Saturday, March 2, 2013

Children's Book About Grief

When I first met Woiny in 2009 she gave me a copy of Titi's Day Out,  a story she had written for the HFC orphaned children to help them understand the deep emotions of grief they were experiencing. The story, set in the world of dogs, speaks to children of all cultures and religions. The message, that love does not die, points the way to the post-traumatic growth that is possible for anyone who is struggling with a painful loss.

From that day on, I began thinking about how I could bring Woiny's story to life. I envisioned a beautiful book that Woiny and the other therapists in Ethiopia could use with their young grieving clients.

Then, about a year ago, a good friend and wonderful artist asked me if there was any way she could help with my work in Ethiopia. Suddenly, the book project was birthed.  

Joan Bechtel has lovingly painted beautiful watercolor illustrations for Titi's Day Out, and last month I self-published the first version of Woiny's story, just in time for my trip to Ethiopia.

So many therapists, teachers and parents have asked to own copies of this book that Joan, Woiny and I have decided to sell it as an eBook. We believe that the words and pictures of this simple story can help countless children begin the process of dealing with loss. All of the proceeds will be donated to HFC, and, from the money that we raise, even more traumatized Ethiopian children and adults will be able to access psychological help.

So please, help us spread the word and send this link to anyone you know who might be interested in downloading our book. Our goal is that this simple story reaches children all over the world to help them heal from one of life's most difficult experiences.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Final Day in Addis

Today was the final Specialty Training - Using EMDR with Adults. I presented Dr. Miller’s Feeling State Addictions Protocol, discussed working with nightmares, and did a practicum with Dr. Marcus’ Headache protocol. Several advanced therapists also presented interesting cases, including the use of EMDR with a woman who had been paralyzed due to a conversion disorder and a man with a 14 year history of paranoia and frequent hospitalization,  and who has successfully stabilized, returned to work and been taken off his meds by his doctors.

These reports makes me realize how much these therapists are accomplishing and how important EMDR can be to a country that has had more than its share of trauma.

This has undoubtedly been my most successful trip to Ethiopia, and probably my most exhausting! I have visited many of the therapists at their places of work and met with two universities about future possibilities of including EMDR in their Master’s program.

Most importantly, the Ethiopian therapists have begun taking on the responsibility for the future of EMDR in their country. Seven Study Groups, ranging from 2 to 12 members were formed and will meet to discuss EMDR  at least once a month. One of our most diligent therapists has agreed to maintain communication between the groups and with me. I have left them books, articles and on-line resources to study.

Saying goodbye to everyone, especially to the Hope For Children staff, was even harder than ever. For five years, they have been the "behind-the-scene" team that has taken care of printing the manuals, setting up the room and the equipment every day, cooking our wonderful lunches, and in general, dealing with every unexpected problem.

Thank-You Hope for Children!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Supporting Zemzem

In 2009 and 2010, Zemzem was in the first group of Ethiopian therapists to be trained in EMDR. She is also trained in Client Centered Play Therapy and Sand Tray Therapy, and is so gentle and quiet that her deep understanding of children can surprise you.
From 2009-2011, Zemzem worked with HFC-sponsored children. Then, in 2011, HFC, in response to requests from several schools, moved Zemzem into a school in a very poor area of Addis. 

Zemzem has a small cabinet to lock up her supplies in, two sand trays, and a small section of a "Special Needs" room for her therapy. On the day that I visited her there, I was able to meet many of the children that she has been helping, and it was plain to see that they all look forward to their time with her each week.

Zemzem also keeps detailed records for each child, including a file of their drawings, Pre and a Post tests to assess a child's improvement, and details of whether they received Play Therapy or EMDR or both.

In 2009 Hope for Children employed 6 Play Therapists. All of them learned EMDR and worked with the 800+ children that the organization sponsored. Today, however, due to inflation and grant completions, Zemzem is the only one who is still employed for HFC. In January, Woiny told me that even Zemzem would have to be let go in February, due to a lack of funds for her wages. 

At that point, I promised that I and my friends would find a way to collect the $200 a month needed to keep Zemzem woking in the schools that have come to depend on her interventions. If you would like to contribute to this monthly goal, it would be greatly appreciated. All donations are tax deductible and go directly to HFC for wages and therