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 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 disown problems in intimate relationships and family life. They may retreat into workaholism, unaware of the suffering that this masks.

The 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 a full 4-weekend training programme, as well as CPD days and specialist supervision.

Introductory CPD days

Now booking:

‘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. Please contact Domini Barry for details.

‘Trauma and Privilege, Abandonment and Boarding School Syndrome’: a day with Nick Duffell in Newbury, Berkshire, Saturday 12 October 2019, on the clinical challenges of working with ex-boarders. Flyer and full details here.

Recent events:

‘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 which you may inquire about 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.

Please email us if you are interested in arranging a CPD day in your area or for your organisation.


Please email us if you are interested in arranging this.

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, (Click here for Sue Gerhardt’s review) we offered a new Diploma Training with CPD option at post-graduate level, ‘The Un-Making of Them‘ in 2016.  In response to popular demand, we offered this training again in 2017-18 .

Due to our new Menswork Facilitation Training in 2019, the next intake will start early 2020 in London. We are taking applications now, and there are limited places. Graduates are eligible to join our referral system and the Facilitation Team (by invitation). Please email us for current dates.

NB. Continuing to the diploma is optional: you may sit the training simply to update your practice. For those who cannot make all dates or commit to the full diploma training, single certificated CPD weekend units (14 hours) may be applied for – please read the Curriculum and then please email us if you are interested in this option.

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. Full details of dates, content, venue and costs are set out in our downloadable Curriculum, and application is via the downloadable application form. Please click on the links just below:

The ‘Un-Making of Them’ Curriculum PDF file

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

Please note: on some browsers and devices you may need to right click and opt for ‘save file as’.

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 Supervivor, 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. It is not necessary to have been a boarder, and in some circumstances this may even be an advantage.

These courses will interest those who have just one ex-boarder in their practice, as well as those who work with many, as well as counsellors of current boarders. We recommend that the whole series is attended, but each day may been taken separately.

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.