For the past few years I have taught a foundations course on addiction treatment to graduate students. An important aspect of the course is helping students understand that longterm successful outcomes necessitate resolving underlying drivers of addictive behavior, namely, adverse childhood experiences.
In an effort to illustrate concretely how this may be done, I enlisted the help of a good friend and colleague, Mark Girard, who is a master at knowing how to help people heal from deep, traumatic wounds.
As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and certified Jungian Analyst with years of experience, he is incredibly skilled at working with a wide range of altered states, or emotional constrictions due to trauma.
What impresses me most about Mark is how he uses himself as a tool in therapy. He walks his talk and maintains a presence with patients that is the essence of what a good therapeutic relationship is all about.
During his recent visit to my class he agreed to have me videotape his lecture. The approximate 35 minute presentation is a gift to us all. I encourage you to take the time – quiet, focused time – to sit and hear what he has to say.
In the presentation, Mark mentions an article by Dr. Bruce Perry from the ChildTrauma Academy that was required reading in class. The article is titled Applying Principles of Neurodevelopment to Clinical Work with Maltreated and Traumatized children and is a nice adjunct to his lecture.
He also makes reference to Babette Rothschild’s wonderful book on trauma, The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma, and the classic article on trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score, both among the very best reads on the topic of trauma.
Edgar Frias says
I felt a deep sense of respect for Mark Girard. He truly exemplified the notion of a “therapeutic presence” for me. Upon seeing him and sensing him for the first time, I got incredibly nervous. I could feel his energies scan the room, prod, poke, attend-to, and attune with everybody’s energies as well.
Very recently, I have had an “uninvited guest” come into my life and allow some of this “deep traumatic” energy to come out from my wounds. It was the first visceral, somatic counseling work I feel I have ever had. And, as things go in my life, it occurred a few days before Mark’s lecture.
Therefore his lecture really resonated with my own personal and professional development. The interior mirror reflecting the exterior mirror(s?).
I have personally experienced the reintegration that occurs once the energies surround the “split” that trauma creates leave the body. An obsessively reoccurring compulsion is finally seen for what it is: a defensive coping mechanism. An attempt to protect myself.
It is as if all of reality has been added another layer of relating. Impulsive projections, compulsive behaviors, actions-reactions, all communicating as if they were human beings. There are glimpses of communion, of course. But, the loud traumas that we have all yet to work through speak loudly through us.
My own distress patterns as a person of color react to the distress patterns of my white classmate, each of us mirroring past pains. My male distress patterns interact with my female friends, etc. etc. etc.
What really excites me about all of this is that I have been seeking a way to integrate the energy/spiritual work that I do with my counseling profession. After seeing Mark work, I know that I want to focus my development on working with trauma. It is holistic, can be spiritually focused, and is also in line with promoting liberation (for all) through the release of pain. Each discharge of energy one step closer to communion.
Much like Edgar, I too enjoyed Mark Girards “therapeutic presence.”
I felt his serenity in the session was comforting to not only you (the client) but to those of us watching the session as well.
The way that he utilized body therapy really resonated with me. It was sort of an “a-ha” moment after having read your article and then seeing the impact during a session it really brought home the way trauma works within our bodies on a physical level.
The session was very powerful.
Katie Lynett says
The main theme of Mark Girard’s presentation concerned how trauma can lead to stress and anxiety which causes altered states such as a psychotic or other altered states to avoid the intense pain. He relates this to how this feeds addiction in people. He feels that these behaviors help lessen the negative feelings that people cannot handle feeling while in their own skin. He kept emphasizing the need to use himself as a tool which he even used in his presentation by encouraging us to check in with ourselves through out his presentation.
I very much enjoyed Mark’s presentation. Re-watching the lecture was very helpful as I was able to catch a few things the second time around. I can appreciate Mark’s emphasis on using himself as a tool in the therapeutic process and placing such high importance on creating a safe environment for his clients. His take on blunted affect was something I had not heard before and was certainly eye-opening for me. I also very much enjoyed the work that he did after his presentation. I hadn’t seen trauma work like that before and was appreciative of both parties being willing to share that with us.
