Trauma happens when a person feels a sense of terror and powerlessness. This is something I wasn’t aware of until I began interning at the Trauma Recovery Centre. Having attended training days and read more on the topic of trauma, I now understand more about the trauma continuum and the neurology of trauma. However, what I’ve learnt most during my internship at the TRC is about how vital trauma recovery focused interventions are: that, contrary to popular belief, it’s not about management, but recovery.
Trauma recovery happens through an empathetic, stable, and emotionally healthy relationship. Relationships take time and in a world of instant gratification epitomised by next-day delivery and on demand TV, that’s not something people generally want to hear. They want a quick-fix, an instant healer. But what I’ve learnt as an intern, getting glimpses of the interactions between therapists and their clients, parent support workers and the parent and carers, is that relationships are powerful. It makes sense that what was ruptured in relationship must be healed in relationship.
Through my internship, however, I have also become increasingly aware that many professionals – clinicians, teachers, police, and more – still don’t recognise trauma and how it can affect a child or young person. They don’t realise that the pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for reasoning and rational thinking) and the Broca’s area (responsible for speech) go offline when a threat response is triggered, meaning a traumatised child or young person can struggle to speak or explain how they feel or why they acted a certain way. The threat response can result in a child fighting, fleeing, or freezing, and thus exhibiting what adults can see as negative behaviours. This lack of understanding can lead to misdiagnosis or a child being labelled as ‘naughty’ or worse. As a receptionist making drinks for clients and saying a friendly hello when they arrive, I get to see the impact the TRC has. It’s sad to think that without the work of the TRC these children and young people, parents and carers, would get lost in the system and not get the help they need.
When compiling grant applications, I often use a sentence Betsy wrote: “There is clear evidence that therapy can change the trajectory of a child’s life.” Not only do I get to see this evidence in statistics when writing grant applications, but I see it every day in the work the TRC carries out. It’s beautiful to see clients go from shy, sad children to ones that bounce in the door chattering away, knowing they are in a safe place and in safe hands.
written by Beth Palmer May 2018