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What is Lifespan Integration?

WOMANSUNSETBethany Johnson*, a 25 year old young woman, sat in my office.  Presenting symptoms: near debilitating insomnia, hyper vigilance, hyper arousal, irritation, nightmares and flashbacks.  This was classic PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)  Surprisingly perhaps, Bethany wasn’t a soldier who had recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, but rather had been teaching English as a second language in the Philippines – and she happened to be working at a school that was right 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 herself when the massive storm raged through the tiny town where she was living, but she witnessed the aftermath as well – devastation of a town that just hours before had been vibrant and full of life and was now 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 – particularly in the wee hours of the night when, in her solitude, they would dance endlessly across her mind.

As I assessed the situation, it was almost immediately clear to me that Bethany was the perfect candidate for Life Span Integration Therapy, a modality of psychotherapy that engages the mind-body system to clear trauma.  After just one treatment session, and several weeks of enduring classic PTSD, Bethany’s symptoms were cleared – sleep was restored, flashbacks and nightmares eliminated, hyper vigilance and hyper arousal 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 automobile or other accidents, witnessing scenes of violence, death or destruction, natural disasters, significant loss including the death of a loved – including a beloved pet – even job loss, among many others!!!

Lifespan Integration Therapy, otherwise known as LI, is a gentle treatment modality that is 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 and 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 Life Span 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.” p. 4.

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 is 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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