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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. 

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!

Dealing With Dissociation (TraumaToolbox Video)

Dissociation is a common problem that is often misunderstood by survivors of trauma and those who care for them. This training video from the TraumaToolbox.com will provide you with practical tips on how to recognize and regulate dissociative responses.

Get free access to the entire series of training videos at the Family Healer School today!

Need a trainer on Trauma-Informed Care? Download the pdf brochure by clicking here: tt brochure and/or contact Ron today at 805-700-2023 / rehuxley@gmail.com.

 

The Power-FULL Family: New Faith-In-Motion Seminar

Join me at the March Faith-In-Motion Seminar on March 26th, from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. I will share on how to turn power struggles into opportunities for greater intimacy and cooperation. Power-less families engage in power struggles in order to “feel” powerful. Power-less families must be empowered to “know” they are powerful. It is a question of identity that doesn’t let circumstances and situations determine who we are.

Foster and Adoptive families will discover faith-based perspectives on attachment and trauma and find a way to greater healing!

Download here: FIM March flyer

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