How do you manage a situation where your worst fears come true?
It is Day 1 of a one-week course training youth workers in Rwanda to provide effective trauma therapy to children affected by the genocide and its aftermath.
‘If you don’t believe in God, how can you tell us how to help traumatised children? You are imposing a Western concept that will not work here.’
The Rwandan pastor jumped to his feet. ‘I have nothing more to learn from you.’ The facilitator froze.
How do you turn this eruption back on a positive track?
Miles away from central Africa, this scene was part of our training course in the English countryside. The participants were trauma therapists preparing for a trip to Uganda to train youth workers in trauma therapy for young people affected by the Lord's Resistance Army. The therapist had years of experience in trauma therapy and were confident that they could share this with their African counterparts.
But how to deal with conflicts of beliefs and values that can derail the entire training before it even starts?
Our training on facilitating personal and group conflicts of beliefs and values began with some analysis. The participants listed trigger points and examined them to understand the conflicts of beliefs, but also the underlying shared values that could help them to regain control and move forward.
Knowing is one thing, but applying that knowledge in an intense cross-cultural environment is another. Our training targets instinctual reactions to conflicts, and embeds the ability to resolve them.
In the workshop the facilitator was not able to regain control of the group. Fortunately, in the real-life scenario, it worked. The facilitator calmly reflected back to the pastor his concerns and then brought in the other people in the room. ‘Are my beliefs also a concern to you?’ As others spoke about their belief in the methods of trauma therapy, the temperature in the room lowered and soon they were back on track.
How did it feel to receive this training? ‘I was surprised at my initial reaction, how I froze. Now that I’ve thought through this situation and my reaction, I feel much more prepared.’
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