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October 11, 2004

11 Oct
Important new changes in the treatment of PTSD are helping survivors and early responders as never before, but sadly these new inroads are little known by most professionals dealing with traumatized adults and kids..

I’ve just come back from presenting a pre-conference workshop and a keynote address at Indiana’s annual meeting of professional social workers (NASW). In keeping with the material in my new book, I spoke about the recent, powerful new discoveries in the treatment of PTSD, and the critical power of the right brain, imagery and imagery-based therapies to heal posttraumatic stress.

These changes have been going on right under our dedicated, clinical noses over the past 10-15 years, thanks to an extraordinary convergence of new data from weirdly diverse disciplines, which normally don’t talk to each other: epidemiology, brain scanning technology, research in the biochemistry of mood states, and a host of inventive trial and error discoveries coming out of the offices of frustrated, creative, committed clinicians. The result is some downright revolutionary information that is extraordinarily helpful to sufferers of PTSD, a syndrome that produces some of the nastiest and most persistent symptoms known to humankind.

But this information is so new and so different from what most practitioners are used to, that the vast majority are still clueless. Besides, most therapists, counselors, social workers and caregivers have been too busy practicing their hardworking butts off, to keep up with this new paradigm shift. Sadly, at this Indiana meeting of my social work colleagues, only a small percentage were even vaguely familiar with these new ideas and practical applications.

And as you probably know, social workers are the ones who, more than any other professional group, deal with trauma, day in and day out. It’s the social workers whose job it is to look after the abused babies and kids and their troubled families; who deal with foster care and adoption; who try and help incarcerated, traumatized adolescents and adults who’ve experienced and/or perpetrated all manner of horror. It’s the social workers, more than any other professional group, who work with adult survivors of domestic violence and incest; and who try to help impoverished, inner city survivors on welfare – the ones who typically suffer, in outsized proportions, multiple forms of complex PTSD. Social workers help the people without voices, the powerless ones who contend with the most hardship and horror. I’m a social worker. I love social workers.

But, holy cow, my colleagues simply must be brought up to speed on this stuff. Not only will this info provide effective ways to deal with the debilitating, severe symptoms of posttraumatic stress; it will provide faster, cheaper and more amenable approaches to populations that have little time, money or compatibility with standard, deep-dish talk therapy (which, ironically, so often doesn’t work anyway for PTSD, and which sometimes makes matters even worse).

Many social workers came up to me afterward, asking where they could get training, how they could learn more and apply these discoveries to the populations they work with. I had many suggestions for them. It was both heartening and a little overwhelming, because it’s clear I need to be speaking to more groups like this. This is where maximum benefit to the most people lies - in talking to my fellow social workers. I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me sooner. I’ll of course still keep talking with all sorts of groups - after all, trauma survivors are everywhere. But my new resolve is to reach more social work organizations and get the word out as efficiently as possible.

So, if this ancient carcass of mine doesn’t give out, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m already scheduled to speak to several state social work organizations in 2005, but apparently not enough of them. Cindy Stalnaker (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) will be booking more keynotes, workshops and talks for next year. Email or call her at 800.800.8661 if you think your organization is a fit.

Thanks. Take care and be well.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award