CARING FOR CLIENTS WHO MAY BE SUICIDAL

INTRO

Special guest, Amy Vogel led a webinar on Caring for Clients who may be Suicidal. Amy is a licensed Mental Health Counselor, specializing in traumatic grief and disenfranchised bereavement with over 10 years experience in providing crisis counseling and grief support services. Her research and advocacy focus on effective suicide bereavement interventions. Amy has led survivor support groups and serves on boards for Suicide Prevention and Operation Solid 7. She is a certified Clinical Trauma Professional and is certified in Thanatology. She is currently pursuing a PhD in counseling, education, and supervision.

She presented the learning objectives, saying, “Is suicide a problem? How big of a problem is it? We’re going to look at the scope of the problem, the risk factors of suicide, suicide risk in abortion, and assessments in planning to help you really understand: Is suicide involved? How do I ask if suicide is involved? And what do I do if they say yes?”

 

PREVENTING SUICIDE

“Suicide is a very complex health issue, yet despite it’s complexity, it can be prevented,” Amy said as she introduced the topic of suicide and prevention.  

Amy likened the warning signs and risk factors for suicide to those for other health crises like cardiac arrest, emphasizing their importance in preventing deaths by suicide. She pointed out how similar to other conditions, prevention can occur early or closer to the time of crisis, but stressed how important time itself can be, stating, “Time can be a critical and life saving measure. Typically a life can be saved if you allow time for the person’s suicide risk to subside or to get through that period of distress and get them to help.” She said that help can come in the form of a professional, someone who may know how to do an intervention, or simply listening and connecting. 

Amy said that identifying people who may be suicidal is an integral step in preventing suicide in addition to taking an active role in connecting them to help before they take action to end their lives. 

She discussed how using and modeling appropriate language is important so as to not perpetuate the stigma of suicide or mental health concerns. She recommended avoiding the use of phrases such as, “committed suicide,” or “failed suicide,” as they carry negative connotations. She explained that the term “committed” originated from suicide being a crime until the laws were changed in the mid-20th century, and using words like “failed” can convey ideas like passing or failing a test. 

Amy encouraged use of more appropriate phrases such as, “died by suicide,” “ended their life,” or “attempted suicide” instead. 

Amy highlighted the critical nature of education in regards to suicide to encourage seeking help, raising awareness of risks in vulnerable populations, and

advocating for new interventions and prevention strategies for those at risk, stating, “When suicide is talked about safely and accurately, we can reduce the likelihood of its occurrence.” Caring and compassionate language around suicide is important, as highlighted in a Words Matter document from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

 

HOW BIG OF A PROBLEM IS SUICIDE?

“Currently suicide is the 11th leading cause of death,” Amy said. She explained that prior to 2020, suicide held the 10th spot, but that number lowered in 2020. She stated that each year 700,000 people die by suicide worldwide, and 48,183 in the U.S. She explained that while that number sounds high, suicide deaths are underestimated. She attributed this to overdose deaths where it is unknown whether it was accidental or not and no suicide note was tied to the death. She further broke down the numbers, stating, “That’s 132 suicides per day, and an estimated 1.7 million attempts per year.” She shared that the socioeconomic costs and consequences total $44 billion each year.    

Amy emphasized that suicide rarely occurs outside of mental health disorders. She noted that as a major public health issue, suicide takes more lives than homicide, natural disasters, and car accidents. She said that for every suicide death, it’s estimated that twenty-five others attempt. She shared her concern over this, stating, “We have a lot of people who are attempting suicide that we don’t know about and who could be alone and afraid to talk about their feelings and thoughts about suicide because of the lack of public awareness and stigma.”

 

RISK FACTORS FOR SUICIDE

“Why do people take their own lives?” Amy asked. She then answered, “That is the golden question in suicide research that I’m not sure we will ever answer, as there is no single cause.” However, she explained, there are potential risk factors that fall into three different categories: health, historical, and environmental factors. 

 

HEALTH FACTORS

The first category Amy presented, health factors, entails elements such as biological and psychological medical conditions, the most significant being mental health. She reiterated that most people who die by suicide have an active mental health problem at the time of their death, whether diagnosed or not. She stated that depression is the most common mental health condition associated with suicide and while bipolar disorder is also a high risk factor, it’s less common than depression. 

Amy highlighted the importance of detecting the presence of a mental health condition through identifying symptoms, stating, “Many people might not even realize that their distress has actually become a health problem. So it’s very important to observe different kinds of things that people might be doing, not just what they’re saying, but how they’re reacting or even dressing, different things, something that’s out of the ordinary of their norm.”

Amy highlighted that individuals with serious or chronic health issues, particularly those with mental health conditions, face an increased risk. Conditions such as chronic pain, head injuries, and traumatic brain injuries also raise the risk. Notably, traumatic brain injuries can alter brain structure, potentially leading to suicidal ideation. Amy referenced studies comparing the brains of individuals who died by suicide with those who died from other causes, revealing distinct physical disparities, specifically in the areas related to stress response and impulse control.  She affirmed the validity of studies such as these by sharing her personal experience with Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist who performs brain scans in the U.S. to identify mental health disorders. She recounted, “Last year, I got my brain scanned to identify what’s going on in there. I attempted suicide 20 years ago, and I’ve had a lot of family members die by suicide. I learned that my brain is highly impulsive, which makes sense that the research is showing that impulsive brains can be a risk for suicide.”

 

HISTORICAL FACTORS 

The next set of factors Amy presented was historical factors, which includes family history of suicide or mental health conditions, past trauma such as sexual abuse, and combat stress. She noted the crucial research being done in epigenetics, which is the study of how behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way genes work, which ties in to the potential impact of generational trauma on individuals. Additionally, she stated that a history of childhood abuse and previous suicide attempts are also both risk factors, noting the importance of collecting this type of information when meeting with a client to determine their level of risk. 

 

ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS

The last risk factor Amy spoke about was environmental factors. These involve the circumstances of a person’s life that commonly contribute to the overall risk level. This can include having access to “lethal means,” such as firearms, prescription medications, illegal drugs, vehicles, or bridges. She said, “There are many different ways people can think about killing themselves or have killed themselves, so identifying what a suicidal person may have access to is essential in identifying risk.” 

She shared that research has also shown “contagion” to be an environmental factor. This includes exposure to another person’s suicide or to very graphic accounts of suicide especially in those already at high risk. Therefore, it’s important that suicide not be “over-glamorized.” 

Prolonged stress is another environmental factor. This may include harassment, bullying, relationship or legal problems, unemployment, or a stressful life event. She said, “This is what might be coming into your offices – the event itself and anything with trauma. The actual event doesn’t always cause trauma. It’s how we respond to the event and what resources we have to be able to respond to that particular event.” She then shared her own experience about a hurricane that impacted her community and the increase in suicide within the county following the event. She stated that not everyone who went through the hurricane was thinking about suicide or died by suicide. For some, it was an exciting time to help others, supporting the fact that it wasn’t the hurricane itself, but rather the response to the traumatic event. 

 

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

“I’ve had thoughts of suicide. It’s something that doesn’t go away for me. It’s something that I’ve learned to live with,” Amy stated. My husband, who is very supportive, always tells me, I’ve never, ever had that thought. You might be sitting here today thinking, I just can’t even go there, I can never imagine taking my own life.” She explained how the theory may help people to understand how someone can get to the point of considering suicide. 

Amy shared what this has looked like in her own life, noting that while everything appears perfect on the outside — great family, parents who are still together, having everything she needs, college education, and a good career — she has struggled with suicidal thoughts since the age of 15. She explained, “It’s just something in the way my brain thinks, but I’m able to cope.” She likened her ability to manage her thoughts to someone who has to manage a disease like diabetes. She explained diabetics cope by eating right, exercising, and checking insulin levels, while she copes with her suicidal thoughts by doing a puzzle, taking medication, or speaking with her therapist. 

 

INTERPERSONAL THEORY OF SUICIDE

“Why would someone want to kill themselves?” Amy asked as she introduced the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide

The theory, developed by psychologist and psychology professor, Dr. Thomas Joiner at Florida State University, suggests that two important feelings can make someone more likely to consider suicide. The first is feeling like they don’t belong or fit in anywhere, which is referred to as “thwarted belongingness,” and the second is feeling like they are a burden to others, also known as “perceived burdensomeness.”

The theory also considers another aspect, “acquired capability for suicide.” Amy explained how this involves some individuals becoming more capable of engaging in suicidal behavior over time. “It’s like a combination of feeling disconnected and burdensome, along with the ability to act on those feelings,” Amy said. She suggested that it’s not just about wanting to die, but also having the means and ability to do so. 

“By understanding these factors, we can better identify and help those at risk for suicide. It emphasizes the importance of social connections and support in preventing suicide. So what the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide gives us is a framework to understand why some individuals may be more vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. By addressing these feelings of isolation, burdensomeness, and building support systems, we can work toward preventing suicide and supporting those in need.”

Amy went on to share a recent personal experience she had on a girls trip with friends to tie together the information shared thus far. She said that although the location was beautiful and the company was great, she was anxious because something within her was not allowing her to feel like she actually belonged. Her perceived lack of belonging led to thoughts such as, “Do I belong here? Are these people really my friends? Do they like me, and am I weird?” Those thoughts further raised her anxiety and led to her feeling like she was a burden, a pain to deal with and didn’t fit in – perceived burdensomeness. She recognized how her internal dialogue was most likely not true, existing only in her own mind; however, the thoughts were there and she had to intentionally redirect them, or “cope”, which she described as exhausting. 

Through her story, she illustrated how at-risk individuals, such as herself, may find themselves in vulnerable situations as they cope with the daily barrage of intrusive thoughts. “If we add in those who are capable of suicide, who may have previously attempted suicide, who have had a family history of suicide, who have an impulsive brain,” she said, “we’re creating the perfect storm.” Because all of those factors are applicable in her own life, Amy shared that she felt suicidal in that moment, but that didn’t necessarily mean that she was going to kill herself. 

Instead, she was able to pull on her support system, who in turn followed the steps to minimize the risk by first eliminating the means by which Amy could accomplish suicide. In Amy’s case, her family knew that was items like pills and knives. She shared the importance of her support system being familiar with the environmental factors that put her at higher risk, and being able to separate her from them, keeping her safe. She said, “I like to use myself as an example because it keeps it real and I think it helps people understand that individuals who struggle with suicidal ideation can be very successful people.”

Amy described suicidal ideation as being on a spectrum, similar to the autism spectrum, having varying levels. She gave the example of how some people on the autism spectrum may be non-verbal or unable to care for themselves, while others, like Elon Musk, are extremely successful and able to live life well. In the same way, suicide can be viewed on a spectrum of varying degrees. 

She shared how important it is to understand the levels, because when someone says they are thinking about killing themselves, it doesn’t necessarily mean right at that moment. “You have time,” she said. “If you’re talking to them, that is time. Talking to them is just keeping that time away from their means.” 

 

LEVELS OF SUICIDAL IDEATION

Amy presented a chart demonstrating the various levels of suicidal ideation created by the same people who developed the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale, which are discussed next.

 

Level 1 – Suicidal Thoughts – General desire to not be alive

– May involve thoughts of wanting life to end, but with no specific plan or intent to carry out

 

Level 2 – Suicidal Thoughts – Stronger desire to end one’s life

– Nonspecific, active suicidal thoughts

– Has thoughts about a plan, but no intent

 

Level 3 – Suicidal Intent – Suicidal thoughts with methods

– May be considering specific methods

– Intends to attempt, but has no specific plan 

 

Level 4 – Suicidal with plan and intent – Clear intention or purpose to end their life

– Has a specific plan and intends to carry it out

– Actively planning and preparing to carry out a suicide attempt

 

Level 5 – Suicide attempt – Intent to die by suicide with a detailed plan of how and when to do it

– Highest risk of attempting suicide with plan or impulse

 

“At level 5, this is where you would either call 911 or have someone who can do a suicide intervention,” Amy said. She followed by saying, “Not every suicidal person needs 911 called on them, it’s when they’re really not listening or working with you.” She pointed out that if a suicidal person is reaching out, it’s for a reason such as needing validation, and that is a moment to intervene in a safe manner. She also cautioned that if a suicidal person enters your building with intent, a plan, and the means, such as a gun, you should immediately leave the room without further discussion and call 911. 

 

RISK ASSESSMENTS: WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I THINK SOMEONE IS SUICIDAL?

 

COLUMBIA SUICIDE SEVERITY RATING SCALE

Amy introduced a widely-used tool called the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale, also known as C-SSRS. It is used at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, in emergency rooms, and by the military, VA, and US government. She likened usage of the scale to a compass, stating, “It guides the helper in understanding the depth of someone’s thoughts and feelings when it comes to suicide.” She highlighted that all of the information shared thus far is the foundation for comprehending the C-SSRS

Amy asked the audience to imagine the scale as a ladder with different rungs, each representing a level of severity in suicidal thoughts. The bottom rung represents a general feeling of not wanting to be alive. She said, “As we climb higher, we encounter non-specific, active suicidal thoughts, where the desire to end one’s life becomes more pronounced. Further up this ladder, we reach suicidal thoughts with methods indicating thoughts about how one could harm themselves. So we’re moving even higher, and we find suicidal intent, where the individual is actively planning to end their life. And at the very top, we have suicidal intent with plan. Again, this is the most critical level where a detailed plan for suicide is in place.”

Amy highlighted the difference between the Levels of Suicidal Ideation Chart and the C-SSRS in that the C-SSRS does not stop there. It also delves into the intensity of the thoughts, how often they occur, how long they last, whether they can be controlled, what might prevent the person from acting on them, and why the thoughts are present. 

She compared the use of the scale to unraveling a person’s story. She said, “By assessing both the severity and the intensity of suicidal ideation, health care providers can offer the right support and intervention to those in need, potentially saving lives and providing hope in those times of darkness. This is not just a tool, think of it as a beacon of light in the journey on suicide prevention. It’s guiding us to a better understanding of individual thoughts and emotions and paving the way for compassionate care and support.”

Amy took the audience through the C-SSRS questions, prefaced by encouraging connection to the suicidal person rather than rote reading, simply ticking boxes off on a checklist. She shared about a time when she went to a crisis center. The woman completing her intake had a checklist and a pencil and didn’t look Amy in the face. Instead she stared at her paper as she asked Amy the questions, just making check marks. Amy recollected how this made her feel unvalidated, unsafe, unheard, and misunderstood. She stated that when a person is suicidal, they are in the worst pain of their life. In conveying how hard it can be for that person to answer these questions, she suggested attendees think about the worst physical pain they have ever had and imagine how difficult it would be to give detailed directions to your house while in such intense pain. Amy shared how the method the woman used felt insincere and judgmental. She emphasized the importance of making this scale a conversation using a caring voice.

She encouraged modeling a calm and relaxed demeanor as you go through the questionnaire to help the person struggling with suicidal ideation to be calm and relaxed as well. She explained how stress responses can be minimized, helping them get out of fight or flight mode. 

Amy recommended identifying personal attitudes and biases about suicide prior to using the scale with anyone. She suggested a method she referred to as a “brain dump” where a timer can be set for three minutes and all the thoughts one has about suicide can be quickly jotted down. This can include thoughts like, ‘It makes me angry,’ ‘Why would people do that?’ and ‘That’s selfish.’ She said, “You can think of the nastiest things, but the important thing is to get it all out. You can burn it, trash it, or shred it when you’re done, but it’s very important to sit in your attitudes and personal biases about suicide because you want to be fully present for this person.” 

Amy reminded us that it’s not necessarily the suicide that is really going on, but how the person is responding to a particular trauma or event. She went back to the example of her girls’ trip and how the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide was at play with the build up of thoughts and historical factors converging, negatively affecting her response to the event itself. This puts into perspective what may be happening with a client seeking help after an abortion or with someone who is fearful of an unintended pregnancy. Keeping in mind, it’s not the actual event, it’s how they are responding to it. Being able to get past our own judgements plays an important role in being able to understand more in order to help people thinking about suicide cope through their responses to the events they are going through. 

 

STANLEY BROWN SAFETY PLAN

“Whether they are suicidal or not, it’s very important to create a safety plan with a client,” Amy said as she introduced the Stanley Brown Safety Plan

The first step in creating a plan is identifying warning signs. She shared how many times people who are suicidal may not realize what their warning signs are. Being able to identify the warning signs functions as a light bulb. It brings to their awareness things they may do before thinking about suicide, such as cutting or negative self-talk, triggering them to begin working on their coping strategies. She recommended asking them to identify at least three warning signs. 

The next step, she explained, is to identify internal coping strategies. These are things they can do to distract themselves without contacting another person, such as listening to music, playing a game on their phone, completing a puzzle, journaling, or drawing.  

The next component she shared was listing people and social settings that provide distractions. This would not include people you go to for help in a crisis, rather people or places that feel safe and serve as a distraction. They’re not going to do a deep-dive intervention. 

Section four of the plan would be identifying people who can be asked for help during a crisis. For Amy, this includes her mom, husband, and a close friend who is also a counselor. 

Section five is where to include professionals or agencies that can assist during a crisis. She suggested having them write down their resources, and if they don’t have any, provide them referrals to the types of agencies that would best serve them. This is also where you would include emergency contact numbers like a local non-emergency line or emergency department, suicide prevention hotline, or 988 which is the suicide and crisis hotline. 

The final part of the safety plan covers how to make their environment safer. This entails identifying the person’s lethal means and how to keep their means in a safe place that may restrict their access to it. 

 

CONCLUSION

“I want to emphasize the crucial role that we can all play in suicide prevention,” Amy said. Suicide is a serious public health issue that affects individuals, families, and communities all across the globe. However, it’s important to remember that suicide can be prevented through awareness, compassion, and timely intervention. Throughout this presentation, we have explored the scope of the problem, the factors that contribute to suicidal desire and capability, and the tools available for assessing and managing suicide risk.

We’ve also discussed the significance of using appropriate, non-stigmatizing language when we talk about suicide to create a supportive environment. One of the most important things we can do to help prevent suicide is to be there for others and actively listen to their concerns. When someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts, they might feel isolated, helpless, and alone. By offering a non-judgmental and supportive presence, we can help them feel heard, validated, and connected. Active listening involves giving that person your full attention and asking those important questions, like Are you thinking about suicide? and not being scared if they say yes. It involves showing them empathy and understanding. 

In addition to being there for others, it is crucial to know the resources available for suicide prevention, including helpline numbers, websites, and local support services. Familiarize yourselves with these resources and provide valuable information and support to people in need. 

“I want to leave you with a message of hope,” Amy said. “Suicide is preventable, and help is available. By working together, we can create a world where everyone feels supported, valued, and connected. I encourage each of you to continue learning about suicide prevention. Every life is precious and every person deserves the right to be heard and supported. Together we can make that difference in the fight against suicide.”

 

HANDOUTS

 

Click here for the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale.

 

Click here for the Stanley Brown Safety Plan.

 

Click here for the Community Care Card for Clients.

 

NEXT STEPS

 

Click here to watch the video of this webinar.

 

Click here to register for the next Men’s Healing Matters webinar.

 

Click here to register for the next Abortion Healing Provider webinar.

 

Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Resource Library.

Click here to explore Support After Abortion’s services, resources, and training for Abortion Healing Providers.

The Male Volunteer

The Male Volunteer

INTRO

In our April 10th, Men’s Healing Matters webinar, Greg Mayo, Men’s Healing Strategist at Support After Abortion, discussed The Male Volunteer and various aspects as it relates to who they are, reasons they don’t volunteer more, and methods for equipping them with the necessary tools for success. 

THE DATA

“In regards to the male volunteer, the first thing we need to do is establish a little bit of context.” Greg shared a study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics which found that women are 30% more likely to volunteer than men. The statistics also showed that volunteering among men spikes right after high school and then picks up again between the ages of 40 and 45. Greg discussed various reasons for why volunteerism is more likely to occur at those times in a man’s life. He suggested that after high school, a man could have more free time or need volunteer experience, and reasoned that between the ages of 40 and 50, household responsibilities could be lessened as children grow and become more autonomous. “What about the gap in the middle?,” Greg asked and continued by stating, “Many are working, raising families, and just busy with life.”

Greg shared the three key areas that men volunteer in. According to the data, 33% serve in religious organizations, where they take on tasks like mowing, facility maintenance, or ushering. 18% volunteer with youth or recreational sport leagues as coaches or referees, and 15% get involved with social or community service organizations such as food pantries or The Boys and Girls Clubs. Greg pointed out that the common thread between these three sectors where men get involved the most is giving their time in areas where they’re actively doing something.  

WHY DON’T MEN VOLUNTEER?

“Why don’t men volunteer? I think that’s the question probably everybody listening right now has,” Greg said. Citing an article titled, Men in Social Service Volunteering, he explained that the first reason they don’t is because they haven’t thought of it, stating, “While it sounds simplistic, men typically just don’t think about volunteering.”  He continued explaining that men are often happy to help, but according to the article, because it may not occur to them, they need to be asked directly. He noted that the article also pointed out that the term volunteering doesn’t resonate with men. 

Greg shared the second reason that men don’t volunteer is because they believe it’s too hard to get started. He stated, “When I say it’s too hard to get started, what I mean is they don’t get a response from organizations that they reach out to and try to volunteer with, or there’s a really high bar for entry into volunteering.” He described how some organizations have lengthy processes that entail assessments and various tests, and while they may be necessary to fully develop a volunteer, looking for ways to shorten the process would be beneficial to getting more men involved. 

He told a story about a man he knew who was volunteering at a pregnancy resource center. Although the man had his own abortion healing story and was passionate about the cause, he had stopped volunteering there. When Greg asked him why, the man said that he had been giving his time for over six months, but had done nothing except take assessments, tests, and classes. The man commented, “I showed up to volunteer, not to take classes.” Greg said, “When we put a lot of spikes in the road on the way to a guy getting started, that’s a barrier.”

Greg went on to say the third reason that men don’t volunteer is they tend to prioritize work. He said, “Part of that is men are taught that a lot of their value is in their work and what they provide.” According to the article, studies suggest that women generally work fewer hours than men which makes women more likely to volunteer. However, “As times have changed, so has this pattern. Make the most of more stay-at-home dads and men with more flexible hours who may work from home.” 

Another reason Greg shared is that men feel they don’t have anything to offer a program. He explained how this idea can be perpetuated when men attempt to volunteer but are met with all-female messaging and marketing, stating, “If a man goes to volunteer anywhere, we already know more women volunteer than men, if all the volunteers are women, all the materials are for women, all the testimonials are from women, it just compounds the message that Hey, you’re a guy, you don’t have anything that we need here.” Greg asserted that if that is not the message we want to convey, then we must look at how we can change it to make men feel welcomed and wanted. 

HOW TO APPEAL TO THE MALE VOLUNTEER

“How do we appeal to male volunteers and get them to stay?” Greg asked. He cited the article Ten Ways to Appeal to Male Volunteers from The Volunteer Management Report, and said that the first way is to specifically ask them. He reiterated how events, marketing, and messaging mostly appeal to women, resulting in men assuming that women will sign-up to help. He explained that men need to know their help is needed, and this can best be done by directly inviting them to come. 

“The second thing is, put them to work. When a man shows up, give him something to do,” Greg said. He explained how this doesn’t mean pushing them into something they aren’t prepared for, such as talking to a male client in the waiting room, but rather giving them something they are capable of doing right away.

Greg said that the third way to appeal to men is to avoid “recruiting guilt trips.” He explained how this is when you try to make people feel bad to get them to volunteer. He went on to say that this will not result in getting the best out of someone, which leads to not serving clients in the best way. “You want to motivate them, not make them feel guilty,” the passage stated.

“Men like to fix things,” Greg said as he introduced the next way to appeal to men. Let them solve problems. “I’m not talking about board-level problems, but give them a problem. Let them find a solution.” When men can solve problems, they feel more involved and needed. 

Another way to appeal to male volunteers is to give clear directions. He stated that most men are goal-oriented and giving them clear direction on what is needed, when it’s needed, and why it’s needed will allow them to complete the task and feel accomplished.   

“The next thing is: use high energy,” Greg said. He explained that energy levels don’t have to be phony or over the top, but they can’t be somber either. He highlighted the energy that comes from sports and action movies that “gets guys riled up.” He stated, “They want to feel that energy, that sort of Braveheart moment where they’re going to go charging off.”

Greg went on to mention that another way to appeal to men is to offer something for free such as a t-shirt. He stated that although it may seem silly, guys like to know what to wear, everyone looks the same, and guys like free stuff.  

Greg stated that giving feedback appeals to men. He shared that men value knowing how they’re doing and that “they’re bringing value.” Explaining to them what needs to be done differently or what they are doing right keeps them from wondering whether they are being impactful and effective. 

Greg shared that another way to appeal to male volunteers is to be honest and authentic. He shared a personal lesson learned from his stepfather about the value of genuine interactions. Greg emphasized how sincerity fosters meaningful connections, echoing insights from previous interactions with other men’s ability to detect authenticity. He advised against pretense, encouraging genuine communication and interactions with volunteers. While promoting positivity, Greg underscored the significance of conveying praise and encouragement sincerely.

The last way Greg mentioned to appeal to male volunteers is to thank them. He pointed out how although it’s a simple thing, many men feel unseen and invisible, and showing gratitude goes a long way. He said, “Whether it’s volunteering or working 14 hours a day on an oil rig, they don’t feel like anybody cares. If you thank somebody, honestly just thank them, that will mean the world to that guy.” It’s important to acknowledge right away that you appreciate their being there and thank them for showing up.

IDEAL QUALITIES FOR A MALE VOLUNTEER

“Finding the right male volunteers is not throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping it sticks,” Greg said. He emphasized the importance of properly vetting volunteers to ensure they are the right fit. He stated, “The male volunteer is not only representing your organization, but he is, for better or worse, for good or bad, impacting the clients that he serves.” Greg outlined seven qualities the ideal male volunteer possesses: consistency, authenticity, ability to listen, curiosity, an ability to connect, commitment to healing, and belief in the mission. 

The first quality Greg introduced was consistency. He highlighted how important it is to find male volunteers who will show up when they are supposed to, saying, “If he doesn’t show up, and you’ve got guys scheduled to come in and talk to him, you’re failing those clients. They’re not getting the help they need, so consistency is hugely important.” 

Next Greg shared that authenticity is another important quality for a male volunteer. He stressed that the ideal person must communicate authentically and be genuinely interested in the people he is serving. 

“The third thing is: He needs to have the ability to listen,” Greg said. He explained that we can learn pretty quickly during the interview process whether he knows how to listen or not. He suggested that there are times when a person could be coached, but for those who can’t, finding things for them to do that aren’t client-facing would be beneficial, emphasizing that the wrong volunteer can do more damage than good. 

Next Greg said that another quality a male volunteer should have is curiosity. “He needs to be naturally curious,” he said and highlighted that this doesn’t just apply to curiosity with clients, but they should be genuinely curious about the organization as well. Greg explained that in addition to being curious relative to clients, a healthy curiosity about what the organization is doing, what opportunities there are for him to serve in, or how he can improve and better himself are all important.  

“He needs to have the ability to connect with the men that he serves,” he continued, “Connection, consistency, authenticity, ability to listen, and curiosity, if he’s got those first four, he’s going to have the ability to connect with men.” Greg stated that the ability to connect is a crucial element in relationship building, especially in abortion healing. He said, “If he can connect with them and gain their trust, then he has a better opportunity of helping them walk the path of healing.”

Greg shared that another important quality for a male volunteer is that he be committed to his own healing. He stated that it doesn’t necessarily have to be abortion related. Everyone, whether they’ve experienced abortion or not, likely has something they can heal from. He said that healing is a necessity for anyone who wants to be an effective volunteer or employee. “It’s a fact that the less healed we are, the less impactful we are at helping other people find healing. It’s also a fact that the more we work on our own healing, the better we can serve others,” Greg said. He cautioned that if a person is trying to work or volunteer in a setting where healing is the intent, and they are not working on themselves, they may have the wrong motives. He emphasized that healing is always ongoing and we should continually look to grow and improve. 

The final quality Greg mentioned was believing in the mission, “They need to believe in what you’re doing and they need to buy into how you’re doing it,” he said. He pointed out that individual organizations may have their own way of accomplishing their missions, but no matter their method, the volunteer must believe in the mission of the organization. He recounted a story from when he coached youth soccer and one of the other coaches was there only because his wife had told him he had to coach. This highlighted to Greg that not everyone volunteers for something because they believe in it. It also demonstrated to him that when motivation is lacking, commitment suffers, leading to a decline in the quality of the time devoted. 

