The Secret History Method Film

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The Secret History Method Film

The  ‘Secret History’ training method film (18 mins) was recently developed by the Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) for inclusion in a national South African obstetric care training initiative Essential Steps in the Management of Obstetric Emergencies (ESMOE) which is part of the national Department of Health (DoH) training programme. The method draws on Brazilian activists, Paulo Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’, and Augusto Boal’s ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ methods to address obstetric violence and impart empathic skills in care providers who themselves are very distressed.

How the secret history training method works

This training method is a response to the realisation that public service staff engaging with mothers have the opportunity to add to or alleviate levels of distress experienced by vulnerable women. It trains maternity staff for mental health promotion. This training comes with a facilitator's guide, and is done in respectful care in the health and social environment. The public is welcome to use and adapt the training method in their specific settings as there is a range of different scenarios for different care worker types, in different settings and scenarios (mostly South African). After using the facilitator's guide, the PMHP welcomes any feedback users and trainers might have; where and how they have used the method, any adaptations they have developed, any suggestions and their general experience using the method.

Aim and objectives

The aim of the training is to improve empathic engagement skills of health workers working with mothers vulnerable to psychological distress. The participants can use this guide to:

  1. To develop an empathic understanding of mothers’ emotional experiences and needs
  2. To develop an ability to reflect and manage their own emotional experiences and needs in the work environment
  3. To develop skills for empathic engagement with mothers experiencing psychological distress


         “This group role play interaction allows participants to develop an understanding of the other person. This taking-another-person’s perspective is an important part of developing empathy, which is essential for respectful engagement,”

- Dr Simone Honikman, CPMH Director

Accessing the secret history training method

The film is available on the PMHP website as well as on Youtube as PMHP Secret History Training of which people are encouraged to use it and distribute for free. The facilitator's guide is available on request via email from the PMHP.

Notes for facilitators in using the Secret History method training

Managers and facilitators are encouraged to contact the PMHP via email if they would like to receive  the facilitator’s guide. The guide has some instructions on how to adapt and use the method. However, they are requested to acknowledge and reference the PMHP as the owner of the original design of the training method. More courses and  modules offered by the PMHP are accessible on this link which are experiential training methods focusing on active learning, learning-by-doing and reflection.