Advancing Trauma-Informed Career Counseling

In my job helping customers create resumes and conduct job searches I often find myself acting as a therapist. The library patrons have unique life stories they bring to the table. Their experiences impact their employment needs and choices.

Peers with mental illnesses as well as other clients have often experienced trauma in their lives. The job a person has should aid in healing not make us ill.

Especially when we are individuals who have historically have been treated in a subpar way. By the very mental health staff tasked with helping us. If you didn’t think we could recover were you happy to spin your wheels helping us knowing that what you did wouldn’t enable us to recover. Then why did you become shrinks and social workers to begin with?

I’m going to talk in here about the reality of having a mental illness. Not a fan of total honesty this is why I cannot advance a “let-it-all-hang-out” on your lips mentality on the job. Though I write about my experiences I choose carefully what I disclose and when and where.

So–here goes–this could’ve happened to me. Or you. It happens to everyone regardless of our race, creed, gender, socioeconomics, illness or whatever demographic we fit in.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Abuse is not confined to a house or apartment. Our jobs are our living quarters for 8 hours a day. A victim of abuse or trauma could be wary of a coworker taking advantage of them.

Having a mental illness–especially in the early stages of our recovery–can be a trauma. This shouldn’t prevent us from trying to get a job. The last thing we want is to experience a new trauma in the workplace.

Our jobs should not make us ill. Our coworkers and supervisors should not gaslight us. Issues of power and control exist in the workplace. Which is why I say tread carefully with what you tell others.

To begin with individuals with mental illnesses are at a greater risk of being victims of crimes than of committing a crime.

In fact other people with mental health issues are often our abusers. Trust–this has happened.

It’s no easy task finding a company to work for where our coworkers are healing allies not self-interested adversaries.

Pain and trauma are part of everyone’s life. “Everybody Hurts” to quote the 1990s REM song title.

How to transform our pain into creative energy? How to get a job where working there can be an act of healing from illness?

I’m keen to give readers specific strategies for finding these needle-in-a-haystack positions.

The next blog entry here will be a hyperlink to a guest blogger entry that I had published at the Resources to Recover website on October 6. That entry will be my parting shot in focusing on disclosure on the job. After this I will start to talk about DEI initiatives–how Diversity Equity and Inclusion measures can help peers with mental illnesses on the job too.

Author: Christina Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the new book Working Assets: A Career Guide for Peers. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health.

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