We all grieve! Yes, I used an exclamation point to draw attention to this idea. We all grieve; sometimes we grieve small things, sometimes we grieve significant losses in our lives. Grief and depression are common and “normal” responses to loss. Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ book, On Death and Dying, describes a cycle of emotional states that are often characterized as the Grief Cycle. At some point in our lives, each of us faces the loss of someone or something dear to us. The grief that follows such a loss can seem unbearable, but grief is actually a healing process. Grief is the emotional suffering we feel after a loss of some kind.
As a therapist, I hear the term trauma thrown around frequently and ambiguously. Often the perception of qualifying trauma is limited to the most extreme events. The fact is that trauma stems from the internalization of an event, rather than the event itself. Trauma simply is something that causes us to re-evaluate who we are, and or what the world is around us. Sometimes we have the resources to mend these holes in the fabric of our reality, and sometimes the tear is large enough that we do not have the emotional resources to integrate our experience into a coherent whole. We all have experienced varying levels of trauma and there is no set criteria of what we are able to reconcile and what we are not. Everyone has a different envelope, and the edge is the edge no matter the size or shape.
I have been leading art therapy groups in the field with clients for some time now--they’ve been drawing the things that hurt, the ways in which those struggles manifest in their bodies and asking their bodies and hearts about other ways to cope with their pain. I asked them recently to think about what the emotion is there to teach them. Many of them answered with the defenses that their pain had taught them. Things like, “it taught me not to trust people” or “it taught me that the world was not safe and that I’m not okay.” As I heard them speak about the coping mechanisms they’d developed for dealing with stress and trauma in their lives and at home, I realized that we aren’t often taught that emotions are there for us as communicators, as messengers.
One of the best parts about working with adolescents is the significant role they play in the change process for each other. Many parents question how other young people, typically with similar challenges and difficulties, could be helpful to their child in the wilderness. The wilderness group is like a microcosm of the social dynamic at home, with an overlay of therapeutic support and intention. This therapeutic support assists with supporting young people as they navigate making changes in their lives.
I recently attended an Intensive Therapy Program utilizing psychodrama, family of origin work, and intensive group therapy. While I learned much about myself and my continued work in therapy, the primary tool that I took with me was the importance of PLAY! The little kid in me needs play. We all have a ‘little kid’ in us that needs to be taken care of, stay safe, and have fun through play.
A few months ago, I came across a video interview with Dr. Gabor Maté that discussed attachment, authenticity, and the interplay between the two for children specifically. The content struck me in its simplicity. Maté explained two often complex topics in a way that seemed digestible. The idea is that as children we have two core needs (in addition to several others), one for attachment and one for authenticity.
At Evoke, parent support is taken seriously. As one of Evoke’s Parent Coordinators, I spend a large part of my time talking with parents and family members whose kids are currently in our program. I can answer their questions about the program, help them navigate the Parent Portal, and I can also let them know about the different support options that are available while their child is with us.
I was just 14 years old when I took my first job in Food and Beverage, slinging fries at the local McDonalds. It was the only place in town that would hire someone so young and, obviously, it wasn’t glamorous: I left each shift covered with a fine mist of stinking fry oil that only exacerbated my teenage acne. But I stuck with it because I liked the way the team worked together, like gears in a clock, to kick out order after order when our dining room was full. I especially enjoyed the shrill, thrilled squeals of kids when they opened up their Happy Meal to find a Power Ranger or Space Jam toy. I’m guilty of sneaking an extra toy to a kid or two during my time there. Sorry, boss.
Election day is just around the corner. September 22nd was National Voter Registration day, and a great reminder for all citizens of the United States to take a little time in their day to ensure their voter registration. Since our staff and clients have a harder time accessing the internet, the seamless process of voter registration, or at least confirming that they are registered, is a more tedious task for our wilderness folks.
The meaning that we ascribe to elements in our lives and experiences is powerful. Over half a century ago, Albert Ellis created an entire theory, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, discussing how we, as humans, ascribe meaning to an experience; that the way that we interpret it will give rise to the emotions we hold about it.