Jessica Glass, Clinical Director and Better Living Center at The Fortune Society

Fortune’s BLC: Addressing The Trauma Of Clients And Reducing Its Symptoms

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A formal diagnosis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), when being treated in a clinical environment, must meet specific criteria as defined in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V (DSM V).

Generally, this diagnosis involves exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, sexual violence by manner of direct experience, witnessing the event as it occurred to others, learning of a traumatic event having occurred to a significant member of the person’s life, and repeated exposure to a traumatic event (such as a first responder to a disaster).

The formal diagnostic criteria notes several other required criteria for a formal diagnosis. There are several other formal diagnoses that include trauma as a component, but approximately 60% of clinic clients have been diagnosed with PTSD. However, all clients have a traumatic component to their clinical composition.

Unfortunately, in the population served by social workers, the criteria for PTSD (and other traumatic disorders) are not difficult to meet. For clients of Fortune Society trauma is or was a daily experience, the expression of which may be delayed or entirely unrecognized by the client. It is difficult to resolve trauma when you do not have insight into experiencing trauma as opposed to subsisting in a state of constant exposure to trauma.

A common theme in working with individuals/families with histories of incarceration is “offering a second chance.” However, the trauma that afflicts our clients and their families present an impediment to having had a first chance. In addition to these clients suffering from economic and educational poverty, these clients subsist in an environment where outside forces have determined that their survival skills — such as gang involvement (for familial unity needs), substance abuse (for self-medicating needs), and engagement in the selling of illegal substances (for financial needs) — are punishable by law resulting in incarceration where they experience further trauma.  During incarceration, clients are forced into solitary confinement, forced to defend themselves against physical abuse by staff and other incarcerated individuals.

Addressing trauma and reducing the symptomology is a clinical approach that strives towards the goal of giving individuals and their families an opportunity to recover from trauma and build a life with positive results, such as establishing emotional stability and familial harmony, completing education, obtaining gainful employment, and/or anything that results in individuals and their families feeling engaged in the world and not marginalized.

Fortune’s Better Living Center (BLC) strives to create a welcoming, safe, normalizing environment where clients can narrate their traumatic histories and engage in society in a way that is meaningful for them, that encourages empowerment, and recognizes their courage to survive.

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