VIDEO: Lisa Ferentz on Planting the Seeds for Post-Traumatic Growth

Removing the Glass Ceiling for Trauma Survivors

Lisa Ferentz

It’s not always easy to tell trauma survivors in the midst of deep suffering that one day they’ll find meaning in what happened to them. We know that early on in therapy, beginning to discuss topics like abuse or neglect can be extremely stressful.

But according to Lisa Ferentz, author of Treating Self-Destructive Behaviors in Traumatized Clients, the first session is exactly when you want to introduce the possibility that one day your client will not only be able to make sense of their trauma, but even grow from it.

In this brief video clip, Lisa explains her rationale behind telling trauma survivors they’ll bounce back and find meaning in their trauma.

Lisa Ferentz, LCSW-C, DAPA, is a private practitioner, consultant, and educator specializing in trauma. She’s the founder of the Institute for Advanced Psychotherapy Training and Education and author of Treating Self-Destructive Behaviors in Trauma Survivors.

At the very beginning of therapy, Ferentz tells clients that together they’re “planting a seed” for their emergence from traumatic experiences, with a new perspective on life. “I say this to everybody,” she says, “because I never want to make an assumption about the ability of my clients to grow and heal. Clients can continually surprise us with how they work through the most horrific trauma.”


Did you enjoy this video? You might also want to check out Ferentz's article, "Transcending Trauma," in which she shares the story of one of her most challenging clients and explains why we need an alternative to trauma treatment "by the book." You might also enjoy reading about how trauma treatment has evolved over the past 25 years in Janina Fisher's "Putting the Pieces Together."

Topic: Trauma

Tags: neglect | survivors | therapy | trauma treatment | traumatic | traumatized | traumatized clients | PTSD | ptsd treatment | treating ptsd

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Thursday, September 18, 2014 9:59:53 PM | posted by Andy Hahn
Please feel free to share these comments with Lisa and anyone else.

I agree with Lisa. I believe someone has to hold hope in the therapeutic relationship, and if the client is unable to, then it has to be the therapist. Ideally the therapist might align with both sides of the clients ambivalence. I suppose one might say, "I know you're saying you feel hopeless now and yet even your taking the initiative to come here suggests some hope that you are still holding" I also share with my clients that I'd be shocked if we were not able to do something together". I can say this because in my 20 years of experience in doing trauma work invariably this is so.

I also believe that we have to hold two aspects of the client, which we might call the human and soul aspects. When we meet our client in their humanness, clearly we must meet them where they are in all the suffering they are experiencing. When we meet the client on a soul level, we enter a journey with them of how to make meaning of the trauma and ultimately how it is served growth. If we only hold the "human" aspect, then on some level the client will always be a victim because there is no larger meaning and purpose. If we hold this from the very beginning we are actually inviting the client into hope, because their deepest suffering becomes an invitation to remember who they are and to heal and grow.

Thursday, September 18, 2014 5:56:04 PM | posted by Anthony Barreiro
I think Rich's question about how to assess when to use this specific intervention with different clients was right on, and Lisa's answer does not reflect how I think about working with clients. I try not to make judgments about any client's capacity for healing and growth, but I am constantly making judgments about which intervention is likely to be most effective with any given client at each specific moment in treatment. For one client appealing to hope and meaning will connect with a deep, previously unexpressed and unrealized resource. If you say the exact same words to another client during a first visit they will look at you like you're crazy and not come back. Maybe if you wait a week, a month, or a year, and stay with the client, they'll eventually be ready to hear it and make use of it.