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!