for trauma therapists - Book Review: Trauma Stewardship (by Laura VanDernoot Lipsky)

for trauma therapists - Book Review: Trauma Stewardship (by Laura VanDernoot Lipsky)

Trauma Stewardship (by Laura VanDernoot Lipsky) tackles the important topic of provider self-care while providing trauma treatment for others. She explores the threat of secondary traumatization and presents practical strategies for staying balanced to prevent provider burnout. 


Developing your longer-term trauma stewardship practices is hard! Make sure you acknowledge your own genuine stressors and look for adaptive ways to deal with them! Some ideas may include engaging in meaningful tasks (outside of your work), make healthy lifestyle choices, maintaining healthy social supports. And remember…Be patient with yourself while you regain personal agency in your life!


Trauma stewardship starts with understanding your WHY you choose the work that you do.  Approaching your work with curiosity helps to give you a framework for understanding your intention, motivations, and hopes.  Checking in with your motivations can help to encourage yourself to keep going, as well as giving you the opportunity to make sure that this work is working for you. You can start by taking time to think about your intentions in the work you do and reconnect with your desires and goals within your role. 


Be conscious of where and on what you are focusing in your life. Focusing on negative, painful, troubling events can become habitual, and it takes discipline to actively change your attention to things that are fulfilling, nourishing, and growth-based. If you struggle with feeling out of balance, ‘resourcing’ is a great tool to use to reground yourself– remember the moments, people, places, and experiences that activates your calm nervous system response. As you gain power over your focus, you also open up possibilities for different ways of structuring your life and work.


Your network or ‘microculture’ of supportive friends and family helps to nurture you, empower you with encouragement, hold you accountable, and connect with you over shared values.  You ground yourself as you are compassionate to yourself and to others. Self-compassion helps to keep you connected to your ideals and values, promotes healing, and assists in understanding the interdependency of humankind. Compassion comes from a desire to do no harm and have no harm done, not from a place of blaming and judgment.


As you strive for balance in your life, keep in mind your work environment and daily routine.  Ask yourself where you can carve out some time to regroup and center yourself– maybe on your drive to work? A few minutes between meetings or sessions? Consider what you can weave into your work day to make it a healthier place for you.  Surround yourself with colleagues who will support you and respect your work/life boundaries.  

Strive for balance in other personal ways as well. Make sure you keep your internal energies moving through and not allowing them to become stagnant around any one feeling or issue.  Allow your thoughts and feelings to ripple out and away with mindful awareness, and ride the wave of emotions (whether preferred or nonpreferred). Develop your own practice that helps you to be present, which may include exercise, deep breathing, meditating, walking, gardening, martial arts, etc.). Having a routine for this work will help you to create a sense of balance in your life. Additionally, focusing on gratitude is an essential part of trauma stewardship; you have an endless list of things to be grateful for!  


Everyone is capable of creating a daily practice to center themself. This will allow you to reconnect with the parts of yourself that you feel wise, resourceful, and informed. Prioritize this connection with yourself enough so that you ‘come home’ to yourself daily (if not several times a day). Two easy ways to work on self-centering include (1) creating an intention for your day (everyday) and (2) intentionally beginning to cultivate moments of mindfulness. An intention can be small (like noticing things that bring joy). Cultivating moments of mindfulness help you bridge the connection between your felt sense and your rational mind so that you can be intentional with your speech, actions, and engagement. Root yourself in meditation, cooking, movement, prayer, music, time with animals (etc), or, whatever works for you.

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