Jeff Levy, LCSW
Mental Health, Relationships, Trauma, Identity
Jeff Levy, LCSW
(originally posted on Branching Out: The Live Oak Blog, and Linked In, September 2016)
News reports, radio, and the internet had been highlighting a recent sent to incoming undergraduates from the administration at The University of Chicago (U of C). Among other things, the letter states that the University does “not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” It may be useful for all of us to further consider the concepts of safety and safe spaces as they manifest in the world, in therapy and in the classroom.
I am an enormous proponent of safety. In fact, it’s at the foundation of my work as a social worker, psychotherapist and as an educator. I believe that growth can only occur when enough safety has been established to allow us to experience discomfort. And sitting with the tension of discomfort is what challenges us to examine ideas, thoughts, feelings, and ways we have been moving through the world. If we don’t feel safe, our energy is diverted away from change and toward self-protection. It’s virtually impossible to change when we are afraid.
Jeff Levy, LCSW
(originally posted on Branching Out; The Live Oak Blog, and Linked In, August 2016)
More and more I hear people asking for trigger warnings when there is a chance something someone may say or do will evoke emotional pain. This is happening on college campuses where students are asking faculty to provide warnings about difficult classroom material, as well as in mental health organizations, where clinicians are asking colleagues to provide warnings before talking about a difficult case. Innumerable articles have been written that either support or challenge the idea of trigger warnings.
It makes sense to be warned about potential pain however, on an everyday basis in our own lives and in the lives of our clients, there is often no warning about the trauma or violence that we might experience. Trauma informed practice may not be about proactively and explicitly predicting all possible painful experiences in order to prepare for them or avoid them. Instead, it may be about acknowledging our inability to do such predicting. It is then incumbent upon us to respond with emotional presence, compassion and sensitivity when we find ourselves, our clients, or our students in a place of pain or anguish.
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