TAILORING A VOLUNTEER PROCESS THAT RESONATES WITH MEN

Greg reiterated how imperative it is to put men to work. He emphasized that it should be one of the first things done in the process, stating, “Put these men to work. Most men are doers. If you give them something to do, they’ll be engaged.” He shared about his experience working at pregnancy centers and hearing complaints from other male volunteers regarding endless classes before getting to do anything. Greg reminded us that volunteerism among men picks up around 40 to 50, which means a lot of the demographic may have extra time to give, and they want to give it somewhere they feel useful. 

“Men need to know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it,” Greg said as he discussed the importance of providing clear objectives and directions. He explained how taking the time to explain in a clear and concise manner what the end goal is and any necessary steps to accomplish it will set the male volunteer up for success. He suggested that this could be a part of the training process and will result in more impactful volunteers. He encouraged providers to explain goals and objectives and then train male volunteers to ask themselves, What’s the goal? When a client comes in and he’s considering abortion or has been impacted by abortion, what’s the goal? What’s the objective? I’m going to go talk to this guy. I’m going to be compassionate. I’m going to be a good listener. I’m going to be authentic. Why am I doing that? What am I trying to get to? “And then you work with him on how to get there. When we do that, we see men that are deeply impactful.” 

The last part of the process that Greg touched on was helping the male volunteer to continue in his own healing journey. He recommended using Support After Abortion’s referral directory as an essential resource for connecting men to healing providers that best fit their needs. Greg stated that the more healing that takes place, the more effective and impactful the man will be for the organization and clients. He described this as part of the ripple effect of healing, which creates possibilities much bigger than imaginable. He explained that this is why making healing an on-going part of the process is so imperative. 

CLOSING

In wrapping up the webinar, Greg reminded us:

  • Women are at least 30% more likely to volunteer than men and men’s volunteering spikes following high school and again between 40-50 years old. 
  • Most men volunteer in religious or community organizations, or youth sports. 
  • Reasons men don’t volunteer: they don’t think about it, it’s too hard to get started, they tend to prioritize work, and they think they don’t have anything to offer. 
  • The article Ten Ways to Appeal to the Male Volunteer shows how to appeal to male volunteers and get them to stay. 
  • The ideal qualities for a male volunteer, which includes traits such as consistency, being on time, authenticity, being a good listener, curiosity about the clients and organization, the ability to connect, commitment to their own healing, and belief in the mission. 
  • Tailor your volunteer process to resonate with men:  put them to work; give them clear objectives, directions, and goals; create spaces that allow healing to be a continual process; and validate and thank them for being there.

NEXT STEPS

Click here to watch the video of this webinar.

Click here to register for the next Men’s Healing Matters webinar.

Click here to register for the next Abortion Healing Provider webinar.

Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Resource Library.

Click here to explore Support After Abortion’s services, resources, and training for Abortion Healing Providers.

© Support After Abortion

The Power of Collaboration

The Power of Collaboration

In our March 20 webinar, Support After Abortion Provider Relationship Development Specialist Amanda Hoff dove into the power of collaborating with Support After Abortion, clinicians, intersecting agencies, and pregnancy resource centers. 

She was joined by four guest speakers who shared their stories of successfully collaborating to provide comprehensive support, tailored services, and a nurturing environment for individuals navigating abortion experiences.

INTRO

Amanda is a former director of a pregnancy resource center and understands on a deep level that collaborating with other agencies is a hugely important way to help both women and men in need of help, resources, and healing. 

She also understands that giving clients a massive list of resources without any kind of connections to them can be overwhelming and not helpful. She explains, 

So we had this big list of resources that we would give out to our clients, and it was probably 15 pages with all these different resources and organizations that our clients could connect with to get help. But I found that to be really overwhelming, not just for my clients, but also for myself, because I wasn’t aware of all the different services each one offered. I didn’t know anything about their intake process or the requirements of their programs. And so one of the things that I really sought to do as the director of my center is to reach out to those organizations to build relationships with them, to learn more about the services that they offered and to also share with them and bring awareness of the services that we offered at our center so that we could collaborate and have that relationship.

This is her passion and she brings her knowledge about working closely with other organizations and knowing exactly what they offer to this webinar. 

Collaborating with other abortion healing providers, churches, and community organizations is crucial to helping people who need it. She said that “we know there are possibly 22 million people in the nation that need healing. We cannot possibly help all of them by ourselves. We have to work together to be effective.”

PROMOTING COLLABORATION

There are many paths to one goal but working together is the most efficient way to get there.

Amanda shared an African Proverb that resonates with her: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together

“It speaks so beautifully,” she said, “to the power of collaboration. If we set aside our own individual metrics, agendas, and even our differences, we can work together and bring healing to so many people.”

BENEFITS OF COLLABORATION

There are so many benefits to working together to provide healing resources to those who need it most. Amanda discussed several.

Ability to Offer Options

Amanda explained that by collaborating with Support After Abortion, you can receive training on how to offer options you may not currently be offering. You may even find programs perfect for your clients that you didn’t know existed. Support After Abortion is passionate about options-based healing because we can meet clients where they are at with lots of different options. 

By collaborating with providers , we can serve clients “in a more holistic way that meets them where they are,” she said.

Support After Abortion connects clients to a variety of abortion healing options including in-person, virtual, and self-guided; religious and secular; women’s and men’s programs and resources.

Building Capacity

Collaborating with other providers enables you to refer clients if your own programs are at capacity or if that provider offers a healing option you don’t. You can also receive referrals, which grows the number of clients you’re serving. 

This enables you to be a trusted resource in your community because you are able to help so many more people due to your collaborative efforts. 

Support and Encouragement

Amanda discussed how providers can support and encourage each other through collaboration by building relationships with other providers, both within and outside your local community.  

One thing Amanda has noticed when she is working with providers is that they often tell her they feel alone. 

“A lot of providers say they feel alone or on an island or like they’re not a high priority in their organizations,” Amanda shared. “Or they don’t feel like they have the support and encouragement that they need.”

So many of us who work in this healing space have these same feelings. It’s not easy work – physically, emotionally, spiritually – but by working together, that support and encouragement will shine through. 

“I can be the person who encourages the providers I talk with, but you can be that source of support and encouragement for each other,” Amanda said.

Decrease Burnout

All of these things work together to help decrease burnout. Burnout is a very real and difficult thing in this space. Amanda has seen that by collaborating closely with each other, by supporting and encouraging each other, by receiving referrals, and by helping to build capacity together, it all works to decrease burnout. 

“I know this is not easy work,” Amanda said, “This is a hard space to be in but it’s so needed. We do often see high levels of burnout when we don’t have these benefits of collaboration.”

TYPES ORGANIZATIONS FOR COLLABORATION

There are many types of organizations you can collaborate with. Amanda discusses some of these in the webinar but notes that this isn’t an exhaustive list. Rather, it’s a place to start. 

Support After Abortion

Support After Abortion has a plethora of ways to collaborate with other organizations including: 

  • Webinars (just like this one!)
  • Men’s Healing Webinars 
  • Quarterly Facilitator Training Webinars
  • Individualized coaching program for facilitators
  • Keys to Hope & Healing and Unraveled Roots Facilitator trainings
  • BrightCourse training 
  • Digital resource library 

Clinicians

Amanda highlighted great benefits to partnering with clinicians. 

One example is being able to refer clients who are struggling with issues outside your scope to trusted clinicians due to the relationships you have built with them.

Amanda shared that some clinicians are willing to set up sliding scale fees for clients from partnering organizations. Clinicians may also offer training and resources for your staff and volunteers. This is a great way to help your entire staff learn about what these clinicians offer. 

 Other Abortion Healing Providers

Some pregnancy resource centers have developed great relationships with each other within their city or area. “We’re not in competition,” Amanda said. “There are so many people who need our help and services and we can reach so many more people if we can work together.”

The Support After Abortion Abortion Healing Provider Directory enables providers to connect with other providers both within and outside their local communities.

Support After Abortion also uses this directory to connect clients to the type of healing service and provider that they are looking for. Contact Amanda to discuss joining the directory.

Intersecting Agencies

There are many factors that research has shown increases risk for unplanned pregnancies, which then comes a higher rate for abortions. These factors include things like substance use, homelessness, domestic abuse, codependency, sex trafficking, addiction, unemployment, and financial instability. For abortion healing providers, Intersecting agencies are organizations that serve people with these types of factors, and therefore who may have been impacted by abortion.

By reaching out to these different types of organizations, you can spread awareness to them about the abortion healing programs you offer that might benefit them as resources for their clients who may disclose their abortion experience to them, Amanda explained. 

“Support After Abortion has had a lot of success collaborating with organizations that specialize in addictions, sex trafficking, domestic violence, and mental health,” Amanda said. “It’s a reciprocal relationship and we’ve been able to help each other.” 

REAL LIFE EXAMPLES

Leaders from three organizations that have collaborated with Support After Abortion joined Amanda to discuss their specific roles in abortion healing recovery and share examples of how to best promote collaboration in communities. 

RECOVERY CARE COORDINATOR

Marley is the Recovery Care Coordinator for a pregnancy resource center in South Carolina. She previously worked at the same center 12 years ago. She then worked in prison ministry, women’s ministry, and other recovery programs. She went back to the center to work in their Abortion Recovery Care with lots more experience and connections. 

Marley has been instrumental in building bridges between her pregnancy center and addiction recovery programs in her community. These residential-based programs work to provide everything their participants need. Marley’s center has been able to come alongside them, offering classes and other resources to enable them to grow their offerings in after-abortion support.

