I want to share my experience about the visit of the Clinical Psychologist, Salwa Bernaba, to our trauma class this week. Honestly, there was not much of new things or terms that I have learned concerning trauma, but I have learned the some coping mechanisms and techniques to use with patients in the working field,
One of the most topics that clicked is the term “Red Flag”. When I heard the term “red flag”, it reminded me with the term “code blue” in “Grey’s Anatomy series”. Maybe, it is not related to the course we are taking, but somehow I was happy to know that I study topics related to medicine and to my obsession with this series. Psychologists usually use the term “Red Flag” when they feel that they are overwhelmed or are unable to notice their patient. At that point, it is better for the psychologist to step back and solve his/her issues and then return to the patient with a clear head in order to function as a psychologist not a human being with personal problems. It was the first time to know about the “red Flag”, and it is interesting to know that there is a concern about the well being of the psychologist and the way a psychologist’s negative affect might affect the treatment process of the patient.
Further, there are two interesting techniques that I have learnt this week that helps in encouraging the patient to open up and talk about his/her traumatic experiences. The first psychodynamic technique is called “screening”, as Dr. Bernaba mentioned. She used the given technique with a patient who was taken as a hostage for seven years and she needed to make the patient feels that he is in control so he can start talking. The patient had Complex PTSD manifested in symptoms of loss of identity, hope and dissociation sometimes during the therapy, that’s why it is advisable to return the patient’s his identity and hope that he would be better and return to his normal life, not as a refugee. I think this technique would be very helpful with victims of rape or abuse regardless to its kinds.
Another method that the guest has mentioned using it and shared with the whole class asking the patient to write his/her bad event that happened in the past in the middle of a paper and drawing a circle around it and listing “who and what have helped you to overcome the traumatic or bad experience you had”. Then, the patient draws another circle around the first circle and is asked to write their experience from the incident they have passed through and the lessons they learned from it.
Eventually, I think one of the most powerful and beneficial advises I learned this day is the necessity of having some rituals to abide by after finishing work and therapy sessions with the patients. For example, Bernaba said that some psychologists wash their hands or take shower as a way of washing away all the traumatic stories they have heard at work all the day and to be able to continue their personal life normally. It is important not to mingle between your personal life and your profession. This will help you, as psychologist to take a break from the traumatic stories you hear the whole day and will help you to be “fresh” for the following day to listen to new stories of the patients and be able to emphasize with them.
Psychologists need to empty their tank before refilling it with new stories and emphasize with patients without being secondary traumatized as possible as they could. It is worth mentioning that psychologists should take into consideration, the cultural differences and the restrictions it implies on psychologists when dealing with patients from different cultural and educational background. For instance, a patient who doesn’t talk the same language as the therapist (without the availability of the interpreter) and who can’t read or write, won’t be able to perform any of the given techniques that aid the patient to open up about their trauma.