Relationships, Connection and Healing from Trauma

UnknownI’m reading an excellent book at the moment, which I can strongly recommend to you. If you’re working in the trauma field, then The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And other Stories From a Child Psychiatrists Notebook by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz is an essential read.

The book really gives you a feel for how our understanding of childhood trauma and its healing has moved along over the years. Bruce Perry is a real leader in this field and I feel blessed to have learnt of both Bruce’s and Bessel van der Kolk’s work in the past year. Thank you Judy and Carlie Atkinson.

Here’s a little section from the book:

‘Trauma and our responses to it cannot be understood outside the context of human relationships… The most traumatic aspects of all disasters involve the shattering of human connections. And this is especially true for children…’

‘Because humans are inescapably social beings, the worst catastrophes that can befall us inevitably involve relational loss.

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Breaking Trauma Trails: Facilitating the Healing of Indigenous People (Part 4)

3702998I recently wrote three blogs about my other initiative Sharing Culture – which is focused on the healing of Indigenous people – and what we are trying to do [Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3]. It is time to continue with another part, which will focus on our activities over the past 18 months.

Progress To Date
The first development was the Sharing Culture website, launched in late-2013. We set out with the aim of developing a small website focusing on historical trauma, healing and culture, primarily using the voices of Indigenous people (which is why you see so many quotes) within an organised framework. We wanted our audience to gain a basic understanding of key issues relating to Indigenous healing.

The information (written and film) I provided was obtained from web pages, books, science papers and personal communications. A considerable amount of research, reading and watching of films was involved in bringing this content together. In addition to this content, I included Stories, both of individuals (e.g. Professor Judy Atkinson) and initiatives (e.g. the Native American Wellbriety Movement).

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Breaking Trauma Trails: Facilitating the Healing of Indigenous People (Parts 2 and 3)

42115582. Working towards solutions with Sharing Culture
We developed Sharing Culture as a way to help tackle historical trauma (and its consequences) and facilitate Indigenous healing.

Sharing Culture is a grassroots initiative based on the core values of authenticity, connection, courage, creativity, empathy and forgiveness. We use a strengths-based, solution-focused approach that celebrates success and fosters positivity, acceptance and cultural pride.

We recognise that self-determinism is a central foundation of healing – solutions must come from Indigenous communities. At the same time, non-Indigenous people can contribute to this healing process in a variety of ways.

One major way that Sharing Culture will facilitate this healing process is to generate high quality educational content and Stories about Indigenous healing and the healing of trauma, and distribute it in the most effective manner to as wide an audience as possible.

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‘From Trauma to Transformative Recovery’ by Bill White

Trauma to Transformation ImageAnother wonderful blog from Bill White, recently posted on his excellent website.

Between 1986 and 2003, I served as the evaluator of an innovative approach to the treatment of addicted women with histories of neglect or abuse of their children.

Project SAFE eventually expanded from four pilot sites to more than 20 Illinois communities using a model that integrated addiction treatment, child welfare, mental health, and domestic violence services.  This project garnered considerable professional and public attention, including being profiled within Bill Moyers’ PBS documentary, Moyers on Addiction:  Close to Home.

My subsequent writings on recovery management and recovery-oriented systems of care were profoundly influenced by the more than 15 years I spent interviewing the women served by Project SAFE and the Project SAFE outreach workers, therapists, parenting trainers, and child protection case workers.  This blog offers a few reflections on what was learned within this project about the role of trauma in addiction and addiction recovery.

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‘Healing Trauma: What We Are Doing Wrong… and What We Need To Do To Get It Right’ by Bessel van der Kolk

338059More from Bessel van der Kolk’s wonderful book. If you want to know more about trauma and its healing, this is an essential buy.

‘We are fundamentally social creatures – our brains are wired to foster working and playing together.

Trauma devastates the social-engagement system and interferes with cooperation, nurturing, and the ability to function as a productive member of the clan.

In this book, we have seen how many mental health problems, from drug addiction to self-injurious behavior, start off as attempts to cope with emotions that become unbearable because of a lack of adequate human contact and support.

Yet institutions that deal with traumatized children and adults are all too often bypass the emotional-engagement system that is the foundation of who we are and instead focus narrowly on correcting “faulty thinking” and on suppressing unpleasant emotions and troublesome behaviors.

