Transforming Trauma Episode 037: NARM and Healing Complex Trauma within Native Communities with Trilby Kerrigan
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“Cultural traditions are on the forefront of wellness, for Native people — and for all people.” – Trilby Kerrigan
On this episode of Transforming Trauma, our host Sarah Buino has an engaging conversation with Trilby Kerrigan, a NARM-trained Behavioral Health Therapist at a Tribal health clinic in Northern California. Trilby is a member of the Karuk Tribe of California and is deeply committed to supporting community reconnection through education and treatment of complex trauma. Throughout the episode, Sarah and Trilby discuss historical, intergenerational, and cultural trauma, and ways to support healing of individuals, families and communities. They share how the reconnection to oneself is at the core of the healing process, and how Trilby finds the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM) to be a powerful approach that can lead to significant shifts for individuals and within Tribal communities.
Trilby describes her journey of becoming a therapist as “non-traditional”, but meant to be. In her thirties, Trilby was inspired by her children to go to college and pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work. Trilby wanted to find some way to promote healing within her local Tribal communities. She shares that Native communities have some of the highest health disparities, lack social services, and have experienced not only extensive historical trauma, but face ongoing trauma. While there are clinics established to support Native clients, Trilby says, “I feel like having a Native professional therapist was a missing piece in the community.”
Trilby shares that while there is a collective experience of trauma for various Native communities, the experience is unique to each person. One area she has noticed to be universal for the clients she works with is how they tend to experience themselves as unworthy. This deep sense of unworthiness leads to negative impact on individuals and families, including many mental health challenges like depression and anxiety and self-harming behaviors including substance abuse and suicide.
Among her clients dealing with complex trauma, Trilby sees the effects of not recognizing how one’s past and current trauma leads to these behaviors, symptoms and disorders. In order to bring greater understanding, and more effective treatment, Trilby felt inspired by NARM to bring a trauma-informed approach into her work and the organization she works within. The ability to acknowledge the complexity of trauma, including the often unconscious burdens of historical, intergenerational, and cultural traumas, in addition to the ongoing marginalization that Native people experience, is at the foundation of a true trauma-informed approach. Using a NARM-informed approach, Trilby feels that she has a more effective way to support and empower the clients and communities she works with.
Trilby also sees a movement towards healing, wellness, and cultural revitalization within the Native community. “It’s an amazing time to see and witness,” she says. “Cultural traditions are on the forefront of wellness, for Native people — and for all people.” Trilby believes this movement is supported by many things, including more access to information, more ease of connectedness between people, more curiosity for and understanding of where we come from, and the ability to come together in community. Sarah and Trilby talk about what it means to ask: “Where are your people from?” and to explore pre-colonial traditions and origins — something both Native and non-Native people can be curious about for themselves.
Trilby shares a powerful reflection of her own personal healing through NARM. She experienced what is taught in NARM, that when people are able to reconnect to their own hearts, connection to others and their community follows. She now feels a greater sense of freedom and more love for herself. Recognizing and reconnecting to her own agency, “that’s what’s so beautiful about NARM.” This allows for greater connection to self as well as to others.
Trilby also describes the impact of reconnecting to one’s body and what it feels like to “land” in your body. She believes this internal feeling of reconnection was missing from her healing process until she learned about NARM. “To me, reconnecting to yourself is a marker of healing.” Working clinically with the body has not yet been accepted within Tribal clinics, and yet, connecting with one’s body is embedded in so many Native cultural traditions and practices. Trilby hopes that NARM might find acceptance in Tribal clinics as she believes it resonates with traditional healing approaches that many Native clients feel comfortable with.
The episode concludes with Sarah and Trilby sharing ideas to support continued healing from complex trauma. Specifically for Native communities, Trilby dreams of trauma education at a community level. For other therapists, Trilby dreams of more clinicians becoming trained in NARM and bringing these powerful tools back to their communities and clients, just as she has done. For us all, Trilby leaves listeners with one parting thought: “Humanity is really made to care for one another.”
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Trilby is a member of the Karuk Tribe of California and has been residing in Mendocino County for the past ten (10) years. She has been working in the helping profession for the past twenty (20) years and behavioral health is where her heart lies. She’s currently working as a Medical Social worker/Behavioral health Therapist at Consolidated tribal health.