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"Trauma Therapy: Healing and Hope"

I just finished watching the series of TV Shows on the Freedomscalling.org website that I introduced in my last post. I REALLY enjoyed them and learned so much. What was especially affirming for me was the last segment entitled “Trauma Therapy: Healing and Hope.” Traumatologist Margaret Vasquez details the system of healing that she works with at the Freedom’s Calling Program in Georgia. First, a bit of background.

In the third TV segment, “Brain Function and Trauma,” she discusses the process that the traumatized brain undergoes. She explains clearly and simply how during trauma, stress hormones are released, which constrict the left, logical side of the brain. (For those whose left hand is dominant, the reverse side of the brain is affected.) The right side, which understands time as NOW, “encodes” the traumatic memory. So even after the traumatic event, the brain acts as if it’s still happening. Essentially, what you’ve got is an overactive right side and an underactive left side.

According to Vasquez, her work is to help a client move the trauma from the emotional side of the brain to the logical side so that the brain finally gets it that the trauma happened in the past. She describes this process as “recoding the [traumatic] memory in order [for the brain to] refile the  memory.”  Isn’t that fantastic?  Once the left side of the brain reprocesses the traumatic material, the client’s life normalizes. Post-traumatic Stress (PTS) symptoms resolve. How does she work with clients to facilitate this?

In the “Healing and Hope” segment, Vasquez discusses the system used at her program Freedom’s Calling. Apparently, the client draws all aspects of the experience, not in any type of time sequence; just gets those pictures out. (And, one doesn’t need to be an artist of any sort!)  A storyboard method is used to connect the disconnected bits and pieces of the story. In this way, the tale is “reformatted” in the way that the left side of the brain likes. The next part of the healing involves video. I didn’t quite get this part, but it seems that a third person is video-ed telling the client’s trauma story in a logical progression from beginning to end. The client then gets to show the video, giving him or her some control over the experience and “desensitizing” the material for the client. The two sides of the brain become more balanced. The left side of the brain has incorporated the story that had originally overwhelmed it.

My understanding is rudimentary, so I encourage you to watch the TV segments (see my last post for the links). In any case, the information completely validates how I’ve gone about working with trauma in my life: drawing pictures, discussing the drawings with a therapist, writing my memoir, and reaching out on my blog to discuss trauma with other survivors.  I am so glad that Ms. Vasquez, who is herself a survivor of trauma, is offering her expertise to the world. She is one passionate healer!  And we so need to learn the information that she shares.

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