The Five Ls

A Practical Guide for Helping Loved Ones Heal After Trauma

How do we effectively help our loved ones who are suffering from trauma? And help not just veterans who are suffering, but anyone — like survivors of cancer, sexual assault or abusive relationships?

That’s the question of this book, and it proposes a straightforward, no nonsense approach:

1. We love them.
2. We listen to them.
3. We learn about them and their trauma.
4. We lessen the opportunity for further trauma.
5. We continually lead them to a less chaotic place on this whole journey.

Love is first and the most important because without putting others ahead of ourselves and being willing to enter into their experience, we can’t go anywhere at all. We remain isolated and powerless, like a lightbulb without electricity. This first chapter calls for radical empathy and patience in a world that pushes us in the other direction.

With love in place, all the other Ls can occur. By listening to our loved ones, they feel heard, validated, and we become changed ourselves. By learning about trauma and their experience, we learn not to take the effects of PTSD personally, learn how to avoid fear, and learn how to ask the right kinds of questions that unfold the layers, heal and fosters growth in their transformed identity. By lessening, we protect our loved ones from being needlessly triggered and anxious. And by leading, we can — and will — help our loved ones find order amidst chaos.

Anyone can perform these skills at any time and in any order, though (a) they do overlap and (b) love is the precondition for all of them.


Since 2015, Shawn Banzhaf has been a part of the Pat Tillman Veteran Center at Arizona State University and currently serves as the assistant director of student success for the center, which serves more than 10,000 military-affiliated students. Banzhaf is a lead facilitator for ASU's Trek for Vets in partnership with Huts for Vets Wilderness Therapy.

Praise for this book

In 'The Five Ls: A Practical Guide for Helping Loved Ones Heal After Trauma,' author Shawn Banzhaf serves as a trailblazer, lead climber and guide, as well as Sherpa, charting a course for others while providing much needed sustenance. With humor, pathos and honesty, Shawn courageously opens his life and heart in a way that provides support and guidance for people in need. He didn’t just write this book, he lived it. Shawn draws on his unique combination of skills, education, work experience, military service and personal characteristics.

Denise Bodman Professor, Arizona State University

"I have had the distinct honor of working with Shawn the past several years. A few years ago, I attended one of his live presentations and pinned up my hand-written notes about the 5 Ls on my wall at work. I reference the note often — looking for guidance as I live a life filled with love, joy, catastrophic loss and trauma. That note is tattered now — worn from my fingers flipping it from front to back — using his words to recharge my tank."

Jennie Blair Staff, Arizona State University
Date published
Hills Publishing Group
College or unit

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