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Is trauma treatable?

Our recent Thought Leadership Event explored the topic: ‘Is trauma treatable?’ with panel experts providing such varied insights into the treatment of trauma.

The panel consisted of four experts - Dr Greg Roebuck, Psychiatry Registrar at Phoenix Australia, Dr Eli Kotler, Medical Director at Malvern Private Hospital, Dr Martin Williams, Research Fellow in Computational Neuroscience at the Turner Institute of Brain and Mental Health at Monash University, and lived experience advocate Tara Schultz.

From Tara, we heard how empowerment and connectedness was the ‘treatment’ for her. How finding her voice, finding a community and finding a purpose were the key elements to her recovery. It was very moving indeed.

Greg provided us with lessons in PTSD 101 and Psychotherapy for PTSD 101. It was delivered with quiet passion and insight and was itself very moving. There was nothing of blame or shame or othering. Just, this is how it works with the brain, and this is how long-term, trauma-based psychotherapies can help in a way that medicines cannot.

Eli talked a lot about boxes. He hates them! He hates people being put into a box, that is, having symptoms explained away with a diagnosis (e.g., personality disorder) and given pre-ordained treatments to address the symptoms.

In fact, Eli gave us the controversial assessment that trauma is not treatable with conventional diagnosis and medications, but you can be helped to heal from it.

Then Martin took us into the fascinating world of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, focussing on MDMA.

One major barrier to trauma-based psychotherapy, which usually involves facing, addressing and reliving the traumatic event, is people’s natural defences against reliving horrible experiences. I’m oversimplifying, but MDMA enables people to relax, enhances trust with the therapist and lowers the defences so that the therapeutic work can take place.

It makes perfect sense and has the potential to help us think differently about illicit drugs.

So, trauma is treatable, or healable, if we consider the whole person, don’t rely on diagnoses too much, don’t simply medicate, and follow the evidence. Tara envisages a better world, where socioeconomic factors support health and happiness, and everyone was advocating for an integrated experience for people seeking help.

You can watch the conversation here:

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