Vision and Goals

Setting goals can be hard if you don’t have any vision for your future. You have to know where you want to go to be able to get there. This great video from Lulu Lemon walks you through setting a vision for your future and building goals to help reach that vision. The worksheet below will help you apply what you learn in the video.

Vision and Goals Worksheet


Understanding Trauma Recovery

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Trauma informed care and trauma recovery have become more of  buzzwords in anti-trafficking and sex worker outreach circles. But what does it mean for care to be trauma informed?

It is generally accepted that trauma informed care and trauma recovery takes place in three stages: stage 1 safety and stabilization, stage 2 trauma processing, and stage 3 consolidation and resolution. Each of these stages can last months to years depending on the severity, duration, and age of onset of the trauma. The stages also may not follow one another directly, with breaks taken between the stages of recovery.

Stage 1: Safety and Stabilization
This stage has two sets of goals that are typically worked on with the help of a counselor or case manager.

1st Goal: Basic Health Needs
Regulation of sleep, eating, exercise
, Management of post-traumatic symptoms
, and   Management of destructive behaviors

2nd Goal: Basic Environment Needs
Living situation
, Financial Security, Mobility
, Self-protection

As these goals are met, the stability is established to enable later stages of trauma recovery as well as a high-functioning engagement with everyday life. We know that stage 1 of trauma recovery is complete when the person has maintained safety, no longer feels isolated, is able to manage destructive behaviors, is able to manage most post-traumatic symptoms, is able to identify support network, and is able to trust people in support network. Many people at this point will be done with their recovery. They may not feel ready or desire continuing in digging into traumatic memories and that is ok. After stage 1 is complete a person is able to lead a full life at a high level of functioning.

Stage 2: Trauma Processing
This is the stage most people think of when they hear “trauma recovery”, however there is a lot of danger in moving on to stage 2 before stage 1 is complete. During stage 2 a counselor works with the person on going through all the traumatic memories and taking the incoherent pieces and working it into a more coherent whole. If stage 1 stability is not present, trauma processing can trigger a relapse due to the intense nature of the memories. Stage 2 trauma processing can last years and it is not unusual to take breaks from the processing. We know that stage 2 is complete when there are no new traumatic memories to process.

Stage 3: Consolidation and Resolution
In stage 3 the primary goal is developing a new integrated self. As the person continues to process what their trauma history means to them, in stage 3 they shift from tasks of recovery to tasks of life. When stage 3 is complete they will have authority over their traumatic memories, be able to control traumatic symptoms, and have a coherent system of meaning and belief that integrates the trauma.

To learn more about trauma recovery attend one of our volunteer trainings or check of Judith Herman’s book “Trauma Recovery”


Why doesn’t She Just Leave? The Confusing World of Trauma Bonds

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What comes to mind when you hear the words “boyfriend” or “Daddy”? Do fond memories come to mind about good time? Maybe some bad memories too from a relationship gone sour or a dad that wasn’t around? Regardless of the emotion felt, there is something about those words that brings certain feelings and memories to mind.

Now imagine that your boyfriend or your Daddy asks you to do something for him, he’s hit hard times and needs you to help him pay the bills. You want to help, and you trust him, so even if something feels off you are willing to go along with what he asks you to do. But then something feels really off, he’s asking you to do things you really aren’t comfortable with, things that hurt. But he tells you that he’s proud of you. That he loves you. That he’s so thankful for your help and he’s going to make it up to you. You won’t have to do this forever.

But in between this praise and expression of “love” he beats you. He continues to ask you to do things you aren’t comfortable with. You kind of feel like he’s forcing you, but you went along with it, so you feel like it’s your choice. Eventually you do start saying, “No,” but he’s not taking no for an answer. He beats you some more until you “change your mind” and say, “Yes”. He’s not to blame, you changed your mind, how could he be at fault? You think about leaving, but he’s told you no one else would “love” you. He’s all you’ve got. You can’t make it on your own, or so he’s gotten you to believe. And so you stay.

Then eventually law enforcement gets involved and wants you to testify about all the things he’s forced you to do. They want you to say how horrible he is. But it’s not that easy. You still question if he forced your or if it was your choice. You remember the beatings and the abuse, but you also remember how he “loved” you and told you he was proud of you. Things may have been hard, but you feel like he was always there for you. He was the one that gave you a place to stay when no one else would. He’s the only one you feel like is looking out for you.

All of this is just a glimpse into what a trauma bond looks like. Trauma bonds are emotional attachments made during traumatic experiences between the abused and their abuser. Exploiters often cultivate these bonds purposely by breaking a girl’s will, abusing her, but then offering praise and reward. They do this to maintain power and control over her, while letting her think it was all her decision. This sick cycle of abuse and reward is what makes it so hard for CSE and CSEC victims to self-identify as having been exploited, and what makes it so difficult for them to heal from their wounds. You may have noticed another layer of confusion already in the titles “boyfriend” and “Daddy”. Titles that should convey warmth, safety, and happiness are now mixed with abuse, manipulation, and uncertainty.

