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What is Faith-Based Trauma Therapy?

A lot of people are looking for a therapist that understands their Christian values and beliefs. This is why I have created a practice for “Faith-Based Trauma Therapy” in San Luis Obispo County. It combines 30 years of traditional mental health insights and tools with spiritual interventions that integrate the whole person (Body / Mind / and Spirit).

Trauma tells us lies about our identity. It internalizes outer pain into an inner reality. It tells us that we are unsafe, unwanted, unworthy, unloveable. It must be true because we keep getting this message from the world, the universe, from God, right? It must be true because it FEELS so true, right? Fortunately, that is not right.

Faith-Based Trauma Therapy uses trauma-informed, attachment-focused, and faith-based approaches to transform the false narratives written on our hearts.

TRAUMA-INFORMED = BODY

ATTACHMENT-FOCUSED = MIND

FAITH-BASED = SPIRIT

Trauma results in broken-heartedness, people feeling poorly about themselves, being unsafe in the presence of others, and estranged from God.

Trauma dysregulates our body. It impairs the nervous system and alters a child’s development. It hijacks our thinking brains with hyper-vigilance activating the “fight or flight” mechanism God designed within us for protection. But we are not designed for the amount of stress that comes from traumatic events and it overruns our bodies/brain.

Trauma disrupts our minds. Synaptic energy flows through our brains creating thoughts and emotions. Trauma disrupts that flow of energy resulting in modern mental health issues like depression and anxiety. It presents problems in impulse control, emotional management, planning and organizational skills, task completion, memory, motivation, and self-esteem.

Trauma disconnects us from ourselves, others, and God. It brings a dark night over the soul feeling cut off from sources of support. We can’t hear God’s voice, we question his will and we wonder if we ever did know it. Our most basic building block of trust is pulled from our foundations and it feels like we are crashing inward. We isolate, insulate, and avoid others. This wall of isolation makes us feels safe but also prevents others from getting close. Trauma tells us lies about who we are and our purpose in life. It shuts down dreams and destiny. 

A powerful practice to engage in each day is to ask ourselves: “How’s my heart today?” This is a common question I ask in the therapy session which makes the inner inquiry of…

How am I feeling about myself?

How are my relationships with family and friends?

What is the level of my relationship with God?

This inquiry of the heart, done daily or maybe hourly, sets the course for healing body, mind, and spirit. We notice the hurts caused by trauma and find ways to engage them instead of avoiding them. The only way out of hurt is through the hurt. On the other side, joy is waiting for us.

This is an inner work frequently neglected in favor of outer behavior management. Outer works are more sanitary and mechanical which makes them easier to manage. Inner work can be messy. Over-focus on outer works causes family members to react versus respond to others trauma/behavior. It views the person as the problem.

The truth is that the person is not the problem. The problem is the problem. Inner work connects with the person against the problem. Together we will think about the problem and work to solve the problems that trauma bring because together there is healing.

The strategy of healing in faith-based trauma therapy includes 1. Calming the body/brain, 2. Elevating the executive functions, 3. Rewrite our life narratives, and 4. Deepen our inner and outer connections. This is a holistic approach to healing that is a “bottom up, top down and spiritual surround” interventions. 

In faith-based trauma therapy, traditional interventions blend naturally with spiritual practices to forgive relational wounds, decrease residual trauma from our nervous system, increase attachments, restore emotional balance, reprocess lies, find the new truth, process grief and restart the flow of hope in our lives.

If you would like to more about faith-based trauma therapy for yourself or your family, contact Ron Huxley today at 805-709-2023 or click here to schedule a session (in office and Skype appointments) now. 

Freedom from Anxiety for 1$

Are you suffering from anxiety, panic, worry, or fear? Anxiety is the #1 problem in America today. A record number 1 in 8 people can claim to have an anxiety-related diagnosis. The good news is that anxiety is easily treated and you can use our online membership course today to find your freedom from anxiety!

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Just Like Me…

In a recent training on Trauma-Informed Care, I led the group through a mindfulness exercise that explored the nature of suffering. The goal was to bring a higher level of compassion for others in emotional pain.

