Bethany Johnson*, a 25 year old young woman, sat in my office. Her presenting symptoms were near debilitating insomnia, hyper vigilance, hyperarousal, irritation, nightmares and flashbacks. This was classic PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which was a bit surprising since Bethany wasn’t a soldier who had had come from a tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, but rather had recently returned from teaching English as a second language in the Philippines. But the circumstances of her experience explained what was causing her PTSD: the school she was working at was in the eye of Hayian, the category 5 typhoon that struck the Philippine Islands in November 2013 and, according to a CNN report, “was probably the strongest tropical cyclone to hit land anywhere in the world in recorded history.”
Not only did this young woman endure a near death experience, but she witnessed the aftermath of the devastation of a town that just hours before had been vibrant and full of life. Now it was leveled to the ground with lifeless bodies trapped under concrete slabs, the growing stench of death filling the air, the desperation of starving and grief stricken people, and the additional chaos as riots and looting began to occur. One week after Super Typhoon Hayian raged through the island nation that Bethany had grown to love, she was evacuated and returned home to the United State, but she brought with her images of death and destruction that haunted her relentlessly.
As I assessed the situation, it was immediately clear to me that Bethany was the perfect candidate for Lifespan Integration Therapy, a modality of psychotherapy that engages the mind-body system to clear trauma. After just one treatment session, Bethany’s symptoms were cleared – sleep was restored, flashbacks and nightmares eliminated, hyper vigilance and hyperarousal were gone.
When most people think of trauma, they envision the war vet who has seen unspeakable and horrific violence during a tour of duty. Although military service can indeed be fraught with traumatic events, trauma is most definitely not unique to combat experience. Research reveals that trauma is nearly as common in the US population as depression and can result from surviving child abuse, rape, being a victim of a crime, surviving car accidents, witnessing scenes of violence, death or destruction, natural disasters, significant loss including the death of a loved, even job loss, and many other sources.
Lifespan Integration Therapy is emerging as a viable way to eliminate or reduce symptoms associated with trauma. Otherwise known as LI, Lifespan Integration Therapy is a gentle treatment modality based on the latest research in neuroscience that has revealed that the brain has “neuroplasticity” (the ability to adapt and change) throughout the span of human life, that that which is imagined has nearly the same degree of impact on our neurological system as those things which we have actually experienced.
LI utilizes memories associated with a traumatic event as well as other life events throughout the client’s life to “prove” to the mind-body system that the trauma has passed. The neural firing of these memories shows the body and brain that the difficult event is in the past, and the brain is able to organize itself into a more adaptive, higher level of functioning.
According to Catherine Thorpe, MA, author of The Success and Strategies of Lifespan Integration: An Overview and Client Stories, ” therapists who implement Lifespan Integration Therapy have consistently seen the following results:
1. The distress of any remembered event can be resolved with LI sessions.
2. Unconscious, body-based memories can be resolved with LI sessions.
3. Clients change the way they relate to others after they have experienced Lifespan Integration Therapy.
Through Lifespan Integration, a client experiences an integration of the self that leads to a higher degree of functioning than they were able to achieve previously.
Although not all issues are resolved in one therapy session like Bethany’s, LI has proven to be very successful in resolving presenting problems more quickly than most forms of “talk therapy.” LI can be effective not only for the treatment of trauma in adults, but also depression, anxiety, attachment injuries, eating disorders, grief and loss, birth trauma, early separation, panic attacks, and preverbal trauma.
Call Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555 for more information or to set an appointment for either LI therapy or a free consultation with Katrina Appiah, LCSW.
*Client’s identity and life circumstances are fictitious, but the symptoms and response to treatment are an actual representation of clients treated by this therapist.
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