New Focus on Childhood Trauma and Healing for Adults
By Nancy Minister, MC, Survivors Therapist
I recently came across a blog written by ACEs Connection member Elizabeth Prewitt titled, “For the first time, SAMHSA’s annual children’s mental health event focuses on trauma.” In the article, Ms. Prewitt writes, “It is both remarkable and natural that the theme of the 2018 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) May 10th Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day event was “Partnering for Health and Hope Following Trauma”. It was remarkable to hear “ACEs” and “trauma-informed” roll off the tongues of all the federal officials (some seasoned, some new appointees in the Trump Administration). And natural as the awareness of ACEs science grows at lightning speed…at least it feels that way.”
It was certainly exciting to learn that the SAMHSA event aligned so closely with the mission of ACEs Connection: to accelerate the global ACEs science movement, to recognize the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in shaping adult behavior and health, and to promote trauma-informed and resilience-building practices and policies in all communities and institutions. Strategies for making child-serving systems more trauma-informed is a subject near and dear to my own heart.
Before coming to work for Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows as a Survivors Workshop facilitator, I worked with children and adolescents in residential treatment for seven years. The agency was amazing and provided consistent, compassionate, therapeutic and psychiatric long-term care for kids in the residential program. The agency also provided services for children and families in several equally effective programs. It was very rewarding and fun to work with the team, the children, and their families. Even though the children and adolescents returned to better home situations, I imagine that there are effects in their lives as adults because they had high ACEs scores (click here for your ACEs score).
Adults who have faced adverse childhood experiences such as physical, sexual and verbal abuse; physical and emotional neglect; a family member with an addiction or mental illness; witnessing abuse; or losing a parent to separation, divorce or other reason can find help in The Meadows family of programs and services. Adults with a history of childhood trauma may be resilient and have learned to adapt but often times they have problems with health, relationships, addictions, anxiety, or mood disorders.
Specifically designed to address childhood trauma, The Meadows signature workshop, Survivors, is a five-day experience conducted in a group format. Survivors has been in existence for over 30 years and have served many thousands of inpatients as well as outpatients.
Prior to attending Survivors, participants complete a questionnaire covering the basics of their family while growing up. On the first day of the workshop, participants learn about Pia Mellody’s Developmental Immaturity Model. I think Pia’s model is genius, and like to call it “the guidebook for life that we never got.” Participants gain insight into how relational trauma and abuse during childhood affect their relationship with themselves and others.
From a very young age, even before we acquired speech, we learned to take the energetic pulse of our home. We learned to be sensitive to the moods, desires, and expectations of those around us. Being dependent on our caregivers for our survival, we often developed more sensitivity to the feelings of others than to our own. We also took in the messages that were given to us about who we needed to be and who we could not be.
As adults, we can feel confused about who we are or believe that we need to have another’s approval to feel okay. We can think and feel that our value and worth is based on looking pretty or being the highest achiever. We can think that we have to achieve in specific ways to have value, and if we don’t, then we feel worthless. We can even believe that nothing we do is ever good enough. These painful struggles are a result of relational trauma and abuse.
The healing recovery work done is Survivors is not about blaming or bashing parents or other caregivers. It is truly about healing from the past in order to be more balanced and functional. Often the parenting styles are generational. The definition of abuse we use is “anything less than nurturing or experienced as shaming.”
The Survivors workshop is popular because it is effective. People walk away feeling lighter, more open, and connected with themselves after releasing the energy surrounding the trauma experiences. We often have individuals come to the workshop who have been referred by a family member or friend after having noticed the changes. Frequently, we hear workshop participants say, “Everybody should do this! Everyone can benefit from this!” and “This should be taught in schools.” People walk away with a sense that they have made a difference, not only in their own lives but in the family legacy that they pass on to future generations.
All of The Meadows programs provide trauma-informed treatment specific to the specialized program. It is a privilege to be a part of this premier provider of leading-edge trauma treatment. I feel very hopeful knowing that SAMHSA’s annual Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day spotlighted the need for trauma-informed and resilience-building practices and policies for children. This is a great step forward for the field of trauma treatment and future generations of children will benefit from this increased focus and funding.
If you are interested in attending a Survivors workshop, please call our intake department at 1-800-244-4949.