By: Jill Furumoto
Several years ago, I stumbled upon Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk’s book, The Body Keeps the Score, and I can honestly say that after I read it, it was like completing a lifelong jigsaw puzzle that I have been staring at since as long as I can remember. The content within the book was like finding the “missing piece” in my extensive library of psychology textbooks, manuals, articles, and professional papers. To be fair, there were many missing pieces along my journey as a trauma therapist and the many questions I have grappled since I became a mental health practitioner and, subsequently, a massage therapist/somatic oriented psychotherapist; some of these questions include the following:
- What is the relationship between the mind and the body?
- What are the physical side effects of psychological trauma?
- Does psychological trauma connect to disease, hypertension, auto-immune disorders, and shorter life spans?
- What evidence is there to support this connection?
- Where is the intersection between traumatic stress and physical disease?
- What are some of the best evidence-based treatments for traumatic stress?
These questions, along with many others, were answered beautifully and logically as I read the book The Body Keeps the Score.
The next step in my journey as a practitioner came when I attended the annual TRF Trauma Conference in 2021. This was during the height of the pandemic, so I didn’t get to meet the panelists in person, but I was not disappointed when I listened to them speak on Zoom. Experts in the field came together to talk about cutting edge treatments for PTSD such as psychedelic-assisted therapy, Internal Family Systems, Neurofeedback, theories of PTSD and CPTSD, and the latest research on traumatic stress. The conference was stimulating and exciting and genuinely left me wanting more. When I saw that I could sign up for more training, it only made sense to continue my journey by signing up for the certificate in Traumatic Stress Studies through TRF.
The training took place on Zoom which was perfect for me, because it was portable and flexible. It required me to tune into a pre-recorded video for 2-3 hours a week and listen to professionals give in-depth presentations on various topics such as the following:
- Adult Attachment Relationships – Jana Pressley, Psy.D.
- Making Connections: The Neuropsychology of Sand-Play Therapy in the Treatment of Trauma – Lorraine Freedle, LCSW, Ph.D., ABPdn, ABSNP, CST-T
- ARC and Supporting Regulations in Childhood – Margaret Blaustein, Ph.D.
- Trauma Through the Lens of Polyvagal Theory – Stephen Porges, Ph.D.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy: A model for Accelerated Change – Deborah Korn, PsyD
- Internal Family Systems – Richard Schwartz, PhD
Each week I learned from one of the 25 leading experts in the field of traumatic stress. The presentations were stimulating and covered a wide array of topics that increased the breadth of my knowledge while also taking me on a deep dive into some of the research and theory of traumatic stress and the brain. It was a lot to take in, but looking back on it, I realize that I have gained an appreciation for some of the best treatment modalities and groundbreaking research in the field.
Although I don’t know if I was able to understand it all, I am happy to have gone through the certification process. I finished it about a year ago and it set me up for doing another certification through TRF on Trauma-Informed Neurofeedback. After completing the didactic portion of that certificate, I bought my own neurofeedback device through the company Brain Master. I have begun to explore using it on myself and family members and continue to do a secondary case study group through TRF to apply and practice what I learned in the Trauma-Informed Neurofeedback Certificate program. The process was rigorous, but hopefully I will begin to help my clients with neurofeedback soon.
Through TRF, I also joined a semester long supervision group led by Frank Anderson, MD, author of Transcending Trauma: Healing Complex PTSD with Internal Family Systems Therapy and an Internal Family Systems expert. In this supervision group, I met other trauma therapists who had completed the Traumatic Stress Studies certification and who were trying to integrate modalities such as IFS into their practices. This group was very supportive and connecting. I was able to share my clinical experience, present a case study, and learn from others in the group by hearing about their experiences and perspectives. It felt good to be a part of this group and to be mentored by Dr. Anderson. I enjoyed his style of supervision which increased my insight into myself and my work.
Finally, I have begun to learn more about psychedelic therapy and “KAP” or ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. I found an organization called “Journey Clinical” which helps practitioners open the door for clients who would like to explore ketamine treatments. This is a new and exciting treatment modality which has shown promise in clinical trials for folks with treatment resistant PTSD. I have just begun to learn how to conduct KAPs therapy and feel that it is a promising modality and one that can make a difference in the lives of those who want to explore non-ordinary states of consciousness and work through trauma in an embodied way.
As I reflect on all of the training, certifications, and interactions I have had through the Trauma Research Foundation, I think it has changed my work and my professional identity. As a trauma therapist, I hold a great deal of suffering and stress. I know that it is important work and that I am called to do this work for a reason. However, it is not work that should be done in isolation. Therapists need to form villages of support and a community of ideas. It is essential to find people who share a way of thinking about trauma and who hold hope alive for the future and for post-traumatic growth. I felt that this was the missing piece in my journey and one that has made all the difference when I found it at TRF.
Photo by Benjamin Zanatta on Unsplash