What’s the toughest thing you’ve been through? How did you get through it? Did someone walk you through or did you manage to figure it out on your own? Or was it a mix between the two? How intense was it? How did you cope?
I find myself asking clients the above questions on a consistent basis. Being a trauma-informed counselor working in a nonprofit mental health setting with a focus on substance abuse has provided insight toward helping me understand how to connect with clients, the services they need, and the help they’ve been longing for. Simply honoring the act of asking for help can begin lifelong change for a client with a history of struggles, obstacles, and barriers.
Quite often enough, trauma survivors can be re-traumatized by well-meaning caregivers and community service providers. Moreover, with the mention of intergenerational transmission of trauma, I find myself intrigued with regard to the layers of defenses a person develops throughout their life toward systemic agencies and programs designed to support families in times of need. Lack of safety, fear of rejection and shame are common responses to the question of what took so long to ask for help. Establishing safety can be challenging with the respect that the definition of the word can vary between each client. For some, safety may even be a constant state of being involved in traumatizing social or familial environments. For others, it could mean having a bed to sleep in with a ceiling above with the lights on. Rejection could mean just being told no or worrying about not being a good enough parent. In essence, trauma is loss and how it pertains to anything that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope.
Perception is at the center of all conflict, so my hope is that this post comes across as planting a seed toward how we approach potential clients within each of our respective programs. Please take the time to consider including a Trauma-Informed approach toward interventions and treatment within your nonprofit organization. For more information on how to develop and incorporate trauma-informed interventions, please visit the following website for more information. http://www.samhsa.gov/nctic/about
Christian Ricaurte, MA
Lead Senior Adult Counselor, Aspire Health Partners, Inc.