This article was authored by Wellspring co-founder Richard Beauvais, PhD for publication in Mental Health News in January of 2013.
Person-centered recovery could well be reframed as recovering the person; for isn’t that what treatment is ultimately about? At Wellspring we base our relational approach to treatment and education on a multi-dimensional concept of the person. We also organize our multi-modal residential programs for children, adolescents and young adults to address precisely that.
In many treatment settings, an individual is provided with a psychiatric diagnosis and objectified as a particular disorder. While useful for clinical practice, a diagnosis with its symptoms easily becomes a label, defining the individual as an “it” or object, rather than a “thou” or subject. (Buber, 1957) I can’t tell you how many clinical summaries I’ve read that are devoid of any sense of a person.
The cornerstone of Wellspring’s relational approach is that inherent in each individual is a wellspring of personal being that is unique, unrepeatable and imbued with spirit. Respect for the sacredness and dignity of each individual proceeds from this belief. As the foundation of our relational approach, personal being is understood as a particular expression of all Being, which implicitly connects us with one another and all other creatures. We emphasize this as a core treatment value, because there are forces within our culture and society that would blur this awareness.
The word person originated with the Greek term, phersu, which depicted the mask used in ceremonies of the cult of Persephone, a goddess who symbolized the seasonal aspect of fertility, because she spent half the year above ground in the light and the other half below ground in the Underworld. Thus, the nature of person was thought to be partly manifest and partly hidden – both apparent and mysterious.
In Roman times, the word evolved to designate the mask through which an actor spoke his lines – hence, dramatis personae. Persona stood for the character represented by the mask, as well as the voice speaking through it, per-sonare, i.e. through sound. Person in this sense is a quality of being communicable through expression. The late Fritz Perls, originator of Gestalt Therapy, agreed saying that the truth of the person – the authenticity of communication as personal – is in the sound of the voice, not the content of the words. This ring of truth – of the truly personal – is what we listen for in our Emotional Expressive Groups.
Historically, the concept of person evolved from religious and theatrical contexts into civic life. Here, its meaning was altered to convey a special dignity associated with social stature and civic rights. Women, children and slaves, for example, were not considered persons. However, with Cicero, the great Roman poet and orator, the meaning of person was transferred from the exterior social sphere to an interior and metaphysical meaning, which pertained to all individuals regardless of status or function. Person was used to denote that which is essential and distinctive in each individual, in contrast to the humanity shared by all. As a quality of being inherent and intrinsic to the individual, person was no longer reducible to utility or number. (Schmitz, 1997)
Finally, another Greek term, prosopon, was also incorporated into the meaning of person. It emphasized the human face and the experience of intimacy with self and other through face-to-face encounter and exchange; hence, the source of the familiar phrase “up close and personal.” (Schmitz, 1997)
Each of these five lines flows into the meaning of person, and each informs how we engage our clients in a process of person recovery:
1) Both apparent and mysterious;
2) communicable through expression;
3) of dignity and deserving of respect;
4) essential and inherent to each and every individual;
5) a quality of intimacy shared between individuals.
What we need to become aware of is that a fundamental shift of emphasis occurred historically, which tended to disconnect the meaning of person in each of these five senses from its depth.
This shift was first expressed by Descartes’ philosophical cornerstone – “I think; therefore I am.” The statement signified an increasing introversion, which circumscribed the meaning of person in terms of subjective self-consciousness, while disconnecting that meaning from participation in the larger mystery of Being. Our own field of Psychology reflects this orientation: Psychoanalysis is a case in point. Since Descartes, the sense of person and of personality has become increasingly elaborated and made more and more complex. However, complexity is not the same as depth or authenticity with respect to human being.
Along with this increase in subjective complexification was a corresponding tendency toward depersonalization. Whether defined in terms of ethnic stereotyping or social utility, the individual has tended to become more and more emptied of personhood and reduced to mere matter or number, to which the visible carnage of bodies on the movie screen attests. The same tendency is mirrored in our clinical reporting.
The challenge for us at Wellspring, and for anyone serving in mental health, is to consciously extend our caring and healing mission against this increasingly pervasive I-It orientation. If only because, as Martin Buber points out, any time our consciousness reduces the other to an it, we diminish our own sense of I. It’s what, I believe, this issue is attempting to address.
At Wellspring, we think of the work of person recovery as having two complementary thrusts. One is to change unhealthy patterns of relationship to self and others that distort or block who this person in essence actually is. The second is to reveal and affirm this core personal self, so the individual can align with it and build on it as the basis for a personal identity.
What our multi-modal and holistic treatment programs provide are different windows for seeing, mirroring, affirming and supporting the emergence of the person in the context of clinical work. Because persons are many faceted and differently gifted, no single treatment modality or approach can serve all, but each modality contributes to the work of person recovery in its own particular way.
What staff bring to the process of person recovery is an alertness and receptivity to individual differences and the uniqueness of individual gifts. Because individuals cannot see their own nature, they take for granted what they do and how they do it. What they need is to be seen, acknowledged and affirmed within an interpersonal framework that is focused on person recovery, so that they can begin to align with a sense of who they are.
