Relationships, Connection and Healing from Trauma

UnknownI’m reading an excellent book at the moment, which I can strongly recommend to you. If you’re working in the trauma field, then The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And other Stories From a Child Psychiatrists Notebook by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz is an essential read.

The book really gives you a feel for how our understanding of childhood trauma and its healing has moved along over the years. Bruce Perry is a real leader in this field and I feel blessed to have learnt of both Bruce’s and Bessel van der Kolk’s work in the past year. Thank you Judy and Carlie Atkinson.

Here’s a little section from the book:

‘Trauma and our responses to it cannot be understood outside the context of human relationships… The most traumatic aspects of all disasters involve the shattering of human connections. And this is especially true for children…’

‘Because humans are inescapably social beings, the worst catastrophes that can befall us inevitably involve relational loss.

As a result, recovery from trauma and neglect is also all about relationships – rebuilding trust, regaining confidence, returning to a sense of security and reconnecting to love… But healing and recovery are impossible – even with the best medications and therapy in the world – without lasting connections to others.

Indeed, at heart it is the relationship with the therapist, not primarily his or her methods or words of wisdom, that allows therapy to work. All the children who ultimately thrived following our treatment did so because of a strong social network that surrounded and supported them…’

‘What maltreated and traumatized children most need is a healthy community to buffer the pain, distress and loss caused by their earlier trauma. What works to heal them is anything that increases the number and quality of a child’s relationships.

What helps is consistent, patient, repetitive loving care. And, I should add, what doesn’t work is well-intended but poorly trained mental health “professionals” rushing in after a traumatic event, or coercing children to “open up” or “get out their anger”.

However, because it is exactly those children who are most vulnerable to trauma who are least likely to have a healthy, supportive family and community, it is exceedingly difficult to provide effective help through the current systems we have in place.

Because healthy communities themselves are often what prevents interpersonal traumatic events (like domestic violence and other violent crime) from occurring in the first place, the breakdown of social connection that is common in our highly mobile society increases everyone’s vulnerability.’

You can learn more about Bruce Perry’s work here.