Creative Coping: Healing from trauma

by Stacia Friedman
Posted 9/1/22

Lately, the news cycle can seem like a constant drum beat of physical and emotional trauma.

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Creative Coping: Healing from trauma


Lately, the news cycle can seem like a constant drum beat of physical and emotional trauma: COVID, Monkeypox, gun violence, sexual assault, war, racism, political polarization and inflation. 

How can we, as individuals and as a community, learn to cope and heal? 

That was the question addressed by Mt. Airy social worker Aviva Perlo at a community event August 24 at the Chestnut Hill Library. Perlo’s therapy practice, Creative Coping, hosted the event along with community support from Weavers Way, Kilian’s Hardware and Philadelphia Community Acupuncture.

As twenty attendees filed into the room and took their seats in a circle, award-winning percussionist Karen Smith played soft, soothing music. Following an introduction by Perlo, three community members shared experiences of trauma and healing. A female pastor described how she became alienated from the church after being sexually assaulted by clergy. 

“To me, the church is not a safe place. That is a problem for many victims of clergy sexual abuse,” she said. “I found healing through writing, mental health services, volunteerism and community service.”

Next, an artist told how, following a bicycle accident that had rendered him unconscious, he had been brought back to life by a passing stranger who performed CPR. He also recalled a traumatic incident from his childhood. “I was seven years-old and when I came home from school, I asked my mother about the man and the car in front of our house. She said no one was there.  But on her deathbed, she told me that I had saved her from being raped by coming home when I did.”

The last speaker was a staff member at Weavers Way who conveyed the heartbreaking story of losing her adult daughter to gun violence. “Besides being overcome with grief, I suddenly became a parent to my daughter’s two sons, aged nine and two. Weavers Way helped with grief counseling and collected donations. A five thousand $5,000 gift helped pay for my daughter’s funeral,” she said. “I was supported by my co-op family, my church family and my real family. We have to lean on each other.”

Perlo founded Creative Coping in 2011 to provide innovative tools that help people manage life changes. “I spent 20 years studying trauma and working in the field, searching for comprehensive models to address these growing problems. Eventually I created a model based on many things because an integrative model is ideal” Perlo said.

The key is for individuals, families, and communities to connect their life stories with therapeutic teachings and referrals, and express themselves creatively, Perlo said. Instead of using just one kind of therapy, Creative Coping promotes many kinds of support. 

“The goals are to come together, share, listen, and learn from each other, in addition to absorbing clinical teachings from social workers which empower participants to take action,” Perlo said. 

Previously, she used a similar model to start other new social service programs in Philadelphia. She has implemented four initiatives in multiple cities: on gun violence prevention, prevention of depression among seniors, public health programs in schools, and now coping skills. 

“This was a pilot event,” Perlo said of the gathering at Chestnut Hill Library. “Future programs are under development and will run for several weeks to offer education on support systems, mental health, public health, violence prevention, and safety plans. Social workers will facilitate. My programs are designed to enhance the skills of educators as well as individuals.” 

Perlo earned her master’s degree in social work with a concentration in management and trauma studies from Temple University and took courses at Drexel University’s School of Public Health. Her first book, “A Coping Manual,”  will be released in 2023. For more information see