Trauma & Resilience Training – A narrative by Jim Holland

Trauma & ResilienceJim Holland, a third year MFT intern, recently completed SCCC’s Trauma & Resiliency Training program.  Jim describes the pervasive impact the course has had on his practice below:

Making connections

Not long ago I was catching up with Owen, an old friend from New York, and the conversation turned to substance abuse.  Owen, an LMFT who specializes in addiction, was sounding over-worked from the current opioid epidemic inundating the United States.

I, on the other hand, was enjoying the afternoon air, taking a stroll around the block during a break from one of Dr. Kim Cookson’s Wednesday afternoon Trauma Training sessions at SCCC.  Owen enquired about what we were learning in the training, and noted how incredibly helpful it would be in my future work as a therapist.  Then he paused and said something that really stuck with me. “My hunch is that almost every substance abuse client I work with has some massive trauma lurking behind their addiction, and I never have the time or resources to even start to address it.”

Afraid of working with trauma?

While Owen may be constrained by his volume of clients, I remembered that a year ago ‘not even starting to address trauma’ had also been my preferred approach.  It wasn’t that I was scared of trauma per se.   I’d read Peter Levine’s Waking the Tiger, devoured some mindfulness books, and had experience with hypnosis.  But my working maxim had always been ‘don’t re-traumatize the client’.

Looking back on the year’s training, I understand that the EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and TRM (Trauma Resiliency Model) models gave me resources, skills, and confidence in working with clients with trauma.   But really, my whole perspective on trauma had shifted to the extent my clients now seemed to be finding it easier to talk about some of the most difficult aspects of their life experience.

In a recent example, a client started talking about a highly traumatic childhood incident she’d never shared with anyone.  Utilizing two methods I learned in the course – self-tapping (an EMDR technique) and TRM – she was able to re-process her experience in a way that felt contained and safe.

Similarly, in working with a Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) empowerment group in Watts, the talk is often highly emotionally charged.  As a facilitator using elements of the trauma models that focus on re-processing traumatic experience, it seems to be helping to develop relationships and trust amongst members of the group.

Pervasive change

Both of these are examples that wouldn’t have happened prior to taking the training, even though consciously I wasn’t trying to do anything differently.  The training helped me see beyond the clients’ behaviors, to be more sensitive and accepting of clients in the moment, and to see what may be sub-consciously causing them to present in the way that they do.

If, like Owen, you’ve ever had the suspicion of client trauma lurking in the background, I wholeheartedly recommend exploring some of the techniques described earlier in this post.  As a clinician, it could change how you approach the effects of trauma in your clients’ lives.

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