Disclosure in Trauma Work

It’s completely normal for life to break your heart.  It will happen.  We all got here when a bottom fell out and everything that we knew fell out with us into some vast space that we never anticipated inhabiting.  And, it keeps happening.  Let’s set aside the fact of monsters for a moment.  Live long enough and you’ll outlive nearly everyone and everything that your young heart loved.  Loss is trauma.  Someone will leave you or you’ll have to leave someone.  Heartache is trauma.  None of this is side show.  It’s the stuff at the rust red marrow of life.  The certainty of it is redundantly twisted into every cell.  Give it time.  That central thread of this life is designed to snag.  It will catch and it will unravel.  It has always, always, been this way.

Does it make any kind of sense to pretend that healers are somehow above this?  Does it make any kind of sense to pretend that we have not learned deeply from our own experiences?  Ideally, healers are the ones who have learned something about navigating the dark underworld of trauma.  Hopefully, we know more than others about how these roads connect because we have traveled them attentively in our own lives and in the service of others.  Our expertise is navigational and is in the direction against despair.

I ask nearly every client about her prior experience in therapy.  The most consistent evaluation I hear is: “All she did was talk about herself.”  Some level of disclosure is essential in trauma work.  Confession is not.  Using pronouns that are inclusive enough to cover everyone in the room is a kind of subtle disclosure.  Letting a client know that you have received as the client the treatment that you are providing can be reassuring when provided to the right client at the right time.  Trauma is about us too and there is no sense in pretending otherwise.  But the therapy that we do with clients is not in the service of our own healing.  It can’t be.  Disclosure must provide real and justifiable service to the client on his journey.  There can be only one client and it’s never the one who is billing.

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