Last Thursday, TRU’s Psychology Club held a presentation called Healing and Recovery Through a Trauma Lens. Dr. Serena George, who has a Ph.D. in Health Sciences, was invited to come and talk about her work with trauma survivors as a counsellor, and the research she has done on healing and recovering from trauma.
“I’m thankful to share these experiences with you,” George explained, “one of my underlying motivations for doing research is to be able to share people’s voices and experiences.”
Part of her research was to interview survivors of trauma to learn about what worked for them in their healing journeys. Keeping their identities anonymous, George quoted answers from the survivors throughout the presentation.
She touched on the effects of trauma, including anger, anxiety and depression, and even physical effects such as headaches, chronic pain and fatigue. What stood out to George was how pervasive and long-term these effects could be.
A quote from a survivor mentioned: “I’ve come a long way and feel I’m doing amazing things. However, I have this feeling that something inside of me is still damaged and broken.”
George included the effects of historical and intergenerational trauma on young people. “When adults are suffering from their own trauma, growing up in that situation can put you in survival mode.”
The journey to recovery can be hard for survivors, especially when they don’t believe they’re in a safe environment to heal. When reaching out or talking about their trauma, many people fear how others will respond or react to them.
A quote from a survivor said: “I haven’t really gotten anything from telling people close to me about my trauma. If I do tell them, either that makes them think negatively of me, or it doesn’t change the way they relate to me or treat me, which doesn’t seem to help either.”
Healing can take on many definitions. George explained how she defines healing as a ‘subjective’ experience. “It’s about working towards a sense of ‘wholeness’ in all its forms, such as mental, emotional, physical, spiritual and social.”
Healing can mean finding safe spaces, whether that be at school, out in nature or at church. It can mean distancing yourself or limiting contact with unsafe people, though this can be difficult when it goes against cultural or family values.
Reducing harmful behaviours is important, such as self-harm, substance abuse and aggression/violence. Many people also find healing in supporting others who are going through their own trauma.
After going through recovery, many survivors begin to find or reclaim pieces of their identity, no longer feeling labelled by their trauma.
George wrapped up the presentation with a final thought, “When you work with one trauma survivor, you have only worked with one trauma survivor. Every person is so different, so we as helpers and professionals need to honour, respect and elebrate those differences.”