“I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.” (Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner)
There have been times in our recent history that have been marked by a collective sense of great uncertainty, tumult, fear, and despair; this moment in history is no different. Whether it is the fallout from discriminatory public policies, prejudice toward minority and refugee populations, or the barrage of natural disasters in close succession, the lives of an overwhelming number of people are at stake. At the time of this writing, more than 65 million people (source: NPR) are displaced from their homes in Syria, Afghanistan, Lake Chad, Sudan, Myanmar, not to mention those closer to home–from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the earthquake in Mexico, or the California wildfires.
As these global tragedies continue to unfold, millions of children and adults are facing personal horrors every day, sometimes in their own homes. As psychologists, most of us, at some point in our careers, have been sought out by individuals who are hoping to make sense of their traumatic experiences, whether due to childhood abuse or neglect, sexual assault, violence, automobile accidents, or death of a loved one. Regardless of whether the trauma was chronic or acute, it has the power to shape lives, often unconsciously, and underlies emotions, actions, life choices, and relationships. As we know, trauma is multifaceted, as is the response to it.
This issue of The San Diego Psychologist is published in conjunction with the 2017 Fall Conference of The San Diego Psychological Association entitled, “Innovations in “Trauma Treatment: What’s Outside the Box?”. I am grateful to Mary Mulvihill, Ph.D., the SDPA CE Chair, who personally reached out to some of our authors to encourage them to contribute to this issue.
The seven articles featured here are diverse, covering a range of topics: Dr. Goldstein (one of the keynote speakers at the Conference) has written about the use of play in group therapy with adolescents; Dr. Collins (SDPA board member) has eloquently described the role of trauma in couples therapy. Dr. Sterling has described her innovative mindfulness yoga course for patients with trauma; Dr. Trim has written a highly informative article on the treatment of trauma among eating disorder patients, a population that is currently underserved; Dr. Shibley’s poignant essay on her own experience as a Dreamer highlights the trauma of having to navigate a hostile and broken immigration system; Dr. Kao has transcribed her interesting interview with Dr. Sidney Zisook, a psychiatrist at UCSD who studies Complicated Grief and its treatment. Finally, we have the honor of featuring Dr. Stevens’ poem about coming together in the face of tragedy—his first-hand account of conducting therapy with the victims of Hurricane Irma will be published in the next issue of the Newsletter, coming out next month.
You may have noticed that we skipped the Summer issue of the Newsletter; we continue to struggle with poor response rates to our call for articles, and have sought to remedy that by reaching out directly to individuals in the SDPA community for articles. (We may be coming for you next!) Voluntary submissions, as always, will gladly be considered for publication. The last issue of the year will come out at the end of November, and continues in the theme of trauma with regard to current events. We are hoping to feature articles about our role as psychologists in disaster relief efforts, as well as in helping patients cope with the current political climate in our country. Please consider writing and making your voice heard!
Please share your feedback in the comments below, or email me with your submissions at TheSanDiegoPsychologist@gmail.com.
Thank you for reading.
Dr. Savla’s private practice in Encinitas, CA is focused on seniors with aging-related challenges and/or mental illness. Before devoting her professional life to clinical service, she studied primary psychotic disorders among older adults at the University of California, San Diego and the VA San Diego Healthcare System. She has co-authored 30 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters to date. She has been the Editor of the San Diego Psychologist since 2016.