An Encore! Dr. Steven Luel: “As a son of Holocaust survivors, I have always been attuned to the suffering of the defenseless and anyone at the mercy of cruel and inhumane oppressors.”
December was our Volunteer Appreciation Month. Yet every stellar experience deserves an encore! Please join us in celebrating the contributions of Dr. Steven Luel — a psychologist who has been volunteering with HealthRight’s Human Rights Clinic since 2010. Dr. Luel shares what his volunteer experience means for him.
As a son of Holocaust survivors, I have always been attuned to the suffering of the defenseless and anyone at the mercy of cruel and inhumane oppressors. In my work with trauma survivors, I intervene and in a way reduce another’s pain and sense of being unheard and invisible.
At the end of an evaluation, I am heartened and energized by the appreciation I receive for having borne witness to each client’s experience. My evaluation may well make a major difference in my client’s life and knowing this underscores the sacred nature and great privilege of this work.
I spend a good portion of each evaluation making a client feel as safe and secure as possible. I always ask if it is o.k. to close the door to my office and I greet the client with a few words of welcome in their mother tongue. I keep in mind that affect regulation is the cornerstone of work with any trauma survivor. Establishing comfort and safety is always the first step. Then we must build trust. Delving into the traumatic narrative can never be rushed.
My clients have greatly impressed me with their humanity and resilience. Not one is filled with hatred or a desire for revenge. I am impressed with their gentleness, their spiritual natures and their desire to just be left alone so as to live a meaningful and dignified life. This was not possible in their country of origin.
Self-care is an essential part of this work and pleasure and cultivation of the positive emotions: love, joy, hope, faith are necessities not luxuries. I often consult with a 95 year old mentor who still maintains a full clinical practice! He taught me that if one wants to go the distance in trauma work 4 to 6 weeks of vacation each year is mandatory. I agree!
Hans Seyle the founder of modern stress research referred to what we do as “altruistic egoism.” He was so right in his understanding of the soul nourishment one derives in attempting to bring a bit of peace and comfort to our fellow man or woman in distress.