WHY this Conference?

Being a representative responsible for enrolling an audience for an event is a job, but when “something” begins to creep under my skin and edge its way into my heart, it then becomes so much more than just a job. It’s more challenging in a sense because I care about the outcome not just from “a job well done” place, but because I care…I care about the mission; building a community that is so connected, yet diverse, anchored to a common calling that will ultimately change lives through healing, save families, and promote a caring, educated society. I care deeply about the outcome of this conference— it has become personal.

I was having a conversation with my partner this morning about this blog. We want this blog to be a platform for all that are aligned on changing the stigma around mental illness, and who are wanting to be a part of  healing the generations, literally.  We want to know why it is important to you. Why is it personal?

There is something so much bigger than ourselves happening here. And when I say “ourselves” I’m not just eluding to the individual, but I am including families, organizations, schools, hospitals, healthcare professionals, and government. WE are ALL in this together. TOGETHER, in educating our society about trauma and the mental and physical integrative approaches available for healing children, adults and families. The “We” has far more power and influence vs. the “Me”. A mentor of mine said, “There is far more strength, power and heat in one ginormous raging inferno, than several little camp fires that barely keeps our toes warm.”  Every speaker and presenter attending the conference is aligned on this one belief, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE and YOU MATTER!”

Being a survivor of childhood trauma, I grew up longing to to fit in, to be noticed, and to belong.  Loneliness and isolation tear down the human spirit at it’s core, and many of us are not as lucky as I have been to turn my personal story into a “Divine Trauma” to quote my business partner Monica Rodgers.  This is why I am so invested in this conference being well attended.  It’s become personal…we need each other…to make a difference.

“WE” builds a bigger awareness and grows more compassion that will help heal OUR generations.

Please comment and share your thoughts and stories here…be a part of the conversation.  To register for this years Child and Family Trauma Conference please click here.


To more being revealed,


Andrea Willets, CPCC

Clifford Beers Clinic Representative


Healing Children and Families through Integrated Care

I’ve spent my entire career in human services – most of it devoted to caring for the behavioral health needs of children.  In these years it has become clear to me that the very best chance to heal  children who have experienced traumatic events (abuse, neglect, severe grief, community violence or domestic violence)  lies within an integrated model of health care that treats both the child and the family.

We know that that the children who come to our Clinic are there because they have displayed some negative or dangerous behaviors to themselves, family members or teachers.  We treat them as we now can, but we think we can do better because of proven connection between behavioral health and physical health.  These two things exist within every one child, so I ask: why wouldn’t we look at both and at the connection that could make the children we treat not just survivors – but thrivers!

Children: Resilient or Re-Silent?

The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University has been studying the effects of  toxic stress on a child’s brain, and what happens to a child he when he or she is exposed to prolonged periods of tension, stress, neglect, or abuse of any kind; and the findings are devastating.

The expression “children are resilient” should be re-interpreted as“children are re-silent” because it might be more appropriate in some cases….

When children have been repeatedly mis-treated, their means of adapting and surviving has everything to do with how they suppress their pain, and cope with their reality, developing sophisticated ways of interacting with the world that have everything to do with their instinct to stay safe.  Children are experts in imagination, and this skill becomes incredibly useful when they are working to overcome circumstances from which they feel they cannot escape. The world of “pretend” is one that all adults can easily comprehend- pretending that everything is ok when it’s not can serve us for a time, until it doesn’t. In the case of children, their ability to pretend everything is ok has a direct correlation to their ability to survive it.

The impact of adverse experiences leaves a child feeling a host of dis-empowered emotions including loneliness, abandonment, frustration, sorrow, anger, and worthlessness.

Children are very adept at “coping” when they don’t have any other choice- and so from exterior appearances, we make assumptions about their well-being that are far afield of the more realistic and lasting behavioral issues that will plague mis-treated children for the better part of their lives.

Learning how to cope with adversity is an important part of healthy development. While moderate, short-lived stress responses in the body can promote growth, toxic stress is the strong, unrelieved activation of the body’s stress management system in the absence of protective adult support. Without caring adults to buffer children, the unrelenting stress caused by extreme poverty, neglect, abuse, or severe maternal depression can weaken the architecture of the developing brain, with long-term consequences for learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health.

This video is part three of a three-part series titled “Three Core Concepts in Early Development” from the Center and the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. The series depicts how advances in neuroscience, molecular biology, and genomics now give us a much better understanding of how early experiences are built into our bodies and brains, for better or for worse. Healthy development in the early years provides the building blocks for educational achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship, lifelong health, strong communities, and successful parenting of the next generation. – Center on the Developing Child 

Watch this video to gain insight into how the body and brain respond to toxic stress, and please leave any comments in our comment section- we’d love to hear from you!


