New Vision Wilderness
New Vision President
Lon Woodbury Attended Trauma Mini-Seminar
September 20, 2016
It's been a long distracting winter, so that's my excuse for being late in writing up these notes from a great mini-seminar conducted by New Vision Wilderness last fall in Bend Oregon. New Vision is affiliated with the CALO programs and is very strong in working with adopted children, even some with serious Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). New Vision has a program in Oregon and one in Wisconsin. A few years ago, they affiliated with CALO, headquartered in Missouri, after they realized the philosophy and approaches of the two programs were very similar and that each could supplement the other through a formal affiliation.
Traditionally, the focus on issues common among adoptees has been looked at in the light of attachment theory, i.e. the adopted children have a weak ability to attach to others. In the past few years, programs like New Vision and CALO have been taking another look and see a better model to use coming out of trauma theory. This September mini-seminar was use of their new view of trauma as an explanation of the source of problems by adoptees, and how New Vision was implementing treatment based on that new view.
It is well known that the major part of communication is non-verbal, and one of the first things they do is to figure out how to access non-verbally the root of what is bothering the student. Among other things, they use brain-spotting and art therapy to help the student become aware of those impulses the student cannot even begin to understand or even identify verbally. They utilize the Heart Math bio feedback program. Use of these techniques and insights has been providing excellent results in getting to the root of what is going on in the head of the student.
Another unique technique is what they call "trauma sensitive yoga" which was explained to us by Keri Sawyer, a Somatic Intervention Specialist and a registered yoga teacher. This is based on the idea that our bodies tell us how we feel, and yoga helps the student notice subtle body messages which helps the student come to "present time" and gain greater self-insight. The importance of this is that the present is the only time we have to really communicate with the student or for the student to really communicate with themselves. If they are emotionally living in the past, or in the future, they are just not "there" in any real sense and the first step in any kind of treatment is to get them into "present time."
Rob Gent, Chief Clinical Officer for CALO, then explained some of the goals both CALO and New Vision have for their students. He explained it is important to help the student learn to feel joy. And, the main element of feeling joy is to feel gratitude, and experience humility. An important reference they use is from the author Viktor E. Frankl, who talks about finding meaning through suffering, and New Vision and CALO students have usually had plenty of suffering before enrolling. He explained New Vision is in the business of creating self-worth out of shame and developing a positive sense of self through experience.
Gent also explained that while they have not abandoned attachment thinking and believe attachment is important, they recognize that traumatic events in the student's life are what can interfere with an ability to form healthy attachments. Important elements in healthy attachments they work toward in each student are providing caregiver commitment to the student, working toward the student learning to accept what is, distinguish boundaries, be able to self-regulate and learn empathy.
Steve Sawyer then explained their understanding of mastery. They see it as starting with helping each student find what their interests are, their personal priorities and what they want to emphasize in their life. This leads to insight as to what they want to leave of themselves with the group. Why is this important? Going through this process helps create relationships and build alliances and helps ignite their passions. Going through this process showcases and uncovers the struggles they have been going through, what they really think of themselves, and the obstacles making them unable to accomplish their deep-felt goals. This information is vital to the student's healing.
Canine therapy is perhaps almost a trademark for New Vision and CALO. They note that many students find it is easier to build a relationship with dogs than with people. This allows them to practice building relationships with the dogs, which can eventually transfer to developing relationships with people.
Steve also explained Brain Spotting Therapy, which he explained as "combining neurobiology and focused relational attunement." Brain Spotting is based on eye movement as reflecting the nervous system, adding important insights into the subconscious. He explained it is very client centered where the client leads and the therapist follows.
A very well done and informative session. New Vision and CALO are definitely on the cutting edge of healing young people.