Trauma and Resiliency Training in High Demand

People express a hunger for training in trauma-informed care and resilience. Trainees arrive with a passion to learn and readiness for change. On a weekly basis, I speak with community groups and professionals across the state. No matter where I go, the stories amaze me. Two groups of such passionate people recently invited ChildSavers to train their members.

Trauma-Informed Preschools

First, I met with a group of about 30 suburban women. They do amazing work with children in their early childhood education setting. They love these children dearly. These teachers provide structure, develop social-emotional skills, and use developmentally appropriate education. Further, they prepare young children for school and for life. Additionally, these early educators see barriers that stand in the way of their students’ success. We discussed some of these students and the barriers they face.

One teacher had a four-year-old with intense behavior problems. The child had lost his father to cancer three months prior. Secondly, another teacher had a three-and-a-half year-old who bit other children and hide under desks. This child lived in a chaotic home with a single parent who worked two jobs. And finally, a five-year-old in another teacher’s care was withdrawn. She refused to engage with other students or staff in work or play.

Asking the Right Questions

We spent time reframing these behavior problems through the trauma-informed lens. As a result, instead of asking the question “What’s wrong with you?” we asked, “What happened to you?” We looked at what each child had lost and recognized the trauma. Together, we made a plan to help each child. The behavior of each child revealed that he or she needed safety, power, control, attention, or connection.

By understanding the roots of each behavior, these teachers found new ways to help these children. In their classrooms they attempted to restore what was lost and to respond with more compassion and empathy. By learning about trauma and responding to each child’s needs, teachers helped their children to address personal needs without causing problems. Each individual case reminded me that those children who need our love and care the most are often those who are hardest to love.

Trauma-Informed Prisons 

On another day, I visited a local correctional facility. I spent time with men and women incarcerated for various drug-related offenses. Most of them reported their own accounts of childhood trauma. They experienced abuse and loss. Furthermore, many lacked parents due to addiction, incarceration or mental illness.

The National Institutes of Mental Health recognize drug addiction as an illness. We now understand that genetics and experiences wire some people’s brains to respond to cues of addiction in a different way. In a similar way, some people’s brains respond differently to childhood trauma and chronic, toxic stress during their early development.

For instance, someone who experienced abuse or chaos at home may have learned to keep themselves on alert at all times. This alertness serves as a coping skill, a very different coping skill than those of someone who grew up in a peaceful, loving home. The person who grew up with no sense of love from a parent learned very different relationship and family skills. Their brain prioritized skills like survival and defense. It put skills like relationship building and problem solving on the back burner.

Looking Into a Mirror

When I met with incarcerated men and women with difficult childhoods, it seemed as though they looked into a mirror throughout our entire workshop. They seemed to see themselves and also their children. The men and women asked wonderful questions, seeking hope and a better future for themselves and their families. They too expressed a hunger for training in trauma-informed care and resilience, as well as a readiness for change.

I feel privileged to share time with all sorts of wonderful individuals across our state and in our Richmond community. The resilience of individuals and the stories of people overcoming adversity amaze me. They stand strong and bounce back. Every time I have the opportunity to see their “light bulbs” of new insight, I witness lives changing. By promoting wellness for our community, we create a truly trauma-informed and resilient community. Each day we get one step closer.

By John Richardson-Lauve, Director of Mental Health and Trauma and Resilience Education

John Richardson-Lauve is a licensed clinical social worker with over 20 years of experience working in community mental health. He is committed to supporting and strengthening individuals and communities that struggle with adversity. His experience includes work with chronically mentally ill adults, substance abuse, residential youth care, foster care, and outpatient mental health. He has worked with homeless veterans in New York City, in a hospice home for those with HIV in the early stages of the AIDS crisis, and six years living in a home with eight teenage girls in foster care. John is an experienced trainer, lecturer, and keynote presenter. He is the Director of Mental Health and Lead Trauma and Resilience Educator at ChildSavers. John and his wife have a nine-year-old son and together, they have worked with over 50 children in foster care in their home.

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