One of the most important things you can do when walking with a woman who is on her healing journey is to be a consistently safe person, to have understanding for the confusing nature of trauma bonds, and allow her to express her feelings about her exploiters both good and bad. Healing from trauma bonds takes time and a lot of healthy relational bonds to overcome.

Written by Leah Lesesne, Clinical Care Coordinator with Serenity’s Steps


How to be a Good Mentor Part 2

goodmentorpt2In my last post, I shared my thoughts on how to ruin any mentor relationship. The secret is to make the mentoring process all about you, the mentor. Now I want to share what I believe is the cure for this relational ailment. I think the cure is active listening.

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“Listening,” you retort. “How is the secret ingredient (to mix metaphors) something I do all the time? Of course I listen to my mentees,” you exclaim.

Active listening (AL) isn’t the same as what we can called mere listening (ML). There are two main differences between the two. The first is obvious given the name “active listening.” As you can see from the infographic I shamelessly stole from the internet, AL requires a level of engagement with the speaker greater than the level normally reached in ML. For this reason, ML is also known as passive listening. ML is just hearing in addition to good language skills. It’s the focusing of one’s auditory faculties in the direction of the oncoming sound coupled with the ability to understand syntax and grammar. For example, when your mentee says, “I’m having a stellar morning,” you have no problem hearing the sounds she’s making, understanding the meaning associated with the individual words and understanding how those words fit together to communicate a more complex sentence. The whole process can be done without the listener ever engaging the speaker. The speaker engages you.

The second difference between AL and ML, is the content in the minds of the speaker and listener after the conversation is over. In ML, it is possible for the speaker and the listener to have two different concepts or ideas in their minds. Going back to the above example, if the speaker is extremely sarcastic like my mentee Katie, then when she says she’s having a stellar morning, she might mean she’s having a really good morning or she might mean that she is having the worst morning in her life. In ML, both meanings are legitimate. In AL however, the goal is for the speaker and listener to have the same ideas in their minds. More pointedly, in AL, the goal is for the listener to have the same thing in her mind as what is in the speaker’s mind. She wants to make sure she understands what Katie means when she says she’s having a stellar day. This is why AL is active. The goal is complete understanding. The goal is fullness.

This search for completeness is what guards the mentor for making mentoring all about herself. By actively seeking to understand what the mentee is thinking, feeling and processing, the mentor has to get out of herself and get into the mind of the mentee. This isn’t an easy practice to learn. Honestly speaking, I blew two opportunities to actively listen to my staff while writing this blog post! But if you can master it, you will probably have more successful mentoring relationships than failures.

By Leroy Lemar, Executive Director for Serenity’s Steps


How to be a Good Mentor Part 1

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It’s hard to believe that I’ve been mentoring for almost 18 years. Unofficially, I began mentoring my sophomore year of college when I interned with my church’s youth department. Within the first few weeks, I connected with six youth that eventually become “Leroy’s kids.” I still keep tabs on all of them. While i’m still mentoring youth, I also mentor everyone from people interested in starting nonprofits to transgendered adults who have been crippled by abuse, shame, and negligent.

Over these last 18 years, I’ve learned quite a few mentoring best practices. Most of the positive methods will enhance your mentoring while most of the negative ones will hinder it. But there is one mentoring method that is absolutely guaranteed to make your mentoring relationship fails gloriously. It creates a kind of mentoring vertigo in which you think you are doing a stellar job but you are actually on your way back down to mentoring terra firma. How so? Consider the following scenario:

You are at the office on Thursday afternoon and you get an email from Eddie who is a friend of Katie. Eddie told Katie that he was desperate for a mentor and Katie recommended you. You close Eddie’s email, sit back, and basking the feelings or honor and value. “Somebody wants me,” you tell yourself with pride. You then sit down and ask yourself how can I make sure Eddie gets the best of knowledge. You schedule your first session at the trending coffeehouse around the corner. When the Eddie arrives, you launch into stories from your personal and professional life. You smile as he fills his journal with your platitudes, folk wisdom and cliches. Eddie leave the meeting so excited to have chosen you and you sit back thinking, “I am really something else.”

But notice what you didn’t do. Not once did you stop to ask if any of what you were sharing was in the least bit relevant to Eddie’s needs. You made mentoring all about you. You felt great. Eddie felt great. But Eddie may not have been helped at all. As a mentor, your greatest responsibility is their personal and professional success. If they do not succeed, then to some extent, you are not a good mentor.

Please stay tuned for Part II …..

By Leroy Lemar, Executive Director for Serenity’s Steps