Acts of Resistance, Acts of Reclaiming by Loretta Pederson

Loretta Pederson works with families in Western Sydney at a non-government organisation. She also works in private practice and is a member of the Dulwich Centre teaching faculty. In this video Loretta speaks about working with women who have been subjected to sexual and physical abuse, using Michael White’s ideas of noticing responses to trauma. She recently gave a longer version of this presentation through Caspersen Therapy and Training Center.



References and further reading:

Beaudoin, M and Zimmerman, J. (2011). Narrative Therapy and Interpersonal Neurobiology: Revisiting Classic Practices, Developing New Emphases. Journal of Systemic Therapies, Vol 30, No 1.

Hung Suet-Lin, S. and Denborough, D. (2013). Unearthing new concepts of justice: Women sexual violence survivors seeking healing and justice. The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, No.3, 18-26. Adelaide, SA: Dulwich Centre Publications.

Reynolds, V. (2011). Resisting burnout with justice doing. The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, No. 4. Adelaide, SA: Dulwich Centre Publications.

White, M. (1992). Deconstruction and Therapy. In Epston, D and White, M. Experience, contradiction, narrative and imagination: Selected papers of David Epston and Michael White, 1989-1991. Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications. (Reprinted from Dulwich Centre Newsletter, 1991, No.3).

White, M. (1995). Naming Abuse and Breaking from its Effects. In Re-authoring Lives: Interviews and Essays. Adelaide, SA: Dulwich Centre Publications.

White, M. (2000). Re-engaging with history: The absent but implicit. In M. White: Reflections on Narrative Practice: Essays & Interviews. (Chapter 3), pp.35-58. Adelaide, SA: Dulwich Centre Publications.

White, M. (2004a). Working with people who are suffering the consequences of multiple trauma: A narrative perspective. The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, No. 1. Adelaide, SA: Dulwich Centre Publications.

White, M. (2007). Maps of Narrative Practice. New York, NY: W. W. Norton and Co.

Yuen, A. (2007) Discovering children’s responses to trauma: a response based narrative practice. International Journal of Narrative therapy and Community Work, No. 4. Adelaide, SA: Dulwich Centre Publications.

Published May 22, 2015

This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. Cat

    Thank you for your video. The resistance you talk about is something I experienced through early adulthood. Using the gym for hours every day and my obsession with exercise and diet was a way of me controlling my environment. I did not realise at the time what was happening but learnt through therapy it was my way of dealing with my childhood trauma. I now work in child protection and get to help other woman and children who are going through traumatic experiences such as mine. I allow myself to feel what these families are feeling and work with compassion and respect. I like how you mention how sustaining you are and what you do in your everyday practice to sustain. I am learning to work this way and not let my feelings of sadness overwhelm me so I can going on advocating and being a voice for families and children for years to come.

  2. RobynGrubb

    Thanks Loretta. I love the honesty you bring to this conversation especially around the feelings you have in hearing stories of abuse and the way survivors are responded to. I too find that when these feelings surface for me when I’m hearing children’s stories it is a call to action to continue to challenge the political and social that allows violence against women and children to remain hidden. Keep up the good fight.

  3. Martin Pugh

    Given that I am working in a Centre Against Sexual Abuse this was a very informative video and I know I will be able to utilize some of these practices in my work with women who have experienced sexual abuse, developed a mental illness because of the abuse and now have the further stigma of mental illness and/or addiction. I will be able to work with women on preferred identities and in this look at ways that they are re claiming their lives from abuse. Acknowledging that I am a male I will be rigorous in the way I approach my work as I no doubt will have my own biaises.

  4. Geoff

    Hi Loretta,

    Your presentation was inspiring.

    I’m still a student in mental health and I find your work a great antidote to the predominant “diagnose and treat” model which, while often well intentioned, to my mind, inevitably leads to “victim blaming and shaming”, rather than to its social, cultural and political roots.


    1. Loretta Pederson

      Hi Geoff,
      Thanks for your comment. I appreciate knowing this work might be part of the antidote to a system which can often lead to victim blaming and shaming. I agree that much of the work in mainstream services is done by people with good intentions. My passion is around making visible the social, cultural and political influences on the life of problems, so I’m really pleased this stood out to you. All the best with your study. I hope these ideas support you when you work with people like Sarah, who are up against such strong forces.

  5. Deo le Roux

    Excuse me while I take a moment to applaud this video without restraint! (I know, I know. You’ve gotta be careful with applause.)

    Isn’t it a thing of beauty when violence is met with an informed but non-violent response? Yes indeed!

    1. Loretta Pederson

      Thanks so much for your encouragement. Sarah and other women I’ve met with similar responses to violence inspire me.

  6. Elen Morell

    Hi Loretta!
    It was wonderful to hear how Sarah’s life is improving step by step as a result of your work with her. Thank you for sharing it and opening your heart.

  7. Carolynanha Johnson

    Thanks Loretta for your video. It was useful to sit and watch and absorb all the work you were doing with Sarah in relation to reclaiming her life. Even though I dont work in DV area, the concepts you use throughout your involvement with Sarah can be transferred to other areas of my work and personal life, ie standing against injustices towards Aboriginal people, helping people making a stand in their lives, creating space for conversation and how documentation and language are very important. Thanks again, another inspiring Friday afternoon video.

