Centred on emotional release and neurobiology
The Heal For Life program works because it helps guests get to the root of their trauma, providing them the time and space to deeply connect with and express their emotions. The core of our model is the belief that emotions suppressed at the time of trauma must be released for long-term neurobiological changes to occur.
Our model focuses on providing knowledge about trauma, to help guests understand why they feel and act the way they do. We also teach skills – and role model those skills through peer support – to enable guests to de-trigger themselves, (stablise their biological response to emotional triggers) and feel more in control of their day-to-day lives.
The brain is plastic and everybody can heal, if they have the courage to do so.
Based on the latest trauma recovery and neuroscience research
The Heal For Life model extends SAMHSA’s universally recognised principles of trauma-informed practice to include our own experiential knowledge of what survivors need to recover from trauma, gained over two decades of service delivery.
It aligns with recommendations from the Australian Centre for Post Traumatic Mental Health, whose literature review and recommendations were also endorsed by the National Mental Health and Medical Research Council, the Royal Australian College of Psychiatrists and the Australian Psychological Society.
Our model also recognises the important contribution of Psychoanalytic, Rogerian, Systemic Family Therapy, Transactional Analysis, Gestalt, and Emotionally Focused Therapy.
The TREE Model
It is recognised healing can only take place in an environment which is both physically and emotionally safe.
Heal For Life provides a private sanctuary where survivors can safely feel their emotions without time limitations, judgment or need for explanation.
While individual stories are not shared in the programs to minimise the risk of vicarious trauma or re-traumatisation, validation is provided as all participants including team members and guests, have lived experience of childhood trauma or abuse.
To create trust, the model is implemented in a non-authoritarian way, using the principles of unconditional love, non-judgment, and total equality of all people. As many people who come to Heal For Life may have never seen or experienced functional relationships, we model a functional interpersonal setting based on healthy boundaries and safe containment.
We find offering a residential program in a secluded environment is an important element which provides a feeling of safety for our guests. Being residential means the guest has the time and space to allow themselves to be vulnerable as they process memories related to their trauma.
This is supported by our Peer Support model, ensuring the people delivering the program are actively pursuing their own healing and growth.
We believe the Inner Child or Inner Self – the guest’s ‘gut instinct’ or the part inside them that was damaged at the point of trauma – holds the key to recovery from childhood trauma. The rationale behind this is that when a child is abused or experiences trauma, the brain and body holds the memory and pain of that trauma. We help guests to heal their inner child by physically expressing the emotions they suppressed at the time of the abuse or trauma.
We identify coping strategies that have been used by guests in the past and teach how to de trigger, ground and process more complex traumas to reduce the impact of flashbacks, depression and self-harm. Our model works to stabilise the autonomic nervous system as it is only when the sympathetic nervous system is lowered by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system that emotion can be released. We teach survivors to keep their “adult self” present so they are grounded in the here and now so as not to re-traumatise the person through revisiting traumatic memories.
Each day guests participate in Labour of Love. This entails working on the property for a set period each day, performing tasks such as gardening, cleaning, cooking, office work and so on. This is vital because it teaches guests that regardless of how they feel they can still contribute and perform an important role in the community.
The knowledge of trauma, making a contribution, and witnessing the empowerment of other survivors gives a profound sense of hope which is often lacking from interactions with mental health services which may have emphasised the permanence of their mental illness. Heal For Life’s model is a recovery, not a management model.
Sharing of knowledge about the model and the effects of trauma on the brain empowers those who have survived childhood trauma and abuse. Among other things, it explains that they are having a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. This can diminish the stigma of mental health problems, and feelings of shame around maladaptive regulatory behaviours such as addiction and self-harm.
Eric Berne’s Ego States model is used to convey the impact of early childhood parenting. How these external messages are internalised into self-belief systems, how we then think about and treat ourselves, and how we interact with our world.
We also explore attachment theory, helping guests to understand how in the first few years of life, our attachment (or lack of) to primary caregivers sets up patterns for future interpersonal relationships; how we feel about and interact with the people closest to us. Understanding the impact of childhood trauma on attachment style can lead to the alleviation of difficulties within interpersonal relationships.
Get the book: Heal For Life, by Liz Mullinar
How to Heal Yourself from the Pain of Childhood Trauma and Abuse
‘Heal for Life’ is a practical guidebook for survivors of childhood trauma or abuse, based on our successful model of trauma-informed self healing that has already empowered thousands of survivors to find inner peace and hope for a brighter future. This book is highly recommended by survivors and mental health professionals alike, as it shares the details of the successful model that has helped over 8,500 people heal from the devastating impact of childhood trauma.
Available in eBook and physical copies. Shipped worldwide.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. We offer training for therapists to teach them how to use our model in private practice, and to organisations who work with survivors to more effectively support them towards their goals.
No. While recognising that trauma is a serious mental health problem (80% of HFL guests have been diagnosed with a mental illness (Edwards 2009), there is no diagnostic categorising, such as “borderline personality disorder”, “pathological narcissism” etc. Heal For Life believes in the ability of every person to heal to a greater or lesser extent from mental illness caused by childhood trauma. The model builds on Heinz Kohut’s understanding of the disorders of self (Kohut & Wolf, 1978) and the importance of becoming more empathic with themselves.
For this reason, survivors who attend Heal For Life’s Healing Program are referred to as ‘guests’, not as clients or patients. It is recognised that each guest is an individual who is struggling to survive. Because of this, individuals may have developed various coping and initial adaptive mechanisms to allow survival through their childhood. Recognising these adaptive behaviours as symptoms, but not the real problem, is a major part of the model. What once was an adaptive behaviour to survive as a child, in adult life the behaviour may be maladaptive.
The spirit is catered for as we welcome people from all religions, and recognise the therapeutic value of spiritual belief in trauma recovery. Heal For Life Foundation itself is founded upon the loving teachings of Jesus Christ. However, we have no interest in imposing our beliefs on our guests and respect everyone’s personal preferences. We begin and end each day with reflections, to focus on our spiritual needs and in recognition that spiritual growth is an essential part of our healing.
Heal For Life considers there is a critical place for psychopharmacology, as medication can help to establish neural network balance. However, the use of strong sedative or psychotropic medication while undergoing the Heal For Life program will be likely to have less effective results, as it will be harder for the guests to connect with their emotions. The aim of the work is to reduce reliance on medication in both workers and guests.