The 5 Ingredients of Effective Trauma Treatment with Mary Jo Barrett


I just have to say “wow.” What an incredible session. I always love hearing Mary Jo present because she’s such an incredibly clear speaker and seems so down-to-earth. I have this overriding feeling of trust in her—she knows what she’s doing, based on both her experience and research, and although she’s confident in her work, she’s organized and meticulous about staying in the moment and being deliberate.

Although there’s a lot of interesting content and anecdotes packed into this one-hour session (I actually took 5 pages of notes….single spaced!), I think what stood out most to me has to do with what her therapy is largely about—creating a context for collaborative change. Collaboration is a key theme in Mary Jo’s work. mary_jo_barrett-105

It pervades every stage of her model and permeates every session with clients. Mary Jo emphasizes creating a collaborative relationship with clients, but particularly with trauma clients, to ensure that therapy itself isn’t a traumatic experience. She uses psychoeducation as a tool to help clients identify and utilize internal and external resources.

The part of her session that really struck a chord with me was when she spoke about integrating treatments for trauma clients. She says a lot of specific models are already commonly part of trauma work—like Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which largely focuses on mindfulness practices—and that no matter which model therapists use, other approaches need to be integrated, depending on the specific client’s needs and resources. Mary Jo says that with any one client, she may do an EMDR session, a neurofeedback session, some biofeedback, some CBT, or recommend yoga. She says that, as the trauma therapist, even though she’s not an expert on all of these specific interventions, she needs to be informed about them and help the client find the right interventions. She also said that therapists should call on each other’s strengths to help clients.

“Even if you don’t work in a place like [The Center for Contextual Change], you live in a community. We’re not going to lose money if we refer to each other,” she says. “There’s no way anybody should say they’ve been in trauma treatment if their partners or families or kids haven’t been involved. We need to work together in a healthy way.”

Personally, I thought the way in which her theme of collaboration reached the therapist-client relationship, the structure of the treatment, and even how therapists should and can work together was really inspiring. What stood out to you most about this session?

As an overview of her session, I’ll provide a quick outline of her 5 ingredients to effective trauma treatment here:

(Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t yet watched this session, please pause here! Then, read on and let us know what you think.)

1.    The therapist-client relationship: clients value the therapist because the therapist values the clients; clients feel therapy is a partnership in which they are empowered.
2.    Concrete and useful skills: for example, mindfulness, communication, and parenting skills.
3.    Strength orientation: utilizing clients’ strengths to design the treatment.
4.    Safety: the predictability and structure of the therapy make clients feel safe. As Mary Jo says, “Therapy is not happening to them—it’s happening with them.”
5.    Creating workable realities: the therapist has to have confidence in the effectiveness of the work and organize the structure of the treatment.

Although there’s so much great content in Mary Jo’s session, this was the essence of what she discussed—collaboration between clients and therapists, and collaboration between everyone who comprises the trauma treatment field. The other significant part of her recommended approach is following a structured model that’s proven its effectiveness over decades of outcome research, while remaining flexible and staying attuned to specific clients’ needs.

I know I came away from this session feeling like I learned so much about providing effective trauma treatment—what struck you most about this session? What questions remain for you? What was most appealing to you out of the way she works? What was most inspiring? See other participants’ thoughts about this presentation on the comment board here.

*Also, if you enjoyed this session, you may be interested in seeing Mary Jo Barrett in person at Symposium 2012. She’s presenting two workshops: “Customizing Trauma Treatment,” an all-day expansion of the content presented in this session and  "Ethical Dilemmas,” in which she’ll delve into some of the complicated ethical problems she referred to in this session.

02.10.2012   Posted In: NETWORKER EXCHANGE   By Jordan Magaziner
You must login to leave comment. Why?

You must login to leave comment. Why?
I do blog this IDoBlog Community