Monday, January 11, 2010

Frontier of Trauma Treatment

In the morning session, Bessel showed several incredible videos. These were case interviews from several extraordinarily skilled therapists. These were the kind of videos of which you want to study every frame.

One of the videos showed a 15 month (or so) old boy with his mom. They were very connected, playing, humming and in synchronicity. At some point the mom had a traumatic memory and she froze. The boy kept humming along, but suspecting something was wrong. Then he started trying to get his mom's attention. Realizing something was wrong he would look to the camera man, but then quickly back to his mom. He would say in semi baby words: "mommy it's me! mommy it's me!!" and cried for a few seconds.

After a minute or so, the mom came back online and quickly returned to synchronicity. When the boy came back for the next visit one month later, the researchers measured increased cortisol when he entered the same room. In other words, the boy remembered and had a traumatic reaction to the previous session. To me this story illustrates how easy it is to cause trauma even by capable, loving parents that are dealing with their own trauma and how much work we have to do on this frontier to break this chain of passing on trauma.

Bessel talked a little bit about Personal Biology. Humans seek social synchronicity and try to get on the same page with others. In fact we have mirror neurons in our brain that get activated when other people act. This explains why so many people enjoy watching TV. Our brain actually sends out mirror signals very similar as if we were doing it ourselves.

The left and right outer brains all deal with social interaction. This is such a big part of human existence. However, the middle part of the brain deals with the self. Specifically, the prefrontal cortex, which gets activated through the Amygdalia. This part is usually under-developed in trauma patients (since a lot of their attention is spent in fight or flight mode). Developing this area is key to trauma patients. It can be accessed through yoga and movement. NOT through social interaction!

In conclusion, I thank both Bessel van der Kolk and Dana Moore for their hospitality and for being on the frontier of trauma treatment. They give us the confidence that trauma can be "out-grown" and there are effective tools available that take 8 weeks to 18 months but will be effective (EMDR, Yoga, IFS, Meditatation, Martial Arts, dance and other movement) under the guidance of a skilled therapist and a positive support system. I witnessed on video how one girl that was severely abused as a child was able to finally return to brain synchronicity and get access to the frontal parts of her brain. Hearing her tell her story with such articulation, authenticity and confidence is incredibly empowering.

I sign off from this assignment with a picture I took in the AM of the beautiful mountains of the Berkshires. To me right now, this picture symbolizes the frontier of human capital. I report to you that I saw it this weekend, it is beautiful and it exists out there, on the horizon. What do we do today to start moving in that direction which, deep down, we all know is the right direction?


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