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How Jaycee Dugard Will Cope

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The only difference between people who go on to live relatively healthy lives following severe trauma and those who don't is how they cope with the trauma afterwards, and their ability to make sense of what happened.

jaycee lee dugard and Phillip Garrido

Dr. Cara Gardenswartz: I work with patients with all types of trauma histories -- adults who, as children, were raped by their father, abandoned by their parents, were physically abused, lived with alcoholic parents, lost family in the Holocaust, and so on. The treatment is intense and long. Often, patients will need therapy two to three times per week for years in order to experience and face their memories and emotions -- with the goal of working through their traumatic histories. But they will always remain, on some level, scarred by their trauma.

Common symptoms of trauma include: re-experiencing the traumatic event with intrusive memories, flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, inability to remember the details of what happened, difficulty sleeping, anger, hypervigilance (on constant alert), and becoming easily startled. They may also experience guilt, shame, self-blame, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

For people who experience trauma, the ability to trust others and feel safe is shattered. The only difference between people who go on to live relatively healthy lives following severe trauma and those who don't is how they cope with the trauma afterwards, and their ability to make sense of what happened.

Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was kidnapped at age 11 and has just emerged 18 years later (at 29), was kept in isolation from the world while mothering two children (by rape), and has suffered trauma beyond anything we can imagine. In this hideous situation, there are five victims: Jaycee, her children, her mother, and her stepdad. Out of all the victims, it is possible that Jaycee's children, IF they were treated respectably, have experienced the least symptoms, since they haven't known any other life experience but the one they were raised in. However, re-entering the world, in and of itself, will be unknown, disorienting, and alarming.

So how can this family be treated?

It will be very difficult. There are so many levels of trauma. That being said, the goal in therapy for the adults will be to help them have less fear about their memories. By talking about the trauma (both the initial event and the aftermath), they can become less afraid of their memories. Their feelings may become less overwhelming over time. Many clients with severe anxiety require medication to help them feel less sad and worried. They may also benefit from group therapy, in which they could talk about their trauma with others who have had similar experiences. None, of course, will likely be as severe as Jaycee's. However, sharing their stories can help them cope with their symptoms and memories, and hopefully allow them to trust others again. Family therapy will also be critical: between Jaycee and her parents, and between Jaycee and her children.

It will be tremendously complex to talk about the painful situations they experienced. Feelings that emerge in therapy will be scary. For Jaycee and her parents, they will be encouraged in treatment to recall and process the emotions and sensations they felt during the original event and the years following, rather than avoiding the trauma and any reminder of it. Treatment will offer them an outlet for emotions they have been bottling up, and will hopefully help them restore their sense of control and reduce the powerful hold the memory of the trauma has had on their lives.

As for Jaycee's children, they will need to be slowly reoriented to a new, intimidating, and scary world (their previous life will likely feel less daunting). A tremendous amount of individual and family therapy will be necessary for them to grapple with the fact that their "old" world was illegitimate. They will also need to adjust to school, community, culture, and socialization that occurs in the world. They will need to be monitored daily and have a place to talk about their feelings -- with their mom and in therapy. They will also have to mourn the loss of their father, and come to grips with the fact that he was an immoral criminal.





next: DJ AM Found Dead in Manhattan Apartment
91 comments so far | Post a comment now
r keith rytaran August 29, 2009, 5:27 AM

it took me decades to recover from my own trauma, both incurred and self inflicted. it began with the discovery of my dead 18 mo old brother’s dead body at age 4. it then moved into parental manipulation to expermination to addictions and to other destructive decisions. ages 4 to 24 are chronicled in the first in a series of three true life novels by eloquent books entitled Euclid Avenue, Our scars mean something. the press release can be seen at eloquentbooks.com/euclidavenue.html. the book is also available at barnes & noble, books & co, books-a-million, borders, select hallmark stores and amazon.com

jennifer, www.angstmom.com August 29, 2009, 11:24 AM

great article! so many people have endured horrific traumas, and it is always a miracle when they have the courage to face it and heal. therapy is often a necessary vehicle to promote healing.

messymom August 29, 2009, 1:08 PM

I haven’t experienced trauma like this but sexual molestation can take forever to heal. A lot of therapy and dealing with the trauma is key! I wish them luck