A person thus emerges only in the context of relationship: The two are inseparably linked. Individual therapy provides face-to-face intimacy and exchange, which is amplified in turn by relationships with staff in the milieu. Interactive group therapies provide a context for the individual to see and be seen as a person among peers, exploring individual differences and commonality with others through engagement. Family therapy can work through problems in primary relationships that open ways to person recovery. A child or adolescent may have been oppressed by the parents’ vision of who he should be, or he may have been unseen altogether. In the treatment of addiction, parents can recognize the re-emergence of the essential person of the child they had lost sight of but had known before.
Emotional Expressive Group is another important context for person recovery. By working through blocked emotions of anger, sadness, grief and joy, the individual can stand clear of defenses and be more vulnerable and real. With creative-expressive modalities that encourage self-expression – art therapy, puppetry, dance and sand-tray work, for instance – the creative product stands as a signpost of the personal.
At Wellspring, we maintain the presence and care of animals in all of our residential programs, because relationship with an animal simply makes us more human. It is why the non-verbal, land-based, experiential therapies of work, animal care, horticulture, and adventure program receive special emphasis, because nowhere is the essential nature of an individual more clearly revealed than in the instinctual responsiveness of body activity. Sally’s process of person recovery began with discovering a deep love for animals that opened a career path as a veterinary assistant and possibly as a vet.
The same personal approach holds true in education, where different learning disabilities and learning styles must be approached individually. This is truly the art and the heart of “special education.” Debbie, for example, was motivated to learn only when she was able to adapt her entire curriculum to the needs of cooking, after we discovered how passionate she was about food, and had been so, her mother assured us, since she was 4 years old.
Finally, the disorder itself can provide a window for person recovery. Symptoms, simplistically, can be understood as substitute ways to meet previously unmet needs – for attention, affection, appreciation and acceptance. But the personal can also be expressed through the symptom, whether in the artfulness of a defense or the style of a manipulation, the ways in which an individual strives to be special or to disappear. When Sara, a twelve year-old, hacked into our computer system to read her chart, some were outraged at her behavior as symptomatic of a budding character disorder. Others noted her audacity and technical aptitude, and lauded her innate drive to uncover “secrets” as a born detective. The “disordered” act became the basis for her emergence into health.
To the degree that we as a therapeutic community direct our efforts toward the process of person recovery, we provide an environment where treatment, education, and the healing of the person are enhanced.
Practical strategies and techniques to help you and your children to process the trauma more effectively.
Wednesday, December 19 at 7:00 pm
Christ the King Church, entrance is in the back
4700 Madison Avenue, Trumbull, CT
This is workshop is FREE, and open to the public. Please, no children.
- How to talk with your child about traumatic events
- How trauma affects our bodies
- How we can help the natural process of healing
Handouts, Resources and Refreshments will be available
Valerie Gillies is a Licensed Family Therapist and EMDR clinician. Her practice is solely focused on children who have attachment and trauma challenges. She takes a holistic, systemic approach, and involves parents, school, sensory processing, play, exercise and nutrition in treatment. She is the mother of 5 children, aged 14-28, and writes for the syndicated blog: Mothering In the Middle.
Dawn Roy, Linda Rost, Karen Alter-Reid, Cheryl Kenn and Susan Marcus are among the other licensed trauma specialists who will be on hand for this presentation, and will be available to engage in discussion with parents.
If you have any questions please contact the EMDR HAP office at (203) 288-4450.
Sponsored by EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Programs (HAP) 2911 Dixwell Ave Suite 201 Hamden, CT 06518 www.emdrhap.org
HAP is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to build the capacity of underserved communities to meet their needs for effective trauma therapy throughout the world. HAP has been a part of healing communities in all 50 states and 33 countries around the world. We remain committed to families and communities through support and education of the effects of trauma and how it can be dealt with successfully.
In the course of a lifetime most of us will experience, directly or indirectly, several personally shocking or traumatic incidents. Witnessing, experiencing or being close to a shocking event is one such example. There are normal reactions to these intense and/or abnormal events. Although some of these reactions can be painful, they are part of the natural healing process. If you have experienced an intense personal situation or a shocking/traumatic event recently, some possible responses might be:
- Shock and disbelief-Immediately after learning about a traumatic event many people feel numb or feel like such an event can’t be real.
- Speculation about what happened and information seeking – Listening to or watching news, checking the internet for updates, talking to others about what you know or have heard.
- Wanting to turn off the TV and the radio “make it all go away” for a while.
- Feelings of sadness or anger about the tragedy and discussing these feelings with others.
- Wanting to check in with loved ones, even if they are not close to the disaster or in immediate danger. It is normal to want to touch base with someone you care about.
- If you are in a role where you need to attend to or provide for others, you may not be aware of your own feelings until the immediate crisis is over.
In the hours and days following such tragedies, the shock begins to wear off and it is possible that other feelings may emerge. It is also possible that no other feelings will emerge. Everyone’s reaction is individual and perfectly OK. In the cases when other feelings emerge-these feelings might include anger, sadness, fear, panic or depression. It is important to share these feelings with people whom you trust.
