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The Power of Relationships

Updated: Jun 15

Here at REMM Counseling one of the types of treatment we’re honored to offer is treatment to help with the healing of trauma (capital T trauma or lower case T trauma).

Often times people will shy away from providing trauma care because of the presumption that walking with survivors of trauma is all pain and horror. Honestly, it’s more so an opportunity to be steeped in the existential power of relationships to heal. Through the process of healing trauma we get to ultimately see the best of who the human person already is and has yet to become.

Bessel Van der Kolk, in his best selling book The Body Keeps the Score, spoke of how relationships are the foundational factor that determines the trajectory that trauma will take in the mind, soul and body of the person who survives it. He compared the outcomes of two events that were both clearly and unequivocally trauma; 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. After 9/11, the PTSD rate was 5%, however, after Hurricane Katrina the PTSD rate was 33%. The defining characteristic driving this variance? Access to supportive community, at the practical level and also at the spiritual and emotional level. During 9/11, many survivors still had homes to return to, families to encounter, whereas survivors of Hurricane Katrina, if they were able to leave, were displaced to unfamiliar surroundings and communities that in many cases were not ready to support their needs. If survivors of Hurricane Katrina were not able to get out, they were forced into crowd control measures, and displayed in the media on many occasions as victims. Survivors of 9/11 instead were more often given the opportunity to practice self efficacy and portrayed more often in the media as heroes. During 9/11 there was an extensive focus on mental health care, a focus that was not experienced to similar degree for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. And it is necessary to point out the higher prevalence of poverty among survivors of Hurricane Katrina versus 9/11, and that also being a driving force of access to supportive resources.

Not all trauma results in PTSD. Let me repeat that. Not all Trauma (capital T) results in PTSD, and one of the driving forces to consider in the outcome of trauma is the presence of supportive relationships. Where there are more supportive relationships, the outcome of PTSD is less likely and vice versa.

What happens in trauma counseling, is what should have always happened by virtue of the dignity of the human person. The opportunity to encounter the healing power of relationships. What a privileged encounter it is for us as clinicians. May our communities grow into places full of relationships with the power to heal versus hurt and harm. Because if they can, we might just no longer be needed.

We highly recommend the book The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel Van der Kolk. It’s written to be a good read for counselors and non-counselors alike.

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