Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

The toxic nature of trauma can make it an overwhelming area of work. This book by a recognised expert adopts a systemic perspective, focusing on the individual in context. Very positively, it shows how every level of relationship can contribute to healing and that the meaning of traumatic experiences can be 'unfrozen' and revisited over time.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Introduction

Abstract
The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 is ‘The Gateway to Practice’. Two theoretical issues, diagnostics and resiliencies, have been selected as broad themes for discussion.
Gerrilyn Smith

The Gateway to Practice

Frontmatter

1. Diagnostic Labels Across the Life Span

Abstract
This chapter reviews psychiatric diagnostic labels and specifically post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The diagnostic criteria for PTSD are presented. The process of stigmatisation and psychiatric labelling is discussed along with critical ideas regarding PTSD as a discrete diagnostic category. Some research in relation to PTSD is presented, including neurobiological explanations. The chapter offers a systemic critique of psychiatric diagnostic classifications. Life-cycle issues and the impact of context on behaviours can be used by systemic clinicians in their practice to ensure that diagnostic labels are pragmatically useful.
Gerrilyn Smith

2. Resiliencies Across the Life Span

Abstract
This chapter will focus on the theoretical concept of psychological resilience. Characteristics traditionally associated with resilience will be outlined and summarised. This is intended to help systemic therapists incorporate more specifically narratives of resilience in their work. Traumatic experiences can overwhelm resilient responses. Cultivating and nurturing these ‘exceptions’ to the numbed responsiveness of trauma must be a key component of therapeutic experience.
Gerrilyn Smith

The Field of Practice

Frontmatter

3. Engagement and Creating a Safe Context

Abstract
This chapter will focus on the issue of engagement and how to establish a sufficiently safe context for clients to allow narratives involving trauma to emerge, be contained and transformed. This includes attention to safety within the session, including managing situations that become unsafe, pacing within sessions, who to invite, containing intense emotions, and strengthening stories of resilience.
Gerrilyn Smith

4. Stories We Tell Ourselves

Abstract
This chapter explores the ‘stories we tell ourselves’ to deal with the overwhelming nature of traumatic experience. Traumatic narratives are likely to be ‘repetitive, vivid, perceptually based, emotion laden and involve a reliving of events in the present’ (Brewin in Friedman et al., 2007, p. 123). Therapeutically it is important to introduce difference into these traumatic narratives. This may include different perspectives over time or from other people. More detailed stories with complexity and depth begin the ‘migration of identity’ (White, 1995) from trauma narrative, which becomes the totality of lived experience, to life stories, where traumatic experience is not constricting identity. This is an essential part of the healing process.
Gerrilyn Smith

5. Working Systemically with PTSD Symptoms

Abstract
This chapter will focus on the major symptoms of PTSD — those distressing, disturbing behaviours and feelings that often bring people to therapy. It will provide a systemic understanding of the most common symptoms associated with post traumatic stress disorders: flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, avoidance, nightmares/terrors, re-enactments, hyperarousal, hypervigilance and catastrophic disconnection.
Gerrilyn Smith

The Practice Neighbourhood

Frontmatter

6. Working with Family, Friends and Community

Abstract
This chapter explores the impact of a traumatic event on the wider systems of family, friends and community networks and how to make best use of them in therapy. It begins with the concept of disclosure, where an individual chooses to share their traumatic experience publicly, and moves to consider discourses in families, communities and wider systems. It touches on the friction produced by different contexts and how these multiple contexts shape and are shaped by a traumatic experience.
Gerrilyn Smith

7. Supervision in Trauma Work

Abstract
This chapter explores systemic supervision with specific reference to trauma work and life-cycle issues. It includes a discussion of vicarious traumatisation and some of the symptoms associated with it. The focus is on supervision as a practice of reflection and strengthening personal competence (Bertrando, 2007) rather than for didactic purposes (Fruggeri, 2002). Our capacity to be self reflective is essential when considering the complexities and emotionally charged issues presented in trauma work. The importance of developing a programme of self-care to maintain clinical boundaries and integrity of clinical practice is essential.
Gerrilyn Smith
Additional information