What You Can Do To Take Care Of Yourself: Promoting a Healthy Response
- Talk with people about what you are experiencing-parents, friends, super visor, pastor, counselor-someone you feel comfortable sharing with.
- Breathe – slow and deep abdominal breathing.
- Maintain regular exercise.
- Eat healthy-don’t skip meals, don’t eat excessively.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule as much as possible.
- Schedule your time and meet as many of your usual commitments and activities as possible.
- Take time to be alone in order to listen to yourself. Give yourself permission to have your feelings, whatever they are. Also, give yourself permission NOT to have intense feeling about the situation.
- Don’t withdraw for an extended period of time.
- Avoid overextending yourself in your work or in new commitments.
- • Remind yourself that you’re normal and are having normal reactions-your reactions may be different from your friends and that’s OK-reactions are very individualistic.
- Engaging in excessive substance use (alcohol or other drugs) to numb or escape is not advisable. It often only delays or intensifies emotional responses.
- Don’t label your reactions or the reactions of others as weak, strange, wrong, or crazy.
- Transfer the energy of anger into productive activities within your community.
- Ask others directly for what you need and want.
- Help others.
- Pray, meditate, spend time in nature, or do whatever suits your belief system and allows you to connect with something larger than yourself.
Action That You Can Take With Others
- Show that you hear their feelings and that you care through your choice of words and behaviors.
- Just be with them
- If appropriate, respect their desire to grieve in their own way
- Assist people with solving immediate concerns or problems
- Help connect people with available resources
- Reassure them that they are safe
- Be particularly aware of those already vulnerable to depression, mood swings and suicidal thoughts
Within Your Community (when the situation calls for it):
- Find ways to contribute your unique talents and areas of expertise to your community
- Provide opportunities in classrooms or in work settings for people to talk with each other about their reactions to the recent events – right now people need a sense of community, safety, and places to talk
- Initiate or contribute to communications with others that help to create a sense of safety and healing
Sometimes It Might Be Good To Consider Professional Counseling if:
- You are experiencing memories of previous losses, traumas, or crisis.
- You are experiencing heightened feelings of anxiety, fear for your own safety, or rage.
- You are crying more than usual in response to sadness and fear.
- You are experiencing difficulty sleeping or nightmares.
- You become angry or upset more easily than typical.
- You notice a tendency to isolate yourself or withdraw.
Changes in behavior are usually significant when they interfere with usual activities, change behavior in significant ways, or persist for more than two weeks. If you are having these responses, ask for help.
(Adapted from Eastern Kentucky University – 2012)
2-1-1 is available 24 hours to connect families with the resources they need in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Wellspring Counseling Center is available to all local communities for support and counseling during this difficult time.
Please call 203-758-2296
The Arch Bridge School at Wellspring is participating in the Stop & Shop A+ School Rewards Program. Through March 28, 2013, we can earn CASH through this exciting program each time our parents and friends shop at any Stop & Shop store.
You can help!
Log on to www.stopandshop.com/aplus and choose “Designate Your School” from the A+ menu found under “Our Stores” to register your card online. Then, each time you shop at any Stop & Shop using your STOP & SHOP Card, you will earn cash for our school! You can track the amount of points you earn for our school by checking your grocery receipt and online when you create an account at www.stopandshop.com. Each month, the amount of cash awarded will be updated on the Stop & Shop website. Wellspring will receive a check at the end of the program. The money can be used for any of our school’s educational needs!
Last year we earned over $700 which were were able to use to purchase planners for our students. These daily planners are a portal of communication between our parents and school staff.
Taking just a minute of your time to register can make a huge difference to our school. We need your support! Please be sure to register Arch Bridge School using ID # 05773 at www.stopandshop.com/aplus . Also, don’t forget to encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. It could mean the world to our school!
More than 200 attendees found their way to the little town of Bethlehem, September 8 to celebrate Wellspring’s 35th Anniversary. The heavy rains and threat of tornadoes couldn’t keep the former staff, alum, and friends of Wellspring from joining in the celebration.
The day’s activities included music performed by former staff and residents, testimonials of “life after Wellspring” from graduates of Wellspring’s programs and a heartfelt message from co-founders Richard and Phyllis Beauvais:
“If we as founders have done anything, we have worked to create and sustain a culture of healing to which others, in turn, have responded and have added their gifts. Wellspring has always been a community effort, for there is no other way to do this work. And as a community dedicated to healing, our focus continues to be the fostering of wholeness – body, mind, heart and spirit – in the mysterious uniqueness of each individual. Individuals become persons only through relationship, and at the heart of true relationship is love.”
Wellspring CEO, Dan Murray, shared news of Wellspring’s recent awards and partnerships:
- The Arch Bridge School at Wellspring has been accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) as an Independent School and approved by the State of Connecticut as a Private School
- Wellspring has been approved as an out of state school by the New York State Department of Education
- Wellspring has partnered with local school districts to provide consultative services in the area of special education and behavioral health to help districts identify and work with children experiencing emotional issues
In the three-and-a-half decades of the organization’s existence, Wellspring has provided services to over 3,500 individuals and their families in their residential, outpatient, and school programs.