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Creating safe places to land

A trauma-informed approach to peer facilitator training

Trauma-informed peer facilitators: Creating safe places to land, becoming hands offering hope to strangers

Founding a trauma-informed peer facilitator training and support community in the “third-third” of life continues reshaping how I see and experience others, God’s heart and kingdom ways, as well as an added discipleship component. The gift of walking with incredibly brave, gifted, and trauma-wounded women with a passion to create safe places for others to land is a sacred trust, and I'm profoundly grateful for the lessons learned from colleagues and those in the ADOH community.

With over 40 years’ experience serving traumatized children, women and men as a therapist and educator worldwide, Diane Langberg’s perspective deserves hearing. “Trauma,” she proclaimed, “is the 21st century’s mission field."

I agree.

Langberg's work, among others, introduced me to trauma-sensitive theology, heightening my awareness of its importance for the peer facilitator, and those who join their groups. And as Jennifer Baldwin explains in the video, relevant in understanding how trauma is impacting us culturally.

Knowing what is required to create safe places to land and being equipped to offer hope to strangers begins by becoming trauma-informed. And it appears that many within the global Christian 'family' are listening to God’s Spirit in response to the cries of the traumatically wounded ones around us. Becoming trauma-informed creates awareness about the scope of trauma, how it impacts us, and what trauma recovery requires.

Trauma-informed/trained peer facilitators shift from approaching others with a “What’s wrong with her… him… them?” perspective to practicing empathic curiosity: “I wonder; what is her story? What don't I know? What does safety look like for her? What does she need?" Peer facilitators offering safe groups see through a trauma lens, listen empathetically, and then guide the group process as participants regain a lost sense of self-worth and a restored hope for their future.

What might the trauma-informed peer facilitator watch for while walking with betrayed partners until the sun comes up?

In this excerpt from the post in the link below, experienced APSATS coach Kim Petroni describes her world, and in doing so provides a deep understanding of the experiences those she, and peer facilitators experience.

"The world I work with is dark. The divorcees I see hide behind a mask of secrecy and shame.

Grief stricken, burdened and broken. These betrayed partners have lost everything they dreamed their lives were going to be.

The husband or partner they believed to know is dead. They are widows now.

That first session when I see a woman, staring at me with hollow eyes on the other side of my Zoom lens, fearful, uncomfortable, confused, and frozen is heartbreaking.

For her, nothing makes sense, and nothing is clear. Her eyes are blinded by tears forcing their way out, demanding she speak her truth. She is yearning for it all to make sense and stop hurting.

Her body is penetrated by adrenalin, pulsing through her fingers as she tries to steady them, hiding them below my view. Her voice is shaky, and she attempts to strongly affirm her reason for calling me. She is desperate for affirmation. I don’t know her story yet, but I know her pounding heart.

I’m just one more person she is hoping will help stop her merciless pain."

  • What skills might it take for a peer facilitator to help guide shattered souls back toward hope?

  • What needs might the 'widows' in her group need?

  • How does this understanding help a peer facilitator resist pushing a betrayed partner to “get over it?” “Forgive” And why, if doing so, it would further wound someone?

Another window into betrayal trauma from a trauma-informed approach

In her post (link below) describing, anger, Lisa Taylor includes this quote:

“Anger has a voice which needs to be spoken and heard. If it is just anger – and eventually, anger tempered with mercy and love – anger’s voice can be the voice of God crying out against injustice and the profaning of the temple. If you join with God’s anger at the abuse, if you allow your anger to come forth, you begin to reclaim the sacredness of your personal temple: body mind, and soul.”

  • Trauma-informed peer facilitators are self-aware, they understand their own perspectives about anger.

  • They recognize their comfort level when they listening to another’s anger Or, their own.

  • If you facilitate groups, what might you need to discover about anger, and then practice to help you guide shattered souls back toward hope?

In "Betrayal: Leaving us Terrified (link below) Taylor explains: “Fear, in some form, shows up in the vast majority of us. In many cases the fear is to the point where it is making life very difficult. Said one respondent:

“I have had three severe anxiety attacks. After the first one was witnessed by my children, I began to keep a paper bag in my nightstand drawer.”

Debilitating fear is truly awful. As you work on healing (processing your pain with safe people, good self-care) the fears should slowly subside. Understand, though that this is the work of months (possibly even years), not days. (More on this next week).

Now the original bomb that went off in our life was almost always out of the blue. It wasn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy because we never thought “that this would be my story.”

  • Trauma-informed peer facilitators understand why fear hold partners captive – as well as what moving forward requires throughout their recovery journey.

  • What information and skills would a peer facilitator require to be able to do so? What did you see as Taylor explained why fear hold partners captive – and what a moving forward requires of those willing to sit with another throughout that journey?

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