WOUNDED HEALERS: The Eight Steps of Healing Others

WOUNDED HEALERS: The Eight Steps of Healing Others

Wounded Paradigms

A favorite author of mine (and an old friend since passed with whom I shared music at his retreats) wrote a book called, “The Wounded Healer.”1 The premise of the book was to create new paradigms for ministry in the 21st Century. Given the recent revelations of abuse in the Catholic Church, among youth sports coaches in Canada, gymnastic coaches and medical professionals in the States and the scandals of abuse in the Southern Baptist denomination, it is apparent that a new model for people in all social service professions, not just religious, is critical. 

Nouwen’s work is very similar to the work by Brené Brown on embracing vulnerability2 as a strength rather than avoiding honest self-revelation.

Embracing ‘Woundedness’

Embracing our ‘woundedness’ involves multiple steps:

  1. We cannot leave our trauma “out of the room,” when we go in. We must acknowledge we too are prone to interpreting each situation through our own eyes of adversity while simultaneously being prone to second-hand trauma during the process of healing other wounded people.
  2. Woundedness can create compassion and wisdom, but it can also create a need for control and compliance. There’s a critical self-awareness or even a need for a “third eye” to keep us focused on a growth mindset rather than closing our focus around semi-truths named in processing our own pain. 
  3. Making sure we create and keep habits of mindfulness and self-care while being vulnerable to others is critical. 
  4. Continuing that thought, we should be able to admit that our own personal histories often lead us to blur the lines between belief and truth. Often our “truths” are really beliefs that may not be true for others.
  5. Social support outside of our “silos” is critical. Make sure your circle of friends includes people who are outside your profession. 
  6. Rather than contract your interests solely on work, expand them. Growing hobbies that distract us from taking our work or ourselves too seriously is vital. These “distractions” or “autotelic experiences”3 assure a balanced life. We don’t burn out from doing too much, we burn out from doing too much of the same thing.
  7. You don’t have time to not care for your body. Your mental health is critical to helping others and your mental health is tied to your physical health.
  8. Grow self-compassion. Lead the way to wholeness for your people by modeling the ability to give up being an expert and forgiving yourself when you error.

Augustine of Hippo would urge us to “Fail Boldly.”4 Re-vision failures as learning experiences and don’t associate those experiences with your character (“I made a mistake,” instead of, “I’m a failure”). If you’re brave enough to fail, you’re in a growth mindset.

A New Service Paradigm

It’s not new, but it’s essential. We need an underlying paradigm of service that embraces being wounded and vulnerable ourselves. A service by the wounded, to the wounded and of the wounded. 


  1. The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen,, Doubleday, 1972
  2. The Power of Vulnerability, Brené Brown,, 1994, Sounds True, Inc.
  3. The Autotelic Personality, Finding Happiness in Flow, C. Wilson Melloncelli,
  4. The Confessions of Augustine,, c. 397


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