Key Steps in Healing: Judy Atkinson

The words of Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson, We Al-li Programs, 2002. Posted on We Al-li Programs Facebook page.

As some of you know, I was inspired to work in the healing trauma field in large part by Judy Atkinson’s wonderful book Trauma Trails: Recreating Song Lines – The Transgenerational Effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia.

I was reminded of Judy’s book when I was interviewed about my work by two Curtin University undergraduate students, Olivia Declerck and Luke Button, today. I told them of the impact that Judy’s book had on me. One of the students asked me to describe the nature of healing. I then saw the above figure on the We Al-li Programs Facebook page.

I delved into Judy’s book again and decided I should post this powerful long quote, relating to Judy’s research, on the nature of healing. (I have shortened Judy’s paragraphs—without changing words— to make them easier to read online).

‘The study found that the most essential step in healing is to establish a culturally safe environment to do the deeper work, which enables people to change their lives.

The next step is to find and explore, both individually and collectively, the stories that make people who they are and which contribute to how they live their lives.

The third step is to be able to enter the deep feelings that are often suppressed and unrecognised, or in other cases, extreme and uncontrollable.

The fourth stage of healing is to individually and collectively make sense of stories (or histories and her-stories) that have previously seemed senseless.

The fifth component of healing is to understand that there will be multiple layers of loss and grief and that healing is a process or series of cyclical stages in which the memories and the pain appear to get worse before they get better, as the stories emerge in greater depth, and are re-formed and transformed.

Finally, people have to be prepared for changes that will in many cases radically transform their lives.

Programs and practices which use the language of courage and hope are essential for people in pain and who feel powerless and helpless. All too often the way through the pain seems incomprehensible and impossible.

Leaders must lead by demonstrating their own commitment to healing, the process of finding “who they are” at the deepest level of their being.

The state of “being healed” is the self-defined state of accepting our humanness, warts and all, as we go about the business of embracing or commonality and valuing our diversity in the work of making our environments and relationships meaningful, enduring and enriching.’

Powerful words indeed!

‘We Al-li is a trauma informed, trauma specific educational and practice based approach that promotes health, well-being, and sustainable pathways of positive change for individuals, families and communities at both a personal and professional level.’ We Al-li website

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