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Learn the Signs and Symptoms of PTSD, with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk

One of the world’s foremost psychiatrists specializing in PTSD, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk visits Big Think to discuss the history of the disorder, its varying effects on sufferers of all ages, and forms of treatment that can “help people to come back to life.”

To understand PTSD, says Dr. van der Kolk, you have to understand the nature of trauma and the ways in which traumatic triggers can vaporize anyone’s joie de vivre.

20 Ways To Facilitate Indigenous Healing, Part 1

2007_0118walpole01151-220x164Some of you will know I also run the Sharing Culture website, which focuses on Indigenous healing. Today, I thought I would upload the same blog onto both websites. My action reflects the importance I attach to this area.

Society has the knowledge to facilitate Indigenous healing. This knowledge comes from individuals who have overcome great adversity and undergone a healing process (the lived solution); successful Indigenous healing initiatives, and scientific research demonstrating key principles underlying healing.

Sadly, however, this knowledge is neither disseminated well, nor implemented enough by government and health care, social welfare and criminal justice systems. As a result, society is not helping Indigenous people improve their health and wellbeing to the level it should.

In this and forthcoming blogs, I shall briefly describe 20 ways to facilitate Indigenous healing. Here are the first five.

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‘Healing From Trauma: Owning Your Self’ by Bessel van der Kolk

UnknownThe Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk is one of the best books I have read in a very long time. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the healing of trauma. Here’s a short excerpt:

‘Nobody can “treat” a war, or abuse, or rape, molestation, or any other horrendous event, for that matter; what has happened cannot be undone.

But what can be dealt with are the imprints of the trauma on body, mind and soul: the crushing sensations in your chest that you may label as anxiety or depression; the fear of losing control; always being on alert for danger or rejection; the self-loathing; the nightmares and flashbacks; the fog that keeps you from staying on task and engaging fully in what you are doing; being unable to fully open your heart to another human being.

Trauma robs you of the feeling that you are in charge of yourself, of what I will call self-leadership in the chapters to come.

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Psychiatry Must Stop Ignoring Trauma, with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk

Acclaimed psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk explores his field’s long, complex, and stubborn history with trauma. Dr. van der Kolk explains how psychiatry as a whole avoided progress, often misdiagnosing trauma as hysteria or, in the case of shell-shocked soldiers, malingering.

The experiences of abused women and children were more or less ignored for a century. They’re still being ignored in ways, he says.

‘“Do I Have to Feel so Badly About Myself?” – The Legacies of Guilt, Shame and Anxiety’ by Peter Breggin, MD

pbregginGuilt, shame and anxiety are intimately tied to addiction. Here is a blog on these emotions by one of my favourite people, Dr. Peter Breggin, which appeared in Mad in America.

‘Guilt, Shame and Anxiety defines these negative emotions, shows how they act as primitive enforcers of anger management, describes many alternative methods of identifying their presence in our lives, enables us to discover our personal negative emotional profile, and shows how to reject these emotions and to triumph over them.

And now we can answer the question asked in the title, “Do I have to feel so badly about myself?” The answer is a definitive “No!”  You do not have to live with your emotions out of control.  You do not have to feel stymied by painful feelings whenever you seek to be more peaceful or relaxed, more creative, braver, more loving, more independent, or simply happier.  You do not have to live this way.

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Behind the Pages with Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD

“The vast majority of drug abuse is associated with earlier trauma. It’s very rare to see somebody who becomes a drug addict who not also has a history of abuse and neglect.” Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD

Behind The Pages host Diane Goshgarian interviews author Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD about his new book The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. Interview recorded at 22-CityView Cambridge on October 08, 2014.

As I said last week, this book is essential reading if you are working in the mental health and addiction fields.

‘The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma’ by Bessel van der Kolk MD

UnknownI have been saddened over the years by how little attention the addiction treatment field pays to the role of trauma in the development and maintenance of addiction. Tremendous efforts are made to argue that addiction is a disease or the person’s fault, but where are the arguments about the role of trauma (Gabor Mate being a notable exception)?

It is quite possible that the majority of people who develop an addiction to drugs and alcohol suffer from the impact of trauma. They use drugs (illicit and prescription) and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Many of these people will have been traumatised as children, and many will have been retraumatised through their experiences in the treatment system. 

