Wearing a Winter Coat on a Florida Beach

Wearing a Winter Coat on a Florida Beach

Wearing a Winter Coat on a Florida Beach

“It’s like wearing a winter coat on a Florida beach.”

Dr. Hannah Baczynski is a very smart psychologist. She works in Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch’s outpatient clinic, Dakota Family Services. She provides psychological testing and counseling to both the children living at the Ranch and patients from the community.

How do I know she is really smart? #1, she is a Doctor of Psychology. That doesn’t happen easily. #2, she can explain difficult things in simple terms. She makes it possible to understand some of the complicated concepts in mental health and mental health treatment. A mentor of mine told me, “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t know it well enough yourself.” Dr. Hannah knows her work very well.

She recently started a lecture series to train Ranch staff on some of the mental health diagnoses we see more frequently in the children who come to us. The first session was on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). With a wide range of staff expertise and training in her audience, she used many analogies to help each person understand.

The one I will hang on to when I am trying to explain the behavior and reactions of our children is her analogy about trauma behaviors being, “like wearing a winter coat on a Florida beach.”

She asked us to imagine growing up in the frigid winters of North Dakota. You learn, living in that environment, that the only way to survive is to dress in layers of winter clothing and the thickest heaviest winter coat you can find. Perhaps you add snow pants and multiple pairs of socks and boots and seven or eight hats and gloves and scarves until you are all bundled up and protected against the elements that could kill you. That is what a traumatized child does to survive. They stack layer upon layer of behaviors and responses that protect them on top of each other. They learn behaviors that push others away so they can’t be hurt. Anger, aggression, self-harm, shutting down, swearing, etc. They know all those layers will help them survive.

Then, you take that person with the many layers of winter clothes on and put them on a beach in Florida. They sit there sweating and nervous. They don’t trust that they don’t need the layers. Maybe it will all of a sudden get cold. Maybe they will get sent back to North Dakota. Why should they believe they are safe without the layers? Dr. Baczynski suggests that treatment is about earning enough trust so the layers start to come off. The child begins to see that in this new environment, they don’t need the coat, the snow pants, or seven or eight hats.

I love the analogy because it is so visual. Thank you for helping us help these precious kids shed their layers. You don’t need your winter coat in Florida.

Please pray for our kids and staff.

In His love,

Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch

Your Thrivent Choice Dollars® can be used to support multiple organizations each year. At the Ranch, we use all Thrivent Choice® funds for our Spiritual Life Program. Your support is vital in giving our precious children the foundation of faith they need to thrive. To direct your Choice Dollars® to the Ranch, simply go to Thrivent.com/thriventchoice, login, and choose Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. To direct Choice Dollars® over the phone, call 1-800-847-4863 and say "Thrivent Choice," after the prompt. Direct your Choice Dollars® today! Thank you for your continued support of our ministry!


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