Hector Rivera

Trauma-informed therapy

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

When I began my career in therapeutic counseling more than 30 years ago, I chose to work at Catholic Charities because I deeply believed in the agency’s mission to care for others in a manner worthy of their God-given dignity. Catholic Charities works “one heart at a time,” offering not only our professional services, but also genuine mercy and hope as we accompany each person on their journey to wholeness, health and well-being. 

Catholic Charities’ dedicated staff of professional counselors and social workers strive to be on the cutting edge of human services, ensuring that we are providing evidence-based interventions that strengthen and empower people and families, and the communities in which they live. 

In recent years, this has meant a growing emphasis on the vital importance of mental health services, and especially what is known as trauma-informed care, or trauma-informed therapy. 

Trauma-informed therapy recognizes that past negative experiences, or traumas, can influence an individual’s functioning. Children are most affected by trauma because the young developing brain is particularly vulnerable to excess cortisol released by prolonged stress and fear. 

The longitudinal Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study, conducted jointly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, provides important research-backed evidence that adverse experiences in childhood, such as physical or sexual abuse, homelessness, death of a parent, divorce, domestic or community violence and other negative experiences can, without proper intervention and support, lead to negative behavioral and health outcomes in the future. This can include drug and alcohol misuse, suicidal ideation, poor school performance, mental health issues, anti-social behaviors and numerous health conditions such as heart, lung and liver disease.

Although the ACEs study confirms our worst fears about the potential impact of childhood trauma, it also gives us great hope because it provides a clear road map for change, lighting the way to proper social and emotional supports to help people lead healthier lives. While we can’t erase the past, therapeutic interventions can “interrupt” the negative cycle by teaching proper coping mechanisms, improving familial and community relationships, recognizing and nurturing inner strength, and building resilience. 

I often say that we can’t take the trauma away, but we can help people carry it with them — restoring dignity, encouraging peace and opening the door to joy and improved daily functioning. 

Through our many trauma-informed counseling programs, Catholic Charities is honored to accompany people on this careful healing journey, not only improving the lives of those served, but also fostering a powerful ripple effect throughout the communities in which they live.

Expanding the availability of trauma-informed therapy is exactly what we need at this time in history. To be sure, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated traumatic experiences for all of us, but especially for those living in under-resourced neighborhoods that have seen the most job losses, most illness, most deaths, most violence, and have the least access to mental and physical health services.

As the pandemic and its effects linger, Catholic Charities is counting on our donors and volunteers to help us bring trauma-informed therapy and other needed support services to the people and places who need us most. With your help, we can and will make a difference — changing lives and communities one heart at a time.


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