ACCREDITED TRAINING IN THE
NOVEMBER 2nd & 3rd, 2019
H: So the process itself allows for a greater grounding.
K: Yes. My patient also has something to take home in between sessions. So if she were to somehow get activated by something (and a lot of my patients have really, really severe complex PTSD, so they do struggle with nightmares the first two or three sessions or may still have panic attacks), they have a tool that they can use immediately to stop it without reaching for a benzodiazepine.
K: So they’re empowered to do their own healing. The final piece is that it is just so much quicker. One of my patients came and spoke at the training that I gave. She came and gave an amazing testimonial and answered questions from everybody.
We’d done twelve sessions worth of work and she was a survivor of really severe childhood sexual abuse. Her perpetrator lived in the house and she was perpetrated upon sexually almost everyday. And it took us only twelve sessions. We terminated! Our work was done! I don’t know anything else that can do that. She was back at work. Vibrant, vivacious, empowered, no nightmares, no panic. I can go into the neuroscience of all of it for you but basically every symptom marker that we know for PTSD was no longer there.
You tell me something else that can do this in twelve sessions. She's up there saying ‘this is the most amazing thing ever; every session I walked out feeling clearer and stronger’. That was the thing with EMDR. People would leave and they would be wrecked. They would get to the end result but it was agonizing sending them back into their world in a place of pain and distress.
H: Thank you. That’s a beautiful and lucid explanation of the distinction.
K: You’re welcome.
H: Are there other cases that you’d like to share?
K: I did have another patient that comes to mind. I did some EMDR with her, and we ended up putting pause on the EMDR because her current home state was too chaotic and reflective of the violent, abusive home state that she grew up in.
Even though the current home state was now safe, she, as we know many of our patients do, recreated the chaos of her childhood in her present life – repetition compulsion disorder. This was a patient who is highly, highly dissociative.
I remember one session in particular, this was probably ten years ago when I was working with her. I was in a clinic that had a play therapy room. There was a dollhouse in the room and for whatever reason, I don’t recall right now, we ended up going in that room to do our work. I think the usual room I worked in had some work being done on it. And so we went into that office, she saw the dollhouse and went into a complete dissociative state, regressing down to about five years old. It was pretty intimidating to me to be honest.
H: I can imagine.
K: We had been doing some EMDR and had been working on a memory at five years old. The dollhouse never came up in the memory we were working on, or obviously I would have never brought her into that room.
H: Of course.
K: Basically she regressed back to the state of the last memory we had been working on. This was at an outpatient clinic, and it took me maybe four hours to ground her, get her centered, collected and back together again. After that experience she was terrified to ever do EMDR again. She had never had an experience like that in her life but we had removed those protective defenses and she didn’t have the strength even though we had built her containers and her safe place and had done all the resourcing.
It was a low fee clinic, so we were able to work together for a really long time, and she had been doing really incredible work. We had done all the protocols that EMDR required for somebody who has severe PTSD. I was seeing her two to three times a week. So she had really strong structure around her. But after that incident, she’d never had anything like that happen before, so she refused to do it ever again.
Over the years, she’d sent me e-mails on how she’s doing, as some patients do, which is always a gift. She’s been doing a little better but still ever since that time had some regressive states. She tried TFT (Thought Field Therapy) with somebody and got some benefit just from the tools because she could take it home. However, she was still very scared to go back and do any actual reprocessing. And I don’t blame her.
When I completed the Havening training and was looking for case studies, she came to mind. I had continued working with her for about a year after that incident with the doll house. By the time we wrapped up, she was in a strong place and she was ready to go independent and not be in therapy anymore.
I reached out to her and said, “we still have some work to do. Would you be willing to try this technique?” She had actually just been in a car accident. So she says, “Fine. But we’re only working on that.”
