Introduction: Trauma, Abandonment & Privilege

Despite frequent references in English popular literature to the agonies experienced by children at boarding schools, the long-term effects of a boarding education have, until very recently, remained unnoticed by the medical and psychological professions. In Britain, boarding education carries high social status, is considered a privilege, and is rife with parental expectation.

Those sent to these schools are children and therefore unable to make informed choices; they trust their parents to do what is best and do not want to disappoint them. They learn to disown their emotions and put on a brave face, unaware of the problems this may cause them later in life. Taking their experience as normal, many adult ex-boarders experience problems in intimate relationships and family life. They may retreat into workaholism, unaware of the suffering that this masks.

Conclusion: a need for specialist training

Any therapist’s daily practice includes early deprivation and family of origin work, so the client with attachment problems will be familiar. But what is rarely understood is the sophistication of the ex-boarder’s survival self and the widespread devastation it brings to individuals, couples and families over generations.

Ex-boarders are amongst the most difficult clients. This is due to both the social dimension of the syndrome and the strength of the secret internalised shame. The self in distress is frequently masked by a very competent, if brittle, socially rewarded exterior. For these reasons, even experienced analysts and therapists may unwittingly struggle to skilfully address the needs and tactics of this client group.

Hence the need for some specialist training. To this end we are pleased to offer

  • an expanding range of publications (Routledge have published their seventh book on the topic)
  • one-off introductory CPD training days or introductory talks in different areas, please see below. Please email us to arrange an event in your area or organisation
  • a full 8 day post-graduate training programme, please see below
  • specialist supervision – please email us to arrange customised supervision

Introductory CPD training events

Some participant feedback:

  • ‘One of the best CPD events I have attended in the last twenty years.’ DB.
  • ‘The day was outstanding. It provided me with a way of thinking about my client that is illuminating about his most deeply embedded defensive structures.’ PW.
  • ‘Nick managed the presentation and group and timings so well that it felt like a genuinely live event, including connection with Nick and with the other participants.’ CO.


11 May 2024, a Foundation Year training in CreativeCoupleWork Relationship Therapy in London over four weekends; for more info here and for full curriculum and application form please email us.

16 November 2024, an introductory day with Nick Duffell and BSS Team, Trauma, Privilege and Abandonment: Boarding School Syndrome, on the clinical challenges of working with ex-boarders, 09.45 – 16.30 on Zoom; early birds £85, ‘later birds’ (after 1/10/24) £99. Fee refunded to those who attend the full training. To register please email us.

Starts 17 May 2025, The Un-Making of Them Diploma Training at post-grad level in working with ex-boarders. There are limited places so we are accepting pre-bookings now. For full curriculum and application form please email us.


Recent CPD introductory training events:

