Category Archives: PTSD

A Tip For Self-Soothing

Do you have trouble calming down? Check out How to Treat Trauma: Helping Trauma Survivors Feel Safe Again.   This easy-to-understand video is by Peter A. Levine, Ph.D.

Want to learn more about what Dr. Levine has to say?  Check out his book,  Waking The Tiger–Healing Trauma:  The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences.

Feeling Safe Again will be a better resource for survivors of Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters if many people contribute. There is space below for your thoughts, reactions, and/or questions.


Disaster Distress Helpline: A Number Worth Saving!

I cannot write today without mentioning Typhoon Haiyan.  It is hard to put into words my feelings in response to a disaster of this magnitude.

Are you still recovering from Hurricane Sandy?  If so, the tragedy in the Philippines may trigger overwhelming anxiety, nightmares, and other signs of emotional distress.

Do not suffer in silence.  The Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990);  TEXT:  “TalkWithUs” to 66746) is available 24 hours a day/seven days a week.  A real person is waiting to talk to you.

I just called 1-800-985-5990.  The following information is current:

Disaster Distress Helpline staff includes people who speak Spanish, Mandarin, and Cantonese as well as English.  If  a caller  speaks another language, staff  will find an interpreter.

For example, Tagalog is the language spoken in the Philippines.  Do you know someone who speaks only Tagalog?

If so, make the initial contact with the Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990) for them.  They will be hooked up with someone who can translate from Tagalog to English.

The Mental Health Association of New York City and their partners provide a valuable and inclusive service–not just in times of disaster, but all the time.  I feel grateful for the good they do.

After Hurricane Sandy: A Question For Clinicians


Hurricane Sandy raises important questions for psychologists, social workers, and other mental health professionals. How can we help the people who do not get to our office?

What is your best advice for people struggling with bad dreams, fear, and depression? For people who are self-medicating?

My top suggestion? People affected by Hurricane Sandy should tell their story.

The United States Department of Veteran Affairs has a handout.  It is detailed and soothing.

Some people are not used to talking about themselves. The handout tells them how to.

Its title is “Connecting With Others”. To see it, click the “Handouts for Survivors” link.

Here is my question for you, my fellow clinicians: What is your best tip for people who–more than a year after Hurricane Sandy–are still struggling emotionally? Is telling their story numero uno? Is there a better starting place?

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Resources for Clinicians (Part 2)

Leave your PC, tablet and smartphone home.

More than a year has passed since Hurricane Sandy.  If you’re a clinician, you may already be treating those affected by the storm.  Another scenario:  You are just now getting calls from survivors.

Either way, you may want to bone up on PTSD.  Why not start with “Resources for Clinicians“?  This June 30, 2013, post focuses on assessment.

Then check out Effective Treatments for PTSD: Practice Guidelines from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, 2nd Edition.  It is an excellent book.

It is edited by Edna B. Foa, Terence M. Keane, Matthew J. Friedman, and Judith A. Cohen.  According to Marsha Linehan PhD, ABPP, Professor and Director–Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics at the University of Washington, “Foa and her colleagues are the best in the business!”

The book covers assessment and diagnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy,              psychodynamic therapy, or creative therapies, and more. It has separate chapters for work with adults and work with children. It has a separate chapter entitled “School-   Based Treatment for Children and Adolescents”.

Any thoughts about the challenge and satisfaction of  your work?  Why not let others in on what you’re thinking?

There is space below to “comment, question, and share”.  Want updates from Feeling Safe Again delivered fresh to your Inbox?  Click “Follow”.  (It’s way, wa-a-ay down on the page).

Did Hurricane Sandy Affect You Emotionally?

Research on the psychological effect of both natural disasters (e.g., Hurricane Katrina) and man-made disasters (e.g., war) shows the following:  Most people do not experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  However, many people do.

Who will and who will not develop PTSD?  It is hard to predict.

The severity of the trauma, its duration, early life events, and lack of a good support  network are predisposing factors.  First responders as a group  are considered “at risk”.

