Article by Rachel Preibisch
Often we must experience our own healing before we can share this gift with others. Victor Cabral, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at Fluence Training, is living his own healing journey, and now moves through his various roles in a focused commitment to the healing that is needed in his communities.
Victor is in the unique position to help change policy, train clinicians, and to educate communities. Victor uses the term generational trauma to describe the trauma that he inherited, and which he sees around him. When asked what that term means to him, he is thoughtful.
“It means all of the hurtful experiences that have been handed down to our collective physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies generation after generation.The focus of my work is to empower human beings and more specifically, historically marginalized communities, to awaken to their ability to effect positive change in their lives individually and collectively as well as supporting allies in creating more equitable structures that catalyze liberation for all human beings. The next seven generations will not be shackled by trauma and will be empowered to create a better world.” He also explains that this happens through building community. “The more I can empower people to do the same,” he says, “the more we can catalyze the breaking of cycles, and that’s how I think we can change the world.”
Victor was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico to parents who had immigrated from the Dominican Republic. By age seven he had moved with his family to Reading, Pennsylvania. He recalls experiencing racism for the first time during the years that his family moved around the area. He was bullied in school, and he struggled academically. He speaks of experiencing environmental trauma from a young age as a result of domestic and community violence. Victor credits his parents, close friends and family, sports, and mentors for supporting him in transcending his environment and making a commitment to reach back to his community to empower others.
While Victor can remember different parts of growing up in poverty, such as his mother standing in food lines, what he remembers most is his parents’ commitment to doing the best they could. During Victor’s childhood his mother bought a house of her own. A structure that was falling apart, she worked tirelessly to ensure that the home was a habitable and safe place for her family. This was the home that Victor moved back to as an adult when he was laying the stones that would rebuild his life.
When Victor began his Masters Degree program in 2016, he began to feel like he had reached a limit for himself in talk therapy, and he began to experiment with alternative forms of healing. It was in the summer before he began his Masters Studies when he had his first psychedelic experience. Victor says regarding what he got from that experience and time: “When we talk about intergenerational trauma, when we talk about identity and what it is and how we make sense of that [when] looking at our family history…getting to the core of who I was at that point, kind of gave me a blank slate from which to start asking questions about who I really was. And being immersed in a Master of Social Work program really gave me the language and the models that I needed to observe both the issues that were happening in my community, and the issues that I had faced.”
During his time in graduate school, Victor had the opportunity to visit Mumbai, India, where he experienced a powerful transformative moment in his understanding of intergenerational trauma. Visiting the slums, he got a flashback to his childhood and remembered his mother and grandmother’s homes in the Dominican Republic: He realized that these homes were slums. This was the first time he fully understood his mother’s life, the trauma she endured, her trajectory, and what she had had to go through in order to provide for her family.
Victor was awarded his Masters Degree in 2019, doing his research in the area of psychedelics. After graduation he decided he wanted to immerse himself in community work as a method of catalyzing and pursuing healing. He was the first male of color to be granted a William Penn Fellowship, a position where he worked with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. He was pulled early from this position and offered a permanent position in Governor Wolf’s Office of Advocacy as an Executive Policy Specialist. Following that he transitioned to Deputy Director of the Governor’s Office of Advocacy and Reform, and most recently to the position of Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs for Fluence International, a company which trains clinicians to provide psychedelic-assisted therapy and psychedelic integration.
This work excites Victor because he believes that psychedelic-assisted therapy can be a powerful tool for empowerment in historically marginalized communities. He wants to empower communities to heal themselves from intergenerational trauma. He approaches this not only through his policy work, but also through psychotherapy, coaching services, advising and consulting on issues pertaining to the BIPOC community, as well as training and workshop facilitation directly to BIPOC communities.
When asked about where he derives his passion, Victor does not hesitate to share. “One of the places that it comes from is honoring the sacrifice that my parents made. Honoring my mother, honoring my father, my grandparents, my ancestors, and making sure that their sacrifices weren’t in vain. My passion comes from leaving behind a better world for my children, so that they don’t have to go through the things that I went through, both outside of my household and inside of it.
“It comes from the idea that we’re all one: Ubuntu, a West African philosophy. That means I am because we are. That notion is essentially that none of us are free or healed until all of us are. And so what fuels my work is trying as best as I can to catalyze healing, empowerment, and liberation for everyone starting with my community and the community that I’m in proximity with.
“When I first started doing social work…I went through a period where I was really depressed, because I wanted to change the world, but it seemed so out of reach. And then I realized that the best way to change the world is to focus on the people you can touch. I’m here to serve. I’m a servant leader. I see my liberation and healing bound to my fellow human beings. That means I feel a responsibility to create space for people who don’t have a voice to be heard.”
Victor’s expertise is multifaceted and he is excited by opportunities for professional partnership in any of the areas he cares about. He focuses on liberatory practices and the social-ecological approach to social issues, specifically related to BIPOC issues and racial trauma. He works on policy issues that pertain to the BIPOC community around any social issues related to health, the criminal justice system, and how they interrelate with mental health and intergenerational trauma.
He is able to speak to issues of communal trauma in marginalized communities, and culturally competent and trauma-informed ways to engage communities of color. He is active in community advocacy and working in historically marginalized communities offering assistance in mental health treatment and education. He welcomes opportunities for collaborative work, and organizations can contact him for assistance in any of these areas.