Our Treatment Model
Louis Tinnin, M.D., and Linda Gantt, Ph.D., ATR-BC, two long-time researchers in trauma treatment and art therapy, developed their theories and treatment techniques based on up-to-date brain research, clinical observations, and first-person accounts of trauma survivors. They have shown that healing is possible by applying simple principles that help the brain “rewire” itself by finishing trauma stories.
The Instinctual Trauma Response
The Instinctual Trauma Response (ITR) describes a universal, brain-based reaction to overwhelming, terrorizing events (such as feeling trapped or about to die or witnessing another person in such an event). As a result, a traumatized individual experiences a series of evolutionary survival responses. These include the startle, a thwarted intention to fight or escape, the freeze, an altered state of consciousness, body sensations that are not attached to words, automatic obedience, and self-repair.
The Graphic Narrative
Processing traumas using the Graphic Narrative is the fundamental task at ITT. The goal is to tell the verbal AND non-verbal story of your traumas. The creation of a detailed, coherent narrative with a beginning, middle, and an end brings together the fragmented images of the trauma. Drawing the story from start to finish, complete with all the non-verbal details is crucial to helping you bring closure to the traumatic memory. You do not need to be an artist to use this process.
The Externalized Dialogue
Most people who have survived a trauma become aware of separate parts or aspects of themselves that they may try to ignore or disown. These states may represent the traumatized part that now experiences flashbacks. You may have an internal part that manifests in a strong thought or in a voice that has a distinct point of view. The task of reversing dissociation is to engage in an active dialogue between these separated parts that are different or even opposed to other conscious thoughts. Our simple and rapid procedure of an externalized dialogue is effective in reversing dissociation and bringing unity. You will learn how to use video or writing to bring about internal peace.
ITT staff members are trained in guided imagery, a specific type of hypnosis. You have the choice of using this technique in your treatment. It helps people to relax as they use nonverbal imagery to “see with the mind’s eye” when telling their subjective experience of a traumatic event. It is important to know, however, that the results of a guided imagery session are not admissible in court as “evidence.” Guided imagery is helpful but not necessary in processing early traumas.
How does the ITR approach work?
In the 1990s, Dr. Tinnin conducted clinical studies to compare different methods of accessing traumatic material. He compared hypnosis, sodium amytal, and nitrous oxide. He discovered that the catharsis of reliving a trauma was not the curative element as he had predicted. He realized that the key to a person’s improvement was being able to finish the story. Those whose stories were told in an unemotional fashion did better than those whose stories were emotionally told but interrupted before the ending. With this important finding, Dr. Tinnin and Dr. Gantt began working on specific methods to keep a person from reliving painful events. They devised an art therapy approach (which they later called the Graphic Narrative). They soon found if they used the components of the Instinctual Trauma Response as an outline for each story, it enabled them to identify many of the fragments of a story that caused troubling symptoms. Once the stories were complete and then told back to the patients (a process called a “re-presentation”), the patients often spontaneously commented that they felt the event was truly over.
Although doctors prescribe several types of medications for PTSD symptoms, there is no medication that goes to their root cause. Medications can be useful in taking the edge off your symptoms or in treating a co-occurring disorder. However, at ITT you will learn ways to manage your symptoms without using medications.
ITT does not have a psychiatrist on staff. Our program is too short to experiment with a change in type of medication or dosage. If you are currently taking medications for your PTSD symptoms we urge you to stay on them until you complete our program. After you return home you will be able to evaluate your experience and decide with your doctor whether your medications can be reduced or eliminated.