Building trauma related skills while incorporating how we can each balance our lives and the social work we do comes from a wide array of opportunities available to us to build our skills in working in trauma, how we support ourselves and each other doing this challenging work. I am striving to be better prepared now to continue learning how to assess trauma, how to encourage the steps of healing and how to provide ongoing after/care supports through a number of resources currently available or I can advocate to have created in the future.
Discovering my own experiences and journeys of trauma throughout my life, using the lessons trauma-informed practice can provide, has made the journey personal for me. I like that in addressing my own trauma related experiences I have from my past allows me to create stronger helping hands rather than being aloof or emotionally detached from myself. This allows me to experience the best outcomes in working as a social worker when I am able to experience or empathize with my clients. It’s more genuine, honest and real, to share our ‘human understandings’ with others to encourage, model or support others to try challenging their areas of concern, it builds less isolation and encourages the development of a social safety network to assist all of us build our lives into what our potential can offer.
When we attempt to integrate a trauma-informed practice process with our own personal journey, it makes us one with the process; allowing us to see ourselves interwoven with all humans experiencing trauma. Tosone, Nuttman-Shwartz, & Stephens (2012) talk about the relational nature of trauma (232), or shared trauma in large trauma events where both parties experienced similar events as in large weather related events and draw a clear line between this and a clinician self-disclosing their personal trauma experiences attempting to build empathy or rapport with a client. This can create a tension in the therapeutic relationship, as Tosone, et al. stated “…the clinician, whether or not disclosing her own childhood trauma, may mistakenly assume she understands the client’s reactions based on her own personal experience. It is incumbent upon the clinician to ensure that her selective self-disclosure is in service of the client’s best therapeutic interests, not personal need.” (233).
My own personal thoughts about trauma have over the past years been drawn to reflect on the citizens of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. These folks have experienced the most grievous form of trauma; unending civil war, misery and starvation where murder of young men and sexual violence is used to defeat one tribal group, as conquering armies have done throughout history. At a more global level, I don’t know what a whole nation can do to heal and survive the trauma they’ve experienced over the most recent years. Children growing up in war, orphaned, starving – all from their own countrymen. How does a nation heal? Nelson Mandela had a vision for a country torn by civil war to heal. It must start with political decisions to seek peace.
Tososne, C., Nuttman-Shwartz, O., & Stephens, T. (2012). Shared trauma: When the professional is personal. Clinical Social Work Journal, 40(2), 231-239.