New article on post COVID-19 counselling and therapies: Take a Chance

Apologies for the pun to my great co-author from Kentucky – like everyone else, we had no crystal ball, but wanted to have a crack at a articulating a direction and instigating debate. There is plenty of gloom at the moment and more uncertainty to come, but we also need to look beyond and create out own opportunities.

How can therapists raise to the challenge, rediscover theories and roles, collaborate with new partners, use new technologies, and extend research collaborations to make a convincing case? We constantly have to evolve, but not merely to survive, instead to drive change:


Plenty of reasons for black youth anger: Add our apathy to those

It is surreal to watch the escalation of protests across the US in the middle of global lockdown and self-isolation. Are both really happening? Or are they two sides of the same coin?

Anger was bubbling along for a long time – a racially motivated murder (which was not the first), was a symptom rather than a cause. For causes look for all those socioeconomic forces that breed racism, and they are not that distant. Look no further than depriving the vast majority of black youth not only of their future but also of their present, because of huge and increasing inequalities.

But they have every right to also be as angry with us, the silent majority, for our apathy, as against authorities that wrong them. We are even more responsible for festering racism in all its overt and covert forms, because we have let them in through the back door, which is even more dangerous. For the last four years, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have seen the emergence of ‘new’ politics under the façade of being variably “cool, plain speaking, populist, macho, eccentric, or even funny”.

This is nothing of the sort. Divisive policies, contempt for poverty, celebration of obscene wealth, and scapegoating refugees for about everything that is wrong in our societies through political and media sectors, simply incite hatred, violence and racism. Finding a knife or a boot to act it out is the easiest part.

Could, in a strange twist of history, this other side of the coin (COVID-19 crisis) help us switch a simple vowel in our soul vocabulary, i.e. an ‘e’ (empathy) for an ‘a’ (apathy)? Eh, it is only one letter after all!


“I can’t breathe”: A tragic symbolism of our times

The tragic last words of George Floyd in Minneapolis reflected more than the ugliest face of racism that just refuses to go away. It also echoes the victims of C19 on ventilators across the world, many (especially the elderly) unnecessarily fading away in supposedly strong health care systems. It echoes the planet and nature that has given us the strongest warning “step back”. It echoes billions of children seeing no future in ghettos and extreme poverty that serve the purpose of rationalizing racism and violence in moments like this.

The common denominator seems to be the lack of social conscience so dreaded by inept leaders – is this the time for humanity to rediscover its value for its own survival rather than for


short-term and false prosperity?

Children’s gradual return to school from lockdown: Hard but there are always ways

Not the most articulate interview, but some tips on getting children ready for school – adults’ own mindset and consistency are as – if not more – important!

New realities can benefit therapeutic interventions: Early lessons from the Brazil resilience-building digital programme

Looking at the screen of a pilot session of the ASEC-led digital intervention challenged a few of my therapeutic comforts, although I should not have waited for the COVID-19 crisis to question them. The framework was there, so were the skills, but the current lockdown accelerated the process. This is all to evaluate through our project in the months to come, especially by interviewing child participants. However, I formed some early impressions and was really excited on the wider implications after talking to Juliana and Nina, the trainer of other facilitators.

There was the usual content of dealing with difficult emotions. Then the current context of challenges, losses and upheaval of the lockdown. Finally, the resilience ending of developing coping strategies, empathy and hope. All a great narrative anyway, but it was really fascinating to observe children (not understanding much Portuguese maybe was a blessing for a change, by having to focus on the non-verbals) and their emotional responses to the therapist, crucially to each other through the therapist. One could argue that this is standard therapist skill for any group setting.

Session shaded image

However, this digital adaptation brought another layer to admire in Nina’s competencies, gently nudging children toward each other without being direct, using creative activities on empathy without the advantage of spontaneous interaction, and constantly functioning at different levels – both of the therapist and the interaction-initiator on behalf of another child. All this, without the reinforcement of children being in the same room. Truly impressive, and a lot to build on!

How partnerships fell into place for the digital intervention in Brazil

There is a nice song “true love will never fade”, and a cliché “Rome was not built in a day”. Both rang true when we had a few hours to put a team and a project together, as priorities are daily shifting to adjust to our new realities. It is tempting to be opportunistic to get funding (in this case, jump only the COVID-19 bandwagon), but for how long? One gets found out sooner or later.

What Juliana has achieved with ASEC proves how one can be both responsive and strategic. Previous programmes were adapted digitally (anyway, we have to, in order to  improve access, the world is moving on) but also in the current context to help children cope during lockdown and beyond (whatever that means – however, it is critical not to only think short-term). A donor did not panic either and stuck to their long-term strategy of empowering vulnerable children to achieve their potential. A pool of skilled professionals was available through an existing and trusted network. There was only the small matter of getting a research team and evaluation methods/funding from across the Atlantic, but this was easy – we have been there before – and LIAS always seek innovation and impact.

One could start from scratch (and waste) a large research council grant, with purist outputs (if any) deferred to the long-term future. The technical budget for this modest project is actually really small, but the human capacity is 20180808_005129018_iOShuge. As for relationships and Juliana’s leadership? Priceless!

Brazil here we come! (well, digitally, for now)

We are all adapting and ready to articulate our new ‘normalities’ as a world, hopefully for the better. It was thus not surprising to see ASEC and Juliana in Brazil, and colleagues from Partnership for Children to be a step ahead of the game and adapt an evidence-based resilience-building intervention to a digital, albeit facilitated, intervention.

It was rather easy to be inspired and follow with a lovely research team and digital evaluation at different levels – digital upon digital, but the same wonderful people! Thanks LIAS for the support. Miss you lots in Rio (including the samba20180809_153412020_iOS and the football), but this is a step closer, we will all be stronger when we physically meet again!

More to follow as we all explore, learn and share…

Child participation