Review by Steven Hughes
Steve Hall Safety Consulting
“Healing centered engagement is asset driven and focuses well-being we want, rather than symptoms we want to suppress.”
Shawn Ginwright - Author of Hope and Healing in Urban Education
The Future of Healing: Shifting from trauma informed care to healing centered engagement is an online article by Dr. Shawn Ginwright, he discusses the next stage in the evolution of trauma-informed practice. Moving from “trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive” to what he calls healing centered engagement (HCE). The author describes the incident that was the catalyst to see beyond the trauma-informed platform:
“I first became aware of the limitations of the term “trauma-informed care” during a healing circle I was leading with a group of African American young men. All of them had experienced some form of trauma ranging from sexual abuse, violence, homelessness, abandonment or all of the above. During one of our sessions, I explained the impact of stress and trauma on brain development and how trauma can influence emotional health. As I was explaining, one of the young men in the group named Marcus abruptly stopped me and said, “I am more than what happened to me, I’m not just my trauma”. I was puzzled at first, but it didn’t take me long to really contemplate what he was saying.
Ginwright goes on to explain that the “healing centered care” approach incorporates a more holistic approach that integrates the human capacity to tap into one’s strengths as opposed to addressing the symptoms of one’s core traumas.
“The emerging field of positive psychology offers insight into the limits of only ‘treating’ symptoms and focuses on enhancing the conditions that contribute to well-being. Without more careful consideration, trauma-informed approaches sometimes slip into rigid medical models of care that are steeped in treating the symptoms, rather than strengthening the roots of well-being.”
In our own practice in working with many groups in the helping professions, we have learned that individuals (both “helpers” and “clients” – virtually “everyone”) can enhance their quality of life and a vibrant sense of well-being by consciously connecting and deploying one’s strengths in all domains of life. Ginwright outlines that the trauma-informed paradigm shifted us from the medical model of asking the question – “what is wrong with you? to “what happened to you? The healing centered engagement approach asks the question “what’s right with you?” This question empowers the individual to connect with their own self-agency in their life and recovery journey. Individuals exposed to trauma are “agents in the creation of their own well-being rather than victims of traumatic events.” In this way we move from the constraints of a pathology and deficit-based mental health model that drives many clinical interventions and “treatment” approaches.
HCE endeavours to realize the emergence of a holistic framework by acknowledging the importance of anchoring to one’s culture and perceiving one’s trauma history as embedded within an environmental context that is nested within organizational and societal structures which are further embedded in collective and transgenerational systems.
“A healing centered approach is holistic involving culture, spirituality, civic action and collective healing. A healing-centered approach views trauma not simply as an individual isolated experience, but rather highlights the ways in which trauma and healing are experienced collectively. The term healing-centered engagement expands how we think about responses to trauma and offers more holistic approach to fostering well-being.”
This article expanded my understanding about how healing centered engagement provides a wider lens to view how we engage the trauma of all of the individuals that we encounter … clients, family, friends, ourselves … and to bring a wave of compassion into our world that can expand, apprehend, hold, transform, and ultimately illuminate a pathway to heal trauma on a global level.
Dr. Shawn Ginwright is Associate Professor of Education, and African American Studies at San Francisco State University and the author of Hope and Healing in Urban Education: How Activists are Reclaiming Matters of the Heart.