Vicarious Resilience – An Added Benefit of Care at The Healing Garden!
Did you know that The Healing Garden distinctively fosters a phenomenon called Vicarious Resilience?
The term Vicarious Trauma is used in the field of psychology and refers to when a therapist is at risk of experiencing their client’s trauma by virtue of accompanying that client through their trauma story. On the flip side, researchers are looking at cancer communities, where the opposite occurs (Journal of Psychosocial Oncology).
Communities such as The Healing Garden are intentionally designed to support individuals in the context of their singular life situation while, at the same time, connect them to others who can join, share, and reflect their cancer experience. In this particular environment, those who exchange stories of their cancer experience foster one another’s strength, gain fortitude from hearing another overcome hardship and, in turn, develop Vicarious Resilience.
One of the biggest inhibitors to joining a Support Group is the fear that hearing everyone’s “sad story” will be depressing whereas, in fact, the safety and openness cultivated at The Garden allows one to feel less alone, to find hope, to mitigate self-blame, and build reserves of resiliency. As one client described, “The Garden is opening my community up; I’m finding solace and joy and real space to be exactly who I am—with cancer—to be me.”
Interestingly, this is equally of value for caregivers—and that includes the Garden’s staff and providers. In witnessing those who “take the challenges, loss, adversity, suffering, and limitations of a cancer diagnosis and use them in transforming ways to endure suffering, let go of toxic relationships, reach out to others, seek new adventures and opportunities, take risks, face mortality and find meaning,” we vicariously take in their resilience, and are honored to be accompanying them in this work (Handbook of Oncology Social Work, Vicarious Resilience, Debra Mattison).
In this remarkable way, The Healing Garden is a full community of all those affected by cancer—the individual, the caregiver, the group and the culture—which bends the tragedy, the trauma, and the sadness of the cancer experience toward inspiration, wisdom, purpose, passion and meaning.
Brianne Carter, LICSW, MTS, Director of Integrative Care at the Healing Garden