In trauma and addiction recovery, you’re going to hear a LOT about how important connection and trust are. 

Chances are you’re going to have people telling you that trauma is a disorder of connection— and that healing from trauma is all about RECONNECTING.

If you’re in addiction recovery you’ll likely hear over and over again that the key to avoiding relapse is to connect with a group of people also in recovery— that isolation puts you in particular danger of relapse. 

It’s true that connection can play a powerful role in recovery— for some people, at some times. 

It’s also true that connection, in and of itself, isn’t an overarching solution to…well, anything. 

There are people who very strongly believe that the key to healing any emotional or behavioral pain is connecting through the therapy relationship— and it’s true that therapy that is based in a trusting, safe relationship can be powerful. 

Similarly, it’s true that connecting with other people in a group, either a therapy group, a support group, or a Twelve Step fellowship— can make the difference for some people in avoiding old people, places, and situations that might otherwise contribute to relapse. 

I’m not anti-connection. I’m a therapist, for crying out loud. I believe in the power of certain kinds of connection, and certain points in our recovery. 

But I’m also mindful that people who are recovering from complex trauma in particular tend to have really complicated histories when it comes to connection. 

I don’t think it’s fair— or therapeutically sound— to tell those people that they “have” to connect in order to make progress on their recovery, especially in the early stages. 

Some people don’t know how terrifying connection can be for a survivor of interpersonal violence. 

Some people don’t know what a tall order “trust” is for a survivor of childhood abuse. 

Some people don’t know what they’re asking when they ask a survivor of bullying or group violence to place their faith in a group of strangers. 

I just don’t think some people realize that when they tell a trauma survivor or recovering addict that they “have” to “trust” and “connect” in order to heal, that they’re essentially telling them that if they CAN’T trust or connect right now…they’re kind of screwed. 

That’s what the survivor or addict often hears, at any rate. 

There are LOTS of survivors who figure they would rather endure what they’re enduring than take the risk of trusting and connecting— especially to strangers. 

I think therapists in particular underestimate how difficult it can be for survivors in recovery to trust us, especially in the beginning. 

Therapists by definition come with power and privilege. Survivors of complex trauma have been hurt people in their lives who had relative power and privilege…and who were “supposed” to look out for and take care of them. 

I think we need to be super clear with people in trauma and addiction recovery that there are multiple ways to do this. 

Not every version of trauma or addiction recovery depends on you being social and heavily interactive. 

Trauma and addiction recovery can be tailored to fit how you work and where you are when it comes to your ability and willingness to connect and trust. 

It is my experience that, the further along people get in recovery, their willingness to connect and trust tends to increase— but they only GET to that place if we extend them understanding in those beginning stages, where they truly CAN’T connect and trust. 

Survivors need to know that we’re not going to try to make them connect and trust before they’re ready— and they need to know it’s okay to NOT be ready, especially given when they’ve been through. 

Recovery takes the time it takes. Connection takes the time it takes. Trust takes the time it takes. 

Insisting that survivors be open to “connection” and “trust” before they’re ready can turn people off of recovery altogether. And there are already ENOUGH things that discourage people from working their recovery as it is. 

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