The Academy had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Benjamin Keyes, Executive Director of The Green Cross Academy for Traumatology. The Academy has renewed its collaboration with Green Cross in responding to crisis situations. Both Green Cross and the Academy are committed to providing intervention to those exposed to traumatic events and crisis situations.
Dr. Benjamin Keyes is a Professor, Director of Training and Internship, and Director for the Center for Trauma and Resiliency Studies at Divine Mercy University in Sterling, VA. As head of the Center for Trauma and Resiliency Studies, Dr. Keyes supervises the developing and training of graduate students in First Response and Chronic Trauma. His specialties include dissociative disorders, domestic violence, child abuse, addictions, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Keyes has worked extensively with hospitalization programs, private practices, and has established himself as one of the leading program innovators for partial hospitalization programs. Dr. Keyes received his Doctorate in Rehabilitation Counseling in 1985 from International College and in Counseling Psychology from the University of Sarasota in 2003. He also has Doctoral Degrees in Theology, Divinity and Ministry.
Academy: Our organizations have signed a collaboration agreement so there can be a pooling of organization resources. Given this, please provide the AAETS membership with a history regarding Green Cross Academy of Traumatology. How did it start? Who were the founding members?
Dr. Keyes: Green Cross Academy of Traumatology started in the mid-1990s when our founder, Dr. Charles Figley, responded to the need for trauma-informed clinicians to the Oklahoma bombing of a federal building. Trauma was not a widely known practice area and his discovery of extremely limited resources for first responders and the same for survivors in the area of mental health support was both astonishing and heartbreaking. Dr. Figley believed that we could do better. Upon his return, to Florida State University where he taught in the Social Work Department, he began to develop training modules that would address the needs of first-responders with a goal to train clinicians to be able to practically intervene with techniques that would reduce stress and allow them to function better in the workplace during disaster and crisis. His initial board consisted of clinicians who were trauma-informed and had a national presence. This included folks such as Dr. Frank Ochberg who had been on the committee overseeing PTSD being added to the DSM and Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt who has had a sterling career in emergency management. Early clinical responders also included Dr. Daniel Casey (former Executive Director following Dr. Figley with Green Cross) and Dr. Jay Martin. Both Mary and Daniel continue on the Green Cross Board.
Academy: What is the mission of GCAT?
Dr. Keyes: Green Cross has essentially three missions. The first is the development of curriculum standards for professional certifications through the process of an accreditation board in the areas of compassion fatigue, field trauma, and clinical trauma. Current members of our accreditation board include top trauma specialists in a variety of fields. Members include: Drs. Charles and Kathy Figley, Dr. Colin Ross (psychiatrist), Dr. Kathy Steele (nurse), Dr. Lynn Danylchuk (former president of ISSTD), Kevin Conners (social work and Director of Online Trauma Project California Southern University), Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt (Emergency Management). We are currently expanding this board and inviting others prominent in the field of trauma. The second mission is to develop accredited sites around the world to offer trainings and certifications. The third and most active mission is to deploy Trained Certified and Qualified Disaster Mental Health Workers. To include field and clinical traumatologists and compassion fatigue specialists who work within the incident command system and partner with active agencies in the field.
Academy: How have you seen GCAT change over time?
Dr. Keyes: Change is an interesting word. I think change defines trauma work as situations change sometimes within a moment's notice when working with trauma. I think that this is true in the field and certainly true with clients in the therapeutic process. At its inception, Green Cross was new, exciting, and the charismatic appeal of Dr. Figley propelled the organization to grow very quickly which instilled the need for more trainings with specific targets of application. When Dr. Figley retired from Green Cross to focus on his educational pursuits (he moved to Tulane University and the development of a trauma center for students), Green Cross entered a period of time that I would call maintenance. The attempt was to maintain the organization until it could be restructured and refocused. Five years ago that change hopefully began with my tenure as Executive Director.
Academy: Can you give a chronology of the major changes in GCAT?
Dr. Keyes: I think the previous section chronicled the majority of the changes in the last five years we have grown as an organization. We are opening new accredited sites forging MOUs with non-profit disaster relief agencies having a yearly conference, a quarterly newsletter, and functioning in a way that informs especially around the area of deployment. After a significant time of minor deployments, the last few years has changed quite a bit. We responded initially to Hurricane Sandy followed by the Oso mudslide in Oregon, wildfires in Washington State, and then a who’s who of hurricane names Harvey, Irma, Maria, Francis, Michael. In between all of this came the California wildfires and international needs of refugees and human trafficking survivors.
Academy: Please describe the education and training that Green Cross Academy of Traumatology offers to responders and volunteers.
The education and training with the Green Cross Academy of Traumatology offer clinicians, first responders, and volunteers a wide variety of practical techniques to be used in disaster, crisis, and emergency situations. There are two levels of one-day trainings for certification in the area of compassion fatigue. The first as an educator targeted to healing yourself and the second as a compassion fatigue therapist working to assist healing with others. Field Traumatology certification is focused initially at a two-day training regarding disaster protocols, do's and dont's, introduction to the incident command system, and is coupled with three FEMA courses targeted to community disaster and recovery. The Clinical Traumatologist certification includes courses in family trauma, child and adolescent trauma, treating PTSD, grief and loss, psychological first aid, sexual trauma, complex trauma, domestic violence, the neurobiology of trauma, and EMDR Levels 1 and 2. We have recently expanded a new certification recognizing years of service dedicated to those who are suffering with the Certified Master Field Traumatologist and Certified Master Clinical Traumatologist. Current plans of expansion include courses designed to address suicide, school shootings, and the spiritual component of trauma work targeted to chaplains.
