The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 980: Brain, Mind and Body in Healing from Trauma (Archive)

To help people heal from trauma, the best approaches find ways to reconnect brain and body with a feeling of safety.
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Brain, Mind and Body in Healing from Trauma (Archive)

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We often associate the term “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” with military veterans. Indeed, war creates many traumatic experiences, but it is not the only source of reactions that may cause people to shut down or blow up. Car, train or plane crashes, a life-threatening illness episode, family violence or other events can create a dysfunctional reaction that may be largely out of conscious awareness.

Treating PTSD:

One of the world’s leading experts on PTSD explains how such reactions are rooted in the body’s response to threat, and how it can be successfully treated. Yoga, neurofeedback, theater, mindfulness meditation and EMDR may all sound implausible, but when used appropriately they can be more useful in treating the trauma survivor than psychiatric medications.

This Week’s Guest:

Bessel van der Kolk, MD, is a leading researcher and clinician in the field of traumatic stress. He is founder and medical director of the Trauma Center in Boston, MA, and professor in the department of psychiatry at Boston University Medical School.

Dr. van der Kolk is co-director of the Complex Trauma Treatment Network of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, established by Congress to raise the standard of care and improve access to services for traumatized children, their families and communities. His website is

His book is The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma (2014).

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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Few MSW’s, psychiatrists or psychologists have received extensive training to work with PTSD clients. The harm caused over the past decade when they saw a new profit opportunity with little training runs deep. Peter Levine, Ph.D, neurobiology, has led in this field for several decades and in his 80’s now, has saved 1000’s of PTSD survivors who found his work + exercises reading his books meant for fellow practitioners to treat clients.

Most PTSD counselors have never read them. Agree that people away from major medical centers are at a great disadvantage to find competent help for PTSD. Levine has a very important work out recently with guidance on how to prevent PTSD following trauma. We can apply these easy to practice techniques on behalf of others and ourselves soon after experiencing trauma. Check Amazon. Avoid one method therapists. Each survivor needs access to many methods to learn what works for them.

I am so happy to hear about these alternatives to medication. What a fabulous podcast! I want to thank you for lending credence to these various avenues of recovering oneself. It is perfectly practical and makes sense to me. Thank you to all involved.

I have had PTSD fro over 30 years and basically recovered! I was addicted to benzodiazapines fro 13 yrs-that in itself will create the neurobiology for chronic disassocaition!

I was able to recall pivotal traumatic events that occured in childhood, distance and eventually process a family history of Narcissistic abuse and, finally live a life of authenticity based on compassion and kindness-psychological traits I helped to develop from yrs of struggle! Meds are ok if use shortterm-the benzos were never intended to be prescribed and used for long. For example , clonazepan was intended to be used for only 4 months due to its efficacy and potency. I tapered and detoxed off the meds, starting using mindfulness techniques like meditation, and slowly exposed myself to situations that were traumatizing-exposure therapy.
I have alot of snesitivity to stress and am trying to increase my threshold. I use cannabis to help w sleep, the non-psychotropic form of cannibinols (CBD) to help w neuromodulation of the endocannibiniod system-a system that helps regulate inflammation, stress and the internal production of endogenous cannibinoids. Fortunately, an advanced knowledge of psychology and psychopharmacology helped me.

Also, being able to read and understand alot of research, including DR Van der Kolk’s helped me find what therapeutic modalities would work best for me! I have yet to confront the trusted family of origin members that violated me and will do so when the time is right! Right now, I feel centered and ready to start a new chapter in my life.

I have had somatic emergent therapy and it helped. Mindfulness based therapies such as CBT and Rational emotive therapy has helped. Good diet and exercise helps and trying to maintain good sleep hygiene is very important. To recover, I had to place myself in vulnerable positions and used many strategies to cope-including resilinence -something developed over many years!

I really think that the rest of my life will be devoted to helping others recover through animal therapy and use of alternative pharmacology. Dr Van deK kolks work is seminal and hopefully alot more research will be generated from his work.

The most import ant aspect is developing innate healing intelligence-basically what works for you and be willing to develop a strong sense of internal locus control-being the captain of your own ship. Fear and the extinction of fear is import to help the neurocircuity involved w the amygdala, apar tof the brain that really seems to start the circuity of pTSD. pTSD is complex and no 2 brains are alike. The way the Self defends itself can be dissolved-like disassociation, projection etc when trauma is brought into conscious awareness. Take care and i wish you well! There are solutions out there and people who have been there available to help.

