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Boarding School Syndrome: The Psychological Trauma(s) of ‘Privileged’ Children

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In her book, Boarding School Syndrome: The Psychological Trauma of the “Privileged” Child, Joy Schaverien identified a cluster of symptoms and behaviours, which she classified as ‘Boarding School Syndrome’.The premise is that children sent to boarding school at an early age suffer the sudden and irrevocable loss of their primary attachments, leading to a significant trauma. Multiple contributing factors may add to this trauma – sudden exposure to life in apparent captivity, abrupt severance of familial relationships and transition through adolescence in unfamiliar settings. Moreover, the children may also be unsafe because, in some schools, they might be at the mercy of bullies and sexual predators.

To adapt to the system, a defensive and protective encapsulation of the self may be acquired; the true identity of the person then remains hidden. This pattern may continue into adult life, distorting intimate relationships. Also, in psychotherapy, we notice that the transference dynamics may replay the hidden childhood trauma of repeated losses.

The aim of this practical and intellectually stimulating seminar is to consider how, as therapists, we can work with the explicit and implicit manifestations of this Boarding School Syndrome. Our discussions will be based on Dr Schaverien’s book and we will focus on the ways in which this syndrome may present in psychotherapy.

Specifically, we will consider:


  • Anatomy of the trauma identified as the ABC-D (Abandonment, Bereavement, Captivity and Dissociation) of the Boarding School Syndrome
  • The specific trauma associated with broken attachments caused by this particular form of early separation
  • The conflict between the apparent privilege and the reality of emotional losses
  • The nature of sexual abuse encountered by some children will be considered. This includes peer on peer experiments, adult perpetrators and physical harm endured by some individuals. The discussion will include the lasting impact of this on the adults we meet in the consulting room.
Location London
Category Talking Therapies
Details of Event
Start date 12 Jun 2020
Start time 10:00am
Venue Address Broadway House, Tothill Street, London SW1H 9NQ
Amount £135
Organiser Nscience
Speaker Joy Schaverien
CPD hours 5
Contact No. 020 7096 1722
Keywords Counselling, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Therapy
Regions Greater London


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