C Carlin LCSW August 29, 2009, 2:55 PM

I am a psychotherapist in private practice on the East Coast and I teach and train mental health professionals at the post graduate training institute. I am concerned about what is being depicted in the article, as a the way to treat trauma. I would direct the author of this article to Invisible Heroes by Belleruth Naparstek and also numerous articles by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. It is clear according to the latest research, that “talking about the trauma (both the initial even and the aftermath) repeatedly with their therapists” will in fact lead to more trauma. In fact when someone experiences trauma, often the part of the brain having to do with speech —- the broca’s area of the brain —- shuts down. So speaking about the trauma is often very difficult and frustrating for the survivor. And leaves them feeling more powerless as they are unable to recount, in a clear way, what happened to them. At the same time they become flooded with emotions and symptoms that overwhelm them as they attempt to relate what happened.

Using guided imagery, metaphors, dreamwork, EMDR, relaxation, mindfulness meditation, bodywork, gestalt therapy, journaling, painting, working with clay, drama therapy and also neurofeedback are much more effective and produce better results than meeting three times a week and talking about the trauma over and over again.

Once the survivor is able to manage the overwhelming emotions, physiological and neurological symptoms, they may be ready to tell their story and that may eventually be cathartic. Prematurely telling the story can be detrimental and contraindicated.

If I were treating this family I would need to establish a relationship with them first and explore what their particular strengths and coping mechanisms are to determine which of the possible interventions of the one’s I mentioned above would be most helpful.

Dr Cara Gardenswartz August 29, 2009, 3:14 PM

Dear Ms. Carlin,
The latest research is 1 of thousands of studies on PTSD therapy. I suggest you look at the other studies as opposed to focusing on one - so not to only focus on the latest research that gets the current buzz. As a trauma expert, i am happy to report that the techniques i use are effective. Please refer to the meta-analysis of past studies (collective research). Jaycce and her family NEED intensive treatment and need it now.
I agree that EMDR is one technique that can be used multiple times so thank you for mentioning this.

Alice T August 29, 2009, 3:17 PM

Are you kidding? She shouldn’t talk about the trauma? What should she do in the meantime? i can’t imagine it’s helpful for Jaycee Duggard to heal herself before talking about it. I’m sure she’s done enough self therapy already!

Marjorie August 29, 2009, 3:35 PM

I wholeheartedly believe that trauma needs to be faced and dealt with in constructive and supportive ways. As a member of a 12 Step Program for many years, I witness those who remained weighed down by trauma all their lives as well those who deal with it early on through therapy, group support or combination. They learn that though it will always be a part of who they are; however, they learn techniques and ways to deal better, learn to trust through support and to move forward in life.
Senator Ted Kennedy, his children, and all the family are perfect examples of this though the multi-traumas they faced were so very different than those of Jaycee.

Julie August 29, 2009, 3:55 PM

Most of us fortunately never have to face the depth of trauma as did jaycee Dugard and her family. Yet rarely is there a life totally free from trauma. It comes in all forms from illness, death of a loved ones, divorce, witnessing horror, and on and on. I thank Dr. Gardenswartz for her advice and hope that it is followed by multitudes. Though most are not of this magnitude, all traumas are horrific and the victims need assistance and support.

Aw August 29, 2009, 9:36 PM

All you vultures need to leave this girl, her children, mother, and stepdad alone. It never ceases to amaze me how your profession prey on victims with no respect for their well being. People, look at those that are conned into mental health. They are messed up, with no hope for a positive future. They become mental health junkies. The ones that stay away from you predators are the successful ones that come to grips with their trauma in their own way. As far as I am concerned, the mental health system is equal to the pedophile. Whereas the pedophile rapes the child sexually, you vultures rape the child mentally. Just like the pedophile destroys the victims family(home wreckers), your profession is equally guilty of home wrecking. I would love to see the local, state, and federal governments slash your funding by 99% because your service provides no benefit to society. Instead, your profession is a threat to society. To prove my point, you people will be busting down the court doors screeching that this “plague to society” is mentally ill and has rights. You will convince the judge that he and his wife are mentally unfit to stand trial. The judge will put them in an institution where they will play “crazy” for about ten years (or until everyone forgets about this case and goes on with their lives). Then you will come along and say “Oh! They are healed!, and the judge will set them free with no jail time. This is the kicker, when the judge releases them, the victims will never be notified. Also the community will never be notified. I see this every day! Pedophiles, rapists, kidnappers, cop killers, murderers, assault & battery, etc. released into society with no consideration for protecting others from them. I have seen victims that had horrible things done to them and they make the mistake of seeking mental health therapy, and their brains are fried from all the mind altering drugs that you pushed on them. They can’t bathe themselves, they can’t feed themselves, they can’t even dress themselves because of the chemical imprisonment that your industry has put them under. Some of them are walking zombies, others are raging animals all because of the effects of the mind altering drugs that you have hooked them onto. Others get so depressed by the drug dependency that you have imprisoned them in that they convince themselves that the only way of escape is suicide. I wish Jaycee, her two daughters, Jaycees mom and stepdad all the best. Just don’t let anybody con you into thinking that you have to heal “their way”. Take it one day at a time and according to what “you” are comfortable with. Each person is different in how they deal with trauma. Jaycee, I wish you all well.

