Bridging Advocacy and Healing through Trauma-Informed Care Education
Bridging Advocacy and Healing through Trauma-Informed Care Education
The body of research attesting to the benefits of holistic approaches to healing trauma grows daily.
Leaders at the forefront of psychology, trauma resilience and neuroscience recommend integrating mind, body and soul into recovery, as trauma can impact a person’s entire organism, and therefore, their entire inner and outer world. Including the whole person in care, acknowledges and mitigates the spectrum of physical, mental and spiritual health struggles that erupt in the wake of overwhelm, and, can also account for the way survivors hold both individual, systemic and generational trauma in their bodies.
Alongside the research, more and more survivors are resonating with the potential of holistic therapies to meet the paradoxical challenge and desire to inhabit their whole being after the breach of boundary that constitutes sexual trauma.
The fact remains that few healing, health and wellness schools incorporate training on sexual trauma and trauma-informed practice in their curriculum. This results in practitioners unintentionally causing harm to clients (and themselves) within the healing space. Negative experiences that unfold when a survivor reaches out for support may exacerbate the sense of somatic shame that is associated with surviving sexual harm, while reinforcing beliefs that a person is not capable or worthy of recovery. Triggering experiences may cause them to retract from asking for resources, whether medical, legal, emotional or physical, thereby causing them to internalize their pain and further potentiating the pervasive and collateral harms of trauma.
Additionally, we know that our direct service providers, our first responders, our policy and program makers who are called to this movement are often personally or vicariously impacted by sexual trauma. Many members of our professional community struggle to successfully navigate through the ways in which the work itself can be traumatizing and find themselves overwhelmed and stuck. Their passion starts to become poisoned with a sense of dread. Trauma and healing move through us in nonlinear ways, and it is not atypical that long dormant somatic memories and survival responses can emerge seemingly out of nowhere. This reality, combined with living in a culture where stress and depletion are normalized makes our relationship to the way our body and mind are expressing themselves really murky. It is hard to identify the source of the anxiety, the numbing, the existential grief. There also remains an implicit message within these high stress and highly urgent environments that employees must bear the pain they hold alone and to override their own trauma responses in service of the cause. This can create distance and dissonance among colleagues as the lack of emotional safety prohibits authenticity. We are not able to be fully human in these spaces. It can also increase the likelihood that unproductive coping patterns, behaviors and beliefs that were born of past trauma will be be recreated in settings that were originally intended to empower healing, agency and social change. Too often, we forget to remember that survivors are the heart of our movement to end sexual violence and to bring about trauma resilience. We tend to want to quell those voices and experiences that speak to the collateral harms of the work itself, even if the voice is our own. Being honest about the mind, body and energetic impacts of being exposed to the constancy of sexual trauma is the only way we will truly develop radically new ways of cultivating sustainable, connected, communities of care.
As an organization, many members of our team – from our staff, to our Board of Directors, as well as those who are practitioner members – straddle both the advocacy movement and that of the holistic healing provider community. We recognize the transformative potential of these complementary fields intentionally aligning our practices, our philosophies of care and our visions for building movements that bring an end to individual, systemic and generational harm. It is because of our direct experiences as survivors and professionals, healers and activists – that we have designed a special group package for both of our forthcoming online courses, Embodied Healing – Trauma-Informed Yoga/Meditation for Survivors (EH-TIYM) and Healing Sexual Trauma – Online Professional Training (HST) which includes optional consulting support and reduced group enrollment rates.
Both our survivors’ course (EH-TIYM) and our practitioners’ course (HST) are intended to encompass a wide breadth of information that we believe is vital when it comes to understanding and appreciating our unique ways of responding, adapting and surviving after sexual trauma, as well as elements of being a resource of safety and support for our very diverse community of sexual trauma survivors who are navigating the nonlinear path that encompasses healing. They are doorways into conversations about the ways in which our bodies remember, as survivors, as advocates, as healers – as humans – and how we can best steward ourselves through the inevitable ebbs and flows of our work.
We believe that embarking on this course content in community is a uniquely powerful way to engage with the material. We know that trauma and the associated responses tend to increase isolation and feelings of being unseen or misunderstood. For those of us who have been moving along the healing path for years and decades, the anxious wondering if something is fundamentally “wrong” with us for not being “over it” – even though we know intellectually that there is no timeline, the reality of living with trauma responses for a long time can make us forget or simply question ourselves! Community connection is the counterbalance to the isolation and even the shame associated with being a trauma survivor. Embarking on a shared learning experience – that is as much about your own personal process as it is about how you can most effectively show up as an advocate/activist/healer – is a powerful way to remember and celebrate the human desire and right to sense our belonging to a group. Both of our courses will offer you and your group another resource in the survivor/practitioner healing toolkit, they will bolster and expand your individual and organizational advocacy work, they will build intimacy and foster a shared language for how you collectively explore and honor such tender personal and professional material in your community, and importantly, they will enhance access to trauma-informed care for the people and communities you serve.
Since we understand trauma-informed care to be person and community-centered versus prescriptive or one-size-fits-all, the courses present theory, practices and ideas as possibilities and considerations with which your group can engage, explore and discuss. The content may resonate, it may provoke tension, and hopefully, it will catalyze each participant and group in gaining more clarity about what is true, what is most meaningful and what practices and resources will be most affirming for them and the unique community they serve. Within our organization, we do not promote one specific healing practice, method or ideology. Rather, we aim to open a wide field of possibility and plant seeds for each person, survivor and practitioner alike, to define, honor and grow into their unique way of living into their healing and sharing trauma healing care.
One of our primary intentions in forming The Breathe Network years ago was to intentionally bolster the building of bridges, collaboration and solidarity between the anti-violence advocacy community and those who work in the holistic healing realm. We saw the disconnect and realized that the siloed nature of how healing and justice and advocacy work was structured was detrimental to both survivors and the folks that serve them. We have so much to learn and share with one another – about survivors and the societies they live within, about individual and collective nervous systems, about direct service and social change movement making, about emergent science and ancestral wisdom – and this new group learning format seeks to be another marker along our path towards deepening these vital, complementary and transformative relationships.
We invite your community to join us!
If you would like to learn more, please contact our Executive Director, Molly Boeder Harris at: firstname.lastname@example.org.