Why am I drawn to working with folks who have survived trauma? Why do I choose to spend my time hearing narratives of intense trauma? It's a question I have asked myself.
Part of the answer has to do with the way trauma recovery is basic to the work we do in therapy. Part of it has to do with the populations I've had the honor of serving-- communities living under the trauma of poverty and oppression; Black and Brown folks, LGBTQ folks, and gender nonconforming poeple all have experienced institutional trauma and the pain of microaggressions. Trauma, whether "big T" or "little t" trauma, whether physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, whether in childhood or in adulthood, is an experience that can affect these different groups in different ways. And yet, the paths to healing can look similar.
And, on a personal note, I've experienced my own big T and little t traumas, and have also experienced the magic and satisfaction of healing from them.
Here's what I've learned from my clients about what helps when a person is recovering:
-Telling your story, at your own pace, in your own way. This can be through writing, art, or with a therapist or therapy group.
-Finding a narrative of strength, hope or healing in your trauma story. You may have been
-Reprocessing trauma-- I use the Lifespan Integration Method to do this. This is a gentle method that helps your body and psyche learn what your mind already knows: the past is over and you survived. You may also consider EMDR or Cognitive Processing Therapy.
-Creative outlets-- visual art, writing, singing, movement can all bring you home to yourself and help you express parts of yourself or your story that are beyond words. I recommend the book Writing Ourselves Whole as a good place to start for inspiration.
-Connection to something bigger than yourself: whether this is God, community, your "12th step" so to speak or:
-Helping others-- supporting people who have been through similar traumas, or
-A good therapist with whom you can form a trusting relationship with healthy boundaries. Sometimes just the act of forming this relationship is healing. I like to say, you must heal yourself. You will take the steps and do the work of healing. And it can be comforting, supportive, helpful and enlightening to enlist the help of a guide. That is truly how I think of my work with trauma survivors: one of walking beside my clients, as they lead the way.
-Tell me, dear readers. How do you heal?
What I've learned is that healing does not mean a return to life as it was before your trauma. No, that is not possible. Neither is erasure of the traumatic event. But you can re-write your story into one of pain and survival, tragedy and hope. You can recognize and draw on your resilience. You can use your pain to become strength. I am drawn to this process of re-writing, of re-imagining life and creating something stronger, together, in the wake of loss and violence.
Need support walking this path of healing the past? Want to elicit options into a rich future? Drop me a line.