getting herself better, so that she could be a better mother to the children.

Sarah also said there was no “evidence” to back up her NAT, which was really good to hear, as this is something we had gone through in group, that NAT’s were generally not supported by evidence.

Sarah also added that she could have practiced some breathing techniques or called her sister for some reassurance.  Instead, Sarah turned back, and went straight home.

It was a useful exercise, as other parents in the room felt that listening to Sarah’s example, and going through a real example of a thought diary, made it easier to be able to process their own, and start challenging their NATs.

Parents really enjoyed learning about the brain, with some parents stating that they were worried because they’re “not the school type”, but found the activities, especially using the gingerbread person, really useful and accessible, and something they said they were going to share with their wider family.

Week 3 ACEs RTK Blog 2

It was really insightful, to also see the many different coping strategies that were used to deal with stress – and I was a little surprised that many of them were positive (including talking to family and friends, going out for a walk, meditation).

There was a big group discussion about the use of alcohol when coping with stress.  The group felt that in moderation, alcohol was acceptable. However, other parents pointed out the alcohol was a depressant, and would in fact make you feel worse, not better.

It helped to use the flipchart for this activity, to show that whilst coping strategies shouldn’t be seen as ‘bad’ or ‘good’, we could see them as helpful/useful, unhelpful/not useful – and look at effectiveness over a period of time (may help you feel better today but won’t make you feel better tomorrow).

Again, this threw up lots of interesting discussion and debate within the room.

Parents were really pulling apart the material, ideas and post-it notes were bouncing around like fireworks on the 5th November – it was so magical to see.

The end of the session allowed for some relaxation time, given that we’re hoping parents will embed some of these techniques in their daily lives to buffer the effect of ACEs (there’s a useful handout in the manual to talk through with parents).

The exercise was SO powerful…one parent fell asleep.

I don’t know whether that was due to my dulcet tones, or whether she’d just had a very busy few weeks. Let’s just say, she was very, very relaxed.

For some reason, I felt really drained at the end of this session, but it’s OK to feel this way.  Facilitating to a large group, on quite a heavy topic, is bound to have an impact on you as a facilitator.

I took time at the end of the session to debrief with my colleague, and just spend a few minutes outside, in the fresh Birmingham air (no sniggering, please) and listened to the sounds of the city.

This allowed me to ground myself, and think of the progress the parents had made, in such a short amount of time.

Given that the programme is trauma-informed, we need to be aware of our own feelings and needs, and address them, so that we can be the facilitator that the parents require to guide them on their journey of recovery.

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