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Oxfordshire Therapy & Self-Development Centres
1-to-1 Counselling & Psychotherapy - Group Therapy & Workshops in Oxford and Witney

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Practitioner Events

CPD Training Days & Workshops 2023

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Working with Boarding School Survivors - 29th April

Working with Boarding School Survivors

Trainers: Ben Midworth, Nick Wolstenholme and Sarah Hayden
Time: 10.00am to 5.00pm
Date: Saturday, 29th April 2023
Venue: OTS centre Oxford (& On-line (Zoom))
Trainee Members - £40
Full Members - £50
Trainee Non-members - £60
Qualified Non-members - £75


As someone that went to boarding school I (Ben) became interested about seven years ago in the work of Nick Duffel who wrote “The Making of Them’, “Wounded Leaders” and “Privilege, Trauma and Abandonment”. Nick makes accessible his 30 years work on making these issues alive in the psychological professions and then speaking to and collecting and naming experiences of many who were sent to boarding schools.

This work is powerful and tries to make sense and consider the impact of the dilemma – “ I love you and I send you away” - for many at an age where attachment to parents was part of the process of development. The work details and recognises the impact of this rupture and gives permission to speak about what the child who was sent away lost and also what he/she found which was often highly insensitive to the needs of the child as a child as well as what this paid program of adulting was like. In particular he skillfully gives a theory to what the child who was sent away needed to do to survive when the parental figures, and familiar environment was removed. He makes explicit the kinds of activity, strategy and behaviour that the child had developed, him or herself, within an environment that overvalued self reliance, competition, achievement and ambition and was often cruel and extremely insensitive to the child’s needs. In parallel to this core understanding Nick Duffel builds from the 1970’s sexual survivor movement recognising the powerful process of recognition, acceptance and change. He is skilful in integrating both psychosynthesis from this approach’s understanding about the will and the transpersonal with the psychodynamic processes of rupture and repair, splitting, compartmentalisation and internalisation.

The key consequence for many boarders of being sent away was to lose connection with their emotional selves. The boy within or girl within adapt to develop behaviours and strategies of survival without being able to trust their emotional self or gut instinct. Instead the rules and expectations of others, the institution, the headmaster/mistress often dominate internally in a way that is powerful and sometimes far more powerful for those who are sent away than parental introjects. In these institutions there were whole periods of time when there was no break from school and the pain of separation and the processes were dismissed as temporary home sickness and weak.

The strategic survival personality is a big piece of understanding in naming this strategic process of metallisation and survival which is helpful I think for therapists enabling the better understanding of these often highly competent, successful outwardly, articulate and clever clients many of whom struggle with intimacy and any kind of feeling process as it can feel so unfamiliar and dangerous. These and other ideas from his work are helpful in facing the hyper rationality and dissociation and cleverness of some of these clients.

For the last three years I’ve been involved in running the twice-yearly boarding school survivors workshops which provide a structured environment in which the psychological technologies of understanding, knowledge, imagination, remembering, processing, naming and recognising occur within a facilitated environment. This includes the experience that groups of humans can be highly creative and constructive and un shaming- (the opposite is also obviously true and has been the experience of many attendees - of having being ordered, marked, shamed and humiliated in the group setting of school).

The workshop:

At this workshop we would like to allow time to present in more detail some of the key concepts within the boarding school survivors framework and provide some explanation of the boarding school survivor workshops which may be relevant for your clients. We would facilitate imagining into the life of the child sent away and bring and discuss within the frame some of the difficult issues and experience with your clients in the process of you working with them. The initial workshop will be followed by another workshop offering supervision for work with boarding school survivors.

I am presenting the workshop along side Nick Wolstenholme and Sarah Heydon. Nick is an experienced therapist in London working with Boarding School Survivors and facilitating the BSS workshops with me. Sarah is an experienced therapist and supervisor working with boarding school survivors in Buckinghamshire and part of the BSS women’s group facilitation team. Both will be talking about the workshops for men and women, the similarities and differences on the day.

On line participation is also an option.

To Book:
Please complete the online form here.

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Oxford Psychotherapy Talks Programme

OPS (Oxford Psychotherapy Society) is a local organisation which runs great talks and workshops throughout the year. Here is the current programme.

OTS Community Breakfast Meetings for 2020

In response to current guidelines on social distancing, and to take care of each other during this difficult time, we have had to cancel these meetings for the foreseeable future.

  • Sunday 19th April, 10:00 - 12:00
  • Sunday 19th July, 10:00 - 12:00
  • Sunday 18th October, 10:00 - 12:00

  • These meetings are an ideal opportunity to come and meet members of our community, and find out more about OTS. For OTS members and our guests, these mornings will be a chance to:
  • get together and have a chat over breakfast (which will be provided)
  • discuss, plan, and create activities which OTS can be involved with or develop
  • members may offer an activity, theme or discussion topic that they or we lead for one of these meetings
  • If you would like to come as a guest to one of our meetings you would be very welcome. Please email us here

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