Important Aspects of Trauma Care in a Global Environment

Important Aspects of Trauma Care in a Global Environment



Jama Davis, Ph.D.



joao-silas-72562I vividly recall my first trip to Rwanda.  At her request, I joined a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide on the back seat of the bus.  My traveling team was aware of her request to speak with me and allowed us some space and as much quiet as possible as we rode through the city and then countryside to our destination of two genocide memorials.  These memorials were in churches; the very places people ran for safety during the genocide were the places they were murdered. The churches, now memorials, are filled with human remains and possessions of those who were killed at these locations. The memorials were unlike anything I had ever seen before, shattering to the soul at best.  My heart sank that day as I walked the grounds of the memorials and stood face to face with death in a way I could not imagine. Enroute to each memorial and on the return I listened intently to this dear survivor’s story, recognizing the sacred space that God was allowing during the moments in the back seat of a bus. There are pictures and words I will never forget from that day, and the intensity of this time is indescribable. God provided opportunity for a process of change to begin in my life as well as the trusting Rwandan Genocide survivor who chose to share her story for the first time.


In my time of service in Rwanda and talking with others about their work in other countries, there are some important considerations with trauma care in a global environment. 



Trust is imperative in post trauma care.  It can take time for people who have experienced ongoing trauma to feel safe enough to share their deep wounds and personal spaces of vulnerability.  I found by being a listener and learner rather than viewed only as an expert, trust began to develop and hearts opened.  Understanding our role not as someone with knowledge to impart, but rather, being someone willing come alongside, listen, pray and listen some more provides the opening where trust can be built.



There are times that even the best of training and experience can leave a skilled counselor feeling some sense of inadequacy. Our dependence upon the leading of the Holy Spirit preempts our training. It is important to recognize our limitations yet remember God is limitless. We must take the time to research the area, people and history to learn all that is possible through education and training before attempting to provide post trauma care. Even with this type of concerted effort, there is still much to learn and some things can only be learned through being present with those we seek to help.  Preparation is important. A dependence on the leading of the Holy Spirit and a willingness to learn with our feet on the ground are imperative.



madi-robson-113926Self-care can be viewed as a buzzword of sorts, though it needs to be a directive for every counselor. In the world of post trauma care, it is imperative.  Working with trauma survivors changes the helper.  The atrocities experienced by others are heard and witnessed in a way that is very different than reading or hearing about it.  Counselors have knowledge of ways to care for themselves and must make this a non-negotiable when working with trauma.  If not, we can become the traumatized.


Since that day in the back of the bus, I have been privileged to sit with the brave woman for extended visits during my return trips to Rwanda. I have heard how God continues to heal her heart and how she now pours herself into helping others in their healing process.  Let us be willing to take the needed time to build trust, develop competencies, care for ourselves as we care for others and never underestimate the impact of being focused to listen well and be fully present.



davis_jamaJama Davis, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor and Instructional Mentor in the Department of Counselor Education and Family Studies at Liberty University, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Indiana, Licensed Professional Counselor in North Carolina, National Certified Counselor and with AACC a Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor. She also maintains a counseling practice at Renewal in Carmel, Indiana.  Jama has over 30 years of experience in the mental health field specializing in trauma, eating disorders, women’s issues, marriage and life transitions. She frequently consults with ministry leaders focusing on personal and ministry health.  Currently she is involved in training women leaders in Rwanda in collaboration with Grace Church and African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries.  Most importantly, Jama has been married to Randy for 33 years and together they have two adult children, Ian who married Jessica in 2016, and Amanda who married Michael in 2015.