Hi my name is Beth Harp, Licensed Professional Counselor. Many of you already know me as a colleague, or a client, but most of you have never met me before. So, I would like to take a few minutes to introduce myself to you, and tell you about my background, and experience in working with trauma, and trauma related diagnoses.
Growing up, we had a family friend with a diagnosis of multiple personality disorder, that’s what it was called in the late 70s, early 80s when I knew this person, and as a result, I grew up knowing the different parts of her. Interacting with her gave me the perspective of normalizing this, so that when I started working with dissociative disorders in the late 90s, I didn’t get pulled into the specialness and uniqueness of the diagnosis, and it gave me a more balanced perspective I believe, and a unique understanding of trauma clients.
So, I went to graduate school in the early 90s, after many years of working in sales and marketing positions, I decided to go to grad school and become a therapist. So, in graduate school, I began reading the various experts that I had heard about through my friend. As part of my research as a graduate student, I discovered that Colin Ross had a program, in patient and day hospital trauma programs, at Charter Hospital in Plano, Texas, which is just outside Dallas, for those of you that don’t live in this area. So, I endeavoured to do my student practicum experience with the Ross Institute, and was fortunate enough to be accepted to that program, and did two semesters worth of student practicum work. I had the distinct pleasure of working with about a dozen different clinicians, and then probably eight, or ten other interns, both student and LPC level interns. As a result, I was exposed to a lot of different theoretical perspectives, and therapeutic techniques. And as I said, I feel very fortunate to have had that experience because I think it’s made me a much better-rounded clinician.
I decided to continue my LPC internship at the Ross Institute. The program was in the process of moving from Charter Hospital to Timberlawn Hospital in Dallas, Texas, and I moved with the program and started my LPC hours. I was fortunate enough to be at the right place at the right time, and I got a paid internship position working as a unit therapist with the program. After about a year as the unit therapist, I was offered the position of program director, and so, I became the program director for Colin Ross’ trauma program at Timberlawn Hospital; a position which I held for just over four years. I went into private practice in 2002, and so, I have been doing that for 15 years now.
In my private practice, I work almost exclusively with trauma survivors. If you have read any of Colin Ross’ work, you’ll know his concept of the problem of comorbidity that includes dissociative disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, sleep disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, depersonalization disorder, addictions…you name it, it can be related to trauma. This underscores the necessity of having a trauma-informed care perspective because most clients that end up on an inpatient psychiatric unit will have an underlying trauma disorder regardless of what their primary diagnosis is. So, having that understanding will give you a better foundation of working with all of your clients, even if you’re working as an outpatient therapist. Again, many people that seek therapy have some sort of trauma history. So, that… hopefully that gives you an idea of the importance of having a trauma-informed perspective.
The other thing, I wanted to mention is one of my soapbox issues…so most clinicians who come to work with trauma survivors do so because of their own traumatic childhood, dysfunctional family background, however you want to label it. If you don’t do your own work, you cannot help your patients. You’re going to get sucked into their problems. You’re going to believe their realities, not be able to challenge their cognitive distortions, or even recognize them as cognitive distortions. You’re going to be uncomfortable when they start connecting to their emotions, and want to shut them down because it’s triggering your own emotions. It doesn’t help the client, and it doesn’t help you. You’ve got to do your own work. On average it takes three to five years of outpatient individual therapy for most trauma survivors to come to a point of resolution or integration whatever that looks like for a trauma survivor. And so, you as a therapist need to do three to five years of therapy yourself, generally speaking. This also would include things like exercise, meditation, journaling, music therapy, movement. Any of those kinds of on-going therapies are very useful.
Even, if you don’t have your own trauma history, you might come to develop what we call vicarious traumatization, and this is essentially when you work with trauma survivors, and hear their stories day in and day out, you tend to develop a trauma worldview. And so, even if you’ve done your own work, you need to continue doing some sort of work to deal with the on-going vicarious nature of doing trauma work.
So, I hope this has been helpful, and I look forward to seeing you again on the next video. Thank you for watching.