Interest in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been growing since the 1970s when thousands of severely traumatized veterans returned from the Vietnam War. Trauma-related symptoms were also tracked in other populations, including rape and assault victims, Holocaust survivors, and individuals suffering from the fallout of natural disasters and the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Belleruth Naparstek, a psychotherapist with more than 30 years experience, admits that she has always been drawn to working with traumatized people. Having created the acclaimed Health Journeys guided imagery series, she was asked to develop something for veterans suffering from PTSD. Her trauma imagery was subsequently used at Columbine High School, Ground Zero, and many other places. In this book, she explains the latest scientific research and presents a three-stage healing regimen based on the user-friendly tool of guided imagery.
She examines the nature of PTSD and the dilemma of ruptured identity which causes many physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral symptoms including flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, agitation, depression, insomnia, concentration problems, panic, restlessness, and memory lapses. Research into the disorder led to a striking discovery: Talking therapy the typical approach used by both therapists and friends can make the symptoms worse, catalyzing flashbacks and anxiety. What works are methods that use strategic doses of "applied imagination" (a very appealing way of describing guided imagery) that send messages to the right brain and help the trauma survivor reconnect with his or her body. The author gives scripts for 20 exercises, including imagery for protection and support, for restful sleep, for softening pain, for transforming a symbol, for anger and forgiveness, for a deeper look at the self, and for connecting, heart to heart.
Naparstek clearly explains why this approach can heal trauma, pointing to more research, the experiences of her clients, and other available imagery-based, short-term therapies. Working with so many trauma survivors has convinced her that these courageous individuals are "invisible heroes." Out of a miserable and painful condition they have harvested the gifts of emotional honesty, joy, compassion, heightened creativity, and spiritual connection.