Suffering refers to the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship. We know, in our heads, that everyone goes through difficult times but in our hearts, we neglect to connect with others, in their pain. This is because we are in pain too!

Professionals, who work with hurt people, are double-agents. They provide trauma-informed care and services to others AND they have experienced trauma too. We can be triggered by others pain and this will result in a distancing of emotions in order to keep ourselves safe. We sometimes call this a “professional distance” or “objectivity.” It might help us feel safer but it will also disconnect us from the heart of what we are trying to do in serving others. How to maintain this balance is the subject for another discussion. In the meantime, try this mindfulness exercise called “Just Like Me…” Examine how you feel before and after reading through it. Use it weekly or as often as you need to reconnect you with others who have experienced trauma and loss.

“Think of someone you like or dislike that you want to expect positive feelings and forgive. It help to think of that person who is similar to you. Take deep breaths and repeat after me…

This person has a body and a mind, just like me.
This person has feelings, emotions, and thoughts, just like me.
This person has in his or her life, experienced physical and emotional pain and suffering, just like me.
This person has at some point been sad, disappointed, angry, or hurt, just like me. This person has felt unworthy or inadequate, just like me.
This person worries and is frightened sometimes, just like me.
This person has longed for friendship, just like me.
This person is learning about life, just like me.
This person wants to be caring and kind to others, just like me.
This person wants to be content with what life has given, just like me.
This person wishes to be free from pain and suffering, just like me.
This person wishes to be safe and healthy, just like me.
This person wishes to be happy, just like me.
This person wishes to be loved, just like me.
Now, allow some wishes for well-being to arise:
I wish that this person have the strength, resources, and social support to navigate the difficulties in life with ease.
I wish that this person be free from pain and suffering.
I wish that this person be peaceful and happy.
I wish that this person be loved.
Because this person is a fellow human being, just like me.”

Need a therapist or trainer on healing from the hurt of trauma? Contact Ron Huxley today at rehuxley@gmail.com.

Take an online course on Trauma-Informed Care dealing with Trauma, Anxiety, Parenting, and more at http://FamilyHealerSchool.com

 

H.U.R.T. = Healing “Un’s” and Releasing Trauma

A key element of the healing strategies for individuals who have experienced trauma is to “ReWriting Our Narratives.”  These are the stories that we believe about ourselves as a result of the negative, hurt-full things in our life. But these stories are not all true even if they feel so, so, true. They are also not the end of the story. We can be the authors of our own lives and choose the plot lines of your future story. 

Children and Trauma

Children are “ego-centric”. These means that they believe the world revolves around them. Therefore, when bad things happen, they believe it is their fault. This is due to an immature nervous system and executive functioning skills that are supposed to help them see things rationally. They are not rational creatures. Consequently, if something bad happens traumatized children believe that they are bad! This is a false narrative based on painful/shameful memories.

This is a hallmark of trauma-informed care that is revolutionizing the programs and services across the nation. We are learning to shift our paradigms from asking “what is wrong with a person?” to “what happened to a person?” This allows us to concentrate on the story. But this must go deeper. We have to ask the healing questions: “where does it hurt?”

We can use the acronym for HURT to help us explore our stories:

H.U.R.T. = Healing Un’s and Releasing Trauma

HURT children carry around a lot of Un’s (a prefix meaning “not”): Unworthy, unwanted, unloved, unsafe, unstable, unkind, untrustworthy, etc”.

What UN’s do you or your child believe?

1.

2.

We could also ask ourselves this question. What UN’s do I believe about myself. Everyone goes through some level of trauma. The challenges and hassles of everyday life can be quite severe. Many caregivers suffer compassion fatigue or vicarious trauma as a result of working/living with a traumatized child.

Fortunately, healing is possible for children and adults. We can look at where the HURT is and find strategies that change our life stories with positive, resilient endings!