10 February 24, C.G. Jung Public Lectures, Bristol, in-person and on Zoom, ‘The Strategic Survival Personality‘, a developmental trauma response associated with high functioning within Boarding School Syndrome – a morning with Nick Duffell.
7 – 21 November 2023: Online Conversation Series exploring the Trauma of Elite Boarding Schools, hosted by The Bowlby Centre. Leading UK voices reflecting on impacts for children, adults and citizens.
21 January 2023,  ‘Normalised Neglect & Privileged Abandonment’, an introductory CPD in-person day with Nick Duffell in Wimbledon on the clinical challenges and skills development in working with ex-boarders, hosted by Wimbledon Guild Counselling Training on Zoom. 
19 November 2022, 10am – 4:30pm, a participatory online webinar with Nick Duffell: Privileged Abandonment, Normalised Neglect & Trauma: Understanding Boarding School Syndrome organised by Branham Therapy, Newbury.
25 March 2022, for Relate Mid-Surrey, an in-house day with Nick Duffell for Relate staff only, focussing on the impact of boarding on family and intimate relationships.
22 January 2022, ‘Normalised Neglect & Privileged Abandonment’, an introductory CPD day with Nick Duffell, over Zoom, on the clinical challenges and skills development in working with ex-boarders
May 15 2021: ‘Normalised Neglect & Privileged Abandonment’, an introductory CPD morning with Nick Duffell, over Zoom, on the clinical challenges and skills development in working with ex-boarders, hosted by Wimbledon Guild Counselling Training. Feedback available here.
November 30 2020: Understanding ‘Privileged Abandonment’ trauma states,  an introductory evening with Nick Duffell on Zoom to approach the clinical challenges and skills development in working with probably the fastest-growing new client group, ex-boarders, hosted by the Bristol Psychotherapy Association.  This event drew over 90 participants.
‘Privileged Abandonment’  September 14 2020, And evening with Nick Duffell introducing Boarding School Syndrome at the Hampstead Psychotherapy Club – now an online event due to Covid – full details and feedback here.
‘Trauma and Privilege, Abandonment and Boarding School Syndrome’, an introductory day with Nick Duffell supposed to be in Newbury, Berkshire, on the clinical challenges of working with ex-boarders Saturday 4 April 2020, but successfully run as a Zoom meeting. Flyer and full details here.
‘Working with Privileged Abandonment’, an introductory day with Nick Duffell and Boarding School Survivors team members in Lewes, East Sussex, Saturday, 22 February 2020, on the clinical challenges of working with ex-boarders. Download flyer and full details here.
‘Trauma and Privilege, Abandonment and Boarding School Syndrome’: A sell-out day with Nick Duffell in Newbury, Berkshire, Saturday 12 October 2019.  Feedback and summary of the day available here.
‘Normalised Neglect and Privileged Abandonment’: a morning’s talk and Q & A with Nick Duffell at the Royal Literary & Scientific Institute, Bath, Saturday February 16th 2019. A sell-out event organised by  Domini Barry.
‘Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege’: a day with Nick Duffell in Dorchester, Dorset, Saturday 17 November 2018, 10:00am – 4:00pm. This sell-out event had excellent feedback from 56 participants here.
‘Understanding Privileged Abandonment’: a day with Nick Duffell at the University of Essex, Colchester, Monday 26th November 2018. Including also a research seminar for trainee clinical psychologists.

A Specialist Training over four weekends in London

Having pioneered therapeutic work with ex-boarders since the late 80’s, in 2006 we joined forces with Professor Joy Schaverien to run the first ever specialist training in this subject. Then, to coincide with the launch of our Routledge guide to therapeutic work with ex-boarders, Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege, (read Sue Gerhardt’s review) in 2016 we offered a Diploma Training with CPD option at post-graduate level, ‘The Un-Making of Them‘. In response to popular demand, the fifth intake starts in May 2025 in London.

The ‘Un-Making of Them’ Training is based the theory and methodology outlined in our ‘Toolkit’ section below and has minimum written requirements. It has been designed to meet full accreditation status. Graduates are eligible to join our referral system and (by invitation) the BSS Workshop Facilitation Team. Continuing to the diploma is optional and participants may sit the training simply to update their practice.

NEXT INTAKE  starts 17 May 2025

Trainers: Nick Duffell and Ruth Tudor, assisted by members of the BSS Workshop Team; Academic Consultant: Dr John Andrew Miller.

We are taking applications now; there are limited places and we only run it every few years.

Full details of dates, content, venue and costs are set out in our downloadable Curriculum. Application is via the downloadable application form. Applications must be accompanied by a deposit. Please click on the links just below. NB: on some browsers and devices you may need to right click and opt for ‘save file as’. 

The ‘Un-Making of Them’ Curriculum (PDF file)

NB. Whilst  awaiting confirmation of next intake dates, the curriculum may show previous dates

The ‘Un-Making of Them’ Application Form (Microsoft Word file)

This training will equip you with the ‘Un-Making of Them’ Toolkit

Staffed  by experienced members of our team led by Nick Duffell as Main Trainer and Joy Schaverien as Senior Supervisor, The Un-Making of Them‘ training encompasses the important new understanding in trauma and neuroscience alongside three decades of experience of working with this barely recognised client group.

