Psychotherapist Chris Walker’s award-winning program Chatterbox, run in partnership with Kingborough/Huon Salvos, gets girls talking—developing resilience, confidence and life skills.
What inspired you to develop Chatterbox?
I initially designed Chatterbox for girls living with a parent or primary caregiver experiencing mental illness. The school inviting the girls to take part in Chatterbox then asked us to include girls in situations of generational welfare, family sexual abuse and domestic violence. That’s not to say all who attend live in families where these issues exist. Some join because of social anxiety, reluctance to engage in school or simply because they want to be part of Chatterbox.
What’s your link with The Salvation Army?
I began working with the Kingborough/Huon Corps (church) four years ago as a volunteer counsellor. Majors Linda and Steve Miller, Sarah Davidson and Justin Cooper have encouraged me and offered guidance as Chatterbox has grown, and Linda and Janet Storan co-facilitate with me.
Describe a typical Chatterbox session for us.
We share afternoon tea and have a round-the-table catch-up. We usually engage in activities to help our girls manage stress and challenging emotions, such as anger, anxiety, depression and restlessness.
We do activities around boundaries in relationships and work through internal body signals that tell us when something doesn’t feel right and how to remove ourselves from such situations. We discuss how we can dream big to make our world a better place and reinforce how we are all beautiful on the inside and how that impacts our life and how we are with others.
What’s most important during your two hours with the girls?
Circle Time is a sacred space when the girls share what’s important to them. We talk about experiences, self-perception, health, values, communication, family relationships and issues, school issues, drugs and alcohol, grief and loss, changing distorted thinking, managing anger, problem-solving and relaxation.
What results do you see?
Chatterbox helps build self-esteem and resilience as well as skills and techniques to help the girls achieve their goals. It helps build academic skills beyond the classroom as well as social confidence and consciousness. Most importantly, it equips them with the skills to productively face life’s challenges.
Why do you volunteer your time for this program?
I believe young people need a safe space where they have permission to engage in ‘no off-limits’ conversations. I volunteer my time so each girl has the opportunity to have an advocate to help them speak up and, where necessary, speak on their behalf. To witness a girl who experienced significant trauma sit in silence in Circle Time for 14 months, then talk to the group about her traumatic background is a constant reminder about why I volunteer my time. For me, this shows the power of groups and is a reminder that Chatterbox is worth every minute I put into it.