A journey of recovery

As many of you know, I am the Co-Founder of Life Chance, an award-winning therapeutic education provider that specialises in supporting young people and families who have experienced trauma. I opened my first school (School for Inspiring Talents) seven years ago, but as a traumatised child myself, this has really been my life time’s work.

Working with so many young people and families through Life Chance and School for Inspiring Talents has been rewarding but it has also been challenging. I have recently become aware that my work supporting traumatised young people has affected me personally. It has become clear that I have been impacted by vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress.

Vicarious trauma is the experience of trauma symptoms that can result from being repeatedly exposed to other people’s trauma and their stories of traumatic events. A person’s world view (belief systems) can be significantly changed as a result of hearing those stories. Vicarious trauma is cumulative and builds up over time.

Secondary traumatic stress is the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about (or in my case physically and emotionally supports on a daily basis) the first-hand trauma experiences of another. Its symptoms mimic those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Recognising this in myself has been hard as my PTSD symptoms have been getting worse over the last couple of months. At times it has completely wiped me out both physically and emotionally. It has taken some time, but I have come to realise this is not a reflection on my own professional abilities but a normal response to the challenging nature of this work I do.

So, I have decided to take some time away from work to start a process of healing and recovery for myself. My family, especially my wife (Victoria), friends and work colleagues have all been amazing and so supportive. I have started some extra supervision and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR). EMDR is a comprehensive psychotherapy that helps you process and recover from past experiences that affect our mental health and wellbeing. It involves using side to side eye movements combined with talk therapy in a specific and structured format. EMDR helps us process the negative images, emotions, beliefs, and body sensations associated with traumatic memories that seem to be stuck. These can contribute to a range of mental health problems. EMDR helps us to see things from a different perspective and relieves the symptoms of our suffering.

I believe that it is important for me to step outside of my daily routine to prioritise this healing process using supervision and EMDR therapy. I look forward to sharing some more of my journey with you soon!