It is disheartening to see that Anna was in systems that did not understand what happened to her. It is sad to see she didn’t get the help she needed so that she could continue to live. My reaction to the first statement is that human beings are trying to survive. Their symptoms are what they are relying on to help them with survival. Most often they haven’t been taught or modeled healthy ways to cope with difficult situations. I think we live in a shame-based society that lacks empathy and compassion and most people don’t feel safe to open up and get support for what happened to them. Symptoms are just the beginning of someone’s truth. It is crucial to understand what has happened to someone so you can really put yourself in their shoes. Having a clear understanding of someone’s truth can allow you to connect with that person on a deeper level, which will build rapport and connection.
My thought is that people are not problems to be solved, people are people and to really be able to hold space with someone is to be able to understand what has happened to them. There is no better way to understand someone than hearing their truth and for the provider to be in a space that they are fully present, non-judgemental, and compassionately listening. One example that comes to mind is a client who when triggered in a group setting would get up and leave the group. In the old model, one could say this person is not serious about their treatment, they don’t really want to be here. In the trauma-informed model, one would say this person is doing the best they can to cope with a triggering situation. They are practicing resiliency by protecting themselves from more harm.
Trustworthiness and transparency – Our agency believes transparency is crucial for appropriate care. This starts from the pre-admission process with potential clients and families and throughout their stay in our program. We always want to reduce shock value so being open and honest with everyone is our approach.
Collaboration and mutuality – We strive to have an environment where everyone is equal. Clinicians do their best to avoid power struggles. We take client’s feedback and opinions into consideration often and we want them to be a part of their process.
Peer Support and mutual self-help – Our community relies upon senior peers role-modeling for newer residents. Our goal is for the clients to build healthy support systems within the treatment community where they can practice vulnerability, compassion, and empathy. Our belief is that connection is the solution to addiction.
I think an area of growth would be moving away from a confrontational approach wherein staff may personalize certain behaviors that they label as dishonesty or manipulation. I believe that a trauma-informed approach would encourage staff to understand that these behaviors are the client’s trying to cope with their situations which would help staff have more empathy and compassion and to deal with any of their own countertransference.