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New Years Reflections, Gratitude, and Looking Ahead

As 2016 drew to a close and the calendar page flipped to 2017, simultaneously marking both an ending and a beginning, it is customary to reflect on the year in one's life, the highs and the lows, the challenges and the triumphs. My personal reflections naturally included MN Trauma Project and the journey of this fledgling organization over the past year.

When MN Trauma Project launched in 2015, the founding idea was simple, provide accessible means for local healing professionals to gain increased confidence and competence in encountering trauma in the healing spaces and to meet clients with traumatic pasts with a sense of clarity and compassion in helping them heal. Our hope was that we could bridge the gap that frequently exists between the needs of the clients presenting for therapy and the training of the professionals meeting them in the therapeutic encounter. We knew, based on our own graduate training experiences, that most mental health professionals receive startlingly little training and preparation for working with traumatized clients and that regardless of presenting diagnosis, many clients pursuing therapy have traumatic pasts.

In 2015, our activities largely stayed within the realm of professional workshops. We saw an increase in workshop attendees across the year and learned a lot along the way about how to put on workshops and how to connect with the local provider community.

2016 started with a similar focus, with 5 workshops scheduled covering an array of topics. One of the realizations from 2015 was that there are experts living, practicing, and teaching in MN, so we sought to provide a platform where local experts could share their knowledge and wisdom. Our first workshop, with Darcia Narvaez, PhD, who was originally from MN, focused on the intersection of moral development, attachment, and neurobiology. Our second workshop, with local health psychologist Mark Weisberg, PhD, explored the connection between trauma, psychodynamics, and physiology. Our third workshop, with local experts, Beck Gee Cohen, MA and Monica O'Connell, MA, focused on the experience of trauma in LGBTQ communities. We continued to see increasing interest in the workshops and wonderful dialogue taking place during the workshops. Community was forming!

Our two fall workshops were a highlight as we had the opportunity to learn from Richard Schwartz, Phd and Richard Chefetz, MD. Our workshop with Dr. Schwartz sold out and provided two great days of immersion in the Internal Family Systems model and its application to trauma and traumatic attachment. Our workshop with Dr. Chefetz, a partnership with the MN Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, provided a practical and theoretical understanding of the dissociative experience.

However, in addition to these learning opportunities, it became increasingly clear that creating an trauma informed and trained provider community was not enough, that our mission needed to expand to not just educate, but to care for providers, as well as to create more community awareness about trauma, and to provide opportunities to come together as members of a shared community and listen and reflect meaningfully on our experiences. Local psychologist Patrick Dougherty provided the first of those opportunities when he proposed partnering to put on an event focused on the experience of Collective Trauma, the way that societies and communities experience local or national traumatic events and how they show up in the persons of the therapist and client and how they impact the therapeutic process. In May, we partnered with Acadia Recovery Division, Cashman Center, Wilder Foundation, and NAMI to put on a community event exploring the importance of acknowledging trauma at individual, relational, and systemic levels. In the late summer, again in partnership with Patrick Dougherty and in part prompted by the rhetoric of the election cycle, MN Trauma Project sponsored a follow up event exploring the experience of Collective Trauma. Finally, in November, at the request of local activist Kate Towle, MN Trauma Project had the opportunity to sponsor an evening with veteran and peace leader Paul Chappell looking at the impact of trauma on our language and behavior and the importance of healing in the pursuit of peace and connection.

New Year's Transitions are also opportunities to look ahead:

We have a wonderful line up of workshops this year starting with two long established, internationally renowned experts in the field of trauma, Colin Ross, MD and Janina Fisher, PhD. In the fall, we will learn from Sex Therapist and Attachment Expert, Alexandra Katehakis, MA and then from leader in the field of trauma, dissociation, and attachment, Robert Muller, PhD. Also, in the Spring, MN Trauma Project will be hosting a hybrid workshop/mindfulness retreat with Buddhist priest, mindfulness teacher, and IFS and Hakomi instructer, Flint Sparks, PhD, designed to support the work and persons of those working in the healing professions. We are also exploring opportunities for further organizational partnerships to create and build community and continue to foster greater awareness of trauma in all its forms.

Our mission continues to expand as we hope to find ways to more meaningfully impact the communities in MN, both those in the metro area, as well as in the outer areas of the state. There remain tragically insufficient resources in the outer regions of the state and our hope in 2017 is to find ways to better support the providers serving those underserved areas and to increase the number of providers who can help clients heal and recover from the impact of trauma. In addition, our hope is to find ways to continue to connect with communities impacted by trauma. For many, national events in 2016 revealed wounds that have long been present, but insufficiently acknowledged. It is imperative that those wounds and the ugliness of violence, racism, misogyny, heterosexism, bigotry, bullying that have caused those wounds be responded to by coming together as diverse people and working to heal as communities. Our hope is that MN Trauma Project can support and be part of those conversations and gatherings of people. A movement of people is needed to begin to foster peace, to pursue justice, and to help society begin to heal from the undercurrent of trauma that is continuing to reveal itself in myriad ways.

As the needs that exist become more easily identified, it also becomes clear that we will not be able to do all of this work alone. Our hope is to begin to build committees to organize our efforts and increase the possible impact. Thank you for your support this past year and continuing to spread the word about MN Trauma Project and our events. If you are interested in getting involved as this year goes forward, we will be putting out information in the coming month about opportunities to get involved. Otherwise, we hope you will join us at one of the workshops, retreat, or community events. Thank you for allowing us to be part of your community!

Minnesota is situated at the center of this country. This country is moving into a significant period of change and must begin to work through the turmoil and division that exists. Our hope is that Minnesota can lead the way in shaping the conversation about what healthy community looks like and how healing from past trauma, both personal, cultural, historical, and societal can happen. An emphasis on our shared humanity, acknowledging and healing traumatic wounds, and recognizing the essential worth and value of all persons has the power to radically transform not only our immediate communities, but also the state, and quite possibly a nation. It's going be a significant year and we look forward to being part of this community with you!

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