The Healing Journey study sought to understand the path from wounding to healing from the patient’s perspective, a viewpoint that has not been extensively studied but could better inform practitioners. The study, which looked at individuals seeking care via conventional health systems due to trauma and/or chronic illness, emphasizes healing as a journey—a sometimes circuitous route from wounding and suffering, to acquiring resources, to healing, with detours along the way. As patients asserted, part of healing was acceptance of their circumstances and acquiring the tools and support they needed.
The authors note that the healing journey is not stepwise or linear, and “detours” are not steps backward. “People did not simply progress through this sequence and experience healing…the healing journey was a recursive, back and forth process.”
Click on the plus icons below to learn about different aspects of the healing journey.
This study involved a qualitative analysis done by a diverse team and the subsequent model may offer hope and guidance to those experiencing suffering and illness. Nova Scholars Sara Warber, Paul Dieppe, David Jones, and Kurt Stange, along with John Scott, completed the study, which was funded by the Nova Institute for Health.
Healing is facilitated through safety, persistence, and trust.
Resources support us as we heal. They include reframing, responsibility, and positivity. “Making connections enabled participants to acquire and refine resources and skills that were essential in their healing journey. People also brought their own personal strengths to the journey.”
“Connection to others was an essential part of all the healing journeys.” Humans are social creatures, and even the most introverted of us need close relationships. Friends and family add meaning and value to life and help support us, in good times and bad.
When we experience relational trauma, relationships can feel scary, but reestablishing safety and trust in relationships is where the healing happens. (To be clear, we do not mean reestablishing safety and trust with abusers, but rather finding other healing relationships.)
“When safety and trust had been established, people were able to connect with helpers. The nature of the behaviours of helpers that fostered healing ranged from small acts of kindness to unconditional love.”
Healing probably means different things to different people, but one definition that emerged from the study is: “The re-establishment of a sense of integrity and wholeness.”
Healing was an emergent property that resulted from each individuals’ complex healing journey, a result of bridged connections between resources and relationships. “…they gradually found relief from suffering and began to exhibit emergent characteristics: a sense of hope, self-acceptance, and a desire to help others—the immediate precursors to healing.”
In varying degrees, “they were able to transcend their suffering and in some sense to flourish.”
Suffering is the ongoing pain from wounding.
There is debate about whether or not one actually needs to experience suffering on the path to healing.
Wounding happens when we experience physical or emotional harm. It can stem from chronic illness or by physical or psychological trauma for which we do not have the tools to cope, or a combination of those factors.
“The degree and quality of suffering experienced by each individual is framed by contextual factors that include personal characteristics, timing of their initial or ongoing wounding in the developmental life cycle and prior and current relationships.”
Characteristics: How predisposed someone may be to wounding/how many tools and resources someone may have to deal with trauma/illness.
Lifestages: Developmental timing plays an important role in the impact of trauma — young children often do not have the same resources as older adults.
Relationships: Relationships can provide solace and support for those suffering, while lack of healthy relationships can prolong suffering.