Empowering, Connecting & Correcting – A Conversation with Daren Jones
[Madi] You’re listening to Together by AGCI. I’m Madi Salvati.
Before we get into this episode, I wanted to share with you that this will be my final recording with Together by AGCI. It’s absolutely stunning how time goes by and how much I’ve learned in my almost two years with this organization. I can honestly say that without this experience, I wouldn’t have the courage to pursue this next career move. Part of me wished it didn’t require leaving my role in marketing or this podcast. But I know I leave you in the best hands. Thank you for following along with the conversation, and thank you for trusting me with your time. I’m so grateful.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from my time at AGCI, it’s this: trauma happens in isolation, and healing happens in relationship. The topics of trauma and healing are always very much a cornerstone in our approach to serving vulnerable families and kiddos at AGCI. Healing is also something that it feels our current world is in desperate need of, more than ever. Here today to discuss trauma-informed healing, and an approach we use at AGCI called Trust Based Relational Intervention, or TBRI, is training specialist with the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at TCU, Daren Jones.
Daren’s main focus is instructing professionals in TBRI who are working with children who have experienced trauma. Since Daren joined the Purvis Institute in 2014, he has been an integral part of teaching and spreading TBRI across the globe. I’ve had the honor of attending some of his trainings with our staff, and I’m so excited to have him on the show today. So let’s get to it.
Well, welcome Daren. Thank you so much for being here today on Together by AGCI. We’re so grateful to have you. Um, I know it’s been a really busy season for all of us, so I really do appreciate you taking the time to come on the show.
[Daren] Oh, you’re welcome. Happy to be here.
[Madi] Of course. Thank you. So we’ll just get right into it here. As we move forward in this new season with this show, with this podcast, we’re looking to cover more and more topics, um, that just relate to, you know, not only the current state of the world, but to the healing aspect of how to recover from everything going on, essentially. Um, but maybe we can just start there. I know you are an expert in Trust Based Relational Intervention, and that’s a big reason why I wanted to have you on the show today. But as we look to cover healing and as one of our topics coming up, um… Can you talk more about how that relates to Trust Based Relational Intervention, healing and just the current state of the world?
[Daren] Right. So, um, from our perspective, you know, our ultimate goal here at the Karen Purvis Institute of Child Development at TCU is all about hope and healing. Uh, that’s our ultimate goal when it comes to, you know, training, supporting coaching, having interactions with professionals, you know, kids, parents, um, whomever. And, and so as we, we, um, uh, we, we think about the essentials of TBRI, uh, empowering, connecting, and correcting, as… I see it as the ingredients, um, that, that work within that healing process, you know. And the ingredients of… What I mean by those ingredients, just thinking about the principles, you know, our connecting principles all about, um, based in attachment and relationships. And, you know, as you think about the current state of the world, there’s so many things taking place. If you, if you just think of the pandemic. So many people that have been separated, you know, isolated relationally, um, and, you know, from the relational lens, uh, you know, connecting is a part of that. Or, you know, what does it look like to support the, the, the body and the brain and the environment of people, uh, that’s through our empowering lens. And then also also, you know, through our correcting principles of just thinking about, uh, shaping behavior, uh, changing, um, just things, the essential things that, that take place in your life. Um, so when I think about healing and that component, as far as behavior, you know, I see healing as that, um, you know, just bringing good health, uh, to your life and sustaining that good health. And so from our perspective, if we could implement and just engage in those key ingredients or essentials, uh, we could, we could bring about, you know, uh, good health and, and sustain that good health.
[Madi] Yeah. I love that. Just the aspect of putting it in the words of good health. I think that’s so important going forward. And maybe a little context here for our listeners. Um, can you talk a bit about your story and how TBRI became a part of your life and your practice?
