Monday, September 01, 2014

Aren't We Just Putting a Band-Aid on the Problem?

On 3/31/13 I wrote a post "A Small Thought About Band Aids" (

Now I have written a poem in response to the concern that certain interventions are "just putting a band aid on the problem".

Before I share the poem with you, I want to mention that we are VERY CLOSE to opening our new service. It is entitled "Partners for Healing" and will be your tool for more compassionate and effective healing.

After the poem I will give you an opportunity to sign up to learn more about your Partners for Healing, and receive a free infographic of the poem.

Aren't We Just Putting a BandAid on the Problem?

Let me be your band aid
Stretch over you
Protect you
Keep out the dirt and germs
Strengthen you
Cushion you - imperfectly-
From that jolt of pain 
When your wound hits the world. 
Let me cling to you
Enclosing you
As you heal.
As your skin knits together.
As your pain subsides.

As you become whole. 

I'd be very interested in your reactions to this poem. Click on "comment" below and tell me what you think.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Get Ready for an Entirely New Service

We at the Traumatic Stress Institute have been working hard for six months or so on an entirely new service to better support you, all our friends in trauma informed care. In order to do this right, I am learning all sorts of new web skills. I'm having a great time.

Just to make sure we respond to your most important needs, can you take this one question survey?

One Question Survey

I've also created an infographic on beginning trauma informed care. Get your free copy here:

Click here to join our community and recieve a free infographic.

And here is the link to a list for updates about our new service.

Get updates on upcoming new service

Stay tuned- I think you are going to be delighted with this new product!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What Does a Trauma-Informed Culture Look Like?

We just finished a Joint Commission survey. We did very well. One of my best moments was when the surveyor remarked that this was a special agency. A staff member asked him what he saw that made it special. He replied, "many agencies teach their staff about trauma-informed care. In this agency, that approach is deep in the culture."

So I have been thinking: what did the surveyor observe that enabled him to know that?

He experienced:

The outpatient therapist talking about how the mother of her client had suffered early trauma, and how this was complicating her response to her daughter.

An in depth discussion of a diabetic girls' eating a large muffin snack at school, that included systems issues, peer issues, biological factors, her loneliness and hopelessness, and the pediatrician's personal experience with diabetes and eating muffins.

A group home therapist who was worried that a client who was " doing everything right" still wasn't letting any one get close to her.

Leadership response to discovered problems that focused on systems issues rather than scapegoating.

A discussion of whether a girl with a self- harm history should be allowed to work with knives in the kitchen that reject the simplistic solution of trying to keep her away from any sharp objects.

Group home staff sharing the pain of watching a girl make plans to live with her father and being afraid he will disappoint her.

An in home service discussing their struggles to implement an evidence based practice while maintaining the provision of concrete help they know makes such a difference to families- even when getting new beds is nowhere in the formula.

The longevity of staff at the agency.

The willingness of a program to take a kid back after a lengthy hospitalization despite their doubts to save her from placement in a shelter.

Foster parents who readily related the behavior of their foster son to his past experiences of being hurt.

The warmth and connection between staff, and staff with clients.

And there are probably many more things. I felt proud observing all this. It was one of those times when I could appreciate all that we have accomplished.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Head is Spinning!

I have recently attended two high powered conferences in a row. The first was Bessel van der Kolk’s 25th Annual International Trauma Conference: PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAUMA: Neuroscience, Attachment, and Therapeutic Interventions on May 28 - 31, 2014 in Boston. The theme was What We Have Discovered Over The Past Quarter Century About Traumatic Stress and Its Treatment.

Then I presented at Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Model of Treatment Inaugural Symposium:
Brain Development and Trauma: Implications for Interventions and Policy, June 10 – 12, 2014 in Alberta, Canada at the Banff Centre. What a lovely place!
So my head is spinning with new ideas and new takes on old ideas, which I will be sharing with you in the upcoming weeks.
First let me focus on a basic premise of the Neurosequential Model. We cannot think when we are dysregulated. We can think best when we are in relationships to others. So, in every situation, for us and for our clients, follow the sequence:




We can use many methods to regulate ourselves and our clients. The best are “bottom up”; that is, using the body and rhythmic, repetitive activities. This includes rocking, walking, petting animals, doodling, jumping, music, throwing a ball back and forth, etc. Regular small doses of such activity can keep us regulated throughout the day and avert many crisises.
Once someone is regulated, emphasize relationship. Connected people are at their best. People who feel noticed, heard and safe can think creatively.
Then, and only then, problem solve.
And as soon as problem solving becomes stressful, return to regulation and repeat the sequence again.
More to come….

Monday, May 26, 2014

Five Benefits of Risking Connection© Training

This week I taught a Risking Connection© Basic three-day training for a Connecticut agency. 

