Off The Couch #2 – Treating Trauma

In episode two of our clinical interview series, Dr. Daniel P. Brown gives an overview of treating trauma. He first got started with trauma after a knowledge exchange with Sarah Haley, the founder of the International Society for Traumatic Stress. After that Dan discusses the patients he worked with including children from Operation Phoenix.

Read the Full Transcript for “Treating Trauma”:

Attachment Project - Off the couch - overview of treating traumaDan Brown: In the late 1970s, I started working in the trauma field, and what got me involved in that is I did the hypnosis workshop and there was a senior social worker who took the workshop called Sarah Haley. She was one of the three founding members of the International Society of the Study of Traumatic Stress. She was really taken by the hypnosis training and thought it would help trauma survivors. I knew nothing about trauma in those days. She said, “I’ll make you a trade. I’ll teach you about trauma if you teach me about hypnosis.” So, I did that for five years with her, and I learned. She gave me a bunch of patients to start working on, and she supervised me on those patients. And I supervised her on hypnosis work with trauma patients.

Caroline Baltzer: So, she gave you trauma patients, and you used hypnosis for them, and she supervised it?

Dan Brown: Yeah, but it was trial-by-fire because the first trauma patients she gave me were kids who were in Operation Phoenix. They were trained to be little killing machines: to go out and kill by hand an entire village at night. Because we needed body counts to offset the invasion of the North Vietnamese into the South during the Tet Offensive. So, the solution that the CIA had was to train young American kids, 18-19-year-olds, to go out and kill an entire village off at night. And they just counted the bodies, they didn’t care what the bodies were. So, that was my first introduction to trauma, and it was a bit of a shock. But I was primed to learn about that because, about the same time, I had gone to Burma to meditate in the jungles of Burma. And when I left home, I stopped at Kawadong. And after the killing fields, all the refugees of the killing fields, I saw how the refugees were being treated. That made a deep impression on me about the nature of trauma in the world.

So, I started to learn protocols on how to treat trauma, and I have done that since 1979. Then, in the 1980s and 90s, there was a trauma study group. We met twice a month, in Boston, and it was at Nina Fish Murray’s house, the wife of Henry Murray, the guy who developed the Thematic Apperception Test. She had a big house in Cambridge, and it was myself, Bessel van der Kolk, Judy Hermann, Terry Keane, Ray Flannery, and Carole Hartman. And most of the people locally who were known national trauma experts were all in the same city. We got together and shared our understanding and presented cases to each other. That was a good group.

Caroline Baltzer: How long did that go for?

Dan Brown: About 10 years. So, what was nice about that is we learned about the stuff that was coming out in the field, two or three years before it came out in the field. So, it was cutting-edge trauma treatment stuff. And then, one of the things that helped me a lot was, when I was at Cambridge, I took seriously learning the clinical field. Every Friday, as I said earlier, I spent the entire day at Countway Library, reading all the outcome studies and journals.

Caroline Baltzer: The whole day?

Dan Brown: The whole day. I did that for 25 years. Every Friday at the library, reading –

Caroline Baltzer: Were you on salary at the hospital?

Dan Brown: Sometimes, I got paid to do it, and other times, I just did it. It was my commitment to myself to learn in the field. And later, I did that with all the neuropsychology journals. I actually read all the neuropsychology journals. I liked to learn how the mind works, or how the brain works.

Caroline Baltzer: I think a lot of psychologists don’t know about neuropsychology.

Dan Brown: Then as I said, I did a lot of volunteer things, as the senior teacher at a lot of the case conferences, and that helped me to learn different areas, how to think on the spot about cases.

Watch the full clinical interview series:
1. Meet Dr. Daniel P. Brown
2. Overview of Treating Trauma
3. Attachment Disturbances 
4. CCRT (Core Conflictual Relationship Themes)
5. Three Pillars Approach (Treatment for Attachment)
6. Teaching Psychology
7. Conversion Disorders
8. Factitious & Dissociative Disorder
9. Psychological Assessments
10. Bipolar Disorder Treatment
11. Trauma Bonding Maps
12. Conclusion

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