Whenever we encounter trauma-impacted children or adults, we realize that it is often not enough to treat only the traumatized child or adult.
Trauma occurs in the context of a family or a community.
It normally does not occur in isolation from other relationships. Likewise, trauma should not be treated without the inclusion of the entire system in which the trauma occurred, whether it is a family, a school or an entire community.
I understand it is intuitive we should rush to the aid of a trauma-impacted individual. Yes, they need all the help they can get. We need to provide them with safety, protection, treatment and the opportunity to recover…
However, it is a common practice to silo the trauma and think once we treat an individual for trauma, somehow magically traumatizing activities will cease within the person’s system.
For example, the transgenerational nature of trauma has taught us that trauma (and a variety of other messages that are damaging to children) is often passed from grandparents to parents to children.
Sometimes, there is even a sense of expectation that each generation will continue to live by its own trauma code. To do anything else would be disloyal to the family’s core beliefs no matter how destructive those beliefs are.
Trauma occurs in the context of relationships.
To deal with the trauma of a child, and not to deal with the family—even if they were not the perpetrators of trauma—is a fragmented approach.
If one member of a family is a victim of trauma, there are consequences to the whole family, and the whole family ought to be a part of the therapeutic services.
In addition to the family, victims of trauma may occur in other systems: schools, communities, peer groups and others that assert power and control over a child or adult.
If someone is in a network of relationships, there can be an expectation of allegiance—and even secrecy—regarding the traumatizing actions and attitudes.
When community-inflicted trauma occurs, that community needs to understand its impact on the victims. Further, the community needs to undergo the therapeutic process to mitigate the impact of trauma on each victim within the system. It is why we must consider ways to educate and provide strategies to help the whole system of relationships in the life of a trauma-impacted individual.
Any other approach that continues to silo or isolate someone who is trauma-impacted will not be effective, and the trauma will continue to create chaos and broken relationships.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO