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LIFE QUALITY RESOURCES

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For further information about neurofeedback, biofeedback, and psychotherapeutic services offered by Drs. Dan and Lucy Chartier and their associates, contact:

 

LIFE QUALITY RESOURCES

5613 Duraleigh Road, #101
Raleigh, NC 27612
Telephone: (919) 782-4597
www.LifeQualityResources.org

Traumas Can Have Long Lives

Dr. Dan Chartier, a PhD psychologist, and Dr. Lucy Chartier, a psychiatric nurse practitioner who also holds a PhD in clinical psychology, are the co-owners of Life Quality Resources in Raleigh. Each has over 30 years of experience helping patients address and resolve the problems resulting from traumatic events. In a lively conversation we explored the lessons they learned from this rich experience.

From left: Liza Chartier, M.Ed.m LPC-A; Dan Chartier, Ph.D.; Lucy Chartier, PhD., NP; Katherine Rinehart, LCSW, LCAS-A; Lydia Johnson, MA, BSN, RN; Kathryn Wrigglesworth, DNP
 Drs. Chartier are pleased to welcome the newest members of the Life Quality Resources team. Ms. Liza Chartier specializes in Trauma-Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. Ms. Rinehart specializes in psychotherapy specific to trauma and substance abuse. Ms. Johnson provides biofeedback for urinary incontinence and neurofeedback. Dr. Wrigglesworth prescribes psychotropic medications for psychiatric concerns of childhood through adulthood.

    

Health&Healing: What are some of the consequences of trauma you see in you practice?

DAN CHARTIER: I think first, it’s important to talk about what trauma really means. Obviously, we recognize severe trauma—car crashes, plane crashes, war, combat exposures. But trauma is really anything that suddenly, unexpectedly, bumps the system off balance—a tired, low blood-sugared mom saying something to her child in a way that pierces the young heart and leaves that child distressed and upset, for example. Even something that seems that small can be a traumatic event.

H&H: Something that small could affect a person into their adulthood?

LUCY CHARTIER: Absolutely. Probably not the first time, but repeated small emotional traumas are cumulative and can add up. It’s interesting that recent research has shown that a traumatic experience of any sort, whether it’s a truly severe, physical trauma or a more psycho-emotional trauma, can effect an observable change in a person’s DNA, showing up as much as 14 generations later in animal models.

DAN CHARTIER: Yes, some really interesting research has been done with the descendants of Holocaust survivors, showing forms of cancer unique not only in those survivors, but being found in multiple generations of their offspring. Studies such as these support this idea that there’s a significant consequence of trauma that continues generation after generation once set in motion.

H&H: How do you as practitioners approach the care and treatment of patients who have been affected by these kinds of events?

DAN CHARTIER: Our work begins from the understanding that we can’t make the trauma not have happened, but we can help minimize the continuing consequential impact of that trauma.

H&H: Describe some of the methods you may use.

DAN CHARTIER: Biofeedback is one. This is a tool used to teach self-regulation and help the autonomic nervous system calm down and move out of that habitual fight/flight response that the trauma has triggered.

LUCY CHARTIER: Brainwave feedback, or Neurofeedback, is another. There’s really robust literature supporting the use of alpha/theta brainwave training to help a person disconnect the cognitive cortical brain from the limbic/emotional, subcortical brain. This allows that subcortical brain to work through the raw psycho-emotional and physical effects of trauma without so much cognitive interference.

DAN CHARTIER: Other tools we use in our practice are eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and Nexalin Therapy, and most recently, equine assisted therapy.

H&H: And what about from your perspective as a prescriber, Dr. Lucy Chartier?

LUCY CHARTIER: There are a variety of medications commonly used to help with trauma victims that are not addictive—which I think is important. We may use an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitoror) the combination SNRIs (Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), or even a beta-blocker.

If a person is too anxious to sit in the therapy chair and discuss a trauma, or even sometimes too anxious to do neurofeedback or biofeedback, the use of medications to help down-regulate the system so that they can engage in the therapies can be an important part of just getting started. The ultimate goal, however, is always to try to help people move off of medicines down the road, once their brains have adapted differently.

Physical Manifestations of Emotional Trauma

H&H: Do you see emotional traumas manifest physically?

DAN CHARTIER: Often what we see is a physical symptom—tension, an ache, a pain, a reaction to certain smells or sounds—something associated with the original trauma, which stays alive. It’s as if the psycho-emotional system says, “I’ll live with this bad stuff to avoid knowing the worst stuff,” and that moment gets encapsulated in a physical pain.

It’s kind of like the outward expression of a child putting his hands over his ears and closing his eyes when being scolded saying, “I don’t want to hear, I don’t want to see this.”

The internal psycho-emotional system tends do the same thing in a sense. It shuts down when it’s overloaded. The consequence of this is an internal suspension of time, where one is unconsciously avoiding the experience of the most significant shutdown moment by sticking with what was going on just before that moment.

LUCY CHARTIER: What we attempt to do when we see this, is re-engage the system using the therapeutic techniques we’ve already described, and slowly help the patient through that most traumatic moment. As soon as that happens, the whole perspective shifts. That’s what we can ultimately do—help the traumatized individual learn and recognize that they’re no longer living in that moment. That’s really the best hope to allow the deeper psychological and emotional healing to happen.

A Patient’s Story

H&H: What similarities or differences exist between a person who has experienced a truly dramatic trauma, and one who’s trauma seems less intense from the outside perspective?

DAN CHARTIER: That’s a great question. Let me tell you a story: During a training I attended about trauma resolution, the psychiatrist running the program asked for participants to come up and work through a process to demonstrate for the group.

A man in the group volunteered. The trauma he revealed to the group that he was struggling with was an experience from his early childhood, of his father nearly beating him to death. He remembered his father slapping him and beating on him, and he just knew he was about to be killed.

At the end of this demonstration, another man raised his hand and said, “Excuse me, Doctor. That’s my brother, and I just remembered what he was talking about. Can I have a moment to speak to it?”

The brother remembered the incident, and told it this way: He and his younger brother—who had just spoken—were camping with their family and playing around a camp fire. His younger brother tripped and fell, catching his clothes on fire. His dad jumped up, grabbed him, threw him on the ground and beat the flames out.

It’s all perspective. From a father saving a burning child, to the child perceiving that he’s going to be beaten to death. Regardless of the reality of the situation, the experience of the trauma was very real.