Meet Joanna Bridger, LICSW
Safety is the foundation for healing.
To feel safe people need four types of safety* for which we use the acronym SAPhE:
S – Social Safety – We are social, relational beings. The most significant factor in how people do during and after potentially traumatic experiences is the capacity of their social support system to be empathic, attuned, and responsive. Safety in relationship is the foundation for healing.
A – Authentic Safety – Allowing ourselves to feel what we feel, know what we know, and act in service of what we believe, creates the conditions for us to feel like we have agency in our own lives and for us to have hope that we can move towards healing.
Ph – Physical Safety – It is essential to healing that we are not continually exposed to threats that make our stress response systems activated. Sometimes the things that we do to cope (find emotional safety), like self-harm, substance use, and thoughts of suicide actually further endanger our physical safety.
E – Emotional Safety – Once we have relationships where we feel safe, believe we have a right to our feelings and agency to change them, and are not constantly exposed to physical threats, we are able to begin to calm down our nervous systems so that we are not continually activated by evocative cues of past unsafe experiences.
* Adapted from Bloom and Farragher
Hope is the catalyst that makes moving towards healing possible.
It has been said that hope is an acronym for "Hold On, Pain Ends." But I think it may be more true to say that pain transforms, or, at least, has the capacity to. Hope is a revolutionary act of believing that things can be different and actively choosing to move towards that.
Many people who have experienced trauma and loss are not able to see or feel hope. Part of my work is to hold the hope for the people with whom I am working until they are able to see or feel it.
Many things have been written about the meaning and power of hope. Some favorites:
"The idea that hope alone will transform the world, and action undertaken in that kind of naïveté, is an excellent route to hopelessness, pessimism and fatalism. But the attempt to do without hope, in the struggles to improve the world, as if that struggle could be reduced to calculated acts alone, or a purely scientific approach, is a frivolous illusion." – Paulo Freire (1997, p8.)
"I am persuaded that hopelessness is the enemy of justice; that if we allow ourselves to become hopeless, we become part of the problem. I think you’re either hopeful, or you’re the problem. There’s no neutral place. Injustice prevails where hopelessness persists." - Bryan Stevenson (December, 2020)
“One of the wonderful things about the brain is that it makes memories and it creates an internal representation of the external world. But related to that is the ability of the brain to envision things that have not yet happened – to see the world in a different way than what it really is. And hope, if you think about it, is really an internal representation of a better world. And it is a tremendously powerful force. People who have hope are able to sustain (during) tremendous, terrible traumatic experiences, because they know on the other end of this experience, things will be different, things will be better. It will not always be like this. But in order to have hope you have to have something to work with.” (pointing to his brain) - Bruce Perry
Healing is the path we make.
Healing does not look like one thing and it is not a fixed destination.
The path is made by walking
“Traveler, there is no path, the path is made by walking…
Beat by beat, verse by verse…
When the goldfinch cannot sing,
When the poet is a pilgrim,
When prayer will do us no good.
Traveler, there is no path, The path is made by walking…
Beat by beat, verse by verse." - Antonio Machado
One of the basic foundations of trauma-informed practice is the sincere belief that healing is possible for everyone. If there is sufficient safety and the hope that things can change, healing can happen.
I founded Safety, Hope, & Healing in 2021. I have worked with youth, families, adults, and communities that have experienced trauma and loss in a wide range of settings in the U.S. and abroad for more than 20 years.
For nearly ten years I was the Clinical Director for Riverside Trauma Center and provided counseling, critical incident response, clinical consultation, organizational consultation, and training for hundreds of families, schools, and organizations throughout Massachusetts and beyond.
For over ten years prior to the Trauma Center I worked with people experiencing homelessness and struggling with substance use in homeless and domestic violence shelters as well as in organizations focused on helping people to find and maintain housing.
I have an MSW from the University of Michigan with a concentration in Health, and a Certificate in Traumatic Stress Studies from the Trauma Center at JRI (now the Trauma Research Foundation).
Why "Safety, Hope, & Healing"?
Safety is the foundation
Hope is the catalyst
Healing is the path we make