  8. Troy Holland

    Hi Loretta,
    Thanks so much for sharing some of your work – it inspired for me a sense of sustenance to continue (and to get better at) supporting women I see to connect with alternative forms of justice and to deconstruct the messages they receive. It has me thinking of a woman I saw just last week who is being encouraged to go through a DVO process again but is resisting this because she feels the process is actually sustaining of the perpetrator’s connection to her life. After viewing your presentation I am thinking about how she might describe her own reclaiming of life and her own sense of justice by denying him any contact with her life at all, even through court proceedings. She also feels the effects of stereotyping related to domestic violence and culture and I hope we might be able to deconstruct these ideas further.
    Thanks again Loretta.
    Warm wishes

  9. Brie

    Hi, Loretta,

    Thank you for sharing this account of Sarah’s therapeutic journey, and thank you for the narrative focus and information. I am new to Narrative Therapy and am thrilled at what I am finding. This work is so affirming and supportive and compassionate.

    Kind regards,
    Brie-Ana Laboucane

  10. Loretta

    Hi Yael, I’m so excited that you have found a secret passage! I think Anorexia and Bulimia find so many ways to trick people into thinking that the person is in control, when really Anorexia/Bulimia is in control. It is great when we can be allies with people in finding creative or tricky ways to outsmart it. For one person I know, thinking about the role of patriarchy in the demands for thinness and ‘beauty’ was very helpful once she had explored the link between patriarchy and abuse, and misogynistic language. She has done some writing, so perhaps she could find a short piece on that. I don’t have a document ready, but perhaps we could start one. I do have one on leaving situations of drug use and violence. Back then I had not thought about the ideas of reclaiming,although all of those women had experienced sexual assault or domestic violence and were moving their lives away from the effects of this.That was the first thing that got me wondering about all of this…

  11. yael wijler

    Hi Loretta, thank you again for the vidio. There were few things which cought me, but especially it was your question about Bulimia. I love the idea of resisting Bulimia as part of reclaiming life from affcts of abuse and as act of justice. when working with women who feel that their only way to control their life is Anorexia, I feel traped between abuse and the acts of self harm, and your question like sugested a”secret passage” for me. Do you have written documents that women were ready to share with other women? about reclaiming their lives from affects of abuse?

  12. diane clough

    Thank you this all makes so much sence – I see women as you have described often (I work in a homeless service) and often despair at the place that women have found themselves – there is hope for them and hope that I can help them too.

    1. Loretta

      Hi Diane, Thanks so much for responding. I really appreciate that these ideas make sense to you – thinking about the context of women’s lives helps me make sense of how they have arrived at such a place as homelessness or further relationships of violence. Abuse and systemic injustice have such an impact. I’m glad that you have hope about the future for the women you meet with, and for your work together. Despite the intentions that abuse has for people’s lives, reclaiming a strong and positive sense of identity is possible!

  13. Elaine

    Hi Loretta
    Thank you for posting this video. I am a bachelor degree student studying Narrative Therapy at a New Zealand tertiary institution and I have a strong sense of justice. I’ve been struggling to find ways to bring this into the counselling room without over-shadowing my client’s stories. Your video has given me ways to do this.
    Thank you

    1. Loretta

      Hi Elaine, I’m so pleased that this video has given you some ideas of ways to hold both of these values – a sense of justice, and wanting to centre your clients’ stories. I love that we have a shared passion for justice. It is great to know you are out there, just across the ocean. All the best with your studies!

  14. Loretta

    Hi Nell,

    Thanks for responding. I too am interested in how these ideas may be utilised when conducting research. I gave it a bit of thought last year, and wondered whether small group interviews highlighting acts of resistance and reclaiming might help reduce a sense of isolation and shame, and celebrate ways people are more than just surviving. I also had some thoughts about in-session questions to assess the effectiveness of this type of counselling. I’d be interested to hear where you get to with your research ideas.

  15. Nell

    Thank you for taking the time to share these ideas. It has given me so much to think about. I am particularly interested in how these narrative therapy principles of externalising and finding those moments of resistance and reclaiming , can be applied when conducting research that involves people who have experienced sexual abuse or assault. Especially in regards to methods of interviewing and the way that we analyse and discuss those experiences.

    Many thanks

    1. Dulwich

      Hi Nell,

      While the context is very different, you may be interested in this article:

      Marlowe, J. (2010). Using a narrative approach of double-listening in research contexts. The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, (3), 41-51.

      Jay’s work relates to the experience of refugees but the ideas in relation to research might be relevant.

      David Denborough

  16. Stephanie

    Thank you for this video. I work as a child protection officer and so many of my clients have a history of childhood sexual abuse, and then have gone on to all of those behaviours you mentioned. I feel passionately about safety for children and often feel powerless in a statutory role that blocks our ability to work effectively with these mothers.

    I stay because I can be an agent of change not only with my families but also my colleagues when I hear pathologising language and those patriarchal attitudes of mother blaming and labeling. I prefer to call personality disorders “complex trauma”(Because that’s what it is”).

    I am going to play your video at work to increase the awareness in our office of some of the issues you raise.

    My hearts desire is to have mothers’ experience with child protection made somehow a little easier because I as their case worker had empathy and compassion for them and they felt supported rather than judged.

    1. Loretta

      Hi Stephanie,

      Thanks so much for your comments. I love that you are being an agent of change with the families you meet through your work, and also with your colleagues. Thanks for playing my video to your team. I hope they too find something that resonates with their hopes for the work. Perhaps you will find that others also share some of your values and ethics, and hopefully it will raise an opportunity to keep these conversations alive.

      I think it would make a big difference to a parent in the child protection system to have someone like you, who has empathy and compassion, and sees beyond the labels.

Leave a Reply