Healing Retreat for Trauma

Healing Retreat for Trauma

In his book “The Body Keeps the Score”, Bessel van der Kolk beautifully examines the way trauma will often stay stuck in an individual’s body as well as their mind. As a result, their brain’s alarm system will go haywire and they become trapped in repetitive patterns of trauma re-creation.


Trauma Is Relative

Trauma is relative, and it is not how extreme an event is for us that determines whether or not it is “trauma”, rather it’s the way that negative experience is defining and controlling our life. Furthermore, for many people struggling with an unresolved trauma history, talk based therapies may not be enough to really help. For the trauma survivor, just talking about a traumatic event often produces feelings of being overwhelmed and even dissociation. The frontal, reasoning part of our brain will go off line and what is left “driving the bus” is our primal brain; the amygdala and the limbic system. So even though you may have a client nodding and responding to questions, they may very well be a thousand miles away. Disconnecting from body and mind has kept many people safe for a long time, and that learned defense mechanism will often still kick in, even in the therapy office.


In my private practice I sometimes have clients where there is only a certain point we can go to before it becomes unsafe. It is really hard to dive into someone’s deepest and darkest story when I know, and they know, that they have to pick up the kids from school in an hour. I am not saying that individual therapy is not helpful and effective, on the contrary – it absolutely is. But when it comes to severe trauma, people often need something more.


What Is Needed

Survivor’s of trauma need a sanctuary: A safe and controlled place where they can get vulnerable and let got of the pressure to hold themselves together. This is why I love working in week-long intensive therapy settings with trauma survivors. In these personal and powerful retreats we are able to engage that primal brain with both experiential and body based approaches. By removing someone from the responsibilities and distractions of daily life and providing them with 24-hour therapeutic support, they can finally let themselves unravel the trauma story that has been shaping who they are for far too long. Yes, it isn’t easy, it may require missing a couple days of work as well as a financial investment, but that is a very small price to pay to be truly free.

Written and offered by Brennon Moore, MS, CTT, CADC-II.

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Different Types of Anxiety Disorders

Different Types of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a common occurrence when a person faces potentially problematic or dangerous situations. It is also felt when a person perceives an external threat. However, chronic and irrational anxiety can lead to a form of anxiety disorder. There are different types of anxiety disorder depending on their causes or triggers.

Common forms of anxiety disorders

Generalized anxiety disorder

A person who has this type of anxiety disorder usually experience prolonged anxiety that is often without basis. More accurately, people with generalized anxiety disorders cannot articulate the reason behind their anxiety. This type of anxiety usually last for six months and often affect women. Due to the persistence of the anxiety, people affected with generalized anxiety disorder constantly fret and worry. This results to heart palpitations, insomnia, headaches, and dizzy spells.


Specific phobia

Unlike someone with generalized anxiety disorder, a person who has a specific phobia experiences extreme and often irrational fear of a certain situation or object. When exposed to the object or situation they fear, people with specific phobias exhibit signs of intense fear like shaking, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and nausea. Common specific phobias include fear of heights, enclosed spaces, blood, and animals. The fear a person with phobia feels can be so extreme that he or she may disregard safety just to escape the situation.


Panic disorder

Also known as Agoraphobia, panic disorders are characterized by recurring panic attacks which are often unexpected. Symptoms are usually shaking, chest pains, dizziness, fear of losing control, and reluctance of being alone. People with panic disorder are aware that their panic is usually unfounded and illogical. This is why they avoid public situations and being alone. A panic attack can be so severe that people may lose control and hurt themselves.


Social phobia

Alternatively called social anxiety, a person with social phobia may exhibit similar symptoms like those of panic disorder especially in social situations. Shaking, dizziness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations may ensue when a person with social phobia finds his or herself at the center of attention or in the company of many people, regardless whether they are strangers or not.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder experience anxiety caused by a persistent obsession or idea. They tend to avoid experiencing anxiety by resorting to repetitive actions or behaviors that prevent anxiety. For example, a person who is obsessed about cleanliness may experience anxiety at the mere sight of a vase placed slightly off-center. To prevent anxiety, he or she will clean and organize everything compulsively or without reason.