Get more help from Ron Huxley by scheduling a session today or taking one of an online Trauma-Informed training at http://FamilyHealerSchool.com

Healing the Special Needs Child

Many foster and adoptive parents have children with special needs who require specialized care and skills. According to Wikipedia, the term special needs “is a term used in clinical diagnostic and functional development to describe individuals who require assistance for disabilities that may be medical, mental, or psychological.”

In the United States, more than 150,000 children with special needs are waiting for permanent homes. Traditionally, children with special needs have been considered harder to place for adoption than other children, but experience has shown that many children with special needs can be placed successfully with families who want them.

This can put more of a strain on families than they realize. Just loving a child really hard is not enough to manage the requirements of a special needs child. It takes special knowledge and a support system from other parents of special needs children and professionals who “get it!”

Being unprepared is one of the reasons foster and adoptive families disrupt. Disruption is a term that refers to the ending of a foster placement prior to the finalization of an adoption. The rate of disruption has traditionally been10-20% nationally. Post-Adoption services and education can decrease this rate dramatically!

Perhaps the most challenging special needs issue, for parents and professionals, is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). This is defined as a “continuum of permanent birth defects caused by maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. It refers to a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. Problems may include an abnormal appearance, short height, low body weight, small head size, poor coordination, low intelligence, behavior problems, and problems with hearing or seeing.” (Wikipedia)

Fetal alcohol syndrome

In addition to the physical symptoms of FASD, there are several corresponding mental health problems, such as attentional deficits, clinical depression, anxiety, or other mental illness. As you can imagine, many of the problems show up in the child’s school experience. Suspensions or expulsion from school occurs in 90% of children in the united states. For teenagers, this can result in dropping of out of school, experienced by 60% of the subjects (age 12 and older).

Other problems, such as legal issues, can occur for FASD children. Being charged or convicted of a crime is experienced by 60% of the children ages 12 and older. (Wikipedia)

One of the ways to help children with special needs heal is to work on executive functioning skills. Executive Functioning: “are a set of cognitive processes – including attentional control, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility, as well as reasoning, problem-solving and planning – that are necessary for the cognitive control of behavior: selecting and successfully monitoring behaviors that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals.”

Elevating executive functioning skills will help children with special needs make better choices, control their behavior and manage their thoughts and emotions. The simplest way to elevate them is through play.

play1

It’s been said that play is the “beginning of knowledge.” The play is a child’s natural language and how they interact with the world and learn new skills and the shortest route to helping special needs children.

Babies and young children can benefit from games of peekaboo, pat-a-cake, hiding games, simple songs, and music, copying games, and fingerplays. Example of young child games include Eensy Weensy Spider, Where is Thumbkin, Open, Shut Them. Repetition and allowance for failure is key to helping children’s brain develop normally.

School-age children benefit from reading books, music, and movement, simple imitation games like follow the leader, conversations, manipulation of objects like blocks and Legos. Allow children to set the course of play allowing them to start and stop the rhythm of play.

It would seem that play with special needs children is the same as with any other child and it is…except that the intention and purpose of the play are to build brain skills that need reinforcement. The ability to stay focus and tolerate interactions need to be increased over time. If a child can only sit and play for 5 minutes, we want to increase that time to 6 minutes, then 7, etc. Start where the child is and allow them to increase tolerance and focus.

Take into consideration that each time the nervous system starts and then stops, it learns how to persist past impulses and distractions. Each time it achieves a difficult goal, it discovers the pleasure of success and wants to repeat this experience. This provides an internal locus of control that doesn’t require an adult to always supervise the play.

Play also develops social skills, an area that can be drastically missing in children with special needs. As children get older, teamwork becomes more important and necessary both at home and school. Children become more active and like to engage in dance, sports, playing catch, and various competition games. Competition can become a way to alienate others as special needs children have tantrums/meltdowns when they don’t win. This is due to a need to compensate for low self-esteem feeling like a failure at tasks and games.

Let the play be about the process and not the end result. Be happy for others who when and concentrating on celebrating team efforts will enhance executive functioning and overall relational success.