I say okay. That’s acute trauma, that’s perfect. We’ll work on this one thing and just do the Event Havening. I knew we’ were not going to go into any old memory networks. She came in and we reprocessed the car accident and in ten minutes it’s cleared completely. She had been scared to drive, and hadn’t been driving in the past two months because of the car accident. But you know how this stuff works. It’s just so fast. She opens her eyes and says, “that was amazing. I’m fine.”
We had scheduled for ninety minutes, since it had been awhile, so we would have extra time if we needed it. I said ‘so we still have eighty minutes, what do you want to do?’ And she could've just said, “I’m good. Thanks so much, that was great, let’s do talk therapy or whatever, this is what’s been going on in my life.”
But she looks at me and goes “I want to go back to that memory.” I knew immediately what she meant. “I trust you. We did a lot of good work with EMDR and we talked a lot about tabling it and that was the right choice. It was not for me. But I’m wondering if this can do something else. I’ve never felt this calm and clear in my life after ten minutes of doing this.” So I say, “okay.”
I was a little nervous, to be honest. I started Havening her, applying the Havening touch. She had quite a bit of delta wave activation in her system from the work related to the car accident. Then we started working in baby increments of that memory at five years old. Just touching on tiny peripheral elements.
Within that eighty minutes we reprocessed that entire memory down to a zero, and there were many, many components to it. As we got lower on our experience of the memory, got down to a 2-3 on the SUDS scale, I started bringing in some Transpirational Havening and she started collapsing entire memory networks.
I remember she opened her eyes when we were done and it was one of those moments. I have yellow walls in my office and I’ve had this happen seven or eight times with different patients. She looks around and she says “Your walls are yellow, they weren’t yellow when I walked in.” And we know what that is. That’s the serotonin shifting. That’s that dopamine decrease in the thalamus and the amygdala so they’re no longer having that hypervigilant lose the forest for the trees experience. All of a sudden she’s taking in regular sensory data.
K: It was just transformative. And that was one session. So we did seven more sessions and she all of a sudden starts making these huge sweeping life changes. She moves out of her boyfriend’s house (her boyfriend had been abusive). She changes her job. She goes back to school. Everything's changing.
She disconnects from her family completely, draws strict boundaries, even calls CPS on her dad. I didn’t know this was a component back when we were first working together, but she brings it into a session. She says, “well you know I have a niece. I’m worried that my dad interacts with the niece.” She knows I’m a mandated reporter so I ask “do you want to make this call together?” Her reply blew me away, she told me “that’s why I’m bringing it in, I’ve never brought it up before because I was too scared to have CPS show up.” She knew the system because she’d been in the system. All of a sudden she says, “I’m taking my niece, I’m going to bring her to my house, I’m gonna get custody.” I’m thinking, “Who are you?” This is amazing.
H: Yes, she reclaimed her power fully.
K: Yes, and the nightmares were gone. The panic attacks were gone. The self injury was gone.
After my final session with this patient I called up Dr. Steven Ruden and asked him if I could become a trainer, because we need more. We need more. If Havening can do this, we need more.
H: How many sessions after the original ninety-minute session?
K: Seven. Seven ninety-minute sessions over the course of several months. I don’t do ninety-minute sessions traditionally but with her I did them because we were working through really heated pieces. Granted, she’d done a lot of therapy so she was primed, she was prepped. She was ready for it. So she’d get these insights and all of a sudden after ten years of therapy, she’d say, “Oh I always knew that, but now I feel it.” That’s the gift of Havening, that experience of feeling that truth in the body rather than just knowing the truth.
H: The possibilities that are emerging as a result of the introduction of this technology and the neurobiological understanding are poised to transform how we not only deal with trauma, but how we help people heal in every way.
K: In every way. I think one of my pure aha moments, especially working with her and knowing the impact of complex trauma on brain development, was that I could actually start to tailor the Havening Techniques that I was using to address very specific discrepancies in her traumatized brain.
I can start to recognize this statement, when she says this: “When I bring up my mother’s face all I see is black.” That means that her interior cingulate gyrus or her cingulate gyrus does not have certain receptors online. And her periaqueductal gray area is too over activated so that we can’t reach into the other aspects that the periaqueductal gray area is involved in that are tied into attunement and attachment. So we can start tailoring the interventions that way. I think this was one of the first techniques that I could do that with in such a hands-on and active manner in my treatment planning and my intervention. That was cool.
H: Brain surgery in the palm of your hands.
K: That is just the coolest thing ever to me.
H: I was talking to Carol Robertson the other day, a Havening trainer in Scotland. She said “I teach people how to sculpt their own neurology.” And I love the sculpture metaphor. It seems that you’re talking about this as well as you identify that this part of the brain is not online for this reason. You’re using Havening and the other tools to help the patient re-sculpt in real time that particular aspect of their neurology. That is truly remarkable.
K: It is. Yes, remarkable. No better words.
H: How do you see Havening impacting mental health practice say ten to twenty years in the future?
K: I think it’s going to change the world, Harry! Not only because the rapidness of the results we get but because it can be self-supplied and because we can teach the foundational principles of it to students. I teach it to all my parents and they use it with their children. So we have the capacity to actually start changing the future by implementing and incorporating this technique into everybody’s lives. It goes far beyond what we are going to be doing in our clinical offices now.
H: So you’ve answered that Havening can be used by people who are not counselors, psychologists, therapists and so forth. Where does a person begin with using Havening for self-care? Is it teaching the touch? How far can an individual who is not trained in that way go with it?
K: Initially I teach them the applied touch, the Havening Touch. Then I move them through the basic distraction technique. So it’s for anybody who has anything activating. So the child can come home and say “I got bullied at school today mom and it was upsetting to me”, and mom can sit there and apply the havening touch to little Sally and they can hum Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and imagine playing fetch with a puppy, etc. That releases the stress of the bullying event while creating a resilient landscape which protects the brain from encoding that bullying experience.
I go to that level with all of my patients whether it is self-applied or applying it to someone else. Even when I do lectures, whether it is with lay people or my clinical colleagues, the Event Havening is my go to because there’s really no way to screw that up. And that’s the beauty of it. You are giving your system GABA and serotonin and you are going to feel good.
I don’t teach people to actively do the exposure component. That’s because in my own experience as a trauma specialist we never know the layers that may be underneath something. I’ve had patients who I teach the technique to and they say I want to do this on my own and then I get a call from the ER because they put themselves into a panic attack. So I don’t teach that independently until I’ve been able to assess their ACES (adverse childhood experiences). How vulnerable and sensitized are they, as well as the current level of resilience in their brain.
So until we have done a lot work, if their ACE score is really high and their brain is vulnerable, I make sure that they are resilient first and then move into the Event Havening where they are actually processing traumatic experiences.
H: How far do you go in terms of teaching basic Event Havening to people who might present as okay but might have layers of trauma underneath that?
K: I teach it to them as a self-care tool. Something happens and you feel activated and feel reactive and angry or agitated or frustrated. Then I say to start applying the touch, start going into distraction and just do that immediately. It’s an immediate intervention for day to day stresses. That in itself will have a retroactive effect to gently calm their nervous system.
The more you haven across the field the more balanced your system is. But I don’t have them actively go back and do trauma reprocessing independently. They don’t go back and look for it and then actively immerse themselves in it. The difference is the exposure component. I don’t want them doing exposure therapy on themselves because we don’t know where that could take them. Everyone leaves their intake session with me knowing how to modulate their nervous system.
H: Continuing with this theme, are there other specific situations where it would not be advisable as a clinician or someone in self-care to use Havening?
K: Not really. The main thing that I tell my patients is that the core of all of this is safety. So if you’re using the technique on yourself you want to feel safe and comfortable using the touch. Now I have had some patients who were uncomfortable applying specific touches, so they would just do their hands and not their cheeks. But it’s the patient’s choice as to whatever resonates and what’s comfortable within. If the person who is going to be havened, the receiver of the touch, has expressed they are safe and comfortable receiving the touch then you are okay to proceed.