This agency provides various types of home-based services, school-based mental health clinics, out patient clinics, parent resource centers, and day care. It was a joy to teach such caring and thoughtful people. At the end of the training we did an exercise that involved people saying what they would keep from the training. Here are the top five things staff will keep:

  1. I learned tools that help me understand my clients’ behaviors in a new way
  2. I have new ideas for how to help my clients more effectively.
  3. I feel more connected to my agency and the individuals within it.
  4. I feel more valued by my agency.
  5. I learned it is okay to be a human being with human feelings, and how to take care of myself to remain energized and hopeful.

It is always inspiring to participate in the increase of hope and energy that this training creates.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Participate in Improving our Field

My colleagues and I are engaged in an effort to develop a reliable and validated measure of beliefs favorable to trauma-informed care. When complete, this measure will help establish the effects of training, will assist in agency self-assessment, may be used in hiring decisions, and could have many other uses. As part of the process we are asking many professionals in the field to take a longer version of the survey, which will help us determine which questions work best. Would you like to join us?

Dear Colleague,

At this time, there are no reliable and valid measures of trauma-informed care. For this reason, we are working on an instrument to measure staff beliefs related to TIC. When finished, this could be used to measure such things as the extent to which a school or agency is trauma-informed or the outcome of trauma-informed change interventions.

We need your help. We need as many health and education professionals as possible to participate in a brief online survey. The online survey takes 20-30 minutes and has been approved by the Tulane University Institutional Review Board. All participants who complete the online survey will have the option to enter their name into a raffle. After the study is over, four participants will be randomly selected to win a $25 giftcard to Barnes & Noble.

If you are interested in participating, please click on the appropriate link below.

Please also distribute to other listservs or to health care and education providers in your agencies.  



Thanks in advance for your help.



Steve Brown, Psy.D.
Director, Traumatic Stress Institute
Coordinator, Risking Connection Training Program


Courtney N. Baker, Ph.D.
Research and Methodology Consultant, Risking Connection Training Program
Assistant Professor
Tulane University

Sunday, May 11, 2014

How to Help Kids With Discharge

Jennifer's home passes have been going well. She and her mom Nancy have had some fun together. When disagreements have occurred they have worked them out. Jennifer has been going home for long weekends and even a week over school vacation. The team decided it is time to set a discharge date, and chose the end of the school year. Then Jenn blew up. On her next home pass she went out and didn't come back until late. Her mother was clear she had been drinking and smoking. When Nancy came to visit, Jenn told her she hated her and didn't ever want to go home. She said she wanted to go to independent living. As soon as Nancy left Jenn called her and begged her to come back and take her home immediately, and started swearing at her when she wouldn't.

Going Home is Hard

The ambivalence our kids feel about going home is agonizing and acute. What are some of the contributing factors? They all involve various sorts of fear.
  • Fear that they will not be able to handle it, will hurt the people they love.
  • Fear that the people they love can't handle it and are happier without them.
  • Fear of reconnecting and being hurt again.
  • Fear of school, expecting shame and being an outcast.
  • Fear of not being able to do the academics.
  • Fear of the outside world, being unprotected, violence.
  • Fear of being unable to resist the temptations of peers and the world.
  • Fear that the people who hurt them are still around.
And we could go on. How can we best help our kids survive and accomplish a positive discharge?

Don't Do This

Here's what we shouldn't do:
  • Tell them they have to decide
  • Persuade or pressure them to go to their family.
  • Threaten them.
  • Be upset that they are deteriorating.
  • Punish them.
What we should do, in a word, is explore. Help the child express all the complicated feelings they are having. Maintain a totally validating stance- after all, their mixed feelings are completely understandable and legitimate.

How We Can Help

How can we explore? It sometimes helps to talk about other kids or some kids- move it a few steps away from them. Here are some techniques:
  • Divide a big flip chart size paper into quarters. Title one quarter "what some kids like about home"; another "what some kids find hard about home"; another "what some kids like about... (Whatever the alternative is)" and another "what some kids find hard about (alternative)". Generate as many ideas as possible.
  • Draw a picture of a road branching into several roads. Label them with the youth's possibilities. Have her draw whet she imagines on each road.
  • Tell her some things you have heard from other kids about what makes going home scary.
  • Try and get the world (state worker or whoever has this power) to be clear about what the steps are if she does not go home. Be realistic not threatening.
  • Remember she knows more about her home than you do and she may have some very good reasons to be concerned.
  • If possible help mom to talk with her about ambivalence and how to get through it.
  • Explore what she gets from her mom and what she doesn't. Normalize that no one has perfect parents. Talk about ways she can manage when mom drives her crazy, and where she could get whatever mom cannot give her.
  • Work on helping her become more comfortable where ever she would go to school. Can she start there while still living with you?
In other words don't judge, don't hurry, resist the pressures of the world to fix her ambivalence and decide. Explore. I swear that will be actually FASTER than trying to pressure her to decide.

Continue as much contact as possible between her and her mother. As time goes on, this will resolve. Either she will get past her understandable terror, or she will let you know in words and actions that home is not possible at this time. If that is the outcome, try to preserve as much connection as possible between her and her mother and help them figure out how they can love each other even if they are not living together now.

And you will have given this youth a priceless gift.