A number of Durango therapists who counsel sexual-assault victims are using a new approach, and it shares a lot in common with treatments used on war veterans.
While traditional talk therapy still has its place, the new methods seek to address the bodys physical response to the trauma.
This is because sexual-assault victims may come to terms intellectually with their ordeal, but they frequently cant wipe the slate clean.
Trauma takes a hold on the body as well as on the memory, said Lillian Ramey, a therapist at Riversage Family Counseling. Muscles hold memories of pain, terror or anxiety, and they react when something triggers a flashback.
Ramey recalled a patient who was choked while being raped. Although the victim, on the surface, recovered her equanimity, she would snap if someone placed a hand on her shoulder, Ramey said,
Ruby Jo Walker, a therapist at Affiliated Psychological Resources, said the combat veteran who hears firecrackers and rockets at a Fourth of July celebration may involuntarily react in the same way.
The mind may have no recollection of an event, but the body remembers, Walker said. The issues are in the tissues.
So far this year, police in Durango have recorded 11 rapes, one case of rape-drug assault, eight rapes of children, six batteries (unlawful contact with genitalia) and three cases of child exploitation (Internet photos), Capt. Micki Browning said.
Browning could not immediately provide statistics on previous years assaults.
Among the new approaches to trauma therapy are movement-based and hand-contact techniques with names like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Hakomki Experimental Psychotherapy, Associative Awareness Techniques and somatic education.
Walker practices Hakomi and EMDR techniques that introduce physical contact to help release pent-up memories. The hands-on procedures are similar to Associative Awareness Techniques used by Durango physical therapist Rick Stockwell.
Stockwells practice incorporates the techniques of two Front Range physical therapists who in the last couple of years have developed various touching procedures.
If a trauma victim can discharge procedural memory the instinctive freeze reaction in threatening situations memory becomes past memory, Stockwell said. It remains a memory but not in real time.
Therapist Emily Newcomer favors EMDR in which the therapist engages patients in physical contact or movement. While talking with the patient, she touches patients on one knee then another, asks them to follow with their eyes her moving finger or has them hold a buzzer in either hand that she activates remotely.
The treatments have been employed to treat trauma not only among sexual-assault victims and returning military personnel but also abused children, accident survivors and natural-disaster victims, said Kim Johancen-Walt, a counselor at Fort Lewis College and therapist in private practice.
All sexual-assault victims dont develop post-trauma stress disorder, Johancen-Walt said. But 50 percent of them experience PTSD compared to 15 percent of victims of other types of trauma.
The goal of therapy is to find meaning out of what happened, she said. We have to make sense of something that makes no sense.
Therapists interviewed for this article said their goal is to make a patient feel safe and validate the patients feelings, memories and thoughts about the traumatic incident.
Anna Freeman, a therapist at Durango Counseling and Touch Therapy, who sees two to three sexual-assault victims a week, finds that combining massage with talk therapy works well.
The body remembers longer than the mind, Freeman said. In cases of sexual assault, I do prep work breathing, relaxing and thinking exercises to get the client ready to accept safe touching again.
I like to be open to whatever works, Freeman said. I try to meet clients wherever they are (in the healing process).