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Recovery From Trauma

Posted by Caitlin Tharaldson, LCSW, Therapist at Entrada on February 02, 2016

Judith Herman, author of Trauma and Recovery wrote; “Recovery can take place only within then context of relationships; it cannot occur in isolation. In her renewed connection with other people, the survivor re-creates the psychological facilities that were damaged or deformed by the traumatic experience. These faculties include the basic operations of trust, autonomy, initiative, competence, identity, and intimacy. Just as these capabilities are formed in relationships with other people, they must be reformed in such relationships. The first principle of recovery is empowerment of the survivor. She must be the author and arbiter of her own recovery. Others may offer advice, support, assistance, affection, and care, but not cure.” These wise and astute statements so vividly describe the experience for an individual entering wilderness therapy at Evoke, particularly one who has experienced trauma and is in the process of recovery.

“Seeing” my clients, outside of outward behavior or a failure to launch into adulthood, is an essential part of the healing process at Evoke. So often, this experience can expose a painful past littered with traumatic experiences for my clients. When I look at an optimal environment to act as a container for these individuals to dive into this past and participate in this recovery, so clearly stated by Judith Herman above, I see wilderness therapy and the powerful experience clients deserve and receive at Evoke.

Creating bow-drill fires, completing arduous hikes, backcountry cooking, constructing shelters to sleep under, and so many tasks associated with daily life at Evoke contribute to the competence necessary in recovery from trauma. Clients can arrive feeling small, insignificant, and wounded as a result of their past experiences, emotions, and behaviors. With the action they take in daily life at Evoke, they can leave with strength, confidence in who they are, and a recognition of who they have the potential to be.

Group arms around eachother croppedCommunity living and the connection between the clients can be a powerful experience and a driving factor in the process of recovering from trauma. There’s reliable and consistent support driven by the therapist and staff presence, to allow space for clients to tell their story, yet the peer-to-peer connection within the group is essential and can create that opportunity to practice those basic operations, which Judith Herman references. Clients are supported to authentically share vulnerabilities and their stories, so often driven by their own desire to heal and connect with those around them. Conversations in the field surrounding how they identify and who is their best self are a rampant part of that healing process. So often I’ve heard clients say that they’ve never trusted anyone like they have at Evoke or that they’ve never had relationships like the ones they develop in wilderness and that they felt supported to share honestly. I believe that is the direct result of their healing process, that the container that is Evoke allows that opportunity to reform what was damaged when they experienced trauma.

While a client is going through this recovery from trauma, parents often ask me “What do I do to help?” or “What can I say to them?” when they learn that their child has had a traumatic experience. Most often, my coaching is to support the parents in recognizing their own emotional reaction and to continue to do their own work to differentiate from their child and as a result have healthy connection. Are they feeling powerless/sad/hopeless/terrified/overwhelmed? It’s important that they’re doing their own work to separate their emotions from their child’s emotions and work to act as a healthy emotional container within the relationship. Being able to engage with their own therapist, attend Codependents Anonymous meetings or Al-Anon meetings, and to connect authentically with their own community are important factors in supporting that healthy dynamic. Parents can then be present, reflect, and have an appropriate emotional response to their child sharing their story, if they choose to disclose those traumatic experiences from their past.

Evoke acts as this container. Trusting relationships are formed, autonomy as an individual is established, initiative to take care of the self is instigated, competence in the wilderness is fostered, and identity is found in this environment, supporting recovery from trauma.

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