By Lisa Compton
As I trauma therapist, I have the privileged experience of working with people I consider true heroes — those who have been through painful traumatic events and find the courage to continue living a productive life. Trauma survivors are some of the bravest people I know. Counseling those that have experienced trauma is both rewarding and challenging for the therapist.
As I sit with client after client that has survived various types of trauma, I am in awe of the depth of our experiences as trauma counselors. The most severely wounded and hurting are entrusted into our care. Their painful memories and broken spirits seek out our “expertise” often as a last hope to make sense of the chaos that surrounds the human existence.
The clients that become fixated in our own minds and trigger our countertransference are the ones who have suffered the most extreme of what this earth has to offer. Our curiosity is often peaked by their remarkably horrifying stories and our minds sent into a whirlwind of pondering, “Could this ever happen to me?”
Treatment starts with a cry within our own spirits — what do I have to offer this client that will ease the pain, and is easing the pain even possible? We rely on our past successes with wounded clients to combat the helplessness we feel as we sit passively witnessing their trauma narratives. We are not able to help all of them. The threat of suicides lingers in the therapeutic air as the ultimate failure of treatment.
However, there are those who are heroically able to overcome the odds. There is a hope for even the most extreme cases that the human soul can thrive after experiencing the deepest wounds. It is based on this hope that we ask the client to rip off the scab that has provided a barrier of protection and share with us the cuts that run to their core. An intimacy of trust develops between them and us. Our small office with a chair and sofa transforms into sacred ground where the evil that was meant to destroy them becomes overtaken by the power of healing and survival.
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Lisa Compton is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Trauma Specialist. She was once a student of Scott Allison’s at the University of Richmond.