EmpowerME is Transforming Post-Trauma Recovery

EmpowerME started, in part, with the surge of the #metoo movement and has grown into a multi-dimensional organization that, at its very core, strives to push back against societal norms.

(because what is normal, really?)

When the 2016 presidential campaign led to the historical worldwide women’s march, and the 2017 Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegations morphed into the broader #metoo movement, I was working as a Marriage & Family Therapist in my own small private practice. Having a graduate degree in Family therapy meant I was doing a lot of relationship counseling (which I loved) but my real specialty was working with women.  I became especially passionate about working with women who had experienced some sort of trauma or abuse in their pasts.

These events seemed to be a catalyst for the women that would come into my office. There were so many raw conversations that took place in the weeks and months that followed. I felt like I was on the front line, witnessing a massive shift. Sometimes the shift was in their consciousness as they remembered events that their minds had locked away and sometimes the shift took place somewhere deeper inside them and unleashed a flood of emotions that had been dammed.

In all the work I had done with women who had similar histories, this shift also brought me new awareness, primary among them is that

Trauma and abuse are isolating!

Session-after-session I would sit with women who were working hard to make sense of the nonsensical.  My heart broke with each one of them when the conclusion they often reached was that they were unlovable.  That they were somehow bad and somehow deserving of the horrible experiences they had endured.

The rhetoric that our society repeats over and over causes these beliefs: “If I had been smarter, stronger, braver… then it wouldn’t have happened.”

I would listen as they all shared a similar version of the same story:

That they were alone.

They felt alone with their emotional pain because, unlike a broken bone or a cut, this wound is invisible. They felt alone because it seemed like everyone else around them had their shit together while they felt like the fire of hell was burning inside them and all around them.

Of course, I knew that they weren’t the only ones because I was simultaneously working with at least five other women who were sharing the same thoughts, stories, and feelings.

In our sessions, we’d attend to the important work of developing healthy coping strategies but it was also really important to me to normalize the things they were experiencing.

These women were not crazy or broken.

Their reactions were completely “normal” based on the experiences they’d had in their lives. Which is why “normal” is so subjective. This firm belief that normal reactions to our life events should not be pathologized is what ultimately led me away from the medical model of therapy (requiring diagnoses and treatment plans) and into the openness of coaching and workshops.

I came to realize that equally as important as our individual sessions was their need for community. Women who have been abused find deep healing when they are connected with a group of other women who have had similar experiences. They have been shamed into silence for so long that finding a place where they feel safe to openly talk about their pain creates a sisterhood that they rarely have experienced anywhere else.

The women who trusted me at their rawest moments were my inspiration to create the EmpowerME post-trauma recovery programs. Watching the powerful transformation that happened when women faced their fears and attended these programs inspired me to take the risk and leave behind the safety of my therapy license and open EmpowerME up to coaching women and offering relationship coaching.

Our mental health system is broken.

And since the thought of trying to transform it from within was too overwhelming, I decided to make my actions line up with my beliefs and leave it behind to forge a new path. In a future blog post, I’ll talk more about the difference between therapy and coaching, but ultimately coaching gives my clients more autonomy, allowing them to be more empowered as they create their best life.

I’d love to hear about ways that you’ve left behind comfort and safety in order to take the risk and blaze a trail of your own making. Tell me about it in the comments below!