[Daren] Yes. Um, uh… Anytime I share my story, I, uh, I try to make it short and sweet, but, uh, I can’t, I can’t promise that because I go all the way back to, um, you know, just my, my upbringing, uh, because that’s the important component of my story. Um, and, uh, the reason I do, because I was, you know, one, being raised up in a small town in, uh, in Arkansas and, uh, so around, you know… In Arkansas, it’s actually a big town ‘cause we have a population of 10,000 people. That’s pretty big in, uh, in Arkansas. But anyway, um, you know, part of my story is just being raised up, uh, uh, mostly by my grandma, my grandmother. You know, I had, I had great relationships with my mom and my dad, you know, being a kid that, you know, uh, growing up experienced, um, just being, you know, uh, in a community, in a state of, of, of poverty, um… You know, being a kid who was impacted and experienced divorce, you know, multiple times and, and, um… You know, experiencing, you know, various things, uh, in the streets, in the community, all of those things, a part of my upbringing that, that led to, uh, you know, this journey of serving people and, and, and folks across the globe when it comes to trauma informed care. Um, so anyway, you know, that’s important because the state of mind I was in, you talk about, you know, good health, just thinking about emotionally, mentally, um, just where I was, as I began to go into college, um… At that space, you know, you think about, you know, where you are emotionally and, and, and things of that nature. Uh, my, my choice to go to college wouldn’t necessarily because that was the path. Uh, for me it was this, you know, um, I was, at that time, I was, I had a couple of choices. You know, people told me, you could, you can go to school, um, once you graduate high school, or you can go to the military and you can, you can be on your own, you know? And I, and I had, I had, I had enough experience at the time, and I always say street sense where I was like, well, not, I’m not equipped to be on my own. Um, I tried to get into the military. I took a couple of those tests, but I didn’t pass the test, uh, for various reasons. And then I, um, I said, well, I can buy at least six months, you know, a semester, if I go to college. And I, and I actually went to college and, um, and on my mind at the time, I was like, I can buy some time, I’ll be free. I can kind of play and party and have fun. And wasn’t necessarily interested, you know, in, in, in formal education in that sense. And, um, and part of this journey, um, I always point this out because I remember sitting down with, uh, an advisor at the university of Arkansas, Fayetteville, that I went to. And she asked me a question. She said, What do you, what do you want to do? You know, what do you want to major in? And my, my words to her, I said, I said, Ma’am, I don’t know. I don’t, I don’t even want to be here, more or less, you know, figure out what my major is. And she, um, and she said, Well, uh, um, you know, she, she talked about the school more, and then I said, I actually want to do what my grandma does. And she said, Okay, what’s that? And I said, My grandma’s always been one to, you know, uh, take in, uh, you know, anybody, take care of anybody, family, community, you know, visiting folks, praying for folks, uh, um, feeding, you know, masses of people. Uh, you know, her house was just that, that spot, you know? You can come by at two o’clock in the day or two o’clock in the morning and she’s open arms. So, the advisors said, well, you know, it sounds like, um, she started talking about sociology or social work. And I said, well, actually, I don’t know what either one of those means. You know, I never grew up with a social worker or a sociology in my community. And so she explained those and I told her, um, I said, well, let me let me do social work. Cause that sounds, that sounds kind of like what my grandma does. Right? And, um, so as, as she explained it, I chose that. And fast forward, you know, uh, years later as I started to, you know, sit in classes and hear about social work, and as I started to do internships and work at different types of organizations, um, as I was interacting with kids, especially, you know, now that I know who exposed to trauma, um, it, it wasn’t necessarily a, um… It seems, uh, um, I don’t want to say easy, but it was like, what what’s, what’s the problem? Why, why people frown upon this kid, who’s having some behavior issues, who’s cussing and fussing. And, and looking back, you know, I could relate to those kids in a, in a different way, which, which I had interactions, you know, in a, in a different way. So, um, so you know, you fast forward and I continued to kind of gravitate towards, uh, some of the most challenging youth, you know, uh, in my, in my work, in my profession. And, um, and then you fast forward a little bit more just getting to how TBRI came about, I was actually working in, uh, in an organization in Texas, and it was these four to 12 year old kids who always give them credit for teaching me, you know, a whole lot that I know today. And the reason was, is I had no experience, no formal training in trauma-informed care, nothing about TRBI. And it was this chaotic, stressful environment. You know, staff was stressed, parents were stressed, kids were stressed. It’s the schools, the therapists, anybody interacting was, uh, stressed out and it was chaos. And one of my coworkers said, Daren, go to this training with me. And I kind of rolled my eyes like, great, I’ll go cause I can get a little break. So I went to this training and, um, and I remember sitting in this little, uh, uh, chapel, little chapel about an hour away from, uh, Fort Worth. And I, and, and I, I didn’t know who Karen Purvis was, I didn’t know who David Cross was. I didn’t know anything about TCU and TBRI. And I sat in that chapel and I listened to this lady speak. It was Dr. Purvis at the time. And, um, and that… And it was the first time I had come across somebody who had solutions and answers to, uh, you know, as it relates, it is bringing hope and healing and get help, you know, to, to kids, to families, to communities. And one thing that she said, um, that, that, that I, I hold dearly to my heart today, she said, um, The kids bled before they came to us, and they shouldn’t bleed up under our watch. And, and, and I took what she said to heart, and I really started to put it into play in practice every day. And, um, and we begin to engage in TBRI, you know, in the residential program and with the kids and the families and the staff. And, and, and from that point on, um, it’s been TBRI, you know, ever since, if that makes sense.
