Interested in shifting beyond traditional, cognitive-based ways of interacting with clients? Curious about how to deepen your understanding of how to work with trauma and overwhelming emotions and physical symptoms more safely? Trauma Trainings from The Refuge are grounded in the latest research and promising practice models that integrate the neuroscience of trauma, attachment, addictions, somatics, emotion regulation and arousal modulation, to support client safety, choice, voice, healing, wholeness, resiliency, embodiment and empowerment.

Trauma Trainings from The Refuge emphasize a balance between theory and practice, using a combination of lecture-style slides, interactive discussions, demonstrations, small group work, and dyad/triad practice, to allow for a deeper integration of the material. Additional resources are also provided to support participants to further their learning outside the training.

Holistic and integrative

nspired primarily by the works of Dr. Stephen Porges (polyvgal theory), Kathy Kain, MA, SEP (Somatic Practice), Steve Terrell, PsyD, SEP, Dr. Peter Levine, Dr. Dan Siegel, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, and other pre-eminent trauma and attachment experts, Trauma Trainings from The Refuge focus on integrating the principles of trauma-informed services and trauma-specific practices with the intention of making your current work with clients and students safer and more effective.

Trauma Trainings from The Refuge also draw on mindfulness, self-compassion, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy skills, ego state and inner child work, psychodynamic therapy, Gestalt therapy, Focusing, radical acceptance, Therapeutic Presence, and life skills coaching. Specific trainings also integrate principles from animal-assisted therapy, nature-based therapy, equine-facilitated wellness, play therapy, and art therapy.

The 4 directions

4directionsThe holistic nature of the approaches inspiring these trainings align well with the traditions of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, whose understanding of trauma involves the spirit leaving the body (fragmentation / dissociation). Respect is given for cognitive, emotional, physical and relational aspects of existence and the interplay between them, within a framework that emphasizes the importance of cultural traditions, spirituality and nature in re-embodying a sense of self or spirit. More specifically, the Noojimowin Series aims to integrate Western neuroscience, Eastern philosophies and Aboriginal principles with an understanding and respect for colonial trauma, intergenerational trauma and the impact of residential schools and the 60s Scoop on aboriginal health and wellness.

Organizational development

Organizational development in the area of trauma-informed services is also a focus, should that be your aim. If you are looking to integrate trauma-informed principles into your existing infrastructure, practices, policies and procedures, you’ve come to the right place! With many funders, including the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), encouraging their service providers to provide trauma-informed care, Trauma Trainings from The Refuge is a way for you to meet the requirements of your funding body. Our lead trainer and founder, Sarah Schlote, has experience working as a clinician offering frontline trauma-specific care in both the public and private sector. She also has the unique advantage of having worked for a LHIN on the funding side of the equation and interacting with health service providers to develop action plans to implement goals that meet performance measures. As a result, she has in-depth insider knowledge and advanced training in how to help you grow as a team and as an organization.

Talking about trauma is not the same as processing trauma

For many people, having to repeat the details of their trauma over and over again, from service to service, is a triggering process. Clients sometimes see the same therapist for years, repeatedly recounting the details of their story or being flooded with images and memories as a way of desensitizing them to what has occurred, in the belief that facing the trauma head-on is necessary. Overwhelming a client’s capacity in this way can re-enact a familiar dynamic of misattunement from caregivers and loss of choice and control about their own experience, leading to further bracing, resistance, dysregulation, overriding in order to please, fragmentation and hopelessness.

Simply retelling the details from oneʼs rational part of the brain, the pre-frontal cortex, does not necessarily resolve the many other side-effects of trauma – the underlying dysregulation and incomplete self-protective responses of fight / flight / freeze / collapse / dissociation, which are held more deeply in the limbic system, reptilian brain, and the rest of the body as a whole.

There is an organic intelligence in the nervous system that, with the proper conditions in place both in the therapeutic relationship and within the client, can be supported to greater reorganization and integration – provided we shift away from just hearing the details of the story or problem and extend our attention to include the current beneath the words. This underlying current or activation (the signs of the mobilization of a stress response) provide us with crucial hints on how we can more safely support our clients, by taking these cues as moments to slow down the process and introduce skills that can promote internal safety, stabilization, self-mastery and resilience in terms of their emotional and physical experience. As has often been said, it is not about not hearing the clientʼs story, but about helping them share it in a way that may be safer and less triggering.

A safer way through the storm

Many have actually heard that to heal trauma, one must go to the body. Yoga and mindfulness practices in particular have gained a tremendous amount of research support in recent decades, as being potentially powerful tools for trauma survivors, as indirect ways of healing trauma by learning to befriend the body, restore natural rhythms, and develop a gentle, neutral witness to one’s internal experience. However, encouraging certain clients to “go within” to focus on their breath or body can be just as triggering as talking about trauma in a disconnected cognitive way, without the proper skills in place. Similarly, people may attend a variety of healing ceremonies or modalities with good intentions that also result in feeling overstimulated, triggered and overwhelmed, and may feel shame or guilt afterwards when they don’t notice much improvement but feel they should.

Flooding, overriding or pushing beyond oneʼs limits to please the “guru”, teacher, elder or counsellor, and losing a sense of oneʼs own self-determination and choice are common issues that can arise, sometimes without the professional or guide recognizing it. Even with the best of intentions, many meditative or traditional healing practices can backfire, resulting in greater anxiety, panic, fragmentation of self, dissociation, and discouragement. However, there are ways of making yoga, mindfulness and other healing modalities safer and more empowering.

Customized Trainings in Trauma and Attachment

Trainings are adapted based on your unique environment, population and needs. Sarahʼs diverse background provides her with the experience and insight needed to deliver workshops that are targeted, specific and relevant.

Her career history includes working in various social service agencies, a sexual assault centre / womenʼs crisis line, mental health clinic, psychiatric outpatient case management, schools, career counselling and settlement services for newcomers, men’s violence / PAR programs, and nursing homes.

She has supported the development of implementation plans to meet LHIN requirements for service delivery for various health service providers, including a hospital system, mental health and addictions services, community services, a CCAC, among others. She has also delivered trainings to mental health and addictions facilities, community health centre groups, foster parents, programs for at-risk youth and young moms, distress line staff, police officers, and at a variety of community-wide forums and conferences.

Hailing from a culturally and spiritually diverse background herself, and having worked with clients from various ethnicities, cultures, faiths, sexual orientations, income levels, educational levels, and abilities, Sarah welcomes the opportunity to discuss your goals with an openness to diversity and commitment to anti-oppression and empowerment.

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