The Way Forward: Implementing Trauma Responsive Care for Intellectual and Developmental Disability Professions
by Kevin Aldridge, MA
From the forward to The Way Forward
by Lara Palay, LISW-S
Years ago, I had a client who worked in the physical sciences. One day as I was talking to him about balance — a word therapists just love to use — he mentioned offhandedly, “Well, of course there are two kinds of balance, you know.”
“Really?! That’s amazing, tell me more!” I calmly and professionally blurted. Surprised that his therapist was suddenly so interested in mechanical physics, he obliged me and explained that one type of balance is stationary. If you put your coffee mug on a table, the mug won’t move unless something happens to the table or the mug. The mug doesn’t have to exert any energy or change position to stay on the table, it just ... sits there. This is called static balance.
The other kind, he explained, is dynamic balance. When we ride a bike, we’re usually not perfectly centered. We’re constantly shifting our weight slightly as the wheels roll over the road. In fact, that’s what makes bike riding hard at first; we feel this movement and overcorrect, lurching too far in one direction and then the other, eventually falling over. After doing that a few times, we decide we’re not going to wobble so much this time, by God, and steer rigidly — right into a crash. But with time and practice, we learn the feel of continuous movement. We take in the feedback, and we lightly tilt accordingly, always adjusting and continuing to steer. In this way, we stay upright and move forward in equilibrium.
I’ve used this example for many years with just about every client I’ve ever had since that day. I think this is because, in the United States at least, we seem obsessed with the idea of achieving balance. And I think we see it in just those terms: an achievement. Once we’ve reached it — phew! Job done. And my clients often have this idea that when they find the perfect formula — X number of minutes spent each day for each task, exactly perfect eating and exercise and parenting and partnering and yoga and kale, and on and on — then, life will be in balance. All they’ll have to do is maintain that equation every day, forever, like mugs on a table.
The truth, of course, is that we’re all on bikes. And not the fancy featherweight Tour de France kind, either, but rusty old things, with flattish tires, gears that lock and chains that fall off. Every so often, we get thrown into a ditch (looking at you, 2020). So, the challenge on these rickety bikes is to keep moving forward, allowing for constant adjustment and change, within a range that allows that dynamic balance, that eventual equilibrium.
Feedback and change — that’s what so much human activity is really about, and organizations are just groups of humans, after all. So dynamic balance is a pretty sound way to describe the endless, delicate movement of organizations, and that is what this book is all about — moving people, moving activities, moving objectives and outcomes, following a path that recognizes, accounts for, and supports trauma. Kevin writes about change. Change sounds great, on paper, but in truth we typically resist it. I think this is because change requires bravery — not in terms of our future, but in terms of our past. In order to seriously consider changing something about how we do what we do, we have to tolerate the idea that there’s something that isn’t working, or at least doesn’t work any longer. Maybe there is something we haven’t done, or worse, something we did do that went wrong. I find that no human being really likes to do this, but I think it’s especially difficult for people who work in human services. We try so hard, most of us, to get it right — because if we don’t, other people suffer. And for leadership, it’s even harder. The lives affected may not be only their consumers, but also their workers and their stakeholders. Dozens or even hundreds of people may bear the brunt of their missteps. How terrifying that must feel.
I think what strikes me most about The Way Forward are its reassurance and its humility. Kevin speaks about management from lifelong interest, deep knowledge, and wide professional experience in every sector — as an executive, a state official, a case manager, an international consultant, and, apparently, an unstoppable baseball nerd. He uses examples of things he learned from the successes and failures of others but also the successes and failures of his own. This humility allows for a lot of grace. I think that is what may make this book easy to pick up and, more importantly, easy to start implementing — it’s safe. It’s hopeful. “You can do this,” it says. “You can keep moving forward.”