REVIEW OF Beyond Trauma: Conversations on traumatic incident reduction
edited by Victor Volkman

Read Victor Volkman's:
comment about my editing service;
Review of Anger and Anxiety;
Review of Personally Speaking.

Available from Loving Healing Press.

   'Traumatic Incident Reduction' is a technique developed by Dr Frank Gerbode in the 1980s. Volkman's book is intended to publicize the technique to sufferers and professional helpers alike, through 'conversations' with qualified exponents of the technique, and with people who have been helped by it.

   As he points out in the Introduction, the general perception is that trauma produces scarring for life, and sufferers can achieve no more than to learn to live with the results. As I know from my own work, this is simply untrue, and if Beyond Trauma does nothing beyond attacking this myth, then it will have been worthwhile.

   The opening chapter is by Frank Gerbode, in which he writes, "Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR) operates on the principle that a permanent resolution of a case requires… recovery of repressed memories, rather than mere catharsis or coping." This is because "…you can't stop doing something you don't know you are doing."

   The second author in the collection, psychologist Dr Robert Moore, refers to TIR as "a regressive desensitization procedure for reducing or eliminating the negative residual impact of traumatic experience." This will immediately orient most people with psychological knowledge. 'Desensitization' is getting rid of a fear by safe exposure. A 'regressive' technique is one that goes back in time. And there you are.

   Just having read this opening chapter told me that TIR works, because it is based on sound, scientifically validated principles. I use hypnotic regression combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy with trauma survivors. The style and activities may be different. The processes invoked are very similar.

   Also, I am pleased that the cart is not put before the horse. All the research on the outcome of psychotherapy shows that the major part of what we do depends on forming a strong, positive, trusting relationship with the client, and an ability to mobilize the client's strengths and resources. Specific techniques are less important. TIR emphasizes being 'client centered', and insists on the attitude that the client makes the choices. This is necessary for any successful therapeutic encounter.

   After the Introduction comes an illuminating, and very moving chapter on the Vietnam experience. Anyone with no understanding of war MUST read this. Especially, since some of the horror is what presumably well-meaning professionals did to them in the name of therapy.

   I was moved to tears by a wonderful tape transcript, recorded by Colonel Chris Christensen about several of his cases. I wish I'd met him…

   Experimental studies supporting the efficacy of the approach are cited. TIR is shown to work at least as well as other ways of approaching trauma victims. Then there are a series of case presentations, by professionals working in a wide variety of settings.

   Here is a quote from a client: 'Now with the therapy and everything I worked through, it was gradual. I couldn't see beyond this wall. Then it got further where there was a wall in front of me. Then I got to the point where I could see over the wall, but I couldn't get there. Then I finally got over that and I'm trying to get on with my life. Basically I think if I wouldn't have had TIR, I wouldn't even be here. I'm serious… I knew what I was going to do -- nothing. I would get up every day and I would just wait until 11 PM [to go to bed] because I couldn't wait for my life to be over.'

   Some of the 'conversations' involve exponents of different approaches, some of whom also use TIR. This gives the book a depth and breadth I found very informative.

   There are things that could be done to improve the book. One is to combine all the references as the end -- at the moment, each author has a separate list, which can be hard to access later. "Now, which chapter was that book in?" Another minor point is the presence of repetition of content, perhaps inevitable in a collection from multiple authors. But, having read the book, I feel that I have already become better at working with distressed clients.

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