“Time heals all wounds.” A phrase often said for as long as anyone can remember. We say it in so many different ways for many various reasons, and we all mean well when we say it. For example, when we are unsure of how something will turn out, we may hear someone say, “only time will tell.” When life throws us a curveball and the unexpected happens, we may hear, “It’s only for a short time.” In moments of significant loss, we may hear someone say, “you’ll get over it in time.”
The problem with these statements is that they are untrue. If time did heal all wounds, then everyone sitting in a prison cell for ten-plus years would get out and be perfectly fine and healthy. Likewise, those in and out of mental institutions and hospitals would suddenly find their mind and bodies healed one day. Anyone who has experienced trauma would get over it in time. But unfortunately, these scenarios are rarely the case.
Healing and recovery are long roads that require focus, intentionality, and persistence. Unfortunately, there is no formula for recovery. If there were one, millions of people would be in a much better state of mind and quality of life. While there are many common symptoms we see with trauma, each person’s journey is uniquely shaped by their family of origin, personality, trauma history, and culture. These are just a few factors in how we experience and hold on to trauma.
During the interview process with potential residents, we ask them to consider committing for at least 12-24 months to the program. However, recovery from trauma is a long process taking 3-7 years with victories and setbacks along the way. Trauma creates cycles of distress and this is why patterns of behavior repeat. At TVF we work collaboratively to help address and break the distress cycles that would keep residents stuck in trauma and exploitation.
We know that the road to recovery is not a straight path but a winding road. Every resident’s journey is different. Some residents will come to us with desperation for change that propels and motivates them to participate in therapy and programming. Therefore, we begin to see results in the beginning phases of the program. But that same resident may hit a point in the healing journey in month four, or even month nine-plus, that seems unbearable or impossible. At that point, it is typical to spiral backward and go back to old habits and tendencies. A resident could stay in this cycle for just a few weeks, but it could also last for several months. There is also no limit to how many times this could happen.
Other residents come into our program not knowing how difficult recovery will be or are not yet aware of the walls and defense mechanisms they have in place. Some residents are in denial of the trauma they have experienced, and some do not realize the severity yet. These barriers take a lot of intentional work to overcome, and again, the road to removing obstacles is also a winding one.
TVF is a five-phase program. Our phases are: Welcome, Build, Heal, Restore, Transition. The main objective of our Welcome phase is to create safety and security. We know that our residents typically do not feel safe and secure, so we work with them to become acclimated to the new house, the team, and other residents. Next, we provide a lot of time for rest and questions. Finally, we work to provide basic needs and have an introduction to therapy and programming.
In our Build Phase, we are diving deeper into therapy and setting specific goals in case management while actively teaching life and leadership skills. In the Heal Phase, residents continue to go deeper in therapy and case management while slowly re-introducing to loved ones and rebuilding relationships. Once residents are in the Restore Phase, they can get a job and go to school. They are also trusted to have their personal technology back. Residents are also able to have furloughs away with loved ones. Finally, residents are much more independent from the safe house and the team in our Transition Phase. They are truly transitioning back into the world while continuing therapy and having checkpoints with team members.
In every phase of the program, each resident will make strides of progression and take a few steps backward. Our desire for each resident is to provide and teach them the life skills and coping skills necessary to overcome trauma. But we also want to be a safe place where residents can “fail” so we can teach them how to get up and keep moving forward.
As much as we all want to see our residents succeed and heal, how long the road to recovery is truly up to the resident. The resident needs to be ready and willing for each step. We do not rush the process. We only support them and teach when needed. We are on the journey together and for as long as it takes.
Author: Liza Lovett