I am just finishing an extraordinary book which is essential reading for anyone interested in trauma. I amazed by the advances that have been made in our understanding of trauma – in terms of its effects on our brain, mind and body – and how we can help people heal from its impact.

Bessel van der Kolk has written a classic. And the work that he and his colleagues – and a whole network of centers around the US – are doing is remarkable. As a scientist, it really excites me. As a person who cares, it really gives me hope.

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Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community: Hope & Healing Through Community

‘This 12 minute video about the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community (RLC) introduces viewers to the RLC philosophy and provides a window into that community in all its diversity and vibrancy!

The Western Mass RLC supports individuals who have lived experience with trauma, extreme emotional states and/or mental health diagnoses in finding their own paths to recovery by offering trauma-sensitive peer supports and through the development of a regional peer network.

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Eleanor Longden: The voices in my head

Brilliant and very moving TED talk from Eleanor Longden.

‘To all appearances, Eleanor Longden was just like every other student, heading to college full of promise and without a care in the world. That was until the voices in her head started talking. Initially innocuous, these internal narrators became increasingly antagonistic and dictatorial, turning her life into a living nightmare.

Diagnosed with schizophrenia, hospitalized, drugged, Longden was discarded by a system that didn’t know how to help her.

Longden tells the moving tale of her years-long journey back to mental health, and makes the case that it was through learning to listen to her voices that she was able to survive.’

‘Want to reduce mental illness? Address trauma. Want to save the world? Address trauma.’ by Laura K Kerr PhD

Scapegoat‘Different explanations have been given for the increased number of people suffering from mental illness. Some have claimed the increase is the result of ever-expanding diagnostic criteria and syndromes that risk medicalizing normal emotional reactions.

Others argue the increase is the result of the pharmaceutical industry financially courting the medical establishment as well as using advertisements to attract potential users of their medications.

While both these arguments seem correct, they nevertheless fail to address that an increasing number of people regularly experience despair and anguish and are struggling to make a meaningful life, if not keep themselves psychologically, socially, and financially afloat.

I would like to suggest an additional explanation for the increase in mental illness: The upsurge is the result of the collective failure to alleviate conditions that contribute to trauma-related stress.

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Climbing out of addiction and depression: Margo Talbot at TEDxCanmore

Great talk and pics and one hell of a recovery!

‘Current research suggests that addiction and depression are symptoms of emotional distress, not causes of it, forging the link between childhood trauma and mental illness. Margo Talbot’s journey supports these studies.

Diagnosed Bi Polar at age twenty-two, Margo spent the next fifteen years in suicidal depression before discovering the healing power of presence as the antidote to emotional trauma. Being present to our thoughts and emotions, not running the other way or masking them. Where best to practice the art of presence than the frozen world of ice climbing…

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‘Experiencing Recovery – Part 7′ by William L. White: Family Recovery

Bill briefly describes how many families fall apart during the early stages of recovery and points out that as a society we do very little about this. Stephanie Brown describes this effect on family as the trauma of recovery.

Emotional CPR: Saving Lives, Healing Communities

Emotional CPR (eCPR) is a public health education program designed to teach people to assist others through an emotional crisis  by three simple steps: C = Connecting; P = emPowering, and R = Revitalizing.

People who have been through the training consistently report that the skills they learned have helped them communicate better in all their relationships. They tell us that cCPR is a way of life.

Presenters will use real life stories to explore how eCPR is healing communities, including:

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‘Addictions & Corrections’ with Gabor Maté (Part 1of 2)

JUST REALISED – this is my 500th blog on the website!

“What is it that the correctional service actually corrects? In my view very little…and…the justice system is completely criminal and it should be studied…” So begins a provocative presentation by trauma and addiction treatment expert, Gabor Maté, M.D.

You can find Part 2 here.

‘Building Bridges Between Mental Health and Addictions Communities’ by Oryx Cohen

ocohenThere is a real need to connect addiction and mental health communities, so this blog from Mad in America is very interesting.

‘When Linda Sarage and Jake Powers first approached me about writing a section for the fantastic manual developed by the addictions community – From the Ground Up: How to Build Your own Peer-to-Peer Recovery Center – that would help connect this manual to the mental health community, I envisioned writing a section that would serve as some sort of translation tool that could connect two very different communities toward a common purpose. 

After reading the manual, however, I quickly remembered how much the mental health community has in common with the substance abuse community and how little “translation” is actually needed.

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