I developed the H.E.A.R.T. model —Healing Emotional/Affective Responses to Trauma —to help us ask for directions. While it is normal to experience some dissociation from our past selves, early childhood physical and sexual trauma seriously exacerbates this problem. The memory of trauma is usually circumscribed by a protective layer of defenses, coping strategies, and thought patterns which keep an individual from returning to the site of their own psychic ground zero. Trauma overwhelms the senses, disrupting the sequential, narrative flow of events. In fact, many times no continuous visual representation of a traumatic memory will exist. Returning to a traumatic memory is less like watching a video than it is like undergoing a full body re-enactment. I have known clients to manifest alarming physical symptoms during the process of trauma therapy—breaking out into rashes, for example, or phantom scratch marks swelling up in red around the neck. The body is believed to store the memory of trauma much more effectively than our visual or auditory recall. Needless to say, the process of trauma therapy is a harrowing experience for the client. Great care needs to be taken to build a trusting relationship and avoid re-traumatization. During the stages of the H.E.A.R.T. model, whereby a client learns to ask directions of themselves, involves a process of dialogue between child and adult, then later God and adult. This occurs through a process of guided
During the stages of the H.E.A.R.T. model, whereby a client learns to ask directions of themselves, involves a process of dialogue between child and adult, then later God and adult. This occurs through a process of guided conversation, not unlike ‘chair work’ of Gestalt therapy. Often the adult will offer advice or encouragement for the child, but the child can also share pieces of knowledge with the adult. Above all, the H.E.A.R.T. model stresses the personal and organic nature of this exchange and the Spiritual dialogue with God. The guiding therapist facilitates this dialogue but never tries to force a certain direction. The Model is rooted in Forgiveness of self with forgiveness of the perpetrator being an artifact of good therapy. I look forward to sharing more at the upcoming Catholic Psychotherapy Conference.
Benjamine B. Keyes, Ph.D., EdD