Posted by Eda Spielman
For many years, I have had the fantasy of spending some time in another part of the world. I have wanted not to simply travel but to have some reason to be there or connection with the local culture and people. Last spring I decided to create a mini-sabbatical for myself to see if I could make something like this happen. Thank goodness for the support of colleagues, family, and friends and for the internet for its wealth of resources. I followed many leads and dreamed many possible scenarios and found my way to Salus World, a small mental health NGO based in Denver. Their mission: "healing hidden wounds; promoting social justice; alleviating human suffering." Just a modest goal…but certainly caught my eye. They send volunteer mental health consultants to train local providers in developing psycho-social understanding and skills. I was particularly drawn to their focus on sustainability in using consultants to build local capacity rather than provide direct service.
Fast forward six months and I am moving far out of my comfort zone and heading off for two months to work for SalusWorld (and travel) in Burma and northern Thailand. Salus has developed this Southeast Asia project for three years now but had not brought any expertise in early childhood mental health so were interested in what I had to offer from my years of working with new parents, young children, and families here at the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support. I will be working in Rangoon, Burma (or Yangon, Myanmar as it is known there) for three weeks, and then later for a week in a refugee village in Thailand, providing training and fostering dialogue with health, education, and community providers. It's been a terrific opportunity for me to think about what ideas and concepts are central to the work we do. I've developed some frameworks for presenting material on early relational development, attachment, and trauma but I think the core of the experience will be in building relationships with the participants and sharing ideas across cultures. I'm excited and daunted by the opportunity and look forward to all the new experiences of learning and teaching and finding bridges of shared understanding.
Eda Spielman, PsyD is the clinical director of the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support. She holds a certificate in Infant Mental Health and came to JF&CS to develop Early Connections, a program of home-based mother-baby psychotherapy for dyads facing early relationship challenges.