“For the women especially, it gives them an opportunity to get out, come into the center, to interact with other people, and that has been really successful,” said Marley. 

And how does one make connections within their communities?  Marley suggests getting involved in the chambers of commerce and going to community meetings on topics beyond your center’s issues. “If you want to connect with people, make sure they see your face in the community,” she says. “A lot of times in pregnancy resource ministry, we have a tendency to stay in our office. Open the door, walk outside, and begin to introduce yourself. It really makes a difference.” 

DIRECTORS OF AFTER-ABORTION PROGRAMMING & RELATIONSHIPS

Dietra is the director of an after-abortion support program at a multi-location New York City pregnancy resource center. The director of relationships at the center joined Dietra to weigh in on their collaborations. 

Their organization runs a weekly online meetup where people can just talk and get support. They also have staff advocates who meet with clients one-on-one as many times as they need. They also have a nine-week abortion healing support group for women. They have a men’s after-abortion healing program as well.

Amanda and Dietra briefly discuss some of the ways they have recently worked together, especially in relation to those clients who have been referred to each other for different healing programs. 

Chelsea talked a bit about reciprocal partnerships, specifically with a medical center that does ultrasounds, wellness checks, and after abortion care. “The focus is on their clients’ medical concerns about after abortion care. We are really grateful for that partnership and the ability to offer that to our clients,” she said. Mental health organizations have also been valuable partnerships. We offer subsidized counseling to local approved counseling providers. 

While their center is faith-based, they explained that they work with organizations of any faith or no faith because “it’s about providing the best possible care we can and meeting people where they are for hope,” Dietra said. “We endeavor that no one ever has to walk the after-abortion journey alone, period.”

“We ascribe to the third way, and so we proudly stand in the tension of we just want to be person-centered and trauma-informed, and that’s what we’re here for,” said Dietra. “And so because we sit in that authenticity, it makes it very easy to connect with people that you wouldn’t think we’d connect with.”

HOSPITAL SOCIAL WORKER

A social worker at a major hospital in the Washington, DC metro area described how the hospital staff identified a need after the overturning of Roe v Wade due to a “surge” in the volume of after-abortion patients. She said that “many members of the team felt a sense of distress, uneasiness” that they “didn’t know what to say, what’s appropriate. We don’t know what to do.” 

She shared that their hospital has a “robust perinatal loss program” that she started 16 years ago. “And now here we are developing another program, an after-abortion care program.” 

She said that patients were telling her and other staff that they didn’t receive any kind of after-abortion care information. The hospital’s new aftercare abortion program includes a door card that is placed on a patient’s door that alerts the team to be mindful of the patient’s experience when entering the room. She also created a footprint card for patients who desire footprints as a keepsake, and a healing note card that the team can sign and give to the patient at discharge. They also offer patients preassembled resource folders that include resources from Support After Abortion. 

“We’re so grateful for that, because, again, prior to this collaboration, we didn’t have any materials,” she said. “We find the Keys to Hope and Healing secular booklet, the client healing center card, and the resource card, just to name a few, to be extremely helpful.”

She explained that “Our hospital stands for inclusion, diversity, and equity, where all patients are treated with compassion, regardless of their situation.” 

“When the patient made the challenging decision to terminate the pregnancy,” she said, “she did not believe it would lead to hospitalization.” 

“For us, we looked at it from the perspective of, while this is not in our wheelhouse, it’s important that we collaborate with an organization that can help us in making sure that our patients receive resources that’s tailored to their needs,” she said. 

As part of her team’s efforts to research existing resources, they also reached out to local abortion clinics to see what they offer in terms of after abortion care. One clinic responded with a resource list that combined all types of losses, such as perinatal loss and abortion loss, into one resource basket. “And as you know, perinatal loss, meaning a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death, chromosome abnormality, is different from abortion. And so while we again were grateful for that resource list, we knew that it would not be applicable to our patient population,” she said. 

By forming a working group with a couple of her nurses, they are equipping the medical team. For example, they created a nursing checklist for providing supportive and compassionate care, provided resources for the Labor & Delivery staff, and are planning an in-service. 

NEXT STEPS

  • Click here to watch the video of this webinar.
  • Click here to register for the next Abortion Healing Provider webinar.
  • Click here to register for the next Men’s Healing Matters webinar.
  • Click here to register for the next Quarterly Facilitator Training.
  • Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Resource Library.
  • Click here to explore Support After Abortion’s services, resources, and training for Abortion Healing Providers.

 

© Support After Abortion

TOP 10 RESOLUTIONS FOR ABORTION HEALING PROVIDERS

In our February 21st webinar, Support After Abortion Executive Director Kylee Heap and Men’s Healing Strategist Greg Mayo explored the Top 10 Resolutions for Abortion Healing Providers.

 

INTRO

 

“Did you know that by the second week in January, most people have given up on their resolutions?” Kylee asked.  “That’s why we chose to talk about resolutions in February, getting past the January hump of the new year.” 

 

Kylee and Greg explained that the goal is to “refresh ourselves and the commitments we want to make with abortion healing” and to be “intentional with plans, organization, our team, and self-care.”

 

RESOLUTION #1 – BE MY HEALTHIEST SELF

 

Self-care is important because we can’t pour from an empty cup. Kylee made an analogy to airline cautions to put on our masks before helping the person next to us.

 

“I can’t help you if I can’t breathe,” Greg agreed. “Working on your own recovery – everyone’s path and needs are different. Having spent over half my life in some form of recovery, I once thought maybe I’ll be done at some point. But, there are always ways to grow and improve, and that’s part of being your healthiest self. The other part is realizing when you have a need that you need to address. Ask yourself, Am I getting super anxious? Do I need to take a walk to clear my head? Do I have a sick loved one or pet or something that needs my attention and I can’t stop thinking about it? We all have different things happen in our lives. If we’re not healing-aware and take those moments to care for ourselves, we won’t be healthy for others.”

 

“We recently had a team retreat where we talked about how self-care isn’t selfish,” Kylee said. “It can be hard for people who give so much of themselves to remember that loving yourself is willing your own good. Willing the good of others, but willing the good of yourself first.” She recommended a 12-minute video with Fr. Mike Schmidtz advocating the importance of self-care.

 

“Something that I’ve thought about multiple times a day since our retreat,” Greg shared, “is a different way of thinking about how we pour into others.” He described Fr. Schmidt’s analogy of a pipe versus an overflowing cup. “We often think about God’s love pouring into us and flowing out through us as if we were a pipe. But Fr. Schmidt said we pour into others as God pours into us. And when our cup starts flowing over, the abundance of what we receive is what we give to others. That was one of the most profound things I’ve heard in a long time about the nature of caring for yourself.” 

 

“What a beautiful thing it means for us and those we serve,” Kylee said, “that we’re not just conduits running water of God’s love through us, but really overflowing God’s love.“

 

Greg shared about a recent situation that made him nervous and stressed out. He had an opportunity to take half an hour for himself before the event and went to the lake. “I was very conscious that I needed some time to breathe and reflect. That 30 minutes to really focus on myself allowed me to be absorbed in calm and then go serve others.”

 

RESOLUTION #2 – SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES

 

Pouring into others and self-care segues into setting healthy boundaries. How many of us struggle with having healthy boundaries? It may be with our teams, our clients, our families, our friends, whatever. 

Greg shared some of his struggles and recovery journey. He talked about consequences of not setting boundaries including burnout, setting back your own personal healing, pouring from an empty cup, bitterness, and inefficiency. He described how such experiences trickle down and negatively impact the people we serve.

 

RESOLUTION #3 – FOSTER A SAFE AND SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT

 

“These are all interlinked,” Greg said. “If we’re working on ourselves and we’re trying to present our healthiest self and we have healthy boundaries, then we’re able to be our most impactful, which leads to fostering a safe, supportive environment for our team, volunteers, and the people we serve.”

 

What does safe and supportive look like? 

 

“It means I’m not projecting my issues on the people around me,” Greg said. “I’m not exhibiting dysfunctional behavior. I’ve set up a space where people have the best opportunity for the best possible outcome.”

 

He described a safe environment as one in which people can share their stories, their pain, and be supported. “Safe and supportive can’t be separated,” he said. “You have to have both.”

 

“It’s supporting people with what they need, not what I think they need,” Greg said. “Those may align some times, but not necessarily.” 

 

Greg gave an example of when he works with clients or facilitating groups, “I talk about this is what worked for me – not telling any of the guys I work with or my group participants what they need to do. It’s providing them the freedom to explore their own avenues, and I will support them as they walk down that path.”

 

Kylee went on to emphasize the shared responsibility within organizations, highlighting that it’s “not a top-down or a bottom-up” approach, but rather involves everyone in the organization contributing to creating “safe and supportive environments rooted in being their best selves and setting healthy boundaries.” 

 

She suggested gathering feedback from diverse perspectives, stating, “One of my favorite tools lately has been gathering different-minded people together to get their feedback on the experience they have with our organization,” and encouraged evaluating various touch points, including virtual experiences and interactions to ensure individuals feel welcomed and safe.  

 

RESOLUTION #4 – BEGIN WITH LISTENING

 

“Begin with listening,” Greg stressed, in order to understand how to best serve the person. He emphasized the need for a curious approach. Greg advised against making assumptions and instead advocated for having thoughtful conversations, noting, “You’re not thinking about what you’re going to say next because you are truly listening.” He suggested asking questions and letting the answers guide the conversation, saying, “The answer to that question will lead you to whatever the next question needs to be.” 

 

Greg went on to point out the significance of authentic listening, stating, “being intentional about listening, truly listening, will help you get through the anger, get through the fear, and get to what’s really impacting that person.” He concluded by asserting, “I don’t think we can help anybody if we don’t truly listen to them.” 

