3 important goals for trauma recovery

In the last week we have been discussing the best words used to describe the process of trauma recovery (see related post below). While words are important and carry much meaning, it may be more helpful to consider what recovery goals are in order for trauma victims. While we know recovery road can be long and arduous, it helps to know when we make progress and a general sense of the direction we are headed. In the days before GPS, if you went on a long car trip you probably consulted a map on several occasions in order to make sure you were headed in the right direction. So also, when you are working to get better after a traumatic experience, you want some sense you are still working on good goals. This need is especially great if the traumatic symptoms are complex and the treatment not brief (think war, genocide, child sexual abuse, etc.)

What three goals?

Esad Boskailo, as noted on p. 94 in his memoir (written and reported by Julie Lieblich) works toward these three goals that in turn support the ultimate goal: thriving (notice that the goal is not being free of symptoms, free of triggers, or back to life as if the trauma did not happen).

  • Acknowledge losses
  • Foster resiliency (i.e., build the capacity to use current coping resources)
  • Find meaning in life again

I think these do function well as helpful signposts or intermediate goals in the process of recovery from traumatic experiences. Now, I don’t believe these goals are necessarily in sequence. For some clients, they stumble on something that gives new meaning to life and thus are better able to acknowledge losses. Others get to work on building better coping mechanisms (e.g., a vet puts away items that cause him or her to dissociate, an adult victim of CSA stops cutting and develops acceptance strategies, etc.) and then can acknowledge losses.

So, in the murky water of therapy (and it surely is murky!), the trauma victim can find some comfort in activities pointing to these intermediate goals. Each day they reject self-condemnation for not being who they used to be before the trauma, they are moving toward thriving. Each day they embrace available coping resources (e.g., a friend who will call or pray), they are moving toward thriving. Each day they find one meaningful experience, they are moving toward thriving.

the how we meet these goals is, of course, the 64,000 dollar question…and not something we can set in stone. I will write on some general activities that are common in most treatment modalities in the coming days.


Filed under christian counseling, counseling, counseling science, counseling skills, Psychology

2 responses to “3 important goals for trauma recovery

  1. D. Stevenson

    What does “thriving” look like? Is it different from coping, enduring, surviving? Is there an arrival point? Does a time arrive where the traumatized one no longer needs counseling? When is that? I suppose it is when the goal is achieved. If the goal is thriving, that returns me to my question. How do we know when the goal of thriving is reached?

  2. I think one would think that thriving is a better, positive experience than enduring and surviving. I don’t think that anyone feels that surviving is a place one would want to stay or a final goal. So, I would ask the person, do you feel like you are thriving? Finding hope, meaning, encouragement even as things may still be tough?

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