In the first blog in the series, “Trauma Informed Counselling: Introduction through Personal Experiences”, I ended by mentioning the concept that my mentor, Vikki Reynolds PhD, calls – Solidarity. Vikki talks about solidarity in her article “Solidarity Teams” stating that, “Solidarity speaks to the interconnections of our collective movements towards social justice and in resisting oppression.”
Vikki continues by saying that, “While the language of solidarity may be new to many therapists, the spirit of solidarity is alive and well in our work with each other and with clients. It is a purposeful language that engages rich social activism traditions that hold us together”(Reynolds, 2011, pg 4)
It is my belief that solidarity can touch both clinician and anyone accessing services. In an individualistic world we are bombarded by messages that we need to be able to do things on our own and it permeates through our being, influencing our action. However this is completely contrary to our nature. We are born dependant and needing to be cared for and we thrive in community. Therefore the concept of solidarity is necessary and takes belonging to the next level.
Finding Solidarity With Your Service Provider
Here is some advice for people accessing services as to how to tell if your service provider is in solidarity with you. These points have been taken from my own experiences working with people and learning from mentors such as Vikki Reynolds.
1. Asking permission – Your clinician asks what your needs are in therapy and checks in often if you are on the right track.
2. Goal setting – done together can be a guide and map of your time together making each session useful
3. Flexibility – when there is something that is important to address that the clinician is able to re-route and make changes
4. Asking why a question is asked – I believe it is important to be able to ask why a questions is used so that there are no hidden intensions between counsellor and clinician. It is empowering and offers choice to clients to be able to do this.
5. Collaboration – working together in the process
6. Taking responsibility – Clinicians in counselling can take responsibility for the process. This takes courage as we can make mistakes but by taking responsibility can have opportunity to better enhance relationship
All of the above points are linked closely to building relationships and a rapport within a therapeutic context but can also be used outside in anyone’s lived life. Learning how to be in relationship is essential to give new experiences and in my belief, is one of few ways to bring healing to Trauma. Here I would like to talk a little bit about my horses and how they help build relationships with people.
Horses as Sentient Beings in the Trauma Work
My view of the horse as a sentient being began when I first discovered horses at a young age and was curiously drawn as to why there was such a strong connection between us. Through many years studying horse psychology and reflecting on my own experiences the following is the summary of my views.
Horses have showed up in my life and many others as creatures that are mysterious, powerful, vulnerable, evoking fear and excitement. There are many personal stories from horse lovers that capture the depth of the bond. A sentient being is described as a living creature with consciousness, the ability to feel, perceive, have subjective experiences and the ability to suffer.
The above description refers to the emotional and mental world of a sentient being and is the first reason why horses are good partners in the EFC. Emotional connection is based in relationship as referred to by experts of social and emotional intelligence. Science tells us that horses have strong senses for survival being prey animals and that their emotional awareness is heightened and active.
Horses are great at moving past trauma and do so on a daily basis. Here I move into some of the research that speaks to how humans should also change their views on how trauma affects lives on a daily basis and what we can do about it.
In the paper, “Responding to childhood trauma: the promise and practice of trauma informed care”, by Gordon Hodas, trauma is viewed not as a new concept. However, until recently, it has largely been viewed to be applicable to only a select group of individuals, under extraordinary circumstances – for example, survivors of catastrophic events such as war, earthquakes, and abduction.
With notable exceptions, trauma has not been recognized as a part of the daily, regular, experience of many individuals, including children and adolescents. Nor has the profound linkage between trauma and child development and the disruption of physical and emotional health been fully recognized (Hodas, 2006, pg 6).
My definition of Trauma is a rupture in a relationship. I think everyone can connect with this definition and when we explain it like this, we can take some of the stigma away from what Trauma really is and how it affects people. We can see how it shows up in the things we do in our life giving more options of how to work with Trauma in what some people call trauma informed care. (To be continued…)
Cristina works in Abbotsford BC and is the creator of both Shamrock Counselling Services (www.shamrockcounselling.com ) & Sundance Solace Society (www.sundancesolace.com). Sundance Solace is a non-profit branch that focuses on the power of nature to benefit people. If you would like to be involved there are a number of opportunities including: professional and practicum internships, associate positions, and volunteering. Please contact Cristina for more information
By Cristina Rennie MA, RCC, CEIP – MH
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