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Stage Three: Reconnection and Integration

This final stage of trauma recovery focuses on the young persons reinvention of the self and the establishment of a bright hopeful future in which trauma no longer has power over them.

Judith Lewis Herman reminds us of the challenge we face at this stage:

“Many abused children cling to the hope that growing up will bring escape and freedom. But the personality formed in the environment of coercive control is not well adapted to adult life. The survivor is left with fundamental problems in basic trust, autonomy, and initiative. She approaches the task of early adulthood — establishing independence and intimacy — burdened by major impairments in self-care, in cognition and in memory, in identity, and in the capacity to form stable relationships. She is still a prisoner of her childhood; attempting to create a new life, she reencounters the trauma.”

(from Trauma and Recovery, Judith Lewis Herman)

It is now the role of the carer to focus on:

  • Decreasing shame and alienation
  • Developing a greater capacity for healthy attachment
  • Taking up personal and professional goals that reflect post-traumatic meaning making
  • Overcoming fears of normal life
  • Healthy challenge and change
  • Building confidence with intimacy

Trauma, after all, is only part of a much larger picture; it may be part of the young persons life story but it’s certainly not the only part. The goal is that by the end of stage three the young person recognises the impact of the trauma but is ready to leave it in the past to pursue an empowered life in the present.Our goal as therapeutic carers is to support the young person to actively reclaim their future by supporting a positively integrated self and supporting the resolution of arrested development.

We can do this by using a scaffolding approach with young people, which involves:

  1. Supporting them to map out their options (the tool above is an example of how to do this)
  2. Pre-planning around how they will meet the challenges that arise.

As their life becomes reconsolidated around a healthy present and a healed integrated self, the trauma feels farther away and is no longer a daily focus.