My initial reaction to Anna Jennings experience, is that it is a tragedy. She did not receive the care and treatment to allow her to share her trauma story. Her artwork was a cry for help. It illustrated the trauma she had endured throughout her life, and was an expression of her feelings. “Symptoms are adaptations to distress”, it may be better understood that symptoms are a manner of survival. Symptoms can present as coping skills, as a way for someone to get through each day. Although the coping skills may be maladaptive, they have served the individuals ability to survive. “Truth lies in a person’s story, not in their symptoms?” This statement leads me to think of person first language and its importance in treatment. Anna was a person who had PTSD, her symptoms were not inherently who she was, they were a part of her. Allowing someone to tell their story can be a powerful and healing experience. If Anna would have been able to tell her Trauma Story with her artwork, this may have been an opportunity for her to experience healing and connection.
It is important for me to treat each person I meet with as an individual. If I focus solely on the problem, then I am not treating the person as a whole. Building rapport and focusing on the collaborative relationship with the client is important in working with client’s who have experienced trauma. This allows the client to have a voice in their treatment .
Currently, I am meeting with a female client in their 30’s who presents each week with visible signs of irritation and verbal physical aggression. Each week my client presents with frustrations about their relationship with their mother-in-law. She shares about being irritated with her mother-in-law, feelings of anger towards her, and shares about the negative impact her interactions have on the relationship with her partner. My client has experienced the loss of her own Mother as a teenager. My client’s presenting symptoms are irritation and anger. These symptoms, or strengths, have acted as her survival, or coping skills throughout her life. She has struggled with feeling close to others, and usually falls into the role of scapegoat. Being verbally aggressive is a way for my client to express her feelings of repression, abuse, and loss. She has found her voice, and has learned to set limits and boundaries with those in her life who may be harmful to her.
At our agency we emphasis the importance of a Trauma-Informed Approach. In reviewing the list of principles our agency emphasizes safety, trustworthiness and transparency, and peer support and mutual self-help. In regards to safety we use Covid-19 screeners, create crisis plans as needed, and use assessments to identify the potential risks for safety for the client. In regards to trustworthiness and transparency we ensure that we have releases in place before talking to anyone regarding the client, respect confidentiality within the limitations, and make reports with our clients to child services when needed (as long as there is not a safety risk to the Provider, then it may be done without the client present). Our agency has a wonderful peer support specialist who has run groups in the past to help increase self help and advocacy among our client’s. One area our agency could improve is the principle of inclusiveness and shared purpose. Providing trainings and opportunities for the non-therapeutic staff would help to increase the therapeutic needs of our client’s. There are instances when client’s call or come in upset, agitated, or aggravated, and it would be helpful for the front office staff to have more training to understand the person who is upset, and not focus on their symptoms.