Holistic and Collaborative Trauma Treatment: What Do Survivors Really Need to Heal?
Tovah Means, MS, LMFT
My beginnings as a therapist started at The Family Institute at Northwestern University where we learned Systems Theory and how to treat individuals, couples, and families in a collaborative context. Though I have moved away from some of my training towards much more specified areas of complex trauma and dissociative spectrum, the core aspects of treating individuals and families through learning to see them in the context has taught me the importance of treating people holistically in order to heal from the complexities of trauma.
Good trauma treatment does not just explore the complex world of insides – states, traits, interpersonal experiences, biology, environment, family history, attachment, loss – but helps people navigate the world’s they live in – physical health, systems of meaning, the community, family, and cultural beliefs that shape every day interactions. It includes global systems and politics. It also includes helping them attend to their relationships at work, home, and family tree.
Most therapists work with survivors on their caseload whether they are specialized or not, aware of it or not. How do we attend to the immediate fires of unprocessed trauma? How do we address the environments where trauma is embedded into the fabric of life as well as dealing with the repercussions of intergenerational trauma? As Watch Hill Therapy has grown as a trauma practice we have learned that is essential to be collaborative with other clinical and non-clinical practitioners and healers as well as regularly consult with other trauma therapists in order to do good, helpful, lasting work, including tending to the therapist’s own personal journey and vicarious trauma.
Survivors of trauma are affected in so many domains of functioning. The impact of trauma on an individual’s life is often serious and complex and many clients come into our offices confused, lost, with many disturbing thoughts and feelings haunting them in daily life. According to Deborah Korn, Psy. D. (2014) in her presentation called, “Integration of Trauma Treatment Models in Clinical Practice”, trauma therapists must be able to treat “Sensorimotor Phenomena, Affective Phenomena, Defensive/Dissociative Phenomena, Relational/Attachment Dynamics, Self and Dyadic-Regulation, Ego State Phenomena, Cognitive and Behavioral Phenomena, and Neuroscience/Neurobiology.” Aiding our clients on their healing journey is no small task!
In addition to focusing on the internal world, helping survivors stabilize common issues such as eating disorders, passive and active suicidality, educational and employment struggles, addiction, chronic pain, self-harm, religious and existential crisis, and troubling relational patterns is also a part of our work as therapists. In order to treat these clients well, we need to be holistic, systemic, collaborative, often as a part of a treatment team, or it least in consultation with others.
On September 21st, Laura Gossin, LMFT and I will be presenting a workshop for therapists called, “Working with Traumatized Populations in Couple and Individual Therapy: Collaborating as a Treatment Team and Addressing the Complex Issues That Arise.” In this workshop we will discuss how survivors are broadly impacted by trauma (such as cognition, memory, and relationships), how to orient treatment around the most pertinent issues (such as the brain, safety and stabilization), common issues faced by both individual and couple’s therapists who work with survivors and how to address and resolve some of these issues through an interpersonal, collaborative, and holistic approach to treatment. For more information about this workshop, visit http://watchhilltherapy.com/workshops/. CEU’s are available!