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Rebuilding a Sense of Identity and Self after Trauma

Clinical Master Class Evening held on 17 June 2015

These recorded lectures will soon be available to be viewed for a small fee at Owl Talks Lectures.

Identity and Self: Psychotherapy in the Path to Recovery from Trauma

Dr Joan Haliburn

Trauma can rob oneself of one’s identity – to have a personal identity is central: consistency, rationality and intentionality. Multiple complex trauma has serious consequences for personal identity. The circumstances of loss of identity create differences in the attempt to recover what has been lost – the multiply abused borderline individual, the migrant, the refugee.

In this presentation Dr Haliburn will discuss identity as that part of ‘Self’ that is lost as a result of serious trauma, and elaborate the role that psychotherapy plays in the phase of integration. Building a ‘new identity’ independent of the trauma, by elaborating and consolidating aspects of identity that have been lost, facets of the earlier self, strengths that emerge and were not apparent during stressful times, personal qualities that surface in the psychotherapy interaction, such as with, humour, determination, perseverance, generosity are important tasks that help consolidate self on the path to recovery.

Developing a Sense of Self as an Adolescent following Trauma and Loss

Marc Chaussivert

In this presentation Marc will talk about developing a sense of identity in the context of refugee trauma, by presenting a case of a teenage girl who had experienced individual and family trauma in the Middle East. Her trauma history has intersected with the challenge of developing her own identity as she resettles in Australia. Marc worked with her on a weekly basis for a period of 6 months, and with her mother separately a number of times. One way this girl grapples with the challenges she faces is through a passionate interest in making her own art and the artwork of others. Both her artwork and the art she is drawn to provide us with hints about the different aspects of herself that she has yet to integrate into a more coherent sense of identity. In a parallel manner the way she relates to others also provides insight into the task of fashioning a sense of self following such trauma, loss and displacement. The therapeutic work has involved creating a space where these different aspects can begin to be felt and thought about in a way which enables the emergence of a more integrated and stronger self.

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