Aw August 29, 2009, 9:53 PM

For some reason momlogic cut the bottom part out. As I was saying: Others get so depressed by the drug dependency that you have imprisoned them in that the victim convinces themselves that their only escape is through suicide. I wish Jaycee, her two daughters, Jaycees mom and stepdad all the best. Each person is different in how they overcome and deal with trauma. Take one day at a time and do what feels comfortable for you. Don’t let anybody convince you that you have to heal “their way”. You do it “Your Way”.

aw ignited August 29, 2009, 11:26 PM

Aw- clearly YOU need therapy for paranoia!

jm August 29, 2009, 11:35 PM

aw, i agree 100% about the drigs, but sometimes people do not know how to heal on their own.

C Carlin August 30, 2009, 10:06 AM

As a mental health professional and educator, I continue to grow and change and let new information and technologies inform how I can best serve people I work with today. Committing anyone to repeating the same story over and over again 3 times per week to their therapist or in group for years and calling it effective, is very interesting. It is unfortunate that as a “trauma expert” you are only able to present this, medication, and possibly EMDR (once I mentioned it) and continue to dismiss any of these other possibilities as the “current buzz” and therefore some how lacking because they don’t fit your experience.

While I agree that people can benefit and need to be able to share and express their stories and feelings, —-as I mentioned before, many cannot even begin to utter a word about what happened to them, if they have suffered a serious traumatic event or events over time. If they are able to tell the story it’s often without affect, as many trauma sufferers are cut off from their emotions that are connected to the actual event. Often they tend to act out these disconnected feelings, out of awareness, in other ways that are self destructive. There is much calming that the central nervous system needs in the early stage of recovery that talking doesn’t serve.
We have so much more to offer with regard to supporting and empowering the survivor to begin to feel more in control of their internal and external realities.

In my 20 years of experience working with people I have found that the fields of psychology, neurology, and biology and our understanding of how people suffer and heal is ever evolving. We now have a deeper understanding of how the brain works when people get fragmented by traumatic events. We can also track the mental, emotional and bodily responses when they get stressed post trauma and see what interventions actually calm them down so they can focus and feel safer in their daily lives.

In my earlier post I mentioned the book Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal by Belleruth Naparstek. She sources quite a number of studies and ‘experts’ in the trauma recovery field. This is a great book for lay people who want to understand what happens inside when they experience trauma and what they can do to relieve mental, emotional and physical symptoms, as well as recovery over time. Some people I work with, who can focus enough to read, find this book helpful, reassuring, empowering as they grow to understand how they are reacting to what happened to them, and have immediate tools to deal with these reactions. Any one can log onto healthjourneys.com and read more about her work and download guided imagery to support their recovery.

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s research also spans 30 years, many studies, and numerous articles that are very informative, and timely. He is a professional who seems very eager to work with people in new ways that support them having less dependence on therapy and more independence and health in their lives. He includes yoga among many other modalities, as providing therapeutic support for for treating trauma. He encourages therapists at his teaching venues to get up and move to music. As helpers we need to be to more sturdily grounded in our bodies as we support people to better inhabit their bodies. Which is essential as trauma is rooted in the body. The body/mind is more than connected and this can inform many options for recovery.

These are just two of many researchers and practitioners in the field that I can reference that offer other possibilities.

Many of the methodologies: guided imagery, using imaginal and metaphoric story telling, dreamwork, mindfulness meditation, journaling, painting, working with clay, and drama therapy (acting out in play), that I mentioned in my previous post have provided much relief for humans long before psychoanalytic therapy came on the scene. With the current technology to track the brain, researchers are now studying the brain and other physiological responses of tibetan monks in meditation and finding how different brain states can be induced and supported to help people heal the fragmented mind. I suspect this is actually what is happening in EMDR… different brain wave states are being induced in the process that help unlock the mind from repetitive negative thinking.

