Trauma Sensitive Living: What Can I Do?

by Jim Hayes, D.Min., M.Div., Executive Director at the Center

Related: Hope After Trauma, by Dr. Christine Dietz

Sand therapy is one counseling method used by counselors at the Center to treat children who experience trauma. Click image for more information.

Clergy abuse.
Raising boys.

Any of these terms come up in your conversations recently?

This isn’t about politics, though really, what isn’t political?

I am talking about running into these terms in our daily encounters as human beings and what we can learn and how we can help.

We deal with trauma on a regular basis at the Center. Really rotten, downright evil stuff that has happened, often victimizing the most innocent we are all called to protect. It is such a large part of our daily lives here that we have to strategize on how to create boundaries for our excellent therapists because if they see too many trauma clients in a day, the secondary trauma can wear them down; burn them out.

It’s all around us.

For those of us not caring for others through therapy, what can we do to help these wounded in our midst?

First, recognize they are your family, your colleagues at work, and your neighbors.  Awareness is key. We can pay attention to our language and recognize that there are many ways memories of the trauma gets triggered. What for one person is innocently watching volatile political debate, for another is a trigger that traps an innocent in a horrible memory as real as the day it happened. The pain is real. Respectful awareness and listening can help.

Another avenue for us to pursue when we encounter such pain is to help those who have entrusted us with their stories to seek hope and healing. We all need trusted companions as we navigate life. This means being a good listener and sometimes helping someone to seek help at places like the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. We and others in this field are here to help you help those you love.

Finally, we are called to build just communities so that all may flourish. This sounds like politics again, but it is politics in the best and most local sense of that word. It means asking the question: “What can I do to help?” rather than “What are you going to do to fix this?”  We are thinking about our role in this conversation, beyond the good counseling which is part of our daily work. Our mission is to bring hope and healing through counseling and education. We are well known for our long-standing commitment to helping girls and women, many of whom have suffered trauma. We fund much of that work through our Women Helping Women event.  Those funds and some grants have helped us to expand our partnerships with the Iowa Crime Victims Assistance Division as well as Latinas for a New Dawn (LUNA). Both of those organizations serve victims of assault.

On the educational side of the street we’re considering a number of initiatives. Some members of our community are exploring how to better equip all of us to carry on civil conversations. I’m excited to see that initiative take shape. A generous donor has provided us with funding to update our training for work with the LGBTQ population and explore how we can better serve those clients, many of whom have experienced trauma.  On another front, a number of us are working to organize an event in 2019 that will explore how to best support boys and men in maintaining their mental health. Men are much less likely to seek help and more likely to harm self or others.

These are just some examples of wrestling with the question, “How can we help?” Let me know if you have suggestions and/or would like to join us in answering that question. [Click here to send us a message.]

It’s a question we take seriously at the Center. I hope that you’ll join us in thinking of ways to bring hope and healing to a wounded world. Thank you for the many ways you already do so by supporting our work.

Click image to read more blogs posts from Jim

Related: Hope after trauma, by Dr. Christine Dietz