I would like to keep articles like this, and the feedback, or especially the feedback. There’s much to be learned from those with personal experience on any subject or problem. I can never keep up with all the specific articles I see online, and being able to pin items of special interest to my ‘Health’ board on Pintrest is a big help. I do not do Facebook, so cannot save your articles. Why are you not allowing pinning as an option? I don’t understand this.

Thank you for your comment and suggestion. We will investigate adding a “Pin” option to our website with our web team. In the meantime, please take a look at this in-depth article on how to pin articles to Pinterest manually:

Thanks for your interest!

I certainly enjoyed. Your information does it cover Primary Lateral Scluoris?

It has taken me a long time to recognize myself as a PTSD individual since childhood. An abusive, dysfunctional family, subsequent birth, and needing to give up child to adoption, abusive marriage, another failed marriage, then a 17 year relationship destroyed by declining health. All play into the “Perfect Storm” for PTSD potential, and subsequent Psychiatric treatment. Unfortunately, Medicare will not pay for treatment with a trained upper level degreed Therapist who can assist people to talk out issues. Psychiatrists only discuss Medication management, and frequently resort to Benzodiazepine/ Hypnotic/SSRI, SSNI medications, only now being recognized as posing their own unique risks to the younger and older people presenting with PTSD type life events. Better the money be spent on various treatment modalities than costly drugs. Once on the aforementioned medications, are exceedingly difficult to taper from. Same for Primary Care Physicians who prescribe these for patients presenting with a mild funk. These caregivers have meant well, but lack the expertise required to manage, and taper.

Left out as a category is the abuse and torture of individuals by government where recourse is not available or only possible at a remote time. Exposure therapy is not effective for anybody who is in distress more than a few days – the patient usually can’t get away from the experience/”exposure” long enough to even sleep more than 3 minutes. Exposure under the influence of hypnosis (Spiegel), prayer and therapeutic doses of sympatholytic drugs during the therapy works for a majority of patients who have an acute/limited past event. Envision the trauma suffered by a Dutch teen found by the SS with too many food ration cards.

Unfortunately, most people in the middle part of the country will need to travel to the coasts to get adequate help for PTSD.

The FDA should regulate nutritional supplements – but is prohibited by law from doing so. Perhaps our wonderful new Congress would pass the needed law.

Yes, EFT and many other of the “energy psychology” techniques can work wonders in relieving/eliminating the symptoms of traumatic stress, etc.
Please, devote a program to this growing field and it’s many benefits.

No, the FDA is run by big Pharma ex employees who should not have any oversight of nutritional supplements. That would be like letting the fox guard the hen house. Very bad idea. Some of us make very good decisions on our health and nutrition without some agency trying to do it for us. The FDA gets most of their budget money from big pharma.

Thank you for shining a light on this very real phenomenon . I work with women who have what might clinically be recognized as PTSD based on trauma they experienced while giving birth. The combination of such a vulnerable time combined with fear and loss of control over their own bodies and lack of autonomy can trigger this.

Too often the women are then treated dismissively, as if by feeling traumatized they are deemed selfish and ungrateful for the results of the day’s work. If their baby lives they hear “at least you have a healthy baby” and if their baby dies they hear “at least you are still here, you can have another.” Naturally this makes their pain a very private pain, since being dismissed hurts again.

People willing to talk about this are making headway so people can seek help. Thanks for what you are doing to educate.

Somatic Experiencing is also a very effective way to treat stress. See Peter Levine’s book Waking the Tiger. Another method is Focusing, for which see Eugene Gendlin’s book Focusing.

Wow, it is so rare to hear someone to refer to childbirth as a time when someone might experience PTSD. I had two horrible childbirth experiences. Two daughters that had sad immediate surgery ( hence no more children). Only 1 trained MSW has understood that for 28 years the PTSD has just been heaped on by more traumatic experiences including three car accidents. One a man ran in front if me, one a tractor trailer ran over the front of my car a landed with the trailer on my shoulder and me covered in glass, but alive, the third, I was hit from behind. Crazy story, my neck needed surgery, lawyer failed to file suit in time and I had to sue the lawyer. The girl who hit me was murdered by the guy she was with in the car that day! It was an expensive surgery. Finally felt better, but the accident took a mental toll. Took care of both parents as they died from long slow Alzheimer’s. Can’t close my eyes without seeing their last minutes. PTSD lives in lots of places of my mind.

Thank you for this information. I need all I can get.

EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) or tapping can be of great assistance to PTSD no matter how weird it looks.

There were EFT volunteers including Nick Ortner after the Newtown, CT, shootings.

Robert Smith of Faster EFT has literally hundreds of videos on YouTube that you can watch and follow along with the process. I find his skill level to be amazing.

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