Re­fram­ing trauma a step to heal­ing

Tap­ping into hu­man abil­ity to cre­ate mean­ing through story is key to re­cov­ery: ther­a­pist

StarMetro Vancouver - - NEWS - PER­RIN GRAUER

A lo­cal ther­a­pist says re­fram­ing our cul­tural un­der­stand­ing of how trauma works is fun­da­men­tal to cre­at­ing in­sti­tu­tional and per­sonal strate­gies for heal­ing that truly work.

While there is a grow­ing aware­ness in Cana­dian work­places and com­mu­ni­ties about the preva­lence of trauma, a nu­anced un­der­stand­ing of heal­ing is still in the early stages, says Bar­bara Al­lyn, a cer­ti­fied trauma ther­a­pist and cri­sis in­ter­ven­tion worker based in Van­cou­ver.

“There’s tons of peo­ple get­ting trauma-in­formed out there,” Al­lyn told Starmetro. “But (peo­ple) don’t know what to do about it next. It’s like you’re giv­ing some­body a tool and they go, ‘I don’t know what to do with this.’”

On Thurs­day and Fri­day, Al­lyn will in­tro­duce some B.C. first re­spon­ders to her pro­gram called Tribal Ther­apy, which teaches peo­ple how to over­turn as­sump­tions about trauma and start heal­ing.

A 2017 study pub­lished in The Cana­dian Jour­nal of Psy­chi­a­try showed the reg­u­lar

ex­po­sure of po­lice, fire­fight­ers, paramedics and 911 dis­patch­ers to “op­er­a­tional stress in­juries” put them at greater risk of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a “men­tal dis­or­der.”

But Al­lyn said such lan­guage is part of the prob­lem. Us­ing the word “dis­or­der,” for in­stance, im­plies that there is some­thing wrong with a per­son who ex­pe­ri­ences panic, de­pres­sion or anx­i­ety af­ter

trauma. But there is noth­ing “dis­or­derly” about that re­sponse, said Al­lyn, nor is there any­thing wrong with a per­son who has ex­pe­ri­enced trauma. Trauma, she added, is an in­di­vid­ual’s re­ac­tion to an event, rather the event it­self.

Be­cause hu­man be­ings un­der­stand the world through story and the cre­ation of mean­ing, she said, a dis­rup­tion of a per­son’s abil­ity to

fold an ex­pe­ri­ence into their per­sonal nar­ra­tive can mean a dis­rup­tion of their abil­ity to func­tion in a way con­sid­ered “or­derly.”

“You have to make mean­ing,” Al­lyn said. “If you don’t make mean­ing (around) an event — of why it hap­pened to you — then you hold on to that event.”

Read more on this story at thes­tar.com/van­cou­ver

JU­DITH LAU­REL/COUR­TESY BAR­BARA AL­LYN

Van­cou­ver trauma ther­a­pist Bar­bara Al­lyn wants to re­frame how in­sti­tu­tions and in­di­vid­u­als un­der­stand the ori­gins and im­pacts of trauma.

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