This evening with Mark Girard was a very powerful experience for me, and watching the video was helpful because I felt more of what he said soak in. Like the commenter before me, I was interested in his comments on blunted affect as not the absence of emotion but more of an indicator of disintegration, that the parts don’t line up.
I hadn’t thought of this in class, but while watching the lecture here on the website, I thought of my best friend from high school and her dad, who was a Vietnam combat veteran with severe PTSD. At school, she would tell me of his fits of rage and how he would sometimes have flashbacks while tending to his beautifully landscaped back yard in the evenings. But whenever I saw him, he was completely blank: no feeling at all, rage or otherwise. As a high school kid, I didn’t know how to describe it or what to attribute it to. I just knew it didn’t make sense. I knew he was severely traumatized by his time at war in which he lost many friends and was exposed to toxic chemicals. I’d never before (and have not since) seen what appeared to be such a lack of emotion. How could this be the same guy who had such trauma and who is still living with it on a daily basis, I thought. Why is he so empty of emotion? Little did I know that the emotion was there—it was just displaced and needed to be brought back into the whole.
After high school, I heard that he and the family have made great progress through therapy. I can only wish him good thoughts of integration, and I hope he benefited by having a therapist as skilled, in touch with himself, and attuned to clients as Mark Girard is.
David P says
I very much apprectate Mr. Girrads presentation. Even if I missed it in class. I believe that a good therapist will use all of him or herself to help their clients. the idea of “theraputic presence” allows for one to understand that are clients are paying attention to everything that we are doing when we are treating them. It tells us that we have responsibitly to not just do this as job. But, as couselors we have a responsiblity to work on ourselves as well.
To be someone who can affect and help to heal someones trauma, is not easy. It takes an ablitly to lose yourself to help others to find themself. It at least for me, it takes everything that I can do or think of to be that guiding light out of the darkness that is trauma.
Sarah Lincoln says
I’m fascinated by how a therapist uses him/herself as a tool in sessions, specifically in healing trauma. First, Mark exuded a calm/serenity that was impressive. I found myself wondering why he wasn’t being more of a jump-up-and-down scintillating speaker, but realized I was uncomfortable with how slowly and calmly he unfolded his presentation. When I was able to just let go and flow with his energy, I found myself lulled into a peace-like state (even with the bright overhead lights and the traffic outside). It was an astounding introduction to the therapy session itself. Problem: I was flowing so much I couldn’t stay linear enough to take good notes. I wanted to be the client – not the student!
Jennifer Samsom says
Sarah, your reaction to Mark’s session and presentation in class is interesting to me, especially from a Hakomi perspective. Your desire for him to be a more scintillating speaker and unease with his slow pace speaks to what many people experience in daily life. Mindfulness is so useful to take a few moments each day or in session with your therapist and slow it all down so that our observer can really come on board and notice what is happening internally. While I am not trained to work in trauma, I can imagine this slowing down and calling upon our observer to take over is vital to working through and mucking around in trauma memories and experience. Because of the nature of trauma, it would almost require the pacing to be as slow as possible so that the client doesn’t get flooded once again with thoughts, sensations, impulses, etc. that initially became activated by the trauma.
Luis H.G says
The jungian dude! John I am so glad you posted this, it’s one of the few lectures I didn’t take notes on as I was so into the class. His lecture in concurrence with your class were big parts of a shifting and alignment of momentum and positivity for me.
Incorporating body work and trauma knowledge is key for us as the next generation of counselors and therapists and if we are to make any significant headway in truly helping our clients realign their minds, bodies, souls and direction in life.
Again thanks for the video, I’m going to fill in my missing void in my classnotes from last year!
Ciao fellow healers and humans!
I really enjoyed this video. I thought it was very interesting how he uses himself as a tool in therapy. I can see how this technique can help create feelings of trust and respect with his patients. I do feel that it’s extremely fundamental to find the underlying issues behind an addiction and to be able to accept those issues in order to take the next step in making a positive life change. Having a good relationship with your therapist is important in doing this and I think he does a really good job helping us understand the role that should be played.