Is this still exhausting work? Yes! But the effort will be worth it in the long run. Use storytelling and imaginary play to make the connections that are missing in social/emotional development. Role-playing and creative art can also be a powerful tool for parents and professionals. Red Light/Green Light, Simon Says, clapping rhythms, guessing games, I Spy, and Brain Teasers are also useful brain tools.

Teenagers with special needs can benefit from practicing real-time daytimers, calendars, whiteboards, mind mapping and more to develop organizational, goal setting, planning, and monitoring and studying skills.

None of these activities should be done in isolation from caring, patient adults. Attachment and brain researchers operate under the maxim that “brains that fire together, wire together.” Just giving a toy to a child or tell them to do a task will not enhance the prefrontal cortex of the brain, where executive functioning is centered. Optimal development occurs when do people interact. Adults can guide the conversation and play to specifically target the individualized needs of the child. The child’s ability to push passed frustrations and manage moods will need the adult to help them through it.

calm

Finally, children of all ages can benefit from the mental organization power of mindfulness. Executive functioning is more than academic ability. This might be the focus on many of the adults in the child’s life but life smarts are important aspects of book smarts.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), “Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Learning to be mindful of one’s thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations calm the nervous system so thinking skills can increase. Teaching children the importance of experiencing their breath, mindful eating, yoga, and how to ground themselves are crucial skills at all ages.

Get more powerful tools for managing special needs and trauma for your organization with Trauma-Informed Training by contacting Ron Huxley now…click here!

Our Deepest Fear

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

– Marianne Williamson

We are powerful people meant to live in connection with other powerful people. We call these others family and friends.

How do we co-exist without blowing each other up or bogging down into jealousy and judgement.? Fears wants us to shut down. It want us to control others who are doing scary things and talking in scary ways. But control is an illusion. You realize that as you get older…even if that fact still annoys you and you try to control again.

What if we did believe we were powerful? What if we considered the idea that others were too. What if this is the way it was meant to be? How would I communicate if that were really true? How would I think…oh my!

God doesn’t call us orphans. He calls us sons and daughters. He controls by his passion. Think about that for a moment or two. He only wants love to be the controlling factor. Do it out of love or don’t do it.

For me, if this is even a slightly true then my power and ability to live with other powerful people is going to require a lot of love. I mean a lot of love!

It will upset all your mindsets. Punishment? Got to go! Control? Sorry! Negative talk? Bye! Anger? Don’t need you anymore! Anxiety? Don’t make me laugh!

Let’s try an experiment of walking, talking, relating, honoring with power at the core of everything we do. Squint your eyes and look at the world differently. Take a moment before you say anything and ask yourself: “would a powerful person speak this way?” How will you parent, work or play?

This might become contagious to others around you!

Traditions and Rituals for Step Families

If you are in a stepfamily and struggling for some sense of family identity, don’t despair. You can enhance your feeling of togetherness with the use of family rituals and traditions.

Rituals allow nontraditional and traditional families to form collective identities, facilitate healing, celebrate life changes, and pass on expressions of beliefs. Rituals include daily activities, even if they are taken for granted, such as getting ready for bed, eating at the table, and watching a television program. They can also be much more elaborate, although not necessarily more symbolic, such as weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs, graduations, and religious ceremonies.

Regardless of their format, rituals are an important aspect of our social lives, and parents can utilize this hidden resource in developing more intimate families. Family therapists have used the concept of rituals to help families that have been hurt by past actions toward one another or by an unexpected traumatic situation. Wedding vows have been restated by stepfamilies and have included all family members, including the children. Letters of anger and sadness have been written to unknown mothers and fathers and then ceremonially burned or destroyed as an act of saying good-bye. Marriage bands have been melted down or thrown into the middle of lakes to break emotional ties and symbolize the need for an emotional divorce, even after families have already been legally divorced. Again, how one performs these valuable tools is not as important as finding a way to signify a gain, loss, or both in the lives of families.

Often the most powerful rituals and traditions are the ones that come up naturally in a family. Forcing a tradition, in a stepfamily especially, is a guaranteed way to create more disharmony. Keep an eye on routines and activities that bio and nonbio family members seem to enjoy. What causes anxiety and frustration to leave the home and fosters a fun, creative, or relaxed atmosphere? Do more of those things.