Post-traumatic stress disorder may occur after a person experienced a severely traumatic event. He or she may relive the experience in his or her mind which causes stress and anxiety. If a person with PTSD comes into contact with stimuli (any object, person, or situation) that he or she associates with the traumatic event, he or she may literally re-experience the event by crying uncontrollably, panicking, or losing control. Subtler symptoms include insomnia and avoidant behavior. PTSD may manifest itself immediately after the traumatic event or even years after.


Determining the type of anxiety disorder a person has is crucial to seeking treatment and recovery. Techniques and methods that are used to help a person cope with a certain anxiety usually target not only the management of symptoms but coping mechanisms when exposed to triggers. Only after thorough diagnosis can treatment and recovery for anxiety disorders really commence.


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Central Houston; Galleria / Bellaire and West University



Traumatogenic Exposure and CISM

Traumatogenic Exposure and CISM


What are CISD andand CISM?

Critical Traumatogenic Exposure and CISM Incident Stress Debriefings (CISDs) are a specific tool of Critical Incident Stress Management designed to help individuals, groups, or entire organizations cope with the often difficult, overwhelming and/or stressful emotions associated with critical incidents or traumatic events.


What Employers Should Know

CISD helps mitigate post-traumatic symptoms, assess the need for follow-up, and often provides a sense of closure. If prompt trauma intervention is provided at the onset of the crisis, damaging long term effects can be minimized and employees will be better equipped to return to the daily work routine and productivity.


Professional Consulting and CISM for Traumatogenic Exposure/Incidents

Professional consulting and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) are not the same thing as psychotherapy or counseling. These are specialized, focused services that are used very specifically for individuals who have been involved in or exposed to unnatural events or conditions. Sometimes exposure occurs while fulfilling the duties of their profession, sometimes due to unforeseen accidents or disasters and even sometimes as a victim of an aggressive crime.

These services are not the same as therapy and in no way are they meant to replace therapy. These services are most effective when used as soon as possible after the event to help normalize the situation and prepare the individual for some other issues that may arise in the short term as a result. CISM is intended to be used promptly to reduce the risk of further distress and more detrimental outcomes later on such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


Issues that may be addressed include, but are not limited to:

Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, Anxiety & Anger Problems, Stress Management, Traumatogenic Exposure, PTSD, Survivor’s Guilt, Grief and Loss, Family Conflict, Significant Life-Change Adjustment, Work/Life Balance, Spiritual/Philosophical Conflicts and Substance Abuse/Dependence.

These services are typically used for :

First Responders
Peace Officers
Fire Department
Hazardous Professions
Oil (Rig/Refinery) Professionals
Industrial Plant Professionals
Airline / Airport
Maritime / Off Shore
Professional Environment
Death in the Workplace
Violence in the Workplace
Crisis Event in the Workplace
Victims & Survivors
Aggressive/Assaultive Crime
Robbery/Random Crime
National Crisis
Natural Disaster


ESI / Houston / Critical Incident Stress Debriefing 

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Houston Police, Fire Department and First Responders Tackle PTSD

Really impressive to see (article linked below) support for first responders who serve us all – especially in a peer-to-peer approach which we’ve known for long time works so well. Veterans groups have done this for some time. Doesn’t by any means replace psychotherapy, when appropriate, but psychotherapy cannot provide the peer support experience or engagement that first responders and vets can give each other. More of a very specialized critical incident service. Congrats to HPD and HFD for this and for the courageous service men and women who protect and serve us every day – and those doubly courageous who are struggling with the effects of traumatic events. Our gratitude and admiration to all of you.

KHOU / Houston Police / Fire Department / Tackle PTSD



Many first responders fear that if they tell their supervisors they have PTSD, they’ll be pulled off the streets.

That’s a perception Houston Police Captain Greg Fremin is trying to change. He’s a former Marine who works on veterans affairs for HPD. Part of his mission is to encourage officers to come forward when they need help.

“I don’t want any of our officers out there to think that they would be flagged, they’re going to be coded, or there’s some type of secret policy in place, there isn’t,” said Capt. Fremin.

Fremin says it would only be a problem if the symptoms kept an officer from doing his job and that’s much more likely to happen if you don’t seek help. New applicants to HPD have to pass a psychological screening too but Capt. Fremin says admitting to PTSD won’t eliminate a candidate.

The Houston Fire Department has a similar policy, though firefighters do not have to pass a psychological screening before they join the department.

