“What should we do?”

This was the question that floated across the space between us after two broken-hearted parents talked about their quest for healing with their son, adopted from a far-away land at the age of two.  We’d discussed previous relationships with therapists, their son’s work with a psychiatrist, medications, the extra support needed from teachers and principals along the way, the number of activities and extra-curriculars their son had been dismissed from, the family friendships that had been broken, the hostile vibrations in the home because of the rhythm between this youngster and his siblings, their unanswered prayers…  You get the picture.  And now, after a solid handful of sessions in neurofeedback, they wanted to know:  More therapy?  New therapy?  More neurofeedback?  New medication?

As we explored next steps, I could sense Mom’s earnestness around whether they’d found – finally – the right combination for their son.  ”After neurofeedback, he is much calmer.  But it doesn’t seem to last… If we do more, will he be calmer and less aggressive?  What do you think, Jen?  Should we do another round of neuro?”

I want to tell you exactly what I told her.  Because so many families I’ve worked with are enslaved to the search for the “Holy Grail,” my hope is that it that these words will set you free…  There is no substitute for human relationship.

Is “it” neurofeedback?  Neurotransmittter testing and nutritional supplements?  Working with the most sought after therapist? Perfect execution of the parenting techniques du jour?  No. “It” is relationship.  Period.

Don’t get me wrong…  All of these tools (and more than) I mentioned above are exactly that – tools.  But tools are only supplements… That which is more important than the tool is the hand that holds it. Can a tool like neurofeedback or specific parenting strategies be helpful to a hurting child and her family?  Of course they can!  But put any tool in the hands of an attuned, connected, relational caregiver/facilitator, and find that the tool is exponentially more powerful because it is carried by the current of relationship.

So, if you are in search of the Holy Grail, the thing that will heal your child and help your family… Permission granted to abort the mission.  As a lifelong learner, navigating the complex maze that is loving a child with a history of trauma, you will need to continue to be open to exploring which tools may be most helpful to your family.  But while you discover and integrate these tools, please remember how insignificant they are when sized up against loving, attuned, and intentional relationship.  Time and time again, we are reminded that we were made for relationship.  So the easiest (and simultaneously, I acknowledge, the most difficult) answer is relationship and the most powerful healer is YOU.  How powerful we are able to be depends largely on our ability to connect, especially in times of trouble.  So, be encouraged.  If there is a Holy Grail, it is already in you…

Yours in Love, Light, & Relationship,


Jen Winkelmann