Updated: Dec 8, 2020
The Healing-Centered Engagement approach, proposed by Shawn Ginwright in his 2018 article; The Future of Healing: Shifting from Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement, challenges the theoretical perspective of trauma care from a deficit-based treatment to a skill-building positive based treatment. This approach supports assets instead of focusing on symptom management, which is the bedrock of Trauma Informed Care. It deemphasizes the identification with a disease, and instead emphasizes the positive outcomes that come as result of surviving trauma, i.e., resiliency, strong will to survive, imagination, hope, determination, perseverance, just to name a few. This skill-building model has the potential to heal clients of trauma.
In Ginwright’s article, he outlines four skills for supporting a collective well-being. These skills are building empathy, encouraging imagination and dreams, building critical reflection skills and taking loving actions. These skills in trauma survivors, promote healthy identification with others, with society and the relationship with themselves; no longer viewing themselves as victims. In addition, I believe that healing is achieved when the attributes of positive self-regard, calm nervous system, integration in society and social groups, and flexibility to changing circumstances are cultivated, and well-being is restored.
Ginwright proposes that empathy training for clients should include the open sharing of experiences with a therapist in which the client is encouraged to take healthy risks by becoming vulnerable. In addition, the therapist sharing their vulnerabilities would effectively normalize the client’s reaction to an extraordinary circumstance (trauma). Being empathetic promotes self-compassion as one begins to realize the exact nature of the trauma survived.
Once the client has gained a sense of self-compassion, Ginwright proposes using imagination and dreams in order to move forward. The ability to dream and imagine promotes hope and optimism for the future. Cultivation of positive imagination takes people out of their current situation mentally, and allows them to expand their self-definition. “I can choose to be anyone I want to be!” It empowers those who have lost their power, dignity and self-respect the chance to reclaim their life and decide what they want to do about their future.
The next step is to encourage and build critical reflection skills based on what happened to them; to critically analyze the traumatic experience. By considering just the remembered facts and not placing blame, a clearer picture emerges in which the client can gain perspective and ironically, appreciation. For example when a client is able to recognize that hurt people, hurt people regardless of what precipitated the action, they are not the one to blame. Everyone makes choices but not everyone is aware of the choices they make or the impression they are creating on others.
Finally, Ginwright states that cultivating loving action “builds a sense of power” in the client. Helping others and supporting causes in one’s community generates a feeling of unity in the client and in the community as a whole. These types of actions and meaning-making measures have been widely linked to improved overall physical and mental health, and well-being.
As a therapist myself, I appreciate this perspective as I am often challenged to help people find significance in their experiences. It is in times of great suffering that the most growth actually occurs, and even though that is true, it is very hard to understand. The Healing Centered Experience approach is very positive and allows the client to process trauma through reinvention and integration versus being defined as set of symptoms and a survivor of trauma. Identification is an extremely important piece in recovery, as it either ties people to the past or propels them into the future. My hope is that a well-being approach to health care will be our goal so that everyone can heal and have hope for a better life.
Ginwright,PhD, Shawn (2018) The Future of Healing: Shifting from Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement: https://medium.com/@ginwright/the-future-of-healing-shifting-from-trauma-informed-care-to-healing-centered-engagement-634f557ce69c