Helga Luest is a recognized trauma expert, keynote presenter, and trainer. Helga’s professional focus to facilitate positive social change stems largely from her own life experiences. She survived an attempted murder in 1993 and, more recently, domestic abuse.
Helga currently works with Abt Associates where she is managing editor of SAMHSA News (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and communications officer with the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
Helga founded Witness Justice, a national nonprofit that made a significant imprint for survivors of violence and trauma, and led those efforts from 2001 to 2014. Helga continues the vision and work of Witness Justice without the organizational structure, advocating for positive social change while providing strategic programs, trainings, and presentations. Her new initiative is called Trauma Informed – or TraumaInformed.org.
The final stage of healing begins when you are able to make a conscious effort to do something positive with that dark cloud that’s been hanging over you.
What Led to the Specialization of Trauma?
Helga shares a harrowing story about a traumatic experience she had in 1993 and the long journey of healing which she had to endure.
A Crucial Early Mistake
When Helga started up the Witness Justice program, she thought that talk therapy and medications would be the answer for her healing. Now, however, she has recognized that the most important element in healing is the creation of a safe relationship.
I was really fortunate to have been so close to death and was given a second chance and I’m not going to waste this time. I want to leave a legacy of healing and continue the work with our policy makers and our government administration to help build understanding around trauma and how it affects people.
- It’s great to know where trauma informed care came from, but it’s also important to know that there are a lot of things that we haven’t yet discovered. Be creative.
- It’s important to stay connected and share with other care providers and survivors.
Helga’s go-to books
- Trauma Recovery and Empowerment: A Clinician’s Guide for Working with Women in Groups, Maxine Harris
- Healing Invisible Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recovery in a Violent World, Richard F. Mollica
- Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character, Jonathan Shay