Learn / A Journey to Wholeness: Rebuilding Safety and Trust with Trauma-Informed Care

A Journey to Wholeness: Rebuilding Safety and Trust with Trauma-Informed Care

Grace Ogren
 July 5th, 2024|   Clinically Reviewed by 
Dr. Malasri Chaudhery-Malgeri, Ph.D.

Key Points

  • We spoke with Athena Phillips, experienced therapist, in our recent podcast episode.
  • Athena specializes in trauma and dissociative disorders.
  • Listen to our discussion on trauma-informed care and its importance!

We were thrilled to speak with Athena Phillips in our recent podcast episode. Athena is an experienced therapist and educator who specializes in trauma and dissociative disorders. Our enlightening conversation was led by our host, Dr. Malasri Chaudrey-Malgeri, Editor-in-Chief, and co-host Cliff McDonald, Chief Growth Officer.

Listen to Athena’s episode and hear from other guests here!

Background, Experience, and Passions

A history in behavioral health treatment inspired Athena Phillips’ pursuits as a therapist and her desire to spread resources, education, and support to address the global issue of trauma. Athena founded the Integrative Trauma Treatment Center (ITTC), created the education-focused Orenda Project, and co-founded a continuing education and community support platform, KALOS, for other mental health professionals. Athena also spent time in Rwanda, learning about their experiences and creating her Multicultural Trauma Training program there.

Her passion for progressive, culturally competent trauma treatment began during an internship at the Sexual Assault Resource Center. Athena worked with people with developmental disabilities for 15 years, then in private practice before opening the ITTC. Her facility meets an ongoing need for trauma-informed care and a progressive understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and dissociative disorders.

Journey to Trauma Treatment and Findings Along The Way

Athena founded the Integrative Trauma Treatment Center (ITTC) in 2012, filling a large gap in trauma-informed care. She recognized patients with trauma, PTSD, and dissociative disorders weren’t often receiving the sensitive, trauma-informed care that made them feel safe in treatment and trusting of their providers and peers. Their sensitive setting and culturally competent staff create a unique space for healing. ITTC offers a unique array of therapies and services, including individual therapy, group therapy, Reiki, yoga, and more.

Athena and her coworkers traveled to Rwanda to learn more about their experiences with collective trauma and post-traumatic growth. There, Athena created and facilitated a trauma training program catered to their culture and community. Her time in Rwanda emphasized collective and culturally competent healing, which she integrates into her current practice and in continuing education opportunities. Athena says,

So I really want to emphasize community as part of healing for humans, all humans, but even for clinicians…that was one of the key features that I pulled from Rwanda.

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Normalizing The Human Experience Through Group Work

As a trauma and dissociative disorders specialist, Athena strives to meet each patient where they’re at with their comfort levels, ability to share, and level of trust. Connecting on a human level, letting each patient know what they’ve experienced doesn’t separate them from others, can strengthen their recovery experience. Athena says,

Even if our experience feels like a departure, we’re still interconnected on a really deep and unknown level….And it helps me continue to normalize the experience of those I’m working with.

As Athena saw in Rwanda, community and group healing can be powerful tools in healing. They offer group therapy at ITTC to bring patients together, helping them see and hear they aren’t alone. She notes an environment of safety and trust is often required for those with trauma to feel comfortable in a group setting, but once patients feel comfortable, the benefits can go far beyond 1:1 therapy. Here’s another quote from her podcast episode:

That’s like the foundation of attachment, right? That we need somebody to see us, to attune to us, to understand us and respond appropriately…. Expanding the number of hands and arms that are around us while we go through hard things is obviously going to create a different, a higher level, of support. So I really strongly believe in group work as being foundational to moving forward.

Addressing Complex Cases with Compassion and Experience

Along with treating symptoms of trauma and complex PTSD, Athena also specializes in dissociative disorders and their relation to trauma. She helps patients navigate complex conditions like dissociative identity disorder (DID), which can develop after childhood trauma and adversity. Athena is almost complete with her education as a Doctor of Psychology, adding to her experience as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)/therapist. She continues to provide training and community for other healthcare professionals with KALOS, an education platform.

Early, accurate diagnoses of conditions like DID, other dissociative disorders, and PTSD can lower costs of treatment, speed up access to care, and improve a patient’s overall quality of life. Athena sees changes like this, and a reuniting to our human connectedness, as important pieces in improving lives and helping those with trauma feel seen in their healing.

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