 

Kylee then shared an experience during a recent After Abortion Line training review of interactions with clients. It highlighted the importance of actively listening to clients’ experiences to overcome biases and improve services. She emphasized the benefits of revisiting conversations outside the pressure of the moment, leading to continuous improvement. Kylee noted the significance of avoiding personal biases and refraining from imposing our own story onto others. She underscored the importance of understanding differing interpretations of words and phrases, advocating for clarifying meanings directly with those we serve. Specifically, she mentions the practice of asking clients to elaborate on statements like, I just can’t live with this decision or I can’t live with the way I feel right now to understand their perspective before making assumptions. She says, “Instead of jumping right to, this person is experiencing suicidal thoughts, we ask them, What does that mean for you? What does that look like when you express that?

 

Greg recalled a time in his 20’s when a therapist jumped to asking if he was having suicidal thoughts instead of delving into a conversation, which he believes could have brought to light his deeper troubles, including his abortion experiences, which they hadn’t yet discussed. This experience highlights the importance of asking good questions to navigate conversations effectively. As Greg points out, “You can go the wrong direction if you don’t ask good questions.”

 

Greg provided an example of asking deeper questions to uncover deeper emotions and root issues:

 

Guy: I’m just so angry. I’m spitting nails. I don’t know what to do.

 

Greg: I understand that. I’ve been angry too. What do you think you’re angry about?

 

Guy: I don’t know. This and that. She did this, that person did that.

 

Greg: Did you have a feeling about that, or are you just feeling the anger right now?

 

Guy: Well, yeah, the thing is, I couldn’t do anything about it.

 

At this point, Greg began to key in on what this man could really be dealing with: helplessness.  

 

Greg: Is that something you think about a lot?

 

Guy: Well, no, it’s just life, but I mean, you have to wonder. I’ll never know. I’ll never know what it’s like to throw a ball with my son. 

 

Greg: Do you have a feeling about that? Help me understand what’s going on right now. 

 

Guy: Well, it’s just sad. It’s sad because I’ll never know, and there was nothing I could do about it. 

 

Greg has now noted that this man is most likely struggling with some depression in addition to his feelings of helplessness. The conversation continued, revealing that as a Christian, his main fear was that God would never forgive him. 

 

Greg pointed out that “whether you’re religious or not, his statements should tell you that there’s a deep level of shame there.” This exchange demonstrated how it only took an 8-minute conversation to uncover that he was dealing with a variety of emotions: fear, anger, helplessness, shame, and regret. 

 

Greg shared that this particular client ended up entering a Keys to Hope and Healing group and, although there was still work to do, he was in a much better place after only six weeks. 

 

RESOLUTION #5 – MEET CLIENTS WHERE THEY ARE

 

“Meet clients where they are,” Greg said. “It’s important to really understand what that means.” He stressed how crucial this concept is and cautioned that, while it’s a familiar phrase, its depth warrants deeper understanding. 

 

He illustrated this with an anecdote from a one-on-one session where the client started off asking if Greg was religious, worried that it could impact their discussions. Greg reassured the client, “I am, but the fact that you’re not is totally fine.” One way this played out was in not commenting on the client’s frequent swearing because  “I knew I would lose him permanently and not be able to help him at all” if I did that. He needed to be able to  express his emotions authentically. Greg explained, “It’s walking beside them, sitting down, figuring out who they are, what they need, and what moment they’re in when you approach them.”

 

Kylee acknowledged the challenge of not imposing our desired solutions on others’ journeys, recognizing that although we may see a path that could take someone “quickly from the grief and pain they’re feeling to relief and freedom, maybe we’ve experienced it ourselves, but we can’t drive their story.”

 

Greg agreed with Kylee, and emphasized the risk of losing someone by imposing desired solutions on their journey. He shared from his own experience, reiterating  the importance of allowing individuals to choose their own path and walking with them. 

 

Kylee reflected on the complexity of individual journeys, remarking, “There are just so many variables that you can’t account for.” She recounted a significant moment when she first joined Support After Abortion, where someone expressed a desire for a different response from their friends to their pregnancy announcement. Rather than the typical, impulsive “congratulations,” they wished that someone would have asked them how they felt about it instead of making assumptions about their emotions. Kylee said, “When we try to tell people how they’re feeling or what it means or what it might be connected to, that takes away from their experience.”

 

Kylee went on to discuss why an options-based approach to healing is so imperative in being able to meet people where they are and allowing them to guide their own journeys. “Through our After Abortion Line, we discern with clients” what option best meets their needs, she said. “Sometimes that’s going to be one-on-one care, sometimes a group setting, sometimes straight to clinical care, sometimes to peer-led care, sometimes religious, sometimes secular.” 

 

And it’s not a one-and-done experience, she explained. “When they want to go to the next step in their journey, we revisit the conversation all over again, because we can’t assume that their first step is going to be what they need for their second step. And sometimes people want to repeat a step, which we need to be open to as well.” 

 

Greg commented on a key aspect that links the first five points together, stating, “Be comfortable with the uncomfortable silence.” Greg pointed out the importance of allowing individuals time to process and connect with their emotions without feeling the need to constantly provide information. Greg highlighted the common urge to rush in with advice or explanations, acknowledging the discomfort of silence but emphasizing its value in allowing people to engage with their thoughts and feelings. 

 

RESOLUTION #6 – COLLABORATION

 

“The next one has a lot to do with how we all work together in this world: collaboration,” Greg said as he introduced the sixth resolution. He emphasized that one of the most impactful ways to help others is through pulling on different experiences, healing journeys, ideas, and gifts of other people and organizations. “This is how we learn and grow,” he said.

 

Greg underscored the crux of strengthening the abortion-healing movement through collective effort for the common goal of helping as many people find healing as possible saying, “We will strengthen the abortion-healing movement by working together, learning from each other.” 

 

Kylee encouraged seeing invitations to collaborate not as one more thing to do, but as opportunities to “walk forward together” to help people by “inviting the conversation about abortion healing.” 

 

She gave examples of agencies that work with individuals in circumstances that have a high intersection with abortion, such as domestic violence shelters, addiction support groups, homeless shelters, sex-trafficking agencies, and prison ministries. She described different ways agencies might opt to assist their clients, such as referring clients struggling after abortion for support, making abortion-healing resources available to their clients, or even integrating abortion-healing into their own programs.

 

Greg agreed and highlighted his collaborations in equipping leaders and agencies whose expertise is sexual dysfunction, pornography, and addiction to engage with their clients in navigating conversations about abortion experiences and referring for or incorporating abortion healing. 

 

RESOLUTION #7 – RECOGNIZE & EMBRACE INDIVIDUAL STRENGTHS, TALENTS, DIVERSITY

 

Greg discussed the importance of recognizing and embracing individual strengths, talents, and diversity and allowing people opportunities to effectively do what they’re good at, and not push your team and volunteers into space that aren’t “their gig.” He emphasized that “letting people be what they’re good at and helping them develop” is the way to thrive, as individuals and as an organization.

 

Kylee echoed Greg’s sentiments and highlighted the benefit of assessments in understanding team dynamics. She discussed the importance of identifying team members’ gifts and talents and matching them to the best seat on your organization’s bus. She pointed out that we often “see somebody who is really competent and really doing a great job” and “promote them to different gigs because we see some fire burning” and think that because they’re so good at one thing, we should get them to put out this other fire. But that’s “not necessarily honoring the person,” she said. She humorously quipped, “If I took Greg, a very competent staff member and sent him into an accounting burning building, that would be a disaster on so many levels.” Greg jumped in, “And that building would continue to burn!”

 

RESOLUTION #8 – KEEP MY LANES CLEAR / STAY IN MY LANE 

 

“I know what I know, and I know what I don’t know,” Greg said as he spoke on the importance of staying in our own lane. As an example, he described a situation with a client going through Keys to Hope and Healing. “As we get through one layer of healing” the client’s pornography addiction surfaces. “I don’t personally know how to help him with that,” Greg said. “So I stay in my lane, which is abortion healing,” and I refer him to someone whose lane is pornography addiction who can help him navigate dealing with that. Sometimes we want to try to help our clients with all their challenges, but Greg pointed out that “when I get muddled down with things that aren’t in my lane, I am less impactful to the people I’m trying to serve.”

 

In response Kylee said, “Knowing what you don’t know is such a valuable contribution to your team.”  She stressed how important it is to recognize one’s limitations and expertise, even within your own team. She pointed out how walking in excellence “doesn’t mean that we have to be excellent in everything, it just means that we need to know where we can operate within our zeal, gifts, and talents and stay in that space.”  

 

Greg affirmed that these are key elements in having “a truly effective and impactful team,” saying, “You collaborate, you talk, but you stay in your lane and do what you do. They’re not rigid boundaries, but an understanding and awareness of where I belong and what I’m doing.” 

 

RESOLUTION #9 – REMOVE OBSTACLES TO ACCESS HEALING

 

Removing obstacles connects to the previous resolutions, especially listening to our clients needs and recognizing the kind of healing they desire. Greg mentioned key findings from Support After Abortion’s national research studies on the impact of abortion on women and men. For example, just 40% of men want a religious approach to healing and 77% strongly value anonymity. “So if you hang a shingle out on your church and it says Men’s Abortion Healing Tuesday Nights at 8,” you won’t reach the majority of men in the area who may be struggling after abortion but want a non-religious, anonymous approach to healing.

 

Kylee illustrated this by sharing a story about a pregnancy resource center that saw about 100 people a year who they could not serve because that center didn’t offer the type of care that those 100 people needed. The solution was to expand their options to allow for a new resource to be added. The outcome was that more people were able to receive healing and not be left to continue struggling after their abortions.

