How to end a sea of troubles without taking arms against them


Rosie-May McClay with some of her illustrations
Rosie-May McClay with some of her illustrations
Dr Peter Jakob
Dr Peter Jakob
From left, Liz Day, Dr Marcus Averbeck, Elisabeth Heismann
From left, Liz Day, Dr Marcus Averbeck, Elisabeth Heismann

An innovative way of addressing violent, destructive and harmful behaviours in children and adolescents was showcased in the launch of three different projects in the Gallery at the Woolwich Centre on 21 June.

Dr Marcus Averbeck, Head of Family Therapy, introduced the Non Violent Resistance (NVR) afternoon. Elisabeth Hiesmann, Senior Family Therapist in Greenwich and Liz Day, Principal Family Therapist in Bexley, launched the new NVR DVD, a new booklet of testimonies by parents, children and supporters and a new programme designed for parents whose children are in or affected by gangs. The keynote speech was given by Dr Peter Jakob, Director, Partnership Projects UK Ltd, a consultant clinical psychologist who has been instrumental in the introduction of NVR in the UK.

NVR seeks to change destructive behaviours by empowering the relevant adults in a child's life, focusing on unmet needs in the child, helping them to develop more secure attachments and feel valued in their key relationships. It is especially valuable where the young person refuses to engage directly in therapy. NVR is a development of the political non-violent resistance approach which was pioneered by Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks who all campaigned for racial equality.

The DVD, which was screened at the event, includes film of the first international NVR conference held in Greenwich in 2011, parents interviewing one another about their experiences of NVR, interviews with Liz Day and Elisabeth Heismann and presentations from Haim Omer, Associate Professor of Psychology at Tel Aviv University, who originated and developed the use of NVR with families. It is an Oxleas project in collaboration with Partnership Projects UK Ltd.

The booklet of parent testimonies, entitled: NVR - Rebuilding family relationships, was put together by a team of 'graduate' parents who have all benefited from NVR. Launching the booklet, the parents explained that it is a compilation of real life stories of people who have experienced family difficulties but who have been able to rebuild family relationships and home lives through NVR. The illustrations in the booklet are by 15 year old Rosie-May McClay and are drawn from her own experiences.

The NVR violence in the community project was introduced by Elisabeth Heismann who explained how the NVR model was extended to work with families in Greenwich whose children are involved  in or affected by gangs. The team helped them to spot signs of gang involvement like gang symbols or names and the possession of large sums of money or expensive objects. Parents were encouraged to put NVR tools into practice and increase their presence in the home by, for example, de-escalating conflicts, searching bedrooms for drugs and making regular announcements to their child around their role as a parent. In a series of very moving personal testimonies participating parents shared their experiences of how NVR had made a difference for them.

In his speech, Peter Jakob defined NVR as 'the active pursuit of peace' and said that if we don't oppose the tendency to be aggressive in ourselves and others we accept violence. He said that the great achievements of NVR are reconciliation and the rebuilding of connections and interactions between people which promote community.

Published on 28th June 2013