How to Reach the Top of the Mountain

Adrianne Walschinski

In June I was one of eight representatives from our agency who attended the inaugural NMT Symposium, hosted by Dr. Bruce Perry, ChildTrauma Academy staff, and Hull Services, an agency in Alberta, Canada, that provides mental health and behavioral services to children and families. This trip allowed me ample opportunity for new experiences, and I was eager to get in as much as possible on my trip.

I arrived several days before the start of the symposium so I could take in the spectacular sightseeing opportunities that Banff and the surrounding areas have to offer. One of the more well-known areas in Alberta is Lake Louise, and this was on the to-do list for a day hike. Our destination was to the top of the mountain near another lake, Lake Agnes, where a small teahouse sits at the edge of the lake. Our strenuous hike, to an elevation of over 7,000 ft. through snow-covered trails, rewarded us with teas, soups and sandwiches this little teahouse had to offer. We were proud of ourselves for having successfully mastered the hike despite times when it would have been easier to quit and turn back down the mountain.

This experience prompted me to think about comparisons, climbing an actual mountain versus the “mountains” we as individuals may be forced to “climb” at some point in our lives. Our agency assists and supports others in various capacities, helping them to conquer the mountains they may experience. Some are larger and more challenging than others, but nonetheless, they represent trying times.

What do we need to conquer our own challenges? In the case of my mountain hike, having appropriate shoes and attire, along with sufficient water, a will and desire to accomplish said goal, and support from others along the way helped push me to master the hike. But what happens when we start on a journey not quite prepared?

On our hike back down the mountain, we observed other hikers who were not nearly as prepared as we were; some were dressed in sandals and jeans, while others were carrying nothing but their morning coffee cup. It’s likely that those of us hiking back down assumed these individuals, being that ill-prepared, probably would turn around without making it to the top. Others we crossed paths with closer to the top, looking visibly exhausted and asking, “How much further to the top?” were met with encouragement by us to keep going, because they were almost there.

Mountains

In our line of work, we help individuals and families who are at many different levels of preparedness conquer their challenges and reach their goals. They all deserve support and encouragement, whether they are just starting off or close to reaching achievement, however that may be determined. And, at times, some are prone to veering off path and need some additional guidance along the way.

Had we hikers taken the wrong pathway, we easily could have ended up in a more challenging situation, hiking into avalanche territory or areas with bears. Depending on how one is deviating from the path, it could lead to a need for increased support and guidance to get back on track. Or perhaps one could take a risk and go the unknown way and fall upon a shortcut to reach their destination sooner.

At SaintA, two of our Seven Essential Ingredients to understanding and implementing trauma informed care can be highlighted: perspective shift and relationship. It may take a perspective shift to recognize a challenge and view it as accomplishable, while at times needing reminders along the way when perspective may become less than desirable. Having support and receiving encouragement from others along the way can make a challenge more bearable and attainable as well.

One thing is certain, we all have paths and mountains within our lives that at times are met with barriers. But once we overcome these, the picture of our success allows us to truly recognize the amount of effort put forth and appreciate the achievement.

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