[Madi] Definitely. I, that’s so powerful. I can’t imagine hearing those words. Um, I mean, directly from her too, that’s pretty special. Um, just the concept of not wanting these kiddos to hurt anymore and just the harm that can still happen even when we are trying to help. Um, I think that’s so important to remember, and something really important to remember too, just with everybody that we come into contact with, especially today, um, and not, and just being aware of their story too. One other thing I was thinking of is just, um, in order to keep preventing that bleeding, as Karen Purvis was talking about, um, within the trauma cycle, within institutions and within care, how can we evaluate the trauma cycle and just the fact that we, sometimes we forget about our own trauma, our parents’ trauma, maybe, um, and how that will affect them raising their children or our children in the future going forward.
[Daren] Right. Uh, no, that’s a, that’s a great question. And, uh, you know, I would say ongoing, just about on a weekly basis, you know, as we, you know, engage with people across the world that are embarking upon this, this journey of, uh, healing and, and Trauma Informed Care, TBRI, for us, um… You know, it’s a constant reminder of… We, we, we come to the work, you know, talking about, mostly, how can we serve kids, right? Um, and that’s the focal point. So often we, we say, and just remind ourselves and other people that, you know, we can’t forget about the caregiver. You know, we can’t forget about the mother. We can’t forget about the father. We can’t forget about the grandma, you know, the other, uh, uh, siblings in the home, the teachers, you know, uh, we can’t forget about ourselves. And, and, and what we mean by that. And I know what I mean by that is that… You know, if, if we’re going to, you know, decrease, you know, this, this cycle, if you will, this generational cycle, this vicious cycle of these stressful events and interactions and exposures and trauma, um, we have to help people and educate people that are the caregivers, the parents that, um, we too might have some adverse events in, in, in our history. You know? Um, we ask ourselves and, and… You know, I remember being engaged in, in learning about adverse childhood experiences and, you know, reading that study and, and, um, and hearing people talk about this study. And one of the main components, you know, um, in that study, you know, and if, let it begin to ask, you know, adults, you know, what, what type of experiences were you exposed to, uh, in, in your past? So things like, you know, physical abuse and, you know, uh, um, verbal abuse, and domestic violence, and drug exposure in the home, and divorce and, and so forth. And, um, that itself is a, is a pivotal moment of, of… If you’re going to, you know, decrease this, this trauma cycle, you know, it’s very important to ask ourselves these questions as the caregivers, as the parents. Um, um, because, for example, with Daren, you know, I need to have an understanding of, uh, my history. I need to have an understanding of how, uh, you know, I attached to my parents and how their parenting and their relationship with me, you know, impacts my interactions and relationships with, you know, kids and parents and coworkers, and, uh, you know, things of that nature, just in the, in the day to day. And I think the bottom line comes down to, when you think about, you know, relational trauma, um, we, we always say, you know, um, you know, if, if, if harm happened in relationship, then deep healing happens in relationship. And one thing that Dr. Purvis used to say, you know, a lot when she was with us is that it’s very difficult to take a child, to take somebody else to a place of healing that you’re not willing to embark upon. Right? So, so, so I need, I need to be able to, you know, dig deep into, uh, some of my history and some of the current stressors and, and work on self, if I’m going to pour into and work on other people in a, in a, in a, in an effective, an effective way.
[Madi] For sure. Yeah. I think just evaluating too, just exactly how you might be helping, um, and just like you were saying, saying in an effective way and taking into account what steps you have in mind when it comes to healing and how you might be helping not only yourself, um, but the person you’re trying to help as well. Um, and that would just lead me to my next question, um, how can parents, especially for, you know, of children from hard places, from children that have had a lot of no’s in the beginning of their life, um, how can parents make decision for the, for their children that are trauma informed for them?