People whose losses–as viewed by outsiders–are not among the worst may, nonetheless, develop PTSD.  After Hurricane Sandy, news coverage focused on the most dramatic devastation.   People not in the most devastated areas tended to shrug off, minimize, or feel guilty about  their own misery.

Do you need professional help?  First and foremost, trust your gut.

Second, do family and friends–subtly or not so subtly–tell you to go for help?  If so, listen!

Third, there is a screening test on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (AADA) website.  Go to “Screening for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)”.

The diagnostic process is complex.  Only licensed mental health professionals are qualified to make a diagnosis.  (Some people, by the way, have more than one diagnosis).

I agree with the advice given by AADA.  Take the results of your screening to a health care professional.

Want more information about PTSD?  WebMD has an article.  It is appropriately titled “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”.

This blog will gain in value if you contribute.  Plus, I’d love to hear from you!

There is a  “leave comment” link at the end of this post.   Click and then write in the box with the following heading: “Comment.  Question.  Share”.

Ten Tips For Emotional Resilience


It seven months later: I’m still thinking about Hurricane Sandy.  As a psychologist, my focus is on the storm’s emotional aftermath.

The people affected are a large group, quite possibly all of us. How will they/we recover from the feelings of helplessness and vulnerability caused by the storm? The answer has much to do with our innate capacity for emotional resilience.

Some people will take advantage of traditional psychotherapy/counseling. Others will use a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach.

It doesn’t matter which group you are in. Here are 10 tips for handling your emotional response(s) to Hurricane Sandy.

1. MINIMIZE EXPOSURE TO THE MEDIA. It’s good to stay informed. Whether it’s coverage of Hurricane Sandy or more recent tragedies, watching stories of misery for hours on end doesn’t help the people affected or you. Will you write to elected officials? Send a check to a charity? Donate clothes? Decide what you will do to aid the recovery. Then stop obsessing and get back to real life.

2. ACCEPT YOUR FEELINGS. Talk about what happened with family, friends, and other people.

3. DON’T SELF-MEDICATE. Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills, and other drugs—either to help you sleep or to deal with feelings. If you are addicted to alcohol or drugs, get involved with a 12-Step Program. If you’re already clean and sober, go to extra meetings to avoid a relapse.

4. MAKE RELAXATION A PRIORITY: Walk the dog, exercise, go to the park, play bridge, ice skate, or do yoga. Now is the time for self-care.

5. RE-ESTABLISH NORMAL ROUTINES. If major losses make “normal” impossible, define a new normal. Then take small steps toward achieving it. Go fishing. Go for a swim. See the fireworks.

6. DON’T ISOLATE. Sometimes, staying inside your own head is not a good place to hang out! Say “thank you” to people who are making a difference. Ask other people how they’re doing. LISTEN to their response.

7. EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT PREPAREDNESS. Learn what to do if another storm strikes. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Disaster Preparedness (2009) is by Maurice A. Ramirez and John Hedtke; it is easy to understand and readily available. To avoid getting overwhelmed, find one thing you can do now to be safer during the next storm. Then do it–even if it’s just buying a fresh supply of batteries!

8. MOURN YOUR LOSSES. Losses can include a beloved pet, a home, a boardwalk, or a favorite tree. Losses can also include your sense of safety and your ability to trust the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and other agencies.

9. RECOGNIZE SYMPTOMS OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER IN YOURSELF & OTHERS. They include numbing, hyper-arousal, irritability, anxiety, depression, reactivity to reminders of the trauma (seeing fallen trees or living through another storm), tension, stress related medical problems, feelings of detachment and estrangement from others, bad dreams, and insomnia.

10. IF NEEDED, SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP. Find a licensed therapist familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Do you have a problem with alcoholism or drug addiction? If so, look for a licensed therapist who is also a Certified Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC).

Do these tips ring true? If not, speak up. Comment about what you’ve tried, what’s been helpful, and what’s been a waste of time.

We each have our own story. We need to learn from one another.