Trauma: When we are overwhelmed by life.
- Trauma is an overwhelming event involving actual or threatened death, serious injury, or threat to person (e.g. actual or threatened assault, rape, or other destructive behavior) followed by a pattern of responses—enduring and sometimes enlarging—including intense fear, horror, helplessness, shame, self-disgust and confusion that results in fear of the past, the future and the present
- Not all horrific events are traumatic. Trauma is not the event, but the response. Truly bad events are only ‘ordinary’ suffering if we can understand the experience within the context of our worldview. We have trauma if an event overwhelms normal coping strategies. Often, this causes us to question or abandon our overarching story. When our story cannot explain our experience, we experience dissonance. We will ask questions like, “Why should we read the Bible if God is not good and powerful?”
Healing: How God’s Word starts the process.
- To heal trauma, people need emotionally safe opportunities to tell their stories, release emotional pain, and have dignity restored. People need someone to listen to them without correcting them, someone who can hear their story. They may then need help putting their experience into a larger context or worldview.
- Speaking out and naming evil begins the healing process for victims. It also interrupts the false perception of “normal” for victims and societies. We help participants understand grief, bring their pain to Jesus for healing, and eventually move toward forgiveness.
- Trained local facilitators use our trauma healing materials to guide participants on a thematic journey through Scripture. The materials help establish, expand, or reorient participants’ views of God and God’s love for them. To address emotional issues, the curriculum shows traumatized people how to tell their stories and so release their pain.
- Our basic curriculum, Healing the Wounds of Trauma, was first developed in 2001 by four Africa-based SIL staff (one is a psychiatrist and another a counselor) and revised by American Bible Society in 2013 in consultation with the Trauma Healing Advisory Council and the Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship.
- Each lesson begins with a composite real-life trauma story that helps people connect with its theme, and finishes with exercises to facilitate a participatory encounter with Scripture and the God it reveals.
- The curriculum uses 217 unique Scripture passages. Five core lessons help people to ask their real questions about God, recognize what God says about himself and the world, express their pain honestly through lament, take their pain to the cross of Christ for healing, and eventually learn to forgive other people. Other chapters address specific cases for traumatized children, people who have been raped, HIV/AIDS, caring for caregivers, and living in situations of ongoing conflict.
Three Program Models
She’s My Sister programs use three basic models.
- “Classic” Scripture-based Trauma Healing, our core program
- Children’s Trauma Healing (for ages 9–12)
- Story-based Trauma Healing, an oral version for people with no Scripture or with no written language.
A Multiplier Effect
The core program uses a cyclical, four-stage process that builds in leadership development and evaluation. Selected participants are invited to become leaders for future healing sessions—an intentional multiplier effect.
- Convening Sessions — National or regional gatekeepers gather for a day-long gathering to experience the program and begin to organize local deployment.
- Equipping Sessions — Over two week-long sessions we train local leaders in facilitating and trauma care.
- Healing Sessions — Local facilitators bring trauma healing to their communities using small groups that work through the lessons at their own pace.
- Community of Practice — Facilitators gather for ongoing support.
Accountability and Best Practices
- She’s My Sister works with an independent Trauma Healing Advisory Council comprised of leaders and practitioners in the mental health professions.
- The Advisory Council is co-chaired by Dr. Diane Langberg, chair of the executive committee of the American Association of Christian Counselors, and Dr. Phil Monroe, a professor of counseling and psychology at Biblical Seminary.
- The Advisory Council speaks into program design, curriculum materials, training, research and related disciplines and also supports the international community of practice emerging in trauma care.