 

Greg discussed another example from when he was first asked to facilitate a virtual healing group. He shared that he was convinced it would not work, that guys wouldn’t like that format. He said that his 20 years of recovery experience “had taught me that you meet in person, and that’s how healing works.” But, he said, he “learned that guys are actually quite a bit more comfortable sitting in the brown den or garage on a Zoom call than they are sitting in a circle in some strange building.”

 

Kylee described how an organization’s intake process can be an obstacle for clients. She pointed out that while, like her, we may love data and desire more information, long intake forms and processes can feel burdensome for clients who “just want to have a release and experience healing.” She described how Support After Abortion simplified its process and shortened its form to reduce that barrier to care.

 

Another example Greg addressed was language barriers, for example if there’s a large Spanish-speaking community, not having a Spanish option is an obstacle for them to access healing. Greg summarized this resolution by saying, “The more options you have, the more obstacles you remove.”

 

RESOLUTION #10 – ENSURE MARKETING, MESSAGING, DECOR, PROCESSES, RESOURCES… SPEAK TO ALL CLIENTS

 

Greg drew attention to the importance of ensuring that marketing, messaging, decor, processes, and resources speak to all clients. He reflected on his own experience 15 years ago and encouraged providers to view how their spaces, wall colors, and design elements resonate with different people. He encouraged providers to create welcoming spaces, marketing, and social media posts that appeal to both men and women, regardless of socio-economic status, or religious background. 

 

In response. Kylee expanded on this idea, stressing the need to consider factors beyond gender and socio-economics, such as religious setting, and suggested forming advisory committees to ensure inclusivity and to address blind spots, stating, “We have mystery shoppers in grocery stores, we can have mystery shoppers in our clinics and spaces as well that can help to give us feedback and guide us on things that might be a blind spot for us.”

 

CLOSING

 

Kylee shared a worksheet that covers all 10 Resolutions. “It’s going to challenge you,” she said. She encouraged providers to do this exercise on their own or with their teams to reflect and assess how they’re doing in these areas. She encouraged providers to ask themselves, What is at least one thing in these resolutions that we could do in 2024? 

 

NEXT STEPS

 

Click here to watch the video of this webinar.

 

Click here to access the Top 10 Resolutions Worksheet.  

 

Click here to register for the next Abortion Healing Provider webinar.

 

Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Resource Library.

 

Click here to explore Support After Abortion’s services, resources, and training for Abortion Healing Providers.

Life Assessment

In our January 17 Abortion Healing Provider Webinar, Clinical Strategist Lisa Rowe shared a tool for providers to use with themselves and their clients to create awareness and assess how balanced and satisfied they are with key areas in their life. Lisa explained that greater awareness of what’s going on in our lives leads to a greater ability to make changes or take action steps.

We shared a printable Life Balance Wheel handout for webinar participants, but Lisa emphasized that it’s not necessary to have a special wheel to use. “It’s my favorite thing to do on the back of an envelope or note,” she said. This can be a quick, simple self-check. “It doesn’t need to be a workbook-type activity – you can be in the car, on your patio having coffee,” she said. “Just pull out a sticky note, draw a circle, assess your areas, and check where you are.”

Overview

As a prelude to the exercise, Lisa pointed out that we never see people riding bikes with flat tires. She likened the need for tires to be full of air and not bent, and a wheel functioning smoothing that takes us on a smooth journey, to the Life Balance Wheel assessment. Lisa played a short video clip that illustrated a car driving well on perfectly round tires, then facing a spin and blow out from a broken tire.

“It’s my experience,” Lisa said, “that most of the time there are several areas of life that are firing really strongly, and others that are completely the opposite.” She talked about how it is hard to fire on all cylinders at once and how challenging it is to move forward with broken wheels. This tool helps assess how the important areas of our lives are functioning.

Step 1 – Identify the areas of life that are most important to you

Lisa first walked participants through identifying their own eight most important areas. She mentioned that while it’s common to consider eight areas, some people may identify five key areas, while others have more. These are fine, but she suggested that if someone identifies many areas, they may find it beneficial to combine some into a manageable number.

Some areas important to them that Lisa and participants mentioned: faith, family, friends, relationships, finances, parenting, therapy, self-discovery, recovery, ministry, volunteering, work. Lisa commented that some areas might be temporary, such as moving across the country and doing all that’s necessary for that relocation, or caring for a sick family member. As a person does this exercise regularly or from time to time, the areas of importance can change – some may appear and others disappear, while others are consistently listed.

Then she invited participants to consider how to incorporate this into client care. “When was the last time you asked a client how everything is going,” Lisa asked, “not just in the one area your work focuses on – but holistically.” She addressed how doing this exercise with clients can identify patterns and asked, “How might you add this tool to one of the lessons you teach, ministries you lead, or client care?”

STEP 2 – Evaluate Yourself in Each Area

Mark a dot measuring how you’re doing in each of the eight areas, with zero being “not doing so hot in this area” and five being “firing wonderfully in this area.”

Lisa explained, “This is your personal tool, your client’s own tool. Each person decides on the rating meanings for them. You consider why a 1, what would life look like at a 3 or a 4? The numbers serve as a structure to build our own awareness.”

Lisa encouraged participants to be as honest as possible. “Only you and the paper need to know what’s going on,” she said. ”Be real with yourself. The worst thing we can do right now is lie to ourselves, not listen to what’s really going on.”

Maybe you gave yourself a 4 and you really needed to give yourself a 2. Or maybe the opposite is true – maybe you’re struggling to see that you need to change a 2 to a 4 because you are really making great strides in that area. The only way that we can really get to the root of what’s going on is to get real with ourselves. And this is the same thing for our clients.

Step 3 – IDENTIFY YOUR WHY

Lisa asked participants to jot down the reasons for the ratings they gave themselves.

She offered a few examples:

– Maybe you assigned a 5 to your education category. At this step you write “All A’s, notebook ready, syllabus printed for this semester.” Those are the reasons why you’re performing really high and feel really good about how you’re doing in that category.

– Maybe in the parenting category, you’re struggling, you’re over-committed, and you’re realizing how stressed out you are after school and that you wish you were more available emotionally for your kids. And that’s why you gave yourself a 2.

“Think about how much you could learn from a client in this way,” Lisa said offering examples of questions you could ask clients, such as:

– Why did you give yourself a 2? What’s going on in that area?

– Wow, a five?! Tell me what’s going really well. Maybe that client tells you how well they’re doing in recovery, going to meetings weekly or daily, checking in with their sponsor, doing what they need to do to stay healthy in that space. Then maybe you ask, “Wow. How can you apply that to your finances? Maybe you could use an advocate or mentor in that space.”

Step 4 – Connect the Dots

Trace a line around the circle connecting the dots you placed for your self-assessment in each of the eight areas.

“I’m drawing this awareness out of you, but also so you can help others,” Lisa said. “Be present with what happens when you draw your line, what it feels like to go down with your pen stroke, what it feels like to go up. What happens in your head, your heart, your stomach as you see those dips in your wheel? Or as you see the highlights and strong points in your wheel?”

Lisa then invited participants to share in the chat their thoughts or feelings as they connected their dots. Here are a few of their observations: unbalanced, flat, bumpy, awareness, recognized priorities, improvement, stress, messy, clarity, confusion, confirms my area of anxiety, encouraging, hopeful, challenge, wake-up call, scattered, ouch.

Lisa explained that many people go through life working through their to-do lists or most urgent needs and not stopping to think about what’s really underneath it all, and she noted how that is often a challenge with clients.

“You can’t move to a new location inside of yourself unless you have an understanding of what’s going on,“ Lisa said. “You can’t appreciate what’s going well unless you really have a clear picture of what’s going on. The balance wheel is one tool that draws out that awareness.

Q&A

How can we help clients align their life balance goals?

Start with the conversation. Sometimes we want to jump into the deep end with clients, but maybe they aren’t ready to tell us everything related to their abortion. Maybe they want to talk about their relationship or finances. This holistic tool gives us a place to start the conversation, What’s going on with you? You can use this during your initial intake and regularly.

How can we use the Life Balance Wheel to help clients who have relationship and codependency issues?

“This is an awareness tool that can open them up to a different perspective,” Lisa said. Many times with clients who are codependent, these conversations can be difficult. Using this tool gives objectivity. The conversation might be full of emotion, and won’t be the answer to leaving a toxic relationship, but it might be a safe space to negotiate a discussion. Why do you think your relationship is at a 2? What’s going on in that area? Maybe the client says, “It seems like everyone in my life is always taking from me or stealing from me.” Then you could ask, “How might you move from a 2 to a 5 as a way of cultivating new territory for them.”

NEXT STEPS

Click here to watch the video of this webinar.

Click here to register for the next Abortion Healing Provider webinar.

Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Resource Library.

Click here to explore Support After Abortion’s services, resources, and training for Abortion Healing Providers.

© Support After Abortion

How to Better Handle Stress…A Great Holiday Prep

How to Better Handle Stress…A Great Holiday Prep

In our December 20 webinar, Support After Abortion CEO Lisa Rowe, LCSW, presented the window of tolerance as a tool we can apply for ourselves and our clients to assess how we handle stress and identify how it impacts us. She discussed what we can do to gain perspective and addressed skills and strategies we can use to restore calm and respond in effective, healthy ways to the demands and stresses of everyday life – and the holidays. She also unpacked the role trauma plays in our stress responses and how stress responses impact abortion experiences. She offered tips and techniques we can try when facing holiday stresses this month. 

