Flashbacks. Nightmares. Distractability. Mood changes. Hyper-arousal. Developmental arrest. We are taught about the signs and symptoms of traumatic wounding through books and articles, trainings and conferences, symposiums and panels. We have learned how to adeptly detect our clients’ injuries—the moral, psychological, physical, and emotional wounds that have left them forever changed. We feel the magnetic pull of their pain points. We know which dark corners of their life stories are covered in dust and cobwebs, untouched and unexplored. We know which closets hold the skeletons. We know which doors lead to terror. We know which roads end in loneliness and fear. We know about the potholes that pull our clients into pits of self-doubt and worthlessness. We know about the vortex that sucks them into an endless loop of memories and reenactments.
But do we teach our clients how to break free from the vortex? Do we help them find solid footing after the potholes have pulled them down? Do we help them shut the forbidden doors? Do we help them carry the skeletons back to the closet?
Many of us have received extensive training in identifying, opening, and exploring trauma with our clients, but when it comes to helping them manage and contain their experiences, our training is inadequate. We unearth our clients’ pain during sessions and once our clients’ psyches are open, raw, and vulnerable, we send them back into the world. This can inadvertently create more harm. More pain. More distress.