Thank you, Oprah
Our society has so many questions – and rightfully so! We sit and wonder why there are so many shootings or why there are so many fights in school. We ask the police why killings occur. We ponder why many coming through adoption and foster care wind up with addiction or behavioral issues. Why are our streets so unsafe? Why is authority so disrespected? To try to get to an answer, as a society, we often ask “What is wrong with you?” instead of “What happened to you?” That narrative, as you will see, needs to change. We must ask “what happened to you,” so that ‘happening’ can be addressed and overcame.
I was thrilled after watching this short preview (click here to watch) featured in this post for the 60 minutes episode airing this Sunday. I found myself nodding and giving Oprah very enthusiastic “yes” and “amen” affirmations when she spoke, as if I was sitting right in front of her. Why? Because this is what I have been preaching and practicing for several years. This information is what was formed and the basis of of my PhD dissertation research, which is how I got started in this field years ago – and since that time, it has enhanced throughout my work drastically. What is ‘this’ you may ask – trauma informed care!
After being trained primarily by Richmond’s favorite in trauma informed care, Dr. Allison Sampson-Jackson, I realized exactly what Oprah is now sharing, we must “fix the hole in the soul.” In other words, if we don’t understand why people engage in the behaviors they do, we will NEVER be able to fully ‘fix’ it.
As a society, we can provide the greatest recovery meetings or job preparation courses. We can give people jobs and bus tickets to get to work. We can require them to take a drug test everyday or ensure they know how to budget. We can provide an opioid prevention program. We can adopt children from foster care and orphanages. We can scream and yell about gun control and school security. But if these “quick fixes” are all that is done, and we do not get to the route of the issue, or fixing the “hole in the soul – where the wound is,” we will continue to only get quick fixes. Or, as former Sheriff C.T. Woody, Jr. says, “putting a band-aid on the wound instead of treating the cause.” While these fixes are admirable and necessary, they are surface value approaches that do not get to the root cause.
It is for these reasons and the extensive research on trauma informed care, that all of REAL programming (which I created) has always had a focus on behavior modification and trauma informed care. Beginning with the inception of The REAL Program in 2013 in the Richmond City Justice Center (or jail), the focus was behavior modification and trauma. While there were certainly other components that are certainly necessary for a successful life (and also are components of REAL), including job prep, anger management, re-entry, motherhood/fatherhood, 12-step recovery, education and more, the behavior modification and trauma piece is critical to long term change.
If you dive deeper into the impact that childhood trauma has on folks, it is clear that trauma must be the focus and augmented by other critical components mentioned above, because the damage and effect these traumas have on the brain literally effects every aspect of life. It cannot be ignored or separated out, or we will continue to get the same results.
I am proud of REAL and the ability we have to holistically change lives through the utilization of this approach, derived directly from research. It is so encouraging that so many in Richmond, Virginia have embraced this concept as well; many long before we did. Nearly 300 service providers in Richmond are members of the trauma informed community and are committed to utilizing trauma informed approaches in their work daily.
It is my hope that more programs in the community will incorporate trauma informed care into their work. Although it is saddening to hear that trauma informed care and behavior modification have been dissolved and minimized in some institutions, it is my hope that other jails will not follow suit, but will be guided by research, thus including trauma informed care and behavior modification within their programming they are already providing or are developing. And equally as important, I hope the awareness of this significant issue continues to rise, after all, 2 in 3 Americans have suffered some sort of significant trauma.
Click here to watch 60 minutes preview and we encourage you to tune into 60 minutes on Sunday evening, March 11, 2018.