Trauma and homelessness: offering our service users the resources to heal

Blog post written by Steve Masterman, Reflections Network Manager

28 Jul 2021

The Reflections Network 

At The Wallich, we noticed that we were treating people with their presenting challenges on a day-to-day basis, when often we needed to get to the root cause of why they were occurring.

We’re all aware that the NHS is under extreme pressure and that counselling services are oversubscribed. It takes a long time to get a first appointment via a GP referral for counselling and if the client doesn’t turn up, they are often closed for non-attendance.

Priorities can change for the people we support on an hourly basis and appointments may be missed. We understand that.

So, we now look for solutions, new ways to engage with the person, to make counselling more accessible.

We are mindful that people may be mildly under the influence when attending, that they communicate in ways that are otherwise seen as challenging.

The people we support have much higher Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) recorded, when compared to the national average.

Complex trauma has many attributing characteristics, and we are familiar with these – as are our counsellors.

This makes the Reflections Network a bespoke service for The Wallich’s client base and forms an integral part of our mission of getting people off the streets, keeping people off the streets and creating opportunities for people.

The relationship between trauma and homelessness

The relationship between trauma and homelessness is often evident in many of the people we support.

There are many people with needs that reach far beyond lifestyle choices or circumstantial reasons.

Trauma is often deep seated, usually occurring in childhood in a large proportion of our client group and can be further compounded by adulthood traumas.

It becomes buried for some, something that may occur to someone as a ‘present thought’ or memory day-to-day.

Quite simply, a lot has often happened between the first experience and the present.

For some, that does not mean it is not there, it’s just temporarily forgotten. Trauma often simmers beneath the surface, and we see glimpses of this in how people communicate with our support staff.

For others, it’s a daily battle trying to come to terms with past events. It never leaves their thought for a second. There is no peace from it. It’s unbearable.

Suddenly, ‘lifestyle choices’ seem to make sense – drug or alcohol use, challenging behaviour, crime, living on the fringes of our communities. They become escapism routes, but can have an extensive effect on someone’s health and wellbeing.

When we consider what someone has been through, or is still going through, are these characteristics unreasonable? Of course not.

The benefit of counsellors

Counsellors in The Reflections Network are experts in Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE) and ACEs. They expect challenging behaviours and poor engagement. But they work with it.

Counselling can be a vital part of understanding past trauma and gives the opportunity to work through events that have happened.

A person is far more likely to make long lasting positive change after exploring traumatic events that occurred in their past.

If just one person can benefit in this way through counselling services, the outcome is immeasurable.

So many of the people we support have made positive change and continue to do so, thereby reducing this relationship between trauma and homelessness.

Measuring change and success

Progress can be subtle or it can be obviously presented – making it unpredictable to measure success.

The way someone thinks, for example, it may seem small and a little insignificant on the outside but for the individual, this could be a great stride forward – a ‘lightbulb moment’.

When we have to tell someone something that we are sure they will react badly to. But then they don’t. Not what you expected, right?

We take note of this. Something in the cognitive process has changed, a better understanding of things? Acceptance? This is progress, whatever the reason.

Week by week, our counsellors can see the transformation that our clients are going through.

We need to remain vigilant for any changes, no matter how small, and to encourage our clients to build upon this in a therapeutic way.

Here are just a few of the changes our counsellors have noticed:

They [client] now work as a support worker and are in secure accommodation.”

“They [client] were able to stabilise their substance intake and along with counselling began a programme of detox and rehabilitation. They’re now work in full-time employment.”

“His [client] suicidal ideation had become far less prevalent, and he recognised more readily when his unhelpful thinking patterns. He appeared motivated to continue making the positive changes he had implemented.”

“After his [client] second appointment he stated he found it to be very helpful and felt lighter. He will continue to attend counselling. It’s helping to deal with trauma from childhood, and to have a more positive outlook on life.”

Find out more about The Reflections Network

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