Victim vs Survivor Thinking

One of the hallmarks of trauma work is to help facilitate movement from victim-thinking to survivor-thinking. This is why we spend just as much time processing trauma themes as we do promoting experiences where children can feel safe, empowered and resilient. During prolonged periods of stress such as what we are experiencing during the global pandemic, it is easy to get lost in victim-thinking. Victim-thinking is rooted in feelings of helplessness and hopelessness – feeling unable to do anything about the situation that has happened to us or continues to impact us.

One way to reframe victim-thinking is to explore with children how they are coping despite the difficulty of the pandemic.  The following statements and questions will help children begin to see themselves as survivors rather than victims.

  • You may not feel 100% but you are still here and you are you coping!
  • What is it about yourself that is helping you get from one day to the next?
  • There must be some real strengths you are utilizing to help you during this hard time. What are your greatest strengths?
  • Who is helping you to survive?
  • What is one word you might use to describe how you have gotten through the past several months?
  • What would you say to others to help them get through this time?
  • You are a survivor!

These questions and more can all be centered in a child's Universal Needs. In my course, Structured Sensory Interventions II, I discuss how each Need can also be applied when using the SITCAP model. Watch below and follow the links in the description for the course page.

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By Dr. Caelan Soma, PsyD, LMSW

Dr. Caelan Soma, PsyD, LMSW, Chief Clinical Officer, oversees all clinical operations and research at Starr Commonwealth. Dr. Soma provides trauma assessment and trauma-informed, resilience-focused intervention for youth utilizing evidence-based practices, including Starr’s SITCAP© model programs.

About Starr Commonwealth

Starr Commonwealth is dedicated to the mission to lead with courage to create positive experiences so that all children, families, and communities flourish. We specialize in residential, community-based, educational, and professional training programs that build on the strengths of children, adults, and families in communities around the world. To schedule a training or consultation, please contact or call 800-837-5591.