[Daren] I think, I think one of the most effective ways, um, that, that, you know… I try to, I try to, um, share some of my experiences, you know, as, as opposed to just telling folks, you know, what to do and how to, I just, you know, just sharing some my experience is what helps me make calm, informed, um, um, decisions for their children. And one of the things I believe in is… One, get educated about, you know, trauma informed care. And, and once you begin to engage, you know, you begin to think, um, and see, um, each and every day through the lens of a, of a trauma informed lens, if you will. Um, and it’s, it is pretty interesting because, you know, um, when, when you do that, you know… I, I always, you know, say, and I, and I kind of have this, this mantra in my head, you know, I think about if, if our, if our children, you know, who’ve been exposed to trauma, impacted by trauma, um, either… A couple of things. They either never, never received, uh, um, uh, never got their needs met in a, in an optimal way or, or that experience of getting those needs met were impacted or, or, uh, disjointed and disconnected, you know, along the way. So what that means as a, as a caregiver, as a parent, uh, each and every day, I’m, I’m asking myself, you know, what does this child need in front of me? What does this baby need? And, and, and I, and I always say, you know, I’m talking… If I’m talking about a two month old, or a 12 year old, or, or a 25 year-old, I’m thinking in terms of meeting needs. Right? And, and also with, with the framework, if you will, that, that kinda, uh, it, it helps me. You know, I want to share with other folks, I think about the three pillars of, of, of trauma, you know? So, like the practical pieces and how it, you know, shared, shared this with this, when we talk about felt safety, connection and regulation, right? So, so as I’m interacting with my, even, even my kids, you know, I’m thinking to myself, uh, what, what does this environment feel like? What does daddy’s voice feel like? You know, do my kids feel safe around me? Not necessarily protected, but, but what does this stress system like? You know, as my voice driving up, stressing them, is it the way my, my body stance and the way I look, you know, do they feel a comfort, um, uh, on the inside, right? Um, what does my relationship look like? Am I connected to my, to my child in front of me? You know, some of those ingredients that I talked about. You know, what is, what does my eye contact look like? The healthy touch, my voice tone, behavior, playfulness. You know, we talk about, um, being aware of ourselves. And, and as, as we also are being aware of the people in front of us, you know? Um, you know, what am I bringing to this interaction, you know, um, um, with my child. So I’m constantly thinking about things that fall under the umbrella of connection. And then, you know, I always think in terms of, um… To, to make these decisions for our youth in a trauma informed way, how are we supporting regulation, you know, uh, in our kids and for our kids? You know, so if I’m making a decision for my child, for example, at school, you know, I would sit in those rooms with, with the, the school administrators and teachers and things of that nature. And if, if a decision is made, uh, to do X for my child, I’m asking the questions of, you know, is this, is this going to help my child regulate? Or is this going to add gasoline to the, to the fire? Right? And if, if that, if the answer is, is going to actually dysregulate my child, which means I’m gonna get a phone call, you know, tomorrow, the next day, the next day, and the next day, because my child is dysregulated. Then that decision that we made for my child is not a trauma informed decision, because one, my baby doesn’t feel safe. My baby’s stressed out, always in this environment. Two, my baby doesn’t feel connected with anybody, you know, for example, in the school house. And then three, um, my baby’s constantly, you know, uh, dysregulated, if you will. And if that’s the scenario, you know, we have to step back and say, Okay, how can we formulate and think through this in a trauma informed way to ensure we’re meeting, meeting the needs of our children?
[Madi] Yeah. And I think it’s… Just seeing that happen in real life is so apparent. And I think it can be really powerful as well. Um, of just watching a child, um, who’s able to connect and regulate, like with their surroundings and with their caregivers. Um, I think that’s something that’s so important to not only, like, in the home, that’s, cause that’s where it starts, but in the schools too. And how a child connects to their environment and their friends and their teachers, um, I think that’s something we definitely need more of going forward, as well. Um, can you think of an example or a story of healing, um, where you did see that change a child in more of a real-life sense. Um, maybe a child that you were working with or in your own children, um, how, how powerful was that just to see, um, that effort in being trauma-informed come to life?
