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Therapy group seeks to bind emotional wounds

By: Margaret Snider, Telegraph Correspondent
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KNOW AND GO
What: Pacific Trauma Center
What: Trauma therapy and counseling, marriage and family counseling
Where:  706 Natoma St., Folsom
Info:  pacifictraumacenter.com, (916) 608-4569
Fundraiser Gala
When:  6-10 p.m., Saturday, May 11
Where:  Serrano Country Club
Cost:  $100 per ticket

FOLSOM, CA - Pacific Trauma Center, initiated in Folsom a year ago, does not deal with broken bones, but with emotional trauma, which may be less easy to see but can be just as disabling.

While everyone would agree that events such as war, death, and severe abuse are serious traumas, some of the most critical are the ones that happen quietly, according to Lisa Larson, founder and director of the center.

Kaiser Permanente did a study on 8,600 of their members on adverse childhood experiences such as physical abuse or neglect, parents’ divorce, parents with substance abuse or a family member in jail. What the study revealed, Larson said, was that not only did these problems set people up for mental health issues, but they also resulted in a much shorter life span, with higher incidences of cancer and especially autoimmune diseases.

Also, first responders can have a recurring contact with traumatic experiences, and the center contracts with Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department for trauma therapy.

 “We believe traumatic experiences do not have to shorten your life span, they do not have to create mental illness,” Larson said. “You can go into complete remission from trauma.”

The group has a threefold mission: to educate the public regarding unresolved psychological trauma; to provide the most cutting edge and effective treatment; and to provide humanitarian aid by trauma teams to disaster sites.

To carry out their mission, the center utilizes three of the most advanced types of therapy: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR, brain spotting, and somatic archeology.

Kirsten Kraus, who is a somatic trauma therapist at the center and also Larson’s sister, said that these methods are very different than traditional talk therapy.

“It’s almost like healing at warp speed,” Kraus said, “because it’s very gentle but it goes really deep, so it’s incorporating the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual.”

Larson has been a licensed marriage and family therapist in Folsom for 15 years, and her practice, though always focused on achieving specific goals quickly, previously utilized a traditional talk therapy approach.

Then she had an experience that changed forever the way she does her work, when she nearly died with anaphylactic shock after being stung by wasps. When that was followed a few weeks later by her son’s allergic reaction to a medication, she found herself having flashbacks, bad dreams, and anxiety.

She called a colleague who had studied EMDR.

“I said, I don’t really believe this is going to work, but I’m not eating, I’m not sleeping,” Larson told her. “I’m a therapist who is trying to treat people, so I need help fast.”

She received one two-hour session of EMDR.

“After that two-hour session . . . it was gone,” Larson said. “I immediately went down and took the EMDR training with Francine Shapiro.” A pioneer in EMDR research, Shapiro has worked with it for 20 years.

The therapy, Larson said, has been declared by the World Health Organization, National Institute of Mental Health, and National Institutes of Health to be “best practices” for treatment of trauma.

Pacific Trauma Center has a total of ten staff: Besides Larson and Kraus, there are three marriage and family therapy registered interns, four marriage and family therapy trainees, and an administrator, who is currently pursuing her master’s degree in marriage and family counseling.

One of the trainees is Kirsten Kraus’s husband, Andy Kraus, who will complete his master’s degree in psychology this year. Although he followed a different career for many years, he has a lifelong passion for learning about the path to physical and emotional health.

“The thing that’s most interesting to me in this field is the mind/body/spirit connection,” Andy Kraus said, “and also the brain’s remarkable ability to rewire itself.”

The center’s first annual fundraiser gala on May 11 will benefit low income victims of post-traumatic stress disorder. Patrons will enjoy a gourmet buffet, no-host bar and dancing at Serrano Country Club for $100 per ticket.

“Our nonprofit section is a huge part of what we do,” Kirsten Kraus said. “For people who cannot afford to pay we have a sliding scale, so that everybody can afford it. We’ve done free therapy many times.”

For more information on Pacific Trauma Center or for Gala tickets, go to www.pacifictraumacenter.com, or call (916) 608-4569.