The purpose of this paper is three fold. First, this paper will discuss and demonstrate the knowledge obtain in the general nature and causes of trauma. Second, this paper will demonstrate the knowledge obtained about trauma as it applies to the area of homeless women to include coping, resiliency, and spiritual aspects. Finally, this paper will discuss the tremendous need for a greater understanding of the correlation between trauma and homelessness and how training of shelter workers in the aspects of trauma, would greatly benefit and provide a beginning point for the implementation of crisis counseling for women entering into a homeless shelter situation.
Trauma and the Homeless
Nature and Causes of Trauma in General A hundred years ago, trauma had no definition and the term psychological trauma did not exist. In fact, it was because of the effects of war on military personnel, that a new field of psychology was born. This field would later become known as psychological first aid. Psychological first aid is "establishing safety of the client, reducing stress-related symptoms, providing rest and physical recuperation, and linking clients to critical resources and social support systems" (James, 2008, p. 39). Sometimes, though, psychological first aid is not available and a trauma can become more than the individual thought it would. Tragically, many good Christian people are broken when faced with a traumatic event in their lives. The damage that is done, when an individual is facing a life-altering trauma, is deep and can last for a long time. The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6 about his lifetime of crisis and trauma. Just like Paul, people do not get to choose or determine when a crisis or trauma is going to happen nor do they choose the involuntary state that their brain enters when overwhelmed with a trauma. As a result of the trauma, their alarm system is overridden, and the survival techniques that they have learned their entire lives become engaged (Wright, 2011). To some individuals, these traumas create little to no evidence of psychological distress. However, to others, there comes a trauma so severe that the individual's personal coping mechanisms and resiliency fail. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2000) defines trauma as the direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one’s physical integrity; or witnessing an event that involves death, injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of another person; or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate (Criterion A1). The person’s response to the event must involve intense fear, helplessness, or horror (or in children, the response must involve disorganized or agitated behavior) (Criterion A2). (p.463) "Trauma is more than a state of crisis. It is a normal reaction to abnormal events that overwhelm a person's ability to adapt to life" (Wright, 2011, p. 189). These trauma events can come in many different forms: combat, personal assault, life-threatening illnesses, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, accidents, rape, and sexual abuse, are just a few of the events listed in the DSM-IV-TR (APA, 2000; Finfgeld-Connett, 2010; Schuster, Park, & Frisman, 2010; Wright, 2011). In addition, research has also shown that life events such as divorce, homelessness, unemployment, and death of a loved one can be attributed to symptoms of PTSD as well (Goodman, Saxe, & Harvey, 1991; Mol, et al. 2005). Therefore, it is no wonder then, that 60-75% of individuals, at some point, will experience a trauma in their life (Briere & Elliot, 2000; Briere & Scott, 2006; Green & Soloman, 1995; Kessler, Sonnega, Bromet, Hughes, & Nelson, 1995; Wright