'Glowing in the dark' - how a father and son found connection through therapeutic caving

Marg Jans, Kate Neocleous

Session type: Regular forum session

Key words: Collaboration, dosing, reflective feedback, therapeutic outdoor intervention, phased approach, caving, therapeutic framework, relational, developmental trauma, Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT), bottom up approach, magic moments, glow worms, reg


In this presentation we will explore what informs our planning for an outdoor intervention that has therapeutic intent and potential for long term positive outcomes. Working from a bottom up approach to brain regulation and the impacts of developmental trauma, helps to understand how the brain is affected and how to guide the intervention to support healing opportunities.A shared vision between two of Berry Street’s services, Take Two and the Wilderness Program align. We share a commonality through our understanding of developmental trauma and how it can influence an individual’s growth and development.
A case study will demonstrate how the program alliance integrates assessment, planning and facilitation of an intervention. We’ll bring the story of a boy with a developmental trauma history and disrupted attachment experiences and his father who are working towards building trust and strengthening their relationship.
Take Two is an intensive therapeutic service for infants, children and young people who have suffered trauma, neglect and disrupted attachment. It provides high quality therapeutic services for families, as well as contributing to the service system that provides care, support and protection for these children.
The Berry Street Wilderness Program aims to provide vulnerable young people with outdoor adventures informed by therapeutic frameworks. Through tailored activities and a phased approach, we assist young people to develop new skills, strategies and relationships while facing the challenges of their adventures. They are then supported to draw on these experiences to bring about positive change in their everyday lives, with assistance from their regular support workers.
We aim to increase the parental capacity to provide attuned, predictable care and create opportunities to practice helpful ways of regulation within their window of tolerance. The benefits of this intervention are amplified through a caving activity in Gippsland, Victoria and supported through the use of a therapeutic reflective space.

About the presenter/s

Kate Neocleous
Kate has worked as a Senior Clinician with the Berry Street Take Two Stronger Families program for 6 years working with children who are at risk of being removed from their family or who have been recently reunified with their family. Kate’s background includes social welfare, family therapy and EMDR therapy. Kate has a passion for working with children and their families to strengthen relationships and promote healing from past hurts. Kate’s approach to therapeutic work utilises a trauma informed, and attachment based framework and has recently incorporated the use of the Berry Street Wilderness program as an adjunct therapeutic approach.

Marg Jans
Marg has 15 years of work experience was working with individuals with a disability in both the behavioural and forensic teams before moving to the Berry Street Take Two team 4 years ago. Marg works as a clinician in the Regional Take Two team over the past 4 years. Marg has an educational background of forensic disability, counselling and expressive therapies. Marg’s current role with Take Two involves working with children and young people referred by Department of Health and Humans Services, Child Protection on Statutory order and live in out of home care. Marg has a strong interest in working with young people, with the intention of helping them make sense of their experiences and build their internal resources to achieve safety and stability in their lives.