“It’s something that we can’t suppress and we can’t sweep under the rug. It’s something that we have to deal with right now,” said Capt. Fremin.

About a third of Houston’s police and a quarter of firefighters are veterans. It’s a common path forward for vets seeking structure and camaraderie and experts say those working through PTSD are not a risk to others.

“Their turmoil is within and it turns within and against themselves. Not outwardly against others,” said Maulsby.

It’s a personal fight that can compound with first responders’ exposure to trauma.

Miller decided himself to switch from high-pressure paramedic to driving a ladder truck, with the fire department’s full support.

“You gotta find your comfort zone,” said Miller.

And the new group counseling can help with support from those who understand.

Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience – Part 3

Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience – Part 3:

The word “resilience” comes from the Latin word “resilíre,” which literally means, “To leap back” or as I like to say, “spring back from”. Resilience helps to grow from and beyond the challenging and uncertain things in our lives. Knowing how to “spring back” from adversity and life challenges is something that all of us can do. Here are the last three of the Top 10 Steps to help you increase your capacity for personal resilience.

8. Unknown Only Means Opportunity
We hear people reference “being open” to things, changes, possibilities and so on – but I am not sure many of these folks really understand what being open to something means. Yes it means to listen/consider something you typically would not – but this suggests an other or alternative. Being open really means to whatever can be – without necessarily knowing. There is a tendency for us to back-fill an unknown with the absolute worst possible scenario we can and then commit to building a strategy to thwart it. Why expect the worst without any reason, cause or actual information to suggest it? For all the bad in the universe you are aware of – there are mountains more of good that you are not. Allow yourself the opportunity for something new and wonderful to surprise you. Back-filling with assumptions and fear doesn’t protect you – more times than not, it takes from you.

9. Compassion with Community
There is an old saying that goes, “there is no better way to know how much you have than to help someone who has less.” Acts of service are a vital part of our spiritual resilience. Engaging in acts of kindness, with intention, towards others others has an impressive impact on our mood and even our chemistry. Charity and service are also important lessons in character development and I would even say in maintaining it. Join a youth group service day, rally your employer to support staff volunteering for a day at a local food bank, sign up to be a docent at the local museum, zoo or hospital – or go solo and just join the annual beach clean up round up. If you Google “volunteer” and your city’s name – you’ll likely be amazed at what is out there.
True giving, without any expectation, brings back so much to us. Altruism really is more of a lofty goal or ideal – but we strive to be as close to it as possible here. While a part of us knows we will get “good feeling” from giving – make a point to not take other benefit from this. In these efforts there is no place for ego or acknowledgement or being credited in some way. It helps to be anonymous or part of a serving group if possible.

10. Voice Your Gratitude – specific and frequently
At first look this may seem a lot like #6, so bear with me. Scribe and Herald are a bit different in that they focus on a set time and can be alone or with a confidant – this is a more public and shared action. It’s important to get into the habit – really making it a habit – to state and share your gratitude outwardly. Tell your friend how much you appreciate your spouse and how lucky you are to have them. Tell your co-worker about your favorite uncle and what you appreciated about how they contributed to your life. Share with your neighbors or friends how you overcame a major illness or challenge in your life and how you will forever be grateful for it. Sharing our gratitude inspires it in those around us and soon we are all hearing more and more of what to be joyful about instead of complaining about the minutia of everyday challenges. There is a deli attendant in my neighborhood that upon being asked how she is doing always answers that she is blessed and one reason why. She’s got me answering her with one too. (I gotta thank her…and I will this weekend.)
Ideas of entitlement have all but killed off “thank you” in the common exchanges in commerce and community – at least in some areas. But it’s very easy to restore. Thank the waiter – even if it wasn’t the best service. Tip the grocery sacker – something. If you can’t – then reach out and shake there hand and tell them. A bit of personal humility doesn’t push you down – it raises you up. If you know a teacher – any teacher – please, tell them how much we need them and how much they matter. (And if you are a fellow parent – please remember, you are the most responsible for raising your children and you wouldn’t likely raise someone else’s for what a teacher makes!) Look over your day and see the list of people that in some way or action – served you. Commit to letting them know you appreciate them.

Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience

Live Better Live Now / livebetterlivenow.com

Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience – Part 2

Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience – Part 2

The word “resilience” comes from the Latin word “resilíre,” which literally means, “To leap back” or as I like to say, “spring back from”. Resilience helps to grow from and beyond the challenging and uncertain things in our lives. Knowing how to “spring back” from adversity and life challenges is something that all of us can do. Here are the second three of the Top 10 Steps to help you increase your capacity for personal resilience.

5. Progress Forward In Steps (one step at a time…)
This takes a bit of focus for some of us and some restraint for others. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed with the “parts” of a task or intention. Sometimes it’s pulling back on our zeal to “plow forward” and finish. This is not always the best option and when it comes to relationships, health and our own sense of self in the world it’s a surefire way to miss the greatest gifts available to us. Try to segment out the part of the task in front of you – do it well, not perfect – just the best you can at the place you are in your life at this moment. Then breathe, take a moment to reflect on what you accomplished before you move on. Remember, “trust the process – it’s often more important than the progress”.

6. The Scribe & the Herald
Different areas of the brain are in play when you say something, hear something or write something down. And when we learn something through multiple modalities we are often more likely to remember it more easily. Sometimes it may be stronger imprinting from an experience – like remembering the cologne/perfume (olfactory), the song on the radio (auditory) and the warmth of touch (tactile) when you first kissed a partner. Other times it can be as simple as when you learned a list of facts in school by putting them to a tune or rhyme. Whatever the situation – increased fronts is likely to yield increased potential for recollection. So (and yes, I mean “old school” scripting – not typing). If you are open to journaling – great! If not, even a short couple of sentences is fine…and easy to make time for (no excuses). Try getting into the habit of taking a few minutes at the end of the day to write down three things that are unique to that day and that you are grateful – and write that you are grateful for them. No global or general comments, no “carry-over” content folks – “I am grateful for my job” or “dog” doesn’t work here. Specific and unique to the day; “I am grateful that today I met a new neighbor while walking my dog” -or- “…grateful that the solution I proposed at work this morning worked well for the team”. But wait – we’re only halfway there. After you write them down, read them, thoughtfully, out loud to yourself – or even say them aloud with a trusted confidant. Scripting gratitude and speaking it aloud help us to reflect more easily and frequently on those things that we feel good about. Revisiting good, even small ones, more frequently gives us more “clock hours” in a positive frame of mine – this can have a fantastic impact on us – if we just put it into regular practice. (sounds too hard to do? – re-read #3 and #5.)

Local Tip: Wanna experience Scribe & Herald live? – check out the folks at Pink Phurree.

7. Celebrate the wins
It’s important to embrace and celebrate when we do something well – even a smaller success. Pride may be challenging to keep in check but being a little proud of our accomplishments is a good thing. Keep it simple. This isn’t about grand-standing, excess or desire. It’s about the ritual space – the honoring. Host an old fashioned ice cream social and yard game party at your house with friends to celebrate your promotion, take friends to the beach or lake for the day to celebrate your recovery anniversary or start a new tradition: take cupcakes to someone you know as your birthday celebration. Celebrate the successes in your life!
Sometimes the people around us don’t know how to do this. You may have to teach them along the way. Be okay with that – jump in. If habits die hard – then start some new, positive ones. Wear a ridiculous hat to work on co-worker birthdays, challenge neighbors in your apartment to a make-shift annual “grill off” – an architect I know got his entire team to play laser-tag together each time a project was complete. Be creative – think beyond consumption – think new or shared experiences. Celebrating the wins – on top of Scribe & Herald (#6) – can bring you more strength, happiness and resilience in your every day life faster than you may expect.

Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience

 Live Better Live Now / livebetterlivenow.com

Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience – Part 1

Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience – Part 1

The word “resilience” comes from the Latin word “resilíre,” which literally means, “To leap back” or as I like to say, “spring back from”. Resilience helps to grow from and beyond the challenging and uncertain things in our lives. Knowing how to “spring back” from adversity and life challenges is something that all of us can do. Here are the first four  of the Top 10 Steps to help you increase your capacity for personal resilience.

1.Take Care of You
This may sound simple enough, but most of us rarely put it into a regular practice. It doesn’t have to be anything big, expensive or time-consuming. Set 20 minutes aside each evening for a walk around your neighborhood (without text/talk), take a class in something new just for fun/fit/relaxation (pottery, painting, yoga) or carry a book with you when you stop for coffee and sit for 30 minutes to read. Be creative as you like or not – but do something other than the “have to’s”, “musts” and typical obligations and roles you exist in.