Fear of Transformation and the Parable of the Trapeze

The Parable of the Trapeze

 Turning the Fear of Transformation into the Transformation of Fear ~ by Danaan Parry

Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in my life, I’m hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.

Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life.

I know most of the right questions and even some of the answers.

But every once in a while as I’m merrily (or even not-so-merrily) swinging along, I look out ahead of me into the distance and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It’s empty and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart of hearts I know that, for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar and move to the new one.

Each time it happens to me I hope (no, I pray) that I won’t have to let go of my old bar completely before I grab the new one. But in my knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar and, for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar.

Each time, I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing I have always made it. I am each time afraid that I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between bars. I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow to keep hanging on to that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. So, for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of “the past is gone, the future is not yet here.”

It’s called “transition.” I have come to believe that this transition is the only place that real change occurs. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old buttons get punched.

I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as a “no-thing,” a noplace between places. Sure, the old trapeze bar was real, and that new one coming towards me, I hope that’s real, too. But the void in between? Is that just a scary, confusing, disorienting nowhere that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible?

NO! What a wasted opportunity that would be. I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void where the real change, the real growth, occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out of control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.

We cannot discover new oceans unless we have the courage to lose sight of the shore.- Anonymous

So, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to “hang out” in the transition between trapezes. Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening in the true sense of the word. Hurtling through the void, we just may learn how to fly.


Adverse Childhood Experiences = Aces too High

Over the last 15 years, research has shown that childhood trauma injures a child’s brain. It impairs the brain’s physical development and function. You can see the effects of trauma on a brain scan. The result: These adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) cause kids to have a hard time learning, making friends and trusting adults. They can’t keep up in school, so they shut down or get in fights. They’re the “problem” kids. Schools suspend them. There’s lots of ways for kids to cope with their trauma. Alcohol. Drugs. Smoking. Food. Kids become daredevils and break their bones. Sleep around and get STDs. Grow up too fast and become workaholics. - Aces too High

There is a starting amount of new information on the subject of childhood trauma, and how “trauma” experienced in early childhood can literally haunt them for the rest of their lives unless they become aware that their experience is valid, and that they are not alone.  It’s becoming ever more urgent that childcare professionals, parents, psychologists, teachers, and caregivers get the proper information, and continuing education so that they can more powerfully assist these children on their path to healing and wholeness.

So how do you help spread awareness, and get involved in being part of the solution?

Well, the first thing to realize is that if you are reading this post- the likelihood that you actually qualify as someone who is carrying the impact of trauma into your adult life is a startling 70%.

Many of us have had the kinds of experiences that qualify as trauma and that have a lasting impact on us, wrecking havoc on our sense of self, our relationships, and even our ability to learn and perform our job efficiently.

The first step to identifying it’s impact is to understand that childhood trauma does not have to look like the worst scenario you can think of- in fact, all it can take is a child  who is repeatedly exposed to stressful situations or even prolonged tension at home or in another environment.  Could this be you?

Check out the Aces Too High website, to learn more, and while you are there, please score yourself by answering the questions you see below:

Prior to your 18th birthday:

Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Was a biological parent ever lost to you through divorce, abandonment, or other reason ?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Was your mother or stepmother:

Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide? No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Did a household member go to prison?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Please go to this page to add up your score: http://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/

( excerpts taken from Aces Too High at www.acestohigh.com)

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Touching the Lives of Children and their Families and Healing Community Trauma

Many of us are gearing up for our most important conference of the year; The 5th Annual Child Trauma Conference, happening this coming Oct. 2013 in Mystic Connecticut.

Our participants will come from area’s far and wide to participate in a weekend long conversation and workshop series brought to you by the foremost professionals on the cutting edge of healing trauma;  in our children, their families, and our communities.  The sheer importance of such an event blows my mind because the quality of care these families receive is directly proportional to how up to date their care-givers are on the latest treatment options.

Are you an area professional whose work touches the lives of children and their families?

Your work is vital to helping children and their families heal, and in doing so, your work is actually changing the lives of thousands.  Each child that has an opportunity to heal will in turn, help others heal, and it all began with you, and your commitment to making a difference in the world.  You are the most important asset our communities have.

Please consider joining this year for our regional conference so that we can update you on how you can make an even greater impact with your work and in the community you serve.   To learn more – please visit our registration page at http://www.childtraumacon.com