Innovative Trauma Center Opens In Newhallville

by Caroline Berson | September 22, 2008 12:04 PM | | Comments (1)

Independent-Sept19%20015a.jpgA novel technique has been helping trauma victims recover from violence in the West Bank — and now in New Haven’s Dixwell and Newhallville neighbor- hoods, too.

The technique is called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR. Friday, community-health advocates gathered for the official opening of the Urban Trauma Center, dedicated to using EMDR to alleviate symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in community members.

The center is located at the Dixwell/Newhallville Community Mental Health Services.

The woman who developed EMDR, Francine Shapiro (pictured with Page), came to town for the event and served as keynote speaker. (She’s pictured at the top of the story with DNCMHS Executive Director Robert Page.)

EMDR is a form of psychological therapy that helps patients reconcile traumatic memories. “It’s the best treatment for helping people with major trauma,” said Debbie Antari, a clinician at DNCMHS. “It helps them process the memory through their neurological symptoms and gets them to a point where what happened is just another memory.” Sometimes the technique includes having a patient’s eyes follow a light from side to side while a memory is being revisited.

Over the years, EMDR has been used to treat survivors of traumatic experiences ranging from death of a loved one to rape. EMDR clinicians have worked with survivors on an individual basis as well as with victims of large-scale events — from 9/11 to violence in the Middle East. Shapiro emphasized the importance of treating mental trauma; if gone untreated, it can breed further violence in the community.

Independent-Sept19%20005a.jpgA year ago, Don deGraffenried, the clinical director of DNCMHS, brought the concept of EMDR to the agency. He mentioned violence in the New Haven community as an catalyst for developing the new center.

“Now we have eight highly trained staff clinicians,” deGraffenried said.

In her speech, Shapiro acknowledged the enthusiastic work by deGraffenried and his colleagues.

“EMDR is only as good as the hands that use it,” she said.

Most importantly, Degraffenrief said, people in Dixwell and Newhallville can now expect long-term relief from the impact of traumatic experiences. Because DNCMHS recieves funding from the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services & the Department of Social Services, the services are available to individuals from all economic backgrounds.

Independent-Sept19%20002a.jpgDNCMHS Board Member Rick Randall has been serving the community as a police officer for the past 30 years and recognizes the range of impact that EMDR techniques will have on the city.

“I see people suffering all the time, but, as a police officer, I don’t have the tools on my utility belt to help those individuals out,” Randall said. “I hope that the center will have an impact on decreasing the stress and mental trauma in our community and elsewhere. Mental trauma is hidden, but it’s a big problem throughout the United States.”

Looking forward, organizers want to broaden the availablity of EMDR treatments throughout the region, said Bob Gelbach, executive director of the EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Programs.

“We already have 63 clinicians signed up for phase one of EMDR training in October at Southern [Connecticut University],” Gelbach said. “The goal of HAP is to build capacity in the community. I’m excited because DNCMHS has taken the lead in New Haven and I know they will work to extend EMDR to other agencies in the region.”

Click on the play arrow to watch Tom Ficklin’s video highlights of Friday’s event. Click here for his slide show.

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Posted by: cicely pernell | October 21, 2008 6:04 PM

Good Day,
I am interested in attending the EMDR training in October 2008 at Southern Connecticut State University. I am a graduate student, and is interested in learning more about this technique that would help alleviate PTSD.If students can attend this training I would like to know the days and times of this event, as well as if there is a registration fee. Thank you for taking the time to read this email.

Cicely Pernell

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