Reframing trauma a step to healing
Tapping into human ability to create meaning through story is key to recovery: therapist
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
Vancouver trauma therapist Barbara Allyn wants to reframe how institutions and individuals understand the origins and impacts of trauma.