If you still are unable to come up with a family ritual or tradition, have a family meeting or kitchen table discussion about what members of the family would like to do on a regular basis. You might be surprised what ideas come up. If reasonable, try these suggestions until you find one (or two) that fit your newly formed family.

As children get older and situations change, rituals and traditions may leave or no longer be of interest. If they are not related to deep spiritual values, allow them to pass and look for new ones to arrive. Rituals and traditions are there to serve your family and not the other way around.

Healing Strategies for Hurt Children (and adults)

The four-fold strategy for healing hurt children includes:

  1. Calm Down The Body/Brain
  2. Elevate Executive Functioning Skills
  3. Rewrite Our Narratives
  4. Deepen Our Inner/Outer Connections. 

This is a holistic approach that is “Bottom Up / Top Down /and Spiritual Surround”

Calming down the body and brain is necessary for the thinking brain to come online. When the nervous system is in a “fight or flight” response to stress, either real or perceived, the body will work to protect itself from harm. This is important if you step into the line of traffic and a car is speeding toward you. You don’t have time to pull out your phone and do a web search on “best ways to avoid being hit by a car.” Your body/brain system will do this for you without conscious thought. We have an amazing brain that can operate under very difficult situations that would be too overwhelming or painful to process all at once. This skill doesn’t serve us well, however, when it trauma is continually triggered at work, school, or home. In those situations, the emotional brain hijacks the thinking brain and dysregulation occurs.

Elevating the executive functioning skills is a misunderstood problem when working with a hurt child. Executive skills are centered in the prefrontal area of the brain (behind the forehead and eyes) and perform emotional regulation, self-control, planning and organization, working memory, and moral reasoning. These are areas that are naturally underdeveloped in children. In traumatized children, there is a dramatic delay that decreases brain size and disconnects signals needed to use these skills. Healing strategies will “practice” these skills in a playful format.

Re-writing life narratives is the third healing strategies. Trauma wants to interpret our identity and produce negativity in our hearts and homes. A hurting child will re-act out hurt on others and the world around them because this is how they see themselves. A new, more positive and accurate worldview is needed. Adults are the co-authors who modeling heightened awareness of thoughts and emotions and call out the child’s true identity.

Deepening inner and outer connections are not just the final goal of healing strategies. It is also where we start. The support of loving parents and professionals is needed because the work cannot be done in isolation. Negativity can be controlled in the “atmosphere” of the home even when it cannot be managed in the child. When the home is too cold or hot, the temperature can be adjusted to improve the general mood. Deep expression of compassion for self and others open the heart for healing. Additionally, spiritual practices, such as forgiveness, release the pain that blocks intimacy in our relationships.

Get more information on keynote addresses and trauma-informed training on “Healing Strategies for Hurt Children” by contacting Ron Huxley at 805-709-2023 or rehuxley@gmail.com.

The “R’s” of Trauma-Informed Care

Trauma affects all levels of society, including the home, school, religious institutions, social service organizations, public and private business, the arts and all areas of culture. A major movement has been occurring, throughout the nation, to change our perspective on trauma-informed approaches. The goal of this movement is to increase sensitivity in client care and prevent re-traumatization.

In order to meet this goal, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has created 4 R’s to guide the individual practitioner and society. These R’s include:

1. Realizing the widespread impact of trauma and understand the potential paths of recovery.

2. Recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved in the system.

3. Respond by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices.

4. and seeks actively to Resist Re-traumatization.

This guidance has resulted in paradoxical shifts that promote Resiliency and Regulation to promote positive Recovery. These “R’s” are essential to the practice of social work and mental health.

As the ideas and practices spread through society, we have to explore lesser recognized R’s of trauma-informed care, including Respect and Relationship. These two R’s are elements of success in creating a trauma-informed (cultural of) care.