[Daren] Yeah, yeah. I can, I could, I could, uh, I can talk all day about, uh, stories. Uh, uh, I’ll give, I’ll give one to two, you know, personal stories. You know, one, one particular story… I think about this little guy who, uh, was, was with us in, in, in residential, and, um, you know, he was, he was adopted internationally, um, uh, at about 20, 27 months. And, um, you know, he, he was, you know, uh… We engaged with him at about seven years of age and every layer of extreme behavior, uh, mainly aggression, uh, things of that nature. What I mean by aggression, you know, just for example, it was common, uh, when, when, when we first began to engage with this young person to, um, you know, uh, uh, violence and… Couldn’t even put a seatbelt on to get into a, in a car, you know, the vehicle, because it, you know, the kid over just refused and it turned into all, all types of other things, right? And, and what was beautiful about this is, you know, when you talk about… You know, you asked the question earlier about, um, uh, the trauma cycle, you know, uh, for the parents in making trauma informed decisions. Well, you know, for a long time, for years, the kid was the problem, you know? And everybody was focused on quote unquote, fixing the kid. Um, but part of, you know, entering into this trauma-informed, you know, uh, relationship, and, and for us it was TBRI, you know… We began to engage with, you know, mama engaged with daddy and engaged with, you know, siblings in, in really talking about attachment and our own history and how to engage in the moment and how to help our young person regulate themselves and not just talk about regulation, but, uh, teach him regulation each and every day, you know? And really be intentional, uh, about every interaction that we have, you know? So eventually you get to a place where you have a young person, again at seven, just imagine your relationship with your parents is cussin’ fussin’, kicking, screaming, you know, uh, parent, child, uh, have to lock themselves in the bathroom and bedroom because of the violence. And then, you know, over time through these, these healing interactions, you get to a place to where, um, you, you, you, you, you know, mama walks through the door and, and happy to, uh, engage with her, you know, her, her young person, um, each and every day. You know, you have a young person who has remained at one school for an entire school year. You know what I mean? Um, um, during this time. Then you have a young person who’s, who’s, who’s never been able to participate in things like student council or certain groups at school, um, and this young person is able to engage and take leadership roles in the school and engaged to, you know, and able to engage in other types of activities, um, in the school environment. And, and, and you, and ultimately what you get to, is you, you don’t just have a, you don’t have a young, a young person that’s fixed, you have a whole family that’s, that’s experiencing healthy living now. You know, so when I talk about felt safety earlier, you don’t have a family walking around their own home on pins and needles and stepping around, like, they’re going to step on a time bomb or some type of mine or anything, because everybody feels safe, connected, and knows how to use their words – both parent and child – you know, to get their needs met. And they don’t have to use, you know, other behaviors that we might deem inappropriate, you know, to get those needs met. Um, you know, another, another particular, uh, story that, that stands out, and, and, and, and it’s just in my mind always is, um, um… I, I remember, you know, working with a group of kids and, and, you know, we’re, we’re really going deep in TBRI each and every day. And then here you have a 11 year old kiddo with, with, uh, you know, horrendous background, and, um… I remember he was actually sitting in, uh, um, therapy one day and, and his counselor wants, wanted him to do, you know, some, some, some, some deep breathing and some calming. And, and, and what, what, what the counselor said was, I want you to listen to this, uh, uh, to the sound of the ocean and try to close your eyes, right? And, and the young person couldn’t do it, you know. And the reason he couldn’t do it is that he didn’t have a context for what she was asking him to do with the ocean. So, so, so fast forward, you know, you have a young person who has been in an environment that couldn’t necessarily go outside the home or go on a vacation or go to the park because of his, his behaviors. Right? So, as we transitioned and transformed this environment, uh, to a trauma-informed and a healthy environment, we began to take kids on a vacation. We began to go to the beach and, and really do things that kids should be doing, you know. And, and I remember one, one time after going to the beach in the summer, and we’re, you know, we’re kicking back, got our toes in the sand and having fun. And then we come back and the, and the week, the week afterwards, I remember his, his counselor calling me and saying, uh, uh, Daren, you won’t believe this. He said, our little guy, he actually, he actually requested to, uh, listen to the sound of the ocean. And he says, I wanna use that because now I know what the ocean is like, because I’ve been there. And it was the first time he was able to sit for like 30 minutes and regulate and be calm and, and, and, and just listen to his body and do what he needed to do to calm himself, right? So, so, so it was interesting, um, how much progress you can make, you know, uh, when you do shift, you know, your thinking, your interactions in a way that’s, that’s, uh, you know, trauma informed care and, and meeting the needs of, of, uh, of the kids.
[Madi] Daren’s words of healing, caring, and compassion continue to drive much of the TBRI movement today at the Karyn Purvis Institute. You can learn more about what they do by going to www.child.tcu.edu.
Our hope is that as we continue on in our own healing journeys as individuals, as families, as a country, we keep in mind that no matter how hard, traumatic, tiring, or tough things can feel, you absolutely were never meant to handle it all by yourself. So thank you for walking with us on this constant journey in pursuit of healing and togetherness. It’s been a true honor everybody, thanks for listening.