I am not interested in being dismissed by you again Dr. Gardenswartz. I am simply informing people who link to your article in search of how to recover from trauma that there are more possibilities than the one you offer. I suggest that you open yourself to at least some of these alternatives, as you seem to be a successful therapist and many of your patients may benefit.

C Carlin August 30, 2009, 10:34 AM

My previous post was cut off in mid stream. Here’s the rest…
This is a great book for lay people who want to understand what happens inside when they experience trauma and what they can do to relieve mental, emotional and physical symptoms, as well as recovery over time. Some people I work with, who can focus enough to read, find this book helpful, reassuring, empowering as they grow to understand how they are reacting to what happened to them, and have immediate tools to deal with these reactions. Any one can log onto healthjourneys.com and read more about her work and download guided imagery to support their recovery.
Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s research also spans 30 years, many studies, and numerous articles that are very informative, and timely. He is a professional who seems very eager to work with people in new ways that work. He includes yoga among other modalities previously mentioned, as providing therapeutic support for for treating trauma. He encourages therapists at his teaching venues to get up and move to music. As helpers we need to be to more sturdily grounded in our bodies as we support people to better inhabit their bodies. Which is essential as trauma is rooted in the body. The body/mind is more than connected and this can inform many options for recovery. These are just two of many researchers and practitioners in the field that I can reference that offer other possibilities.
Many of the methodologies: guided imagery, using imaginal and metaphoric story telling, dreamwork, mindfulness meditation, journaling, painting, working with clay, and drama therapy that I mentioned in my previous post have provided much relief for humans long before psychoanalytic therapy came on the scene. With the current technology to track the brain, researchers are now studying the brain and other physiological responses of tibetan monks in meditation and finding how different brain states can be induced and supported to help people heal the fragmented mind. EMDR and neurofeedback … support flexible brain wave states that help unlock the mind from repetitive negative thinking. I hope this information helps!

What the F? August 30, 2009, 12:29 PM

Is this a forum for you to promote your book Carlin?

Millicent August 30, 2009, 8:58 PM

Group therapy for a girl who is identified as one in 12 in known history of long term abductions who are later identified and reunited with their families? That’s preposterous!

This girl needs extensive therapy a la the kind those coming out of cult situations receive. She will undoubtedly benefit from long-term privacy and extremely slow reintegration. If music therapy or art therapy or talk therapy or any combination thereof assist her or her younger daughters in doing so, so be it. Either of these armchair psychs sitting here saying what Jaycee and her children “need” without any details whatsoever around how they’re struggling or what their current mental or emotional states are is just posturing. I wonder what Freud would say about that.

nuts August 31, 2009, 7:26 PM

test

renee September 1, 2009, 5:44 PM

Carlin just wishes she were the one writing articles !

Millicent September 2, 2009, 7:42 AM

Why not? Carlin’s posts, though pedantic in this context, would make just as fine an article. It probably would have been better for her to simply do that. One psych here hawking her group therapy another hawking a book, it should be great. It’s always good to know what all our options are if this should happen to us one day, God forbid.

Of course Gardenswartz’ psychotherapy is intense and long, anyone who follows Freud’s model would say the same no matter what the trauma involved. That’s how Freud worked. Maybe Carlin is like most modern psychologists and isn’t so fond of unadulterated Freud. Or maybe Carlin is applying her Oedipal complex to Gardenswartz because she looks like Carlin’s mom. Maybe we need an article about the phenomenon of counselors offering their ideas on treating an unprecedented tragedy without citation for their reasoning or knowledge of the emotional, intellectual, or psychological states of those affected. I’m sure there’s something about the ego in there.

All the “top experts” elsewhere are saying the same as Carlin that talking about the trauma over and over again would be more traumatic so maybe she was just expressing professional dissension and citing sources. A little extensively, but more logical than the preposterous facts Gardenswartz throws out with no reasoning. The above looks like it was an ad whipped into an article in 15 minutes time in order to capitalize on the Dugards’ tragedy.

Jen C September 4, 2009, 7:36 PM

Millicent- why do you bother following this story if you are invested in not capitalizing in the tragedy?
Furthermore, if I didn’t receive intense therapy immediatley following a long traumatic experience I would be scarred. Seems like you aren’t speaking from experience.


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