There is a Zen saying:

If there is light in the soul,
There is beauty in the person,
If there is beauty in the person,
There will be harmony in the house,
If there is harmony in the house,
There will be order in the nation,
If there is order in the nation,
There will be peace in the world.

Respect starts with the individual – has to start with the individual – and then slowly moves through-out society. It starts with the parent in the home, the social worker in the field, the rabbi in the synagogue, the teacher in the physical education program, the supervisor in the organization. This light sparks from respecting oneself and then it then gets paid forward to others around them. It brings gratitude for beauty in the person and harmony in the “house”. It sustains families and transforms organizations and the world.

Respect is defined as the admiration of someone’s ability, qualities or achievements. It creates an atmosphere that promotes safety for the trauma survivor.

“Trauma, by definition, is unbearable and intolerable … Nobody wants to remember trauma. In that regard society is no different from the victims themselves. We all want to live in a world that is safe, manageable, and predictable, and victims remind us that this is not always the case. In order to understand trauma, we have to overcome our natural reluctance to confront that reality and cultivate the courage to listen to the testimonies of survivors.”

— Van Der Kolk, 2014
The question most often asked is how to put these “R’s” into daily practice? How do you make them a Reality?
According to SAMHSA’s report on Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Services, these R’s involve the…  
  • Recruiting, hiring, and retaining trauma-informed staff.
  • Training behavioral health service providers on the principles of, and evidence-based and emerging best practices relevant to, TIC.
  • Developing and promoting a set of counselor competencies specific to TIC.
  • Delineating the responsibilities of counselors and addressing ethical considerations specifically relevant to promoting TIC.
  • Providing trauma-informed clinical supervision.
  • Committing to prevention and treatment of secondary trauma of behavioral health professionals within the organization.
A lack of safety often looks like mistrust, a common problem for survivors. Trauma impacts the whole person. I manifest in our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual self. Symptoms of trauma often come with emotional numbness and a desire to isolate from others. It results in a lack of interest in social connections and impairs parenting, marriages, and working relationships. It can also impair clients and patients desire to seek the services they need because they don’t feel safe. 

All of this must be held in the context of a Relationship. The relationship is the healing factor behind it all. Without relationship, there is no family, no organization, no church, no society. In the science of resiliency, the relationship is how we tip the scale from negative to positive outcomes. One healing relationship in a chaos of trauma can provide enough emotional strength for a child or adult to survive.

Reflect on the “R’s” of Trauma-Informed Care:

1. How has your organization utilized the 4 R’s of Recognize, Realize, Respond, and Resist Retraumatization?

2. What can you do to start or improve on any efforts already done using these 4 R’s?

3. Can you define the concepts of Regulation, Resiliency, and Recovery? Write these definitions on an index card and consider them each time you interact with a co-worker, friend, or client.

4. How have the ideas of Respect and Relationship impacted you personally and/or how have you used these two powerful R’s to move others to more positive outcomes?

~> Need training or consultation on how to implement Trauma-Informed Care into your church, school, or business? Let Ron Huxley help you train your staff or community. Email him today at rehuxley@gmail.com or call 805-709-2023. 

REST is REstoring the Soul from Trauma

Parenting a traumatized child can be challenging and exhausting work. It isn’t something that should be done alone without adequate support. Parents must take care of themselves as well as others. You can’t give away what you don’t have… Faith-based families look to God for their help (Psalms 121:1-2) and operate from a place of REST:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“He restores my soul.” Psalms 23:

REST stands for RE-store your Soul from Trauma. Our soul includes our entire being: body, mind/emotions, and spirit. Each area requires attention. How do we do that when we have an endless to-do list, dealing with continuous problems?

The key is to find rest IN work, not FROM work. It is a mental recognition that we can be in partnership with God and others. We can set boundaries and say “No” to outside activities, not live up to others expectations, and remember “who you are and whose you are” spiritually speaking. You have to be a “son or daughter” before you can be a fully functioning father or mother. Seek out spiritual parents to support you as you carry on the work of parenting traumatized children.

Learn more by reviewing one of the Family Healer School ecourse by clicking here!