How do we make sense of a trusted expert or mentor in our field exhibiting behaviour that completely dissolves the trust and admiration that we felt? There may be no definitive answer. “Experts” often get put on pedestals, but the reality is that they often become experts not because they are the most knowledgeable, have the most integrity or because they are best suited for a particular postion. It is because they have a particular kind of currency and power. Using a recent example, that effects the field of trauma directly, are the allegations against Bessel Van Der Kolk and his subsequent firing from the Trauma Centre in Boston. Van Der Kolk is a white, cis-gendered, man who fits our paradigm of what an expert looks like. Because of this, he is more likely to get grants, to be promoted, to be heard, to be admired, to be put on the pedestal.
When we put all our stock in the research that is funded and the science that is a derivative of that, we miss out. We know that there are other sources of knowledge, wisdom and expertise that may completely dissolve what we think we know. Research doesn’t happen in a vacuum and its aligned with very powerful forces and vested interests. It’s important to remember this when we feel deeply entrenched in our paradigm, our “science”, our experts. It’s important to remember that research might support certain paradigms, but it never proves them. Most of our beliefs are dissolved with time and new theories emerge decade after decade.
There is a deep reservoir of knowledge that we are not in touch with, because there are so many voices that have been silenced.
Let’s listen to the voices that haven’t always been amplified. There is a dismantling and a re-structuring that needs to occur. On both a micro and macro level, the hierarchies that currently guide us only distance us from a more embodied and collaborative wisdom. We invite you to join us in unearthing different ways of knowing, learning, hearing.
The effects of trauma that is passed down through the generations is known as transgenerational trauma or intergenerational trauma. Someone can not only experience trauma, they can also pass the symptoms and behaviours of trauma survival on to their children, who then might further pass these along to their children and so on.
Have you ever taken the time to look back and see what trauma or difficult experiences are in your ancestral history?
Jordan Pickell, Registered Clinical Counsellor in Vancouver, BC, shares a few other ideas about healing that are not always true. These beliefs may have come from pop culture, religion, our parents, even therapist. If you assume that in order to heal, you must do x, y, z, even though that doesn’t quite resonate for you, you might end up feeling triggered, frustrated, and stuck. Here are 5 myths that might be getting in the way of recovering from trauma.
Myth #1: There is only one way to heal from trauma.
Myth #2: You have to tell the trauma story.
Myth #3: If you don’t talk about it, it will go away.
Myth #4: Being triggered means you were wrong about the progress you have made.
Myth #5: You have to forgive the people who hurt you.
“Whenever I’ve been told, as a survivor of trauma, that I’m in a safe place, my body tenses and my palms get sweaty. My entire visceral being longs to cry out, “Please don’t tell me what I should or shouldn’t be feeling.”
A client of mine recently resonated with this experience only her wounding around the word safe carried even graver implications. Her abuser often assured her that she was “safe” in his care. No doubt that for people such as my client, the word itself poses the problem.
Let me be clear—working with the concept of safety as teachers or as human services providers is critical. Yes, people are more likely to thrive when they experience a general sense of safety and empowerment. Yet telling people what they should/shouldn’t be experiencing is incredibly disempowering. As helpers, we can set the intention for ourselves to make our class, our therapy office, or our sacred spaces as safe as possible. We can do this by using inclusive language, avoiding statements that could be triggers for a good portion of people, offering modifications in the spirit of flexibility, and using the language of invitation instead of the language of command (see inset). However, it’s up to the individual to evaluate their own experience of safety in that space.”
.Let’s talk intake forms! What are some things to consider when creating a trauma aware intake form?
Practitioners often want to gather as much information as possible on their intake forms so that they can establish a treatment plan and figure out what may be going on for a client/patient.
One of the issues with intake forms is that they don’t always feel like an invitation and some of the questions can bring up a lot of emotions and bodily sensations without the safety of someone to process them with.
Some of these questions can feel like too much, too soon, without established trust and safety in the relationship with a new practitioner. Yet, because of the hierarchies that do exist in our society, clients/patients often feel like they have to answer questions even when they don’t feel ready to.
It can be useful to start every intake form with a disclaimer that not all questions need to be answered, that clients/patients can take their time with the intake and bring it home if they need to, and even explaining the reason you are asking for this info can be helpful and clarifying.
Sometimes there is certain information that you need right away, but much of it can wait until the client feels ready to disclose it to you organically. On the other hand, it’s also nice to let clients know that you are aware of how past trauma may effect their experience of treatment. For a survivor, realizing that a practitioner is aware of the challenges the may be dealing with, without even having to disclose, can be very powerful.
It can also be a fun and interesting exercise to fill out your own intake form and see what comes up! Does it feel too long, too invasive, uninviting or just right.
Has anyone tried this?
These are simple strategies that can start you and your patient/client off on the right foot and put both of you in physical and mental states that are more receptive to healing and change
Yes, it doesn’t sound very exciting, but predictability and transparency are key to feeling safe.
The brain doesn’t like to have to guess what’s coming next, and if it has to, it can get pretty creative. By letting your client/patient know exactly what their procedure/treatment will involve before you begin, you are helping to orient both their mind and body to what is happening.
Once you begin it can be very useful to let them know exactly what you are doing, what will happen next and why you are doing it.
You can let them know that they can ask you to stop, slow down, make requests or ask any questions at any time.
For trauma survivors any time someone is doing something “to” them, it can feel frightening and triggering, possibly causing a fight, flight or freeze response in the nervous system.
It can feel hard for a trauma survivor to say “stop, this isnt working for me”. Having an invitation to say what isn’t working can be liberating and soothing. Creating a collaborative process allows the person to feel empowered and in control. This is key because feelings of powerlessness or helplessness are reminiscent of trauma.
Make it your motto “no surprises for trauma survivors”
Here are four important elements of practice that can begin to support creating a trauma-informed practice for your clients:
1. Practitioner Presence
2. The Art of Consent
3. The Story Under Tension Patterns
4. Scope of Practice and Collaboration with Trauma Trained Practitioners.”
Being trauma informed means that you are educated about the nature of trauma and its multitude of effects on a person’s life.
It means tailoring your services so that you take the client’s reality into account and place a priority on their sense of safety and well-being.
Whether you are a naturopath, doula, midwife, massage therapist, acupuncturist, doctor or other care provider, there is a high likelihood that many of your patients or clients have experienced some type of trauma at some point in their lives. For those with a history of trauma, accessing certain services can feel frightening and can prove to be a difficult and disappointing experience.
As a care provider, becoming trauma informed is a gateway to better client relationships and being able to offer more compassionate care.
We are on a mission to demystify trauma! And we are doing it by supporting healthcare practitioners who want to offer their clients/patients more compassionate, effective and trauma aware care. Join us and be part of the revolution that takes health care to a new level where health care providers are trauma & neuroscience informed! ✨
Trauma is a word that we hear a lot but it can be hard to know exactly what that means. We are here to demystify it !
Trauma occurs when an individual feels emotionally and/or physically powerless, overwhelmed, unable to cope and cannot integrate the emergent feelings and sensations.
This may be a single incident or it may be a long term environment that continually erodes a person's sense of safety and agency.
What is traumatic for one person may not be for another. It is a person's subjective understanding and experience of a situation that is critical.