How I Developed My Holistic Approach to Trauma

My work as a therapist who focuses on trauma began with my clinical internship which was done at a residential treatment facility for men who were trapped in chemical dependency. I was actually pretty reluctant to accept this internship because I had experienced a great deal of pain stemming from addiction within my own family of origin. So, having been negatively impacted by all of the sad fallout of chemical dependency I really felt that this was the last group of people I wanted to work with! What I discovered instead was that it was privilege and honor to work with these men, most of whom would come to recover not only from chemical dependency, but also to recover a centrally important thing they had lost to addiction – their sense of self-worth. It was nothing less than inspiring to be on this journey in which they moved from shame and woundedness into a strong sense of who they were as men who were both in touch with their own values and could experience themselves as people of character and worth.

Perhaps not surprisingly, what I came to discover over time was that every single one of my clients had some sort of trauma in their background and that this trauma had to be addressed in order for deep healing to occur. Most of these men had trauma stemming from childhood whether they were aware of it or not (and as often as not they either had forgotten about this trauma or had simply never made a connection between these traumatic events and their addiction). But over time these areas of woundedness were revealed and brought to light where they could be worked through and healed from. I think liberation is the most fitting word to describe the sense these men eventually emerged to. Liberation from the bonds of addiction, but far beyond this, liberation from emotional pain and loss as they came to understand the extent to which they had been driven to run from pain by retreating into the numbing that chemicals provided them.

Over the course of my training and beyond, as I continued to work at this same treatment facility, I devoted myself to developing an integrated approach for treating both addiction and the underlying trauma that was driving it. I began to teach my clients ways in which they could holistically embrace and take responsibility for their own healing process, including the healing of their bodies, hearts, and brains. It is now fairly common knowledge that addiction is a brain disease rather than a moral affliction, but many, if not all, of my clients hadn’t been able to free themselves from the shame and self-blame that accompanies addiction.

Incorporating mindfulness training and spirituality into recovery became the cornerstone of what eventually I would develop into my holistic approach to trauma, whether or not addiction-related problems were an issue for a client. I had discovered that even when a given client self-described as “non-religious,” that developing a sense of themselves in a way that included spirituality provided new avenues for personal freedom from shame and helped them find meaningful ways to make sense of their lives and their suffering. Beyond this, my approach to treating trauma-related issues embraces a resiliency and strengths-based approach to each client’s individual needs and situation – many personal strengths arise from enduring traumatic events – and incorporates the most current neuro-biological and somatic research available to treating trauma-related issues effectively and in a way that respects each individual’s perspective and life experience.

For me, working with those impacted by trauma has become my life’s work and mission. And it is truly a privilege and sacred trust to be chosen as a companion on the healing journey of those who seek me ought as their therapist.

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