I just got back from the Trauma Center Summer Institute that takes place in Cape Cod every July. I highly recommend if for anyone who is doing trauma-informed services or treatment. The faculty from the TraumaCenter at Justice Resource Institute was excellent.
I will probably incorporate what I learned into some more detailed posts in the future but just wanted to pass on a few snippets of things that I learned or re-learned while there.
The majority of the impact from childhood trauma is delayed –
When physical or emotional abuse occurs in childhood, the effects of this abuse may take years to show up. If the abuse occurs during early childhood the effects may not be seen until adolescence. Trauma that occurs in early childhood and adolescence has a greater impact than if it occurs during the latency period between 6 and 12 years of age. This is because there is more growth occurring in the brain during these two period of development and therefore the brain is more vulnerable to trauma.
Trauma that occurs during the pre-verbal period of development (ages 0-2) can be recalled and described once language or other means of communication is available – During the week I took part in a sand tray therapy workshop and the facilitator described at least two incidents and showed pictures of the trays in which a 3 or 4 year old was able to recreate a traumatic event in the sand tray that took place when the child was less than one year old. This does not mean that a sand tray should be used as a way of forcing the child to tell their story. The story comes out in the natural process of using the sand tray.
Vicarious Trauma is an STD!!! STD = Sensitivity Transmitted Disease. Basically, if we don’t “care”, we don’t catch it. However, like a sexually transmitted disease it is:
- Easy to catch
- Hard to get rid of
- Tends to keep coming back
- Leads to justified ambivalence about continuing to engage in being sensitive
How can we be sure to never catch an STD? Abstinence – live on a mountain top in the Himalayas, quit our jobs, disconnect from the media, minimal contact with the world.
Traumatic stress is a virus – contagious, can lay dormant, and we can build immunity to it. It is transmitted physically, through our auditory senses, emotionally and cognitively. If we don’t build up our immune system through good self care, we can catch vicarious trauma and then spread it to others with whom we are working. It can become an epidemic and eventually a pandemic – infecting the whole agency.
Polyvagal Theory explains the freeze response. Click here for more information.
This is just a sample of what I learned!!