I went to a workshop recently to learn about Trauma Exposure Response and the effects of secondary trauma on people who work with trauma victims. The speaker was Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky of the Trauma Stewardship Institute. I saw her TED talk, so I had a little insight as to what the workshop would cover but was pleasantly surprised at the knowledge I gained and the feelings it brought out of me and others in attendance.
While working in mental health/ social services for 15 years, and dealing with my own stress, family conflict, grief/loss, etc. concurrently, I know that life and the type of work I have done are not easy. I have had good days and bad days, success, failures, internal conflicts and personal conflicts, concerns about safety, sadness about how I tried to help someone which did not work out, and I have seen substance abuse, child abuse, the list is endless. I realize that I have faired much better than other field workers and yet the job and life take their toll all the same. You and I and others have to figure out have to live life while addressing theses issues with and for others on a daily basis.
A few topics came up during the course of the workshop which are not in my cup of tea, but I kept an open mind and I am glad to draw from the knowledge well at any time. I am sure that there are some differing world views, but I chose to focus on why I was at the workshop and to learn how I can get back on track and feel better. I realized that I spend more time than I should focusing on what isn’t and how I wish it would be. I have learned about being mindful, concepts of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (including Radical Acceptance), stress management, anger management, the five stages of change, and more. I have tried each of them and other coping methods, including exercise, but understanding how everything fits together and leaves long-lasting effects was powerful. Knowing that you need to take a brief walk at work is not the same as making a plan to manage your stress and exposure to trauma so you can live and work in healthy ways. I am now aware of this, and have a long way to go toward fixing, reconciling, and mending. My first step is to read “Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others” , and the second step is to make some healthy changes, including regular exercise and mindfulness. So far, I am enjoying the book and working to implement Laura’s suggestions.
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