CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). As an agency committed to being trauma effective across all of our programming, we are happy to share a story today from Lindsay DeHaas (MSW, LSW), one of the therapists from our Thrive Trauma Recovery program. This intensive trauma treatment, part of Encompass Christian Counseling, allows clients to effectively process traumatic events from their past so they no longer feel the impact from those experiences in their day-to-day lives. Story #33 in our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series offers hope to those who may otherwise have a hard time finding it.
As an intensive trauma therapist in the Thrive Trauma Recovery program at Encompass Christian Counseling, it’s standard to work with clients for a week or two and then wish them well on their recovery journey as they return to ongoing mental health services. Although all clients have a special story and are memorable, some clients’ stories stick with you long after their treatment in the program has ended.
Amanda (name changed to protect her identity) was one of those clients whose traumatic experiences and resulting challenges in life were especially pressing on my heart. Amanda was an adult woman who appeared to “have it all” from the outside looking in on her life – she was married with several children, and successful in her career outside of the home. However, what Amanda truly experienced on a day-to-day basis were challenges like depression, difficulty getting out of bed, isolation, withdrawing from her family, disinterest in engaging in any social activities, guilt, anxiety, flashbacks, and nightmares that caused her to relive some of the worst moments and experiences in her life.
When I met Amanda on the first day of treatment, she presented as guarded, reserved and quiet. Throughout the course of our initial assessment and gathering information related to past trauma experiences, Amanda told me her past trauma experiences were secrets she felt trapped into keeping to herself, and her isolation was to the point where she had nobody to talk to on a tough day. Amanda desired to be able to connect with those around her, and to function differently than she had been for much of her life. So, with great hesitancy and skepticism toward the methods of the program, Amanda started to tell the story of her younger self, giving a voice to experiences, thoughts and emotions that had long been locked down tight.
Shortly after Amanda started processing her stories, she looked at me and said, “Okay…I’m trusting you here…that this actually works.” I remember smiling encouragingly and assuring her that she was strong and courageous, and that I wouldn’t walk with her through something I didn’t believe would be the best for her. Meanwhile, part of me was praying, “Lord, please work through these methods in a powerful way in her life. Show her Your hope.” And man, did He show up.
By the end of Amanda’s first week of treatment, I had to do a double take when she walked into the office. Everything about her was different. Amanda didn’t walk – she bounced – into the office that day. For the first time all week, she was taking care of herself in notable, obvious ways. Amanda’s guarded and intense demeanor had slipped away, and in its place was a very bubbly and relaxed woman whose eyes sparkled with joy as she joked and smiled, despite the tough content discussed throughout the session. When I commented on this extreme difference in her demeanor, tone and appearance, Amanda smiled and said she felt “empowered” by what she had done so far in treatment.
By the end of treatment, Amanda – who was experiencing constant flashbacks and unwanted thoughts about her past – stated she had only had a few flashbacks for days, that some days she hadn’t had any, and it felt “good.” Amanda said she didn’t feel like a victim anymore, she felt she could stand on her own two feet, and that through processing her traumatic experiences, she felt she knew who she was at her core and was more aware of her own needs that had to be met in order to be the wife, mother and woman God had designed her to be.
Amanda came to the Thrive program feeling hopeless, isolated and so afraid of what telling her story would do or not do in her life. Through the process, she surrendered her fear and allowed God to work in her life in such a powerful way that everyone around her could literally see the difference.