Training Wounded Healers, Part One

This week on The Allender Center Podcast, Dan launches a new series exploring the heart and vision behind our unique Training Certificate, a year-long program that guides individuals through engagement with their own stories of harm and trauma for the sake of learning to offer healing and restoration in the stories of others.

“Trauma exposes something of our own efforts to create a false Eden. When we have our Eden blown up, what’s then discovered is that we’ve been on a long path of trying to find our way back.”

“Our task is inviting people into a framework to consider their own trauma and abuse story as it then opens new meaning and power to understand the story of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.”

Our Training Certificate was formed out of the core assumption that trauma is far more widespread than many people would like to believe. A common perception is that trauma affects only an unfortunate few, but the reality is that all of us bear stories of betrayal and loss that introduce some level of trauma in our lives.

“Trauma is the unexpected and profound shattering of our sense of normalcy. It comes with any significant injury or violation, any kind of deep-hearted insult that erodes not only our sense of normalcy, but in some ways erodes our sense of future. Therefore it brings a significant disruption to our sense of self. […] Those realities are not something that only the professional class of therapist or helper is intended to engage. Really the frontline of engagement with these matters has to do with the believing community being able to walk alongside of others into invite them into a process in which life is reconfigured, realigned, and in many ways, reformed.”

Dan talks about how traumatic experiences disregulate our bodies, leaving us in a perpetual state of fight, flight, or freeze, as well as our memory and our ability to engage our own stories without being overwhelmed, disoriented, and retraumatized.

“We’ve got this mess going on, and what often happens is that my very heart, soul, mind, and being are cast into this disruptive ocean. Now the question is, who will I become?”

In engaging trauma, the first task is to help find some sense of stability—the fundamental feeling that we will be able to survive. Then, as friends, families, and communities of faith, we are called to walk with individuals through the process of discovering new beauty, new goodness, and a fuller sense of self—out of the very places that have been so marked by pain and brokenness.

“Trauma gives us a context to engage the upheaval, not only to help mitigate it and to stabilize, but to actually walk with a person through the process of helping them reform, reconfigure, who they wish to be in the midst of a world that brings and allows this kind of harm.”

The Allender Center’s Training Certificate includes four unique weekend sessions over the course of an 8-month journey. In the first week, participants reflect on and share the tragedy—no matter how small or insignificant it seems—in their own story, and they begin to engage the stories of others in the context of a small group led by one of our trained facilitators. The second week focuses on attachment, containment, and the failure of attunement in our families of origin. The third week invites participants to wrestle with their sexual history, identifying the people, events, processes, and beliefs that have formed them into the person they are today. In the fourth and final week, participants look at their own unique gifts, talents, and callings the unique directions they can take this work in their families, communities, churches, and careers.

As we continue this series in future weeks, Dan will invite his wife, Becky Allender, to reflect on her experience in the Training Certificate, and then we will hear from Cathy Loerzel, co-founder of The Allender Center, about her heart behind creating opportunities for leaders and professionals to do in-depth work in their own stories and help foster healing in the stories of others.