Reflections of a psychotherapist about trauma and recovery
For the past eight years I have developed and facilitated a ‘Recovery from Trauma ‘program for survivors of trauma.
It is a psycho-educational program as well as being an interpersonal group process which is dynamic in its flavour.
I am trained as a psychodynamic psychotherapist who values and makes space for the subjective interpersonal processes which take place in group therapy. This includes my interactions with the group participants, as well as their interactions with each other.
My content is informed by such trauma specialists as Judith Herman, Bessel van der Kolk, John Briere, Aphrodite Matsakis and John Arden. My therapeutic style is informed by my own lived experience as a survivor of trauma myself and my clinical training
I adapt the content into three stages, informed by Judith Herman’s book called ‘Trauma and Recovery’. The stages are Establishing Safety; Remembrance and Mourning; Reconnection.
I have found this to be a tried-and-true formula with the many trauma groups I have run at two private psychiatric hospitals, since living and working in Melbourne.
Sadly, I have just completed my last trauma group at the hospital I am working at. We have been asked to deliver mandated manuals for our day programs by the organisation, and the content of the new trauma program is not something I feel comfortable delivering. For me, it is too prescriptive, content heavy and process light, and not as useful for those who have survived trauma, with their many complex needs.
However, I feel very grateful for the opportunity to have had an input into the lives of so many clients who have participated in the trauma groups I developed. Men and women who are survivors of war trauma, work-place bullying, domestic violence, sexual assault and rape, car accidents, work-place accidents.
I so admire their courage, tenacity and perseverance to learn about PTSD and to live with the consequences of trauma in their lives more gently. As a survivor of domestic violence trauma myself, I know how hard that can be.
I have been honoured with the feedback from participants telling me they are feeling more empowered and more equipped with tools to negotiate the storms of their lived experiences of trauma. I know that to have a safe place to tell the truth about our lives is invaluable to the healing process and the group therapy space has the potential to provide that magnificently, with the skill of a good therapist.
May all of us who have suffered trauma find safe places to be honest about our experiences, whether this be with a friend, a health professional, or within the pages of our own personal journal. To tell the truth about that which is traumatic is a sacred process, to be received as a gift by the listener.