Reaching HOPE provides compassionate mental health services that support trauma survivors in ending the intergenerational cycle of violence. Reaching HOPE supports children, adults, and families in Healing from interpersonal trauma through Outreach to those currently impacted, Prevention efforts for those at risk, and Empowerment of those making the journey from victim to survivor. HOPE is found through individual, family, and group therapy services, parenting support, presentations and trainings, psychoeducation, and community partnerships.
When we (Ambra Born and Aubrey Austin) first met, we were working as therapists in a community mental health center. We thoroughly enjoyed their clients, but struggled with not being able to do the trauma work we had been trained to do. When we branched out and founded Reaching HOPE, it was with the express intent to continue working with trauma survivors, and do that work in a way that helped people heal and that felt rewarding and sustainable to us. While that focus has not changed, our therapy approach and our ability to reach far beyond those initial goals has drastically expanded.
When we first opened our doors, we were providing typical evidence-based trauma therapy services focused on individual healing of children, adolescents and adults. Among our very first individual therapy clients were the "Miller" children, a 5-year-old brother and 7-year-old sister who had been sexually assaulted by a cousin. They were brought to their weekly appointments by their mother, Ms. Miller, who consistently agreed to practice recommended interventions at home with her children to help them heal, though she continued to struggle with follow through. As the weeks went on, she cried, often panicky and a sense of overwhelmed--it was apparent that she too needed services. Once she began individual therapy and talked openly, complex layers of family trauma that existed underneath the surface began to emerge. We learned several important facts that gave new context for why this protective mother was so overwhelmed:
Her partner was perpetrating domestic violence in the home against her.
She had also been a victim of childhood sexual abuse by her grandfather.
She was at risk of losing her job due to absenteeism associated with the numerous court hearings.
Her relationship with extended family had become extremely tenuous because most had chosen not to believe her children's outcries of abuse-- instead, they blamed the victims for coming forward or minimized the sexual assault by saying that it was not severe enough to warrant legal consequences for the cousin.
Once we became aware of these layers of background trauma, we started understanding the limited impact of solely treating the symptoms that had resulted from the sexual abuse of the children. We realized that expecting individual trauma treatment to accomplish true healing was like trying to construct a home without first building a sturdy foundation.
We started to contemplate what could be accomplished if we instead helped this family find safety from all abusive members, treated all of the victimizations of both the children and the mother, and empowered this mother to pave the way toward stability for herself and her children. This entailed recognizing that we were asking something unrealistic of Ms. Miller (to apply the skills taught in therapy with her children at home) given the ongoing trauma she was experiencing. Instead, we shifted focus on helping her seek safety from the current abuse, creating stability for her two children, and building a closer connection between the three of them in which they could trust and rely on one another when encountering struggles. Without this foundational family stability, individual therapy for the children would have only reduced trauma symptoms at best, and most certainly would not have accomplished long-lasting healing or resiliency, or built up the family's strength and protection from future abuse.
By recognizing all of the familial factors at play in trauma recovery, our innovative treatment model for healing trauma in family systems was born. Reaching HOPE has become the only known agency to heal (and prevent) trauma by supporting families in growing stronger, safer and happier together. At Reaching HOPE, every safe family member is scheduled with their own individual therapist all at the same appointment time each week, which gives us the option to work in individual therapy on unique struggles that each family member experiences, or join together for family sessions to support the family as a complete unit. This also allows us to significantly reduce barriers to treatment (e.g. time limitations, child care). In supporting every person towards a goal of creating a healthy family, we see that healing can be more impactful and long-lasting and can protect the family for generations to come. We have also witnessed our families standing up for their victim rights, speaking up in schools, advocating within the criminal justice system and feeling empowered across all systems that have directly impacted their lives.
While our focus of empowering trauma survivors to end cycles of violence remains unchanged, our unique family treatment model has evolved and been shaped by our clients and their needs. As for the Millers, they moved out of their abusive home, confronted and reported Ms. Miller's childhood sexual abuser, identified extended family members who also wanted to forge a healthy, new path forward, and found trust, safety and healing within their relationships with one another. In addition, they learned how to identify critical warning signs of grooming and abusive behavior, seek safety and protection utilizing appropriate family and community resources, and were no longer defined by their victimizations. Bearing witness to this experience, not only within an individual, but within an entire family system, is an experience that is breathtaking--even in the wake of the most horrific human experiences, hope and resilience still prevail.
Reaching HOPE aspires to protect future generations through empowering today's families to end the cycle of violence and strive for a safe and peaceful community.