The practical dimensions of this work will help therapists to:

  • Detect boarding issues underlying present problems
  • Recognise the survival self and types
  • Understand the Strategic Survival Personality
  • Break through the silence, shame and denial
  • Loosen double-binds about privilege and envy
  • Help clients move out of survival into living
  • Ground work in the RAC Model: Recognition, Acceptance Change
  • Understand the institutionalised dimension of hierarchies, bullying and abuse
  • Identify and work with specific transference dynamics
  • Learn to work with traumatic dissociation
  • Learn to work with acute projections of incompetence and vulnerability
  • Understand the ex-boarder’s tactics for intimacy avoidance and how this affects loved ones and partners

Click here to request information about our upcoming training and CPD days or to enrol for ‘The Un-Making of Them’ Diploma Training.

Who is this training for?

Our expanded team now offers specialist CPD and training programmes open to analysts, psychotherapists, counsellors and arts therapists. These courses will interest those who have just one ex-boarder in their practice as well as those who work with many and also to school and university counsellors. It is not necessary to have been a boarder and in some circumstances this may even be an advantage.

The team’s aim with these events is to make the Boarding School Syndrome and the Strategic Survival Personality better understood within the profession and thus broaden the network of colleagues to whom they can make informed referrals.


These come from responses to a feedback form given at the end of the last UnMaking of Them training. They are unedited and quoted with permission. This is a new initiative from us.

Overall, how would you rate your experience of undertaking the training days?

SH, Intake 2023: “Really fantastic – good balance between teaching of theory, using experiential exercises, and thinking through clinical examples; good balance of large and small group work; plenty of space for personal process and feedback in the sessions. Excellent ‘pan-theoretical’ approach to understanding and working with the ex-boarder, from humanistic through to psychodynamic, developmental psychology and body-work. Use of video clips as part of the theoretical material was very helpful. Amazingly well held as a group, shuttling between working with participants’ personal material, clinical thinking and processing, and theory.

Before I came on the course, a colleague asked me ‘why bother, when you can just read the books?’ I feel the experience has completely vindicated my decision to learn with the tutors, in a group setting, in person. It has been an immensely rich learning experience, both in terms of content and also personal process. An ideal example of what ongoing training for therapists should really look like.”

MW, Intake 2023: “I rate my experience of this training highly. On a personal level it has validated my own experience of boarding school and highlighted some areas for further processing and professionally it has given me greater confidence in working with this client group. I really valued training and working together with a group of ex-boarders and non ex-boarders which added immensely to the richness of the experience. I also really appreciated the integration of different theoretical stances – both in terms of understanding the material and the psychological impact, as well as ways of practicing.”

What difference has this training made to you as a clinician working with ex-boarders and generally?

SH, Intake 2023: “Has given me a better understanding of the particular issues involved in working with ex-boarders (e.g. the ‘total institution’ of the boarding school); a helpful clarity re. some of the overlaps with CPTSD and developmental trauma that I am already familiar with (e.g. dissociation); and greater awareness of some of the complexity which I need to think further about (e.g. working with masochistic character traits).”

MW, Intake 2023 “The training has given me greater confidence in working with ex-boarder clients, giving me greater depth of understanding and recognition of what some of the challenges and pitfalls might be, as well as many ideas of how to develop my own way of working with this client group. I also feel more confident in being open to having more ex-boarder clients. There was also much in the material provided, taught and experienced that is useful to my wider client group, particularly those with a history of childhood trauma and sexual abuse. I found the use of the medicine wheel as a way of understanding the developing child’s psyche in connection to CSA very interesting and will seek to integrate this understanding into the way I already work with survivors of sexual abuse. The last weekend looking at masks, dissociation, projective identification and other defensive and survival strategies was also really helpful and will be enormously helpful in working with all my clients.”

What would you like to be different in any future training?

SH, Intake 2023: “Nothing!”

MW, Intake 2023: “Nothing in particular for me. I found it slightly harder to maintain my momentum because of the time between the training sessions, as opposed to weekly training that I did for my counselling diploma – but I think that’s a me thing! It will inevitably take time to assimilate all that I’ve learnt during these weekends but I’m looking at this as an ongoing process.”