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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Psychological Trauma & Recovery: The Ecological View

Psychological Trauma & Recovery: The Ecological View
“Shaping the interrelationship of individuals and their communities are a wide variety of person, event and environmental factors.”

Portland Vet Center psychologist Lori Daniels, speaking at the WDVA Contractors’ Conference at Chelan [October, 2012], addressed the issue of Military Sexual Trauma. She emphasized the ecology of the circumstances surrounding the trauma as essential for the therapist’s understanding and for the veteran’s recovery from PTSD. Later, in a breakaway session at the Conference, Issaquah psychologist, Mike Phillips, addressed the issue of suicide among veterans of military service. The ecological issue again was raised, leading to the question of the contextual circumstances of the issue of the suicidal impulse of veterans.

In 1996, in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, Mary Weaver contributed an article that seems increasingly relevant today given the serious issues cited by Drs. Daniels and Phillips. In “An Ecological View of Psychological Trauma and Trauma Recovery” [1996, 9(1), 3-24], Dr. Weaver explained that the ecological perspective “suggests that psychological attributes of human beings are best understood in the ecological context of human community, and that individual reactions to events are best understood in light of the values, behaviors, skills and understandings that human communities cultivate in their members” (p.4).

Dr. Weaver narrows her focus: “Applied to the realm of psychological trauma, the ecological analogy understands violent and traumatic events as ecological threats not only to the adaptive capacities of individuals but also to the ability of human communities to foster health and resiliency among affected community members” (p. 5). She added that her ecological model “posits that each individual’s reaction to violent and traumatic events will be influenced by the combined attributes of those communities to which s/he belongs and from which s/he draws identity. Shaping the interrelationship of individuals and their communities are a wide variety of person, event and environmental factors” (pp. 5-6).

Dr. Weaver defines outcome recovery in practical terms: “The ecological model presented here understands recovery from psychological trauma as a multidimensional phenomenon,…” She writes that recovery involved authority over the remembering process. “The recovered individual can choose to recall or not recall events that previously intruded unbidden into awareness” (p. 11). And she adds that recovery involves integration of memory and affect. “In recovery, memory and affect are joined. The past is remembered with feeling” (p. 12).

Emmett Early

Abridged from The Repetition & Avoidance Quarterly, Fall, 2012: p. 9