I tell the couples that I work with that if you are in an argument don’t walk up and start Havening your partner, because they may not want to be touched by you. The touch actually won’t work unless they have a sense of safety. The system will reject it. Those are the main things.
The other thing is with the touch, the cadence has to be fairly specific. If it is too fast, too harsh, if it’s hard then it won’t have the same effect and can actually agitate the system. So having an understanding of how to effectively apply the touch is very crucial. Other than that there really is not a time that it’s not okay. Even if you are just sitting in LA traffic and you’re stopped and don't’ know why and you just start doing havening then you will feel better because of the GABA and serotonin. Then hands back on the wheel and start driving.
H: I do it in my daily life all the time.
K: I’m sitting here doing it now as we’ve been talking.
H: Me too.
K: As we know, it just becomes integrated. It’s incredible that my patients will come in and sit down in my room and it becomes a Havening space. They will be talking and then the next thing you know they’re Havening and not even realize it because the brain wants that place of safety.
H: Speaking to your peers, other psychologists, clinicians, counselors and people who are mental health professionals, what would you say to them? What advice would you give to anyone who is in that group and looking into the possibility of adding Havening Techniques to their toolkit?
K: I would say there are three main reasons why you should add Havening to your toolkit.
Number one is that it is an effective, adaptive tool. And because of the electrochemical environment that Havening creates in the mind and the body, traditional psychotherapy will be more effective because it removes that amygdala filter from the psychotherapeutic process.
So they resonate more fully within the individual and you just get to deeper levels more quickly in a safer way. It breaks through resistance in a soft and gentle manner. It helps the person move through resistance. It helps them feel safe going into scary places. It is the most effective tool I have ever seen for gently and effectively healing complex PTSD.
Number two, the patients get to take it home. They have something that they can use in between sessions effectively and feel powerful doing so. All of a sudden they have an incredible tool to use when they are going into a rage or panic attack or they can’t sleep. I treat a lot of insomnia. Now they have an immediate intervention that is fast and effective.
Most of my patients haven two to five minutes three to five times a day. That’s just ten to thirty minutes a day to massive shifts in the way the body is processing data. They want to do it and seek doing it.
So, all of a sudden they are Havening and say, “I didn’t even know I was Havening,” and they feel so much better. They have an immediate tool and as the clinician to give them that tool you are empowering them so that in between your sessions they know that they have something that they can use and feel secure and safe using that they know will work.
And finally, third, Havening provides a space of safety not only for our patients but it also creates a safe haven within the clinician, the provider, because we are also receiving delta waves, which is the fundamental tool that Havening is based on. So we are being Havened and even though we are empathetic and present and engaged with our patient, we are not encoding anything.
This is really key as a trauma specialist. I know for all of my colleagues, we each share with our patients very difficult life experiences and very painful things. That’s why people come into our offices, because life is hard and it hurts. Most of my colleagues and I’m sure most of yours are very empathetic people; we carry that pain and we are experiencing it with our patients.
Trauma can happen first person, it can happen to us, second person we see it, or third person, we hear about it. Havening protects against second person trauma and vicarious traumatization.
Even better, you walk out of the door at the end of the day and you are not carrying the weight of everything. You walk out and think ‘I’ve had a fantastic brain massage all day while doing incredible work with my patient, now I get to go home with my family without taking any of this home with me.’ That is incredible, especially as a trauma specialist. I get to go home and live my life and know that I did incredible work and don't have to carry the weight of their trauma with me.
H. Thank you, Kate.
FIFTEEN MINUTES TO FREEDOM
Chapter 2 of Fifteen Minutes to Freedom
Interview with Dr. Kate Truitt, Ph.D., M.B.A., PART II
Dr. Kate Truitt is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and trauma specialist in private practice in Pasadena, California.