When it comes to trauma, we as counselors must assess the trauma narrative continuum, which is the degree to which our clients “own” their stories and to what degree the stories “own” our clients. I learned this concept from a one-time supervisor and now mentor and friend. I found it immediately relatable in my own experiences and also as an effective tool. It promotes mindfulness and empowerment with some of my clients.
The Trauma Narrative Continuum
I own my story <——————————-> My story owns me
To own your story means that you have enough control over the story. You understand what the emotional reactions mean and can distinguish present reality from past. It does not necessarily mean that we still don’t feel twinges of shame, fear, anger, guilt, or numbness when we think about or share our story.
To have the story own you means that whenever the intrusive memories kick in, or flashbacks occur, we are consumed with whatever emotion predominates (usually fear) and become immobilized. We also go to avoiding images and associations with our memories as a way to keep ourselves safe which sometimes means isolating ourselves from sources of support that are vital to our growth and progress.
When appropriate, I like to use the narrative continuum concept with my clients to help them keep their trauma in perspective by looking carefully at the continuum between How much do I own my own story? and How much does my story own me? I have found this exercise is both useful to explore progress, empowering, and helps motivate change.
About Bradd Buckingham, M.A., LPC-R; Resident in Counseling:
Bradd is currently a resident in counseling providing counseling services at our Fredericksburg location. He is actively pursuing his license in Professional Counseling (LPC). Bradd is a recent graduate of The University of the Cumberlands with a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He completed a demanding internship working with individuals and couples at Fredericksburg Counseling Services.
Bradd specializes in working with individuals with complex trauma, personality disorders, anxiety, and depression. He can offer a safe environment for individuals and families in the LGBTQ community, as well as individuals with a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds.