Identity and Goals: A Call to Academy Members
Monika Smith, Ph.D., B.C.E.T.S.


In keeping with its mission statement of commitment to the advancement of intervention for survivors of trauma, the purpose of this article was to have been a presentation of my observations resulting from my experience in working with this population by guiding them skillfully with the use of flexibly adapted therapeutic techniques and interventive mechanisms through the various stages of grief (Kubler-Ross) with a predominant emphasis on Gestalt. This corresponds with my own personality and personality theory from whence I join my client/patient along her/his journey to healing.

I furthermore intended to discuss my own background which brought me to the field of traumatic stress studies, research, writing, and treatment: I am a child survivor of the Holocaust, as well as the child of a family of survivors of that time. My graduate work began with a MSW in community organization at a time when I still needed to develop and maintain my own boundaries by staying in macro rather than micro practice. Personal therapy provided healing for the would-be healer while skills were acquired and honed during a second graduate program, a MS in Pastoral counseling. Most recently, a community college counseling center serving student/adult and county populations provided the setting in which the majority of (my) client population had survived various degrees of domestic and familial trauma. The academic environment stimulated me to continue my own study and research in the field of PTSD, and the awarding of a doctorate. These then were the things I was going to expound upon, until...

Several meetings both formal and informal together with some mailings stimulated interesting and lively conversation as to the role of this "new kid on the block" of trauma. We viewed The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress which I, along with several of the others, considered joining as a welcome addition to the growing field of traumatic stress. This would serve to increase awareness and the multitudinous aspects of study, research, education, writing, practice and intervention whether long term or crises, hands on in the trenches of war, urban street, living room or hurricane (etc.), or the pristine walls of the lab, the professional comfort of the therapeutic setting or the chaos of a bomb shelter, the excitement of lobbying or the tediousness of drafting and revising policy statements...

Rather than being extended an unanimously welcome hand, AAETS was viewed by several of us with the inquisitive skepticism reserved for anything new, different, unknown and curious while judgment was reserved for the present. This then, appears to me to be a welcome window of opportunity from which to explore, widen perspective and be gathered into the fold of all those truly seeking ways and means of alleviating suffering, promoting and expediting healing, supporting the afflicted as well as their care-givers by deploying every avenue available: hands on, therapeutically, academically, clinically, legally, administratively, et al.

If my colors are showing, then why not: we bring to bear who we are and what we have become. Victims of traumatic stress, particularly sufferers of post traumatic stress syndrome and especially survivors of extensive long term horrors such as the Holocaust have very special gifts, perspectives and values: we like to have things smooth and thereby are peacemakers who "bring together"; while we appear to go with the flow around us we have acquired a quiet strength making us resilient to the flow and impervious to its negative abrasiveness, and thirdly, we have a well developed sense of humor allowing us to transcend the foibles of our surroundings with a knowing and wise smile.

And so, though I myself am a newcomer to the block, I want to share my feelings and thoughts by bringing my experience and my knowledge to give to the guiding principals on board or staff, as well as to fellow members.

Our title says volumes: AMERICAN. We are not global nor international. While I do hope we shall avail ourselves of what knowledge the worldwide community develops and presents, our focus remains domestic or national.

We call ourselves ACADEMY. Briefly, my old Random House dictionary defines that as a place for special instruction and/or training, or, an association for the advancement of a subject, or, a group of persons acknowledged as authorities; it also refers to academe as the public grove: a cool breeze gently fanning trees above the brows of front-line workers finding rest and respite in the shade; a place to acquire knowledge, support, guidance, to share with others and to learn from them. Less a place for research, scientific inquiry, empirical data, aggressive networking, setting policies and procedures and more of a place that gives sustenance, promotes healing, provides guidance, creates awareness, and reaches out. A place where an inner city policeman feels as supported as a National Guard rescue crew or shock trauma hospital clinic staff.

I hope we will be the professional community on the front lines of bringing relief, assistance, support, education, training and all else required in a society whose violence is accelerating as its natural catastrophes increase: whether floods, storms, drugs, domestic violence, shootings or church burnings. Our society needs healing as a whole and for that massive interventive efforts need be mobilized and in time we might turn our collective expertise to efforts which promote preventive measures. For now, let us begin to promote health in those who are "mopping up" on a day to day basis.

We call ourselves EXPERTS. Unfortunately, I had no say so in this choice of words: it is loaded. Does my membership make me more of an expert? Does not being a member of this group make me less of an expert? Does membership in any other group involved with traumatic stress research, study, education, therapy, etc., etc. mean I am more or less of an expert, elitist, joiner, or Mensch? I strongly believe that some refinement and definition is called for: As new kids on the block, we NEED the input, cooperation, feedback, participation and recognition from every other group that as its mission carries out any one of several areas within the huge, expanding field of traumatic stress activity. We need a niche which we can comfortably fill, from which we can venture into the field at large while, however, recognizing, respecting, and honoring the areas of expertise held by like-minded groups under the canopy of trauma work, and we must PROVE ourselves as a credible group to also be respected by how we conduct ourselves vis-a-vis established groups.

There is no question that the area needs all the help it can get at all levels from lofty think tank researchers to a Red Cross volunteer rescuing a kitten from flash floods, where we shall best apply our collective and individual abilities will be the area in which we can, in time, truly call ourselves expert, and, more importantly, will be perceived as the EXPERTS we are by colleagues across the board of trauma studies.

The next two words in our title are TRAUMATIC STRESS. We who claim to be experts believe we know what that means and what it is as do colleagues everywhere from their own experience. Those whom we wish to better serve as a result of the sharing, caring and support this organization will give us may as yet not know that there is a name for the cause of their pain, that it has a cause and how to alleviate its acuteness or chronicity as best possible.

And lastly, we are INCORPORATED. To be incorporated means to be made part of or to become combined in one body. Not only are we legally "Inc.", we are part of the body that is humanity in all its suffering, terror, pain and glory. We are and aspire to be combined with all who seek to bring an end to suffering souls and bodies exposed to and afflicted by severe trauma. Let's conduct our affairs in a manner affording us the respect and recognition we seek and will have earned from experts in this field based on how we define our activities therein.

The purpose of this paper was (or evolved) to stimulate ideas, generate feedback, challenge the membership to participate, voice opinion and formulate agendas for future articles and symposia, and to promote the values, ethics, standards of the highest professionalism in working together with like-minded organizations, associations, societies, and groups serving in their own unique manner and/or area of specialization the greater good of all humanity.

There's work to be done. Lots of work. NOW.

©1996 by The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, Inc.



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