Academy: Recent traumatic situations that impacted many people emotionally and functionally. How has GCAT used it resources to address the emerging psychological needs of victims and responders?
Dr. Keyes: Most recent traumatic situations would be in three areas. The first deals with the plight of the people of Puerto Rico. Two years ago, the island was decimated by hurricanes and the federal government dragged their feet regarding payment and reimbursement creating a humanitarian crisis. Homes and businesses could not be restored causing a loss for the island and a loss of income, safety, and security for thousands. The second is the ongoing rebuilding process in California due to huge wildfires that destroyed cities and towns. Third, would be the incredible toll of human trafficking which currently affects every nation of the world. The victims are often isolated and without sufficient rehabilitation and support. The perpetrators lack sufficient penalty to curb this blight on humanity. Green Cross has activated and responded with the sending of teams to Puerto Rico, California, and several international countries throughout the world addressing those three issues respectively. Green Cross will continue to mobilize to support the ongoing recovery of Puerto Rico and California and several of our training sites have partnered with organizations targeting the problem of human trafficking. We take on these issues while at the same time being available to deploy, train, and advocate.
Academy: GCAT utilizes only certified individuals and teams to respond to traumatic situations. Please describe the certification process.
The certification process is actually quite easy. It starts by taking one of the classes offered by Green Cross as they are all independent of each other. I like to recommend that most start with the compassion fatigue courses followed by the disaster trauma course as they encompass three of the five levels of certification and lay the foundation for being useful and supportive in crisis situations should the need arise. There are those who do not want to deploy during times of disaster but are willing to function in supportive roles. These trainings are also devised to expose participants to what those supportive roles are and how to function. We ask that after taking their first class that they join Green Cross which is offered at a significant discount in the first year. This way they are plugged into the activities of the organization including conference, newsletter, and ongoing updates regarding disaster in the nation and the world. Once a member has either completed courses that are certifications unto themselves or multiple requirements, they are automatically granted the appropriate certification. Those who have had training from other organizations can submit for evaluation and in most cases have that training applied to certification levels with Green Cross. We have a three-way agreement between the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF), Academy of Traumatic Stress Specialists (ATSS), and GCAT. We also have an ongoing agreement with the National Center for Crisis Management and the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress (NCCM/AAETS).
Academy: What is GCAT looking for in a responder in order for them to be a responder in your organization?
Dr. Keyes: What we look for in a responder is someone who is trauma-informed or willing to be trained in trauma-informed. They need to care for those who are in crisis or suffering from any aspect of trauma. We like to get those who are interested in learning about trauma and its effects and who can see themselves making a difference simply by their presence during times of need. We look for volunteers, first responders, teachers, nurses, clergy, etc. at the compassion fatigue and field trauma levels. We look for licensed clinicians in all mental health disciplines and are willing to complete course work and experience to be certified at the Certified Clinical Traumatologist level.
Academy: If you had your way with where GCAT would be five years from today, what would your goals be and where would you like to see GCAT?
Dr. Keyes: If I had my way, Green Cross would be a vibrant organization five years from now with a high profile for disaster and trauma work. It would be an organization that was well funded through grants for purposes of deployment and would have grant money to pursue specialty areas such as working with refugees and human trafficking. Green Cross would also have paid positions in the area of Executive Director, office personnel, marketing, volunteer director, and grant acquisition. As long as I'm dreaming here, we would also have agreements with logistical organizations such as airlines, B and B's, hotel chains, and restaurants to support deployment. Goals would include ongoing support of disaster organizations, networking through the fifty states of VOAD organizations (Volunteer Organizations Amid Disaster), a seat at the national VOAD, and an ongoing MOU with FEMA.
Academy: Green Cross Academy of Traumatology has a collaboration agreement with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and with its sister organization National Center for Crisis Management. How do you see this collaboration meeting the goals of the respective organizations and the needs of responders and victims?
Dr. Keyes: First of all, I was so pleased to find out about the memorandum of understanding between Green Cross Academy and the National Center for Crisis Management/American Academy of Experts for Traumatic Stress. It's organizations such as ours that provide the necessary training and opportunity for dissemination of information to clinicians, first responders, and those who have an interest in trauma. Our organization offers to yours, the opportunity for deployment during times of disaster, crisis, or need. As both organizations continue to develop training opportunities, the cross-pollination only serves to strengthen the abilities of those who participate. It is also our combined voices that can make a difference in advocating for those who are suffering and those who are in need. Advocacy, unfortunately, has become somewhat archaic for many in all disciplines in mental health. Organizations such as ours have the opportunity to "awaken the sleeping giant" by empowering those who take or participate in training. To really understand that one person can make a difference, in fact, one person can change the world.
The more of us that grasp this important concept the more pieces of the world have the opportunity for change.
Academy: Thank you Dr. Keyes for your time and helping the Academy’s membership understand Green Cross and its goals and procedures. The Executive Board of the Academy is looking forward to continuing its collaborative relationship with Green Cross and collectively better meeting the psychological needs of those impacted by traumatic stress and crisis situations.