Non-Violent Resistance (NVR) is a form of family therapy helping to address aggressive, controlling and self-destructive behaviour in young people. Despite the promise of positive outcomes, when you first hear about the methodology behind the work, it can sound counter intuitive. Actions such as offering gifts or not trying to control risk can feel like a ridiculous thing to do in a volatile situation but once you offer thought to the process, it feels simple – it’s necessary to demonstrate love when offering support and you have no option but to resist harmful behaviours because you really can’t control them. Resisting behaviour may be the opposite of how you’ve worked in the past but you’ll quickly learn it has much more power.
I’d love for professionals to know how influential NVR has been in helping families and changing the prognosis for children whose prospects were uncertain. I’m fortunate to work alongside Clinical Psychologist, Peter Jakob who brought NVR to the UK. He read an article about NVR in 2001 and started practicing it in his work the very next day. Today the practice has spread so widely that there are a number of training organisations working with an array of communities – adoptive parents, foster carers – families who weren’t able to get through set-backs and now are. What began as a movement has now been professionalised because forward-thinking agencies have collaborated and agreed a set of standards covering the core principles and methodology. With a professional standard for NVR, there’s amazing potential to integrate it into other therapeutic practices. In fact, the take up on individual therapy that isn’t NVR has gone through the roof within our organisation because it’s changed our way of reaching out to children, of loving them and helping them to become more secure in their attachments whilst at the same time resisting their harmful actions and giving them responsibility for changing those behaviours. The result? Young people have made their own decision to seek therapy for trauma.
I believe a lot needs to change within the care system around being able to parent and feeling safe to show love. The models that underpin residential care and fostering are risk averse based and this can really limit the way in which adults are permitted to offer support. Transparent ways of gift giving and demonstrating love takes a lot of thought and skill but NVR has helped our organisation to do this and produced very different outcomes. Outcomes that Peter Jakob believes can transform connections with birth families.
‘We often see in therapy that parents think they need to win and it’s an object of NVR to help them appreciate that either everyone wins or everyone loses.’
There’s often pressure for professionals to place themselves in a critical position – we are after all aiming to offer guidance – but if a professional appears to be in judgement of a child, the parent can feel the need to go into a coalition with their son or daughter and become accepting of problematic behaviours; that’s just one of the difficult dynamics that can emerge. NVR encourages practitioners to feel open towards parents and young people without necessarily accepting everything they do. NVR is essentially about removing judgement and gaining trust; it can even change how team members speak to each other. As Peter explains, ‘When someone comes back to the office and says that a mother is terrible, it can reinforce negative perceptions. De-escalation also means recognising and overcoming your own prejudices and regulating your personal behaviour.’
This conference will be an amazing opportunity to learn about the innovations being made in NVR and explore ways to take it back to your work and life. It has completely changed my perspective on residential care; I now flinch when I hear someone say, ‘I’m going to the office’. We’re creating a home, and homes don’t have offices. When you grasp this practice, it makes so much sense in your work and world. We are seeing children who have had issues with trust and care their entire lives but are opening a tiny space in their hearts and minds to let people in and to take some risks because it feels real, because it is real, because people are allowed to be real.