INTRO

 

 

 

 

Lisa began by emphasizing how important it is for us to name things that are going on in our lives and the lives of those we touch in order to have a sense of control. 

SUBMARINE – LIMITED PERSPECTIVE

 

 

 

 

“Envision yourself in a submarine,” Lisa said. “As it gets darker and darker, all you can see is what’s in front of you.” She described the limited perspective in this situation and made an analogy to where we are – or where our clients are – and the anxiety and insecurity surrounding the unknown.

TOP OF BUILDING – LARGER PERSPECTIVE

 

 

 

 

Then she asked participants to envision themselves on the top of a building. “Notice all the things you can see,” perhaps an airplane overhead, an ambulance racing down the street to an accident, a band playing outdoors, people walking, etc. “Imagine what a larger view and perspective would feel like” compared to the restricted view from the tiny submarine window.

Lisa then invited attendees to share in the chat feature their ideas of what that would feel like. Responses included that it would feel freeing, empowering, like being able to breathe deeply. One person wrote, “Exciting! From the building top all possibilities are laid out before you…exploring and adventures await!”

WINDOW OF TOLERANCE

 

 

 

 

Lisa then segued into a discussion of the window of tolerance, which is a tool for examining our level of and responses to stress. She walked through the window of tolerance graphic illustrating how stress and trauma shrink our window of tolerance, what it feels like as we move into dysregulation and hyperarousal or hypoarousal, and how tools and training can expand our window of tolerance. 

“When stress, when trauma, when lived experience is causing pain in our life,” Lisa said, “Our ability to see everything, our ability to understand it, our ability to live through it in a healthy way begins to collapse.”

“That’s our goal today – what could you implement today for yourself and for those around you to bring a bigger scope, a bigger understanding,” Lisa shared. “Because when we can see everything that’s going on, the ability to make different decisions, the ability to see things that we couldn’t see [expands from the limited perspective] if we were only looking at it through that little submarine window.”

WINDOW OF TOLERANCE AWARENESS WORKSHEETS 

Lisa dove into awareness checklists for assessing symptoms of hyperarousal and hypoarousal – when our flight or flight or freeze symptoms kick in and may become out of control. She offered scenarios and client examples to illustrate the concepts. 

When experiencing these types of symptoms, Lisa recommended asking ourselves and our clients, Does this emotion really match what’s going on? If not, she encouraged identifying the reason behind a more intense reaction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lisa encouraged attendees to share what they do to help themselves or their clients to find a more balanced and less reactive space. Suggestions included deep breathing, using grounding tools, taking a timeout, working to stay in the present, body awareness, repeating a calming phrase like I’m safe, I’m okay

One provider said, “with clients we take a few breaths and change focus. We begin with questions that will encourage the client to be mentally and emotionally present. From there, we encourage the client to share pleasant experiences and guide them to the difficulties that trigger them to attempt to talk about it in a constructive way.”

Another advised, “Hear them,  acknowledge their feelings,  show concern and empathy.. say I’m sorry you are going through this.”

RECOGNIZING YOUR WINDOW OF TOLERANCE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing how to recognize your window of tolerance is crucial to being able to self-regulate and bring yourself back inside your window of tolerance when you notice it is shrinking and you are moving into dysregulation. Lisa addressed four steps to follow in this process:

  1. Pay attention to your symptoms – Listen to the noise in your mind and the feelings in your body.
  2. Identify symptoms you experience – For example, you might realize that the sick feeling in your stomach isn’t due to something you ate, but rather it’s because you’re feeling angry or sad.
  3. Identify your distress level – Ask yourself, Is this stressful feeling a 1 or a 10?
  4. Identify the cause – Ask yourself what’s at the root of your distress. For example, you’re sitting at the dinner table and Uncle Bruce starts picking a fight with someone, and you feel your stress level rising. “You feel scared. Ask yourself why?,” Lisa said. “Maybe you realize I’m scared because Uncle Bruce is having one of his outbursts, and I’m scared he’ll yell at me.

SHRINKING OR EXPANDING YOUR WINDOW OF TOLERANCE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lisa talked about various factors that cause our window of tolerance to shrink or expand. For example, our window of tolerance shrinks when fears and negativity rob us of feeling calm, cool, collected, and connected. Using self-soothing tools, positivity, and making new choices are some things that we can use to expand our window of tolerance and regain our equilibrium.

In the scenario with Uncle Bruce, Lisa suggested that to get to the top of the building, your first step would be to take a deep breath. Then consider your alternatives. “You don’t have to stay frozen in the dining room just tolerating his outbursts,” she said. “You might tell yourself I don’t have to be around Uncle Bruce. I can move to a different room, play with the kids, or leave the party.” 

She advised, “connect with yourself, understand why you feel frozen, and give yourself permission to see what other possibilities are there for you.” 

“For any situation,” Lisa continued, “Listen to yourself, connect with yourself, know what’s going on, and climb to the top of the building.”

“When you give yourself the space to be able to see things more objectively on top of the building, your ability to have more tolerance and handle the situation grows,” Lisa said. 

“The whole goal of handling our stress is to move from being able to see that moment or that experience through the submarine window to being able to get on top of that building and expand ourselves” using your soothing tools to feel more in control, regain your perspective, and move forward. 

“And just to reiterate,” Lisa added, “what’s going to shrink it are things that are our traumas, our triggers, our stressors.

WINDOW OF TOLERANCE & ABORTION

 

“Our stress responses impact abortion experiences,” Lisa explained. She asked attendees to imagine various scenarios that clients might experience over the holidays and how to prepare clients for the resulting increased stress they might feel and to plan ahead how to handle stressful situations. 

Lisa gave an example in which a client who experienced abortion a few years ago, might find themselves suddenly reliving those memories when a family member shares their ultrasound picture. “All they can do is breathe,” Lisa said. She described their struggle to handle the dynamic of everyone’s joy and expectations and said, “Their window of tolerance just got sucked in – shrunk.”

She encouraged providers to talk with clients before the holidays for how they can help themselves climb on top of the building and regain perspective and calm. She advised doing the same thing for ourselves.

Q&A

 

 

 

Q. What is your advice about sharing our perspective when someone talks about getting an abortion?

A: “Often we get asked about our perspectives, agendas, or belief systems. I urge people to display as much compassion and [lack of] bias as possible,” Lisa said. “My goal when someone is exploring the decision of abortion and is looking for support,  is always to stay as neutral as possible and to explore every angle. I want to get the client to the top of the building and ask them to do an inventory of what’s going on in their world.” She continued, “I never want to stop at my building and say Hey, this is how I feel about abortion and this is what I want you to do. Lisa added that if someone asks her opinion directly, “and it seems appropriate and healthy for me to be able to share, I am very careful about that. I might say I have met many men and women who have been hurt by abortion, so this decision has a lot of consequences.” Lisa explained that she encourages them “to explore before making this decision. That’s how I allow for my opinion to be heard, but not in a judgmental way.”

Q. I’m anticipating a painful situation with relational dynamics and sibling comparisons this holiday because one adult son is going to announce they’re expecting a baby, while another has been trying for many years to get pregnant.

A: Lisa advised that “the best scenario would be to get in front of this” and have a conversation about the anticipated announcement beforehand with the son who is struggling. 

Q: I haven’t told the struggling son because I’m trying to honor the expecting son’s desire to announce their pregnancy.

A: Lisa encouraged people to be prepared after such a reveal or issue to start a compassionate conversation afterwards with the struggling person by asking “What was that like for you?”

Q. Can cultural differences affect the window of tolerance?

A: “Religious, political, cultural perspectives – anything that can constrict your perspective can affect the window of tolerance,” Lisa said. “Remember those things are about the other person,” she continued. “Don’t let it shrink your window of tolerance. Stay on the building top.”

Q. Can the window of tolerance be applied to conflict resolution?

A: “Yes. If you notice your window of tolerance is getting smaller,” Lisa said, “just ask for a timeout. You can say This conversation isn’t going to end well. My vision is getting blurry and I can’t see everything I need to see right now. Can we take 30 minutes and come back to each other?

Q. Is there a connection between trauma and the window of tolerance?

A: “Yes. Trauma is a major root to our ability to get curious when we’ve had a really serious situation happen to us,” Lisa said. She told a story about a client who has been unable to move to the top of the building after her parents divorced. She had been very close with her dad, so when she learned about his affair, her world with him as her confidant and hero fell apart. She lost her ability to trust. She can no longer connect with her dad or the woman whom he married. And now her mom is getting remarried. The rest of the family has moved on, but she’s still stuck where she was back when she was 12 years old.

Q. How do we engage in conversation when a client seems to be shutting down?

A: “My favorite thing is to name that,” Lisa said. “I’ll say I noticed you’ve kind of shifted in the last 10-20 minutes. Have you noticed that? Would you like to tell me about that? or What do you think is happening?

 

Q. Is taking time to step aside and regroup the same as dissociation?

A: “No. Disassociation is a defense mechanism our brain uses to lift us out of a situation,” Lisa explained. “Separating from or leaving a situation is a coping skill. It’s saying I don’t have the skills in this moment to be able to handle or walk through this situation, so I’m going to take a break. It is a way of feeling responsive and empowered – making a choice to step away. And that’s healthy.” On the other hand, Lisa said, “If we’re thinking Holy cow that’s happening again and take off – that’s running; that’s a defense mechanism. So, they’re very different things.”

 

NEXT STEPS

  • Click here to watch the video of this webinar.
  • Click here to access the Window of Tolerance Awareness Worksheet.  
  • Click here to register for the next Abortion Healing Provider webinar.
  • Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Resource Library.
  • Click here to explore Support After Abortion’s services, resources, and training for Abortion Healing Providers.

 

© Support After Abortion