Building Resilience and Belonging through Trauma-Sensitive Yoga
Starr believes, as its founder Floyd Starr did, that there is no such thing as a bad child. And, when you provide a safe environment, when you treat a child with dignity and respect, it changes a child’s heart. And that, in the end, is what changes a child’s life. It’s a powerful story that we have been helping children write for over 100 years at Starr Commonwealth. For all students on Starr’s campus, this approach is applied to healing their pain-based behavior. By identifying what has happened, or is happening, within each individual on our campus, by understanding their own internal logic, our staff is able to assess and treat trauma to ensure resilience and future success.
Starr Albion Prep’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) program, led by Starr Albion Prep’s director of therapeutic services, Mackenzie Bentley, addresses such trauma, and it has required us to think beyond our traditional programming.
For the victims of human trafficking, the first step is often the most difficult task — helping these children make sense of what has happened to them. To get them to understand they are victims, much of our time is spent in cognitive restructuring to help them see that they, in fact, were exploited. As one girl simply put it, “I didn’t even know I was being trafficked.” This cognitive restructuring takes the shape of conversations, readings and videos on what modern trafficking looks like, as well as journaling to identify what has specifically happened in their past, or is happening currently inside them, to help re-shape their image of themselves. And, while this programming is vital to the healing process, Starr’s most dynamic approach to building resilience in these victims is through physical supplements to their mental care.
n conjunction with Starr’s CSEC program, Reed’s yoga classes are offering a focus on therapeutic themes including acceptance of self, awareness, and empowerment over the safety of one’s own body, and ultimately, personal resilience. “We’re helping these girls befriend and care for their bodies by putting aside the shame that comes from the traumatic experience [of trafficking]. We help girls reconnect with themselves in a compassionate way,” says Reed, who has prepared for this program for over a year with 200 hours of trauma-informed yoga, and 300 more to come this year. “[Yoga] has helped me shape my wounds into areas where I have become my strongest, and now I am able to help others who are hurting and give them a space to do the same. In that way, I’m not really a teacher, but simply a guide for these girls to have that same healing with their bodies.” This guidance shifts traditional therapy models into a both intrapersonal and interpersonal experience.
To read more of Matt Ray's article, please click here.