Primary therapist, Teresa Bertoncin recently presented at the International Society For The Study Of Trauma And Dissociation Conference in Chicago. This conference provided cutting edge information about dissociation, the dissociative disorders, and all forms of complex trauma related disorders. It was comprised of the most recent developments in clinical interventions, theoretical concepts and research in the field of complex trauma, abuse and neglect.
Teresa’s presentation highlighted the trauma of Stigmatized Loss and the devastating impact of exclusion, isolation, invalidation and neglect. She discussed the benefit of therapeutic modalities specifically EMDR (Eye movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) psychotherapy and the wilderness setting.
Teresa’s discussion of stigmatized loss included the impact of divorce and family dissolution, suicide, illness, substance related causes, and psychological abuse. Factors that garner resiliency in cultural preservation versus individual preservation, and those that lead to societal devaluation were addressed, utilizing contrasting case studies from rural South African villages, as well as the universal similarities that exist among adolescents and young adults in the United States.
In addition, Teresa explored the ways in which an intact cultural community helps members navigate these traumatic experiences; while identifying the internal, familial and societal factors of shame, disgrace and judgment that keep victims and those experiencing loss at an impasse.
The workshop explored the trauma of stigmatized loss and disenfranchised grief, and resulting identity disintegration. She shared how stigma devalues relationships and connection, and that stigma is at the root of rejection and ostracism.
The audience participated in an experiential example and lively discussion on the topic of rejection. Teresa comments, “Rejection has a strong impact, even on the most minute level, and we react to it physiologically, emotionally, cognitively and behaviorally.” She explained how our need to belong is so strong that we experience psychological and physical effects right away. She adds, “Rejection impacts our thinking, floods us with anger, destroys our self confidence and derails our sense of belonging.”
Brain scans show the same brain regions get activated when we experience rejection, as when we experience physical pain. The resulting long-term physical and mental consequences of disapproval and rejection can be extreme. Teresa shared research showing that children and adolescents may be impacted more negatively by rejection and ostracism than adults, with more extreme reactions. Brains of adolescents who experience rejection and ostracism may undergo long-term changes with normal development short-circuited. Adversely affecting cognitive ability, influence hormonal systems, and can induce symptoms ranging from paranoia to substance abuse.
Teresa went on to discuss the successful treatments and specialized interventions for these types of complex trauma, all of which are utilized at Pacific Quest in conjunction with the neurosequential model approach to treatment, including: EMDR, Horticultural therapy, Sandplay therapy, mindfulness, somatic and cognitive behavioral therapy, and the advantages of an outdoor behavioral health setting.