Trauma, Relinquishment, Adoption, Toxic or Chronic Shame, Secure and Insecure Attachment, and Joy

May and Louise attended the Calo Programs Healing Trauma Conference entitled: Toxic Shame and the Silence of Joy May 21-23, 2018 at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.  Calo has always been a leader in therapy related to adoption and developmental trauma.  In the last few years, they have acquired an ownership position in New Visions Wilderness, with locations currently in Oregon and Wisconsin and a new location planned for North Carolina to be opened this year.  In addition, they plan to open a residential program in Pennsylvania.Calo has a preteen program and a teen program in Missouri and a young adult program in Winchester, VA called Calo for Young Adults.  They also recently acquired ownership in a young adult program we like a lot in Oregon called Dragonfly Transitions, run by Glenn White and Dr. Mona Treadway.  They have also added a family intensive program called Embark, that is available to Calo families and other families that are not enrolled in a Calo program, but want to do a family intensive program.

May and Louise were able to visit the pre-teen program and the teen program, and were able to visit with some of the Price Group students.  We also got to play with the canines! Canines help the students learn to connect and regulate their emotions and students who have had trauma experiences often feel safer with animals at first than with people.  They often experience connection with the canines and learn to have healthy boundaries with the animals. Those relationships also begin to transfer to humans as they begin to do their therapeutic work.


Calo’s primary therapeutic model is called CASA, which stands for Commitment, Acceptance, Security, and Attunement.  Many of the presenters spent time explaining how shame is toxic and damaging to all of us. Shame occurs when someone believes they are unlovable and are “bad”; guilt occurs when someone is able to say “I did something bad.”  Here are a few of the quotes from the lectures: “Shame is a soul eating emotion.” Carl Jung. “Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame.” Benjamin Franklin. Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.  Brene Brown. Shame exponentially grows if there is secrecy, silence, and judgment. Where perfectionism exists, shame is always lurking. Shame is the fear that we are not good enough.

In order to heal and move beyond shame, we need connection and attunement. We need safe relational experiences with trusted caregivers. Many of our adopted students have a great deal of difficulty managing their emotions and very quickly go to a place of shame, isolation, and avoidance. There is a big difference between shame and guilt.  When someone feels shame, they are voicing “I am bad.  I am a bad person.” The shame quickly turns into denial, despair, and self-loathing.  When someone feels guilt, they are voicing “I made a mistake.  I did something bad.” which is very different. Guilt creates a recognition that you need to change the sorrow or remorse and a faith that you can change the behavior. It is a healthy emotion that leads to positive change.  


Calo and the related programs have many therapies that help students begin to change their trauma responses and calm/soothe their neurological systems.  Therapies like: Trauma Sensitive Yoga, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Brainspotting, Heart Math, Canine Therapy, Experiential Therapy and Neurofeedback are just some of the less traditional but very successful therapies utilized to help students begin to regulate and connect in a healthier way to caregivers, parents, siblings and teachers.


Calo’s CEO, Alex Starvos, and others at Calo made a distinction between happiness and joy.  They believe that happiness is often the absence of pain or suffering and is elusive. However, joy is a quite a different emotion and can be experienced even when suffering and pain are also present. Joy is more an experience of being in the “present” and being able to experience the connection and love from one another.  We can learn to be still and meditate and focus on people and events that bring us joy and as we share joy with others, our joy and their joy will increase!

Check out the video from Calo of the conference here!