It is now understood that the impact of trauma does not automatically heal with time and that this causes continued pain and distress until recovery is facilitated. This process of recovery then can be seen as one of healing in terms of finding new meaning that helps the children re-establish their development in more positive and fulfilling ways without the intense pain that abuse and trauma bring. The recovery journey is not one of simply ‘putting traumatised children back together’ but rather maximizing their potential and re framing their traumatic experience as a part of their narrative but not their primary identity.
A definition of recovery would be;
‘This awful thing happened to me, it no longer has the power to affect how I think and feel. I can see it in the context of my whole life and can take my place in society.’
Resilience is a key concept when looking at the recovery of children from trauma. It is often described as the capacity to bounce back or the ‘ordinary magic’ of many children and adolescents overcoming daunting social circumstances or traumatic life events (Masten, 2001). However resilience is more complex than this.
Khanlou & Wray (2014) describe resilience as ‘an important element to maintaining and promoting child and youth mental health, and as a life-long buffer to potential threats to wellbeing over time and transition’ (p. 65). It is a strength based concept that builds on individual’s strengths rather than emphasizing deficits. Khanlou & Wray’s (2014) view that resilience needs to be considered as:
a process (rather than a single event),
a continuum(rather than a binary outcome), and
a global concept with specific dimensions
is extremely helpful when thinking about recovery from childhood trauma. Resilience is most often viewed as a process that refers to exposure to adversity and “positive” adaptation (Fergus & Zimmerman 2005; Luthar et al., 2000). Between these two points are a host of protective factors such as family, school, community and society that appear to modify vulnerability to the effects of adversity (Daniel & Wassell, 2000). Daniel and Wassell (2002) describe three fundamental building blocks of resilience:
A secure base which helps to create a sense of belonging and security
A high level of self-esteem that brings an internal sense of worth and competence
A sense of self-efficacy that involves a degree of mastery and control along with an understanding of strengths and weaknesses.
Importantly resilience recognises that although it may not always be able to protect a young person from further adversity, and that while it may not be possible to provide an ideal environment for them, boosting their resilience should enhance the likelihood of better long term outcomes. This can be achieved by a protective network and framework for intervention with the focus being on the assessment of potential areas of strength within the child or young person’s whole system. There will however, always be a need to acknowledge some of these young people will require specialised and on- going help throughout their life through no fault of their own.