2. Embrace Purpose
Even when all else seems pointless, mundane, overwhelming and so on – engaging in purposeful acts can make all the difference in the world. Everyone – every one – of us has the ability to help another or engage in some good for the greater community. Small is fine – just do. Help someone from another country learn to read, volunteer at a local church or community center, offer to teach something you know to a local scout troop, sign up as a volunteer at a local hospital. Don’t let physical or time limits stop you – there is always something to offer and a place that can really use your help.

3. Begin and Forever Commit to Believing in Yourself
Your Mental Attitude Will Determine Your Mood Altitude”. Start taking steps to change the way you think about yourself to a more positive and pro-active definition. It may feel odd or difficult – but start to say, out loud, the things you do well and what is just plain great about you. This isn’t about inflating an ego – it’s more the fact that the words we speak, over time, often become what we believe. Chances are there are some negative and restricting messages you have told yourself for a long time now – to the point you may even hold them to be “mostly true”. Think beyond the negative and demeaning limits. And try to make it current and present – keep it focused on what was great about you today.

4. Accept that all things change and this Is Out of Your Control
This is a really hard one for many of us and quite frankly there is a lot here that I won’t be able to cover in this post. Sometimes the urge to control something or someone comes from a place of love and caring and this makes it even more confusing. Relationships, jobs, roles, passions – they all begin and they eventually come to a close. Fighting to avoid that can whittle you down and in fact will begin to hurt the healthy relationships, roles and habits you do have.

Part of mindfulness practice is to embrace and be fully be present, as you are, in this moment. Enjoy your partner today – for who they are and what you share in this moment. Do the best you can in your job today – because that is your commitment to you – and not just for the possibility of a promotion or raise. Play with your kids the games they want to play, watch a show (they like) and talk about it, go for a walk with a friend or meet them for coffee – there are so many ways to enjoy what is here, while it is here. Resolve to be okay with who you are and where you are in life at this moment. There is a lot to be said for self acceptance.

Top 10 Steps to Increased Personal Resilience

 Live Better Live Now / livebetterlivenow.com

What Is a Critical Incident ?


A critical incident (or traumatic event) is any event outside the usual realm human experience that is markedly distressing ( elicits reactions of intense fear, helplessness, dread, panic, horror, etc.) Such critical incidents usually involve the perceived threat to one’s physical integrity/safety or the physical integrity/safety of someone else. Most of all, critical incidents are defined by their undermining of a person’s sense of safety, security and competency in the world. The result of this can be a form of psychiatric injury, also known as traumatic stress. Contrary to some misconceptions out there – a person’s internal fortitude does not prevent this from happening. It is extremely important to respond quickly to a critical incident. The sooner the intervention/response – the less likely more complicated problems such as panic attacks, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and similar anxiety spectrum disorders are to arise, as well as a host of other challenges.

Examples of Critical Incidents


Automobile accident, or any accident involving serious injury and/or property damage
Industrial accidents involving serious injuries or fatalities
Sudden or unexpected death of a relative, friend or colleague
Sexual assault/abuse
Robbery and violent crimes
Domestic violence
Child abuse and/or injury or death of a child
Psychological/emotional abuse
Suicide or attempted suicide
Line of duty death or injury among emergency/law enforcement personnel
Any life threatening experience
Adverse/negative publicity
Observing or being aware of unethical acts
Observing any of the individual or community critical incidents



Multiple injury/fatality accidents
Large scale environmental pollution
Acts of war
Child related traumatic events
Homicides in the community
High publicity crimes of violence or sex
Community disasters
Being an emergency worker/first responder in critical incidents and disasters*
(*Peace Officers, Fire & Rescue, EMT, Triage Nurses & Military)


Point Of Fact:

You do not need to be directly involved to be negatively affected by a critical incident.. Generally, the closer you are to the actual event and the people involved, the more severe the impact. However, television and news media coverage, especially excessive and/or graphic depictions, may serve to increase the likelihood of experiencing traumatic impact, especially anxiety and feelings of not being safe.


Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) services for Greater Houston Area / Texas Recovery Support / ESI