by Carolinda Sterczala, MSW
“You’re right!”… “I can see how you would feel that way”… As trauma therapists we soon learn that these are just starting points in validation. Some therapists make a study of validation. Linehan in “Validation and Psychotherapy” (1997) describes six kinds of validation including the two above so we can remind people they have a right to their own emotions, and they even make sense. I believe that I have become great at recognizing core emotions, validating them, and helping others hear the signal through the static of their own inner guidance.
What, in addition to our own emotions, can benefit from validation in the life of a trauma therapist? I can only speak for myself.
Even Janina Fisher Can’t Always Convince Her Settings that Dissociation Exists
It was surprising to me to recognize the validation I experienced when Janina Fisher, in a recent NESTTD workshop, described her past experience of not being taken seriously about witnessing clients’ dissociation at previous professional settings.
I had always imagined in settings where I had worked, if I had had a bit more clout, a different degree, a more forceful voice, then of course people would understand what we were witnessing before our own eyes (i.e. trauma and dissociation, when that fit).
Often in these settings I did have a fair amount of respect in that clients with multiple symptoms and a trauma history were often referred to me, they often improved, and people valued my work. When I would mention something about trauma and dissociation, with a smaller or larger audience, I just could rarely make much of a dent in inspiring others’ curiosity about something seemingly so important.
Who Knew It’s Not Just Me?
Who knew that even if I was Janina Fisher I wouldn’t have been allowed to talk about it?! This is really news to me.
I do imagine there are places where strides have been made, places beyond NESTTD and small specialty group practices where you can talk about what you see, and it adding to the conversation rather than sucking the air out of the room. (Do you know of those places? We would love to hear about them!)
Beyond therapy, I believe we can see the tendencies in society to acknowledge some things, and disavow others. Layers of dissociation, perhaps. Perhaps we as trauma therapists with our own NESTTD community have been working together to move forward anyway, to help make healing possible even when many situations require a bit of courage and special care.
I am certainly grateful for this community, for the learning, and also for the validation!