Question 1: My first reaction to the video was: “My god, how could no one ask her about her story in such a LONG time?” It strikes me as collective incompetence of immense proportions. My heart breaks for Anna… I view hearing a client’s story as one of the most important things I do, and–as I tell virtually all of them when I invite them to share their stories–What’s shareable is more bearable.
Question 2: I work with an 18-year-old woman with autism as well as a challenging medical condition. Her first significant statement to me a couple of years ago when we first met was, “I’m terrified of EVERYTHING!” I could have focused only on her SYMPTOMS of anxiety, but instead I listened to her with a different ear that helped me really get to know her as a person. Turns out, her reality is completely denied at home, and every aspect of her life is tightly controlled by her mother. She is really bright, articulate, funny, loves animals, and is NOT who her mother thinks she is (or wants her to be). Therapy is the only place she can speak her truth, be who she is, and work toward the future she wants when she graduates this June. By the way, the only thing that really terrifies her now is the prospect of her mother gaining control of her legally and financially because of her diagnosis.
Question 3: I can honestly say that most of the Principles of Trauma-Informed Care were part of my training and have been integrated into my personal philosophy and practice with clients. I work really hard to provide emotional safety and convey my own trustworthiness, acceptance without judgment, and desire to collaborate, empower, and promote choice in my work with clients. Actually, that’s wrong. I don’t work that hard at it because it comes fairly naturally to me. After finishing this first lesson, however, I did catch myself rushing a client through their story very recently. They told the story of being traumatized by Child Protective Services with great vehemence five weeks in a row and I responded to the statement: “They destroyed my life–it’s over!” by saying: “Your life is over only if you let it be.” I wanted them to see possibilities for a better future, but now I realize they weren’t done with their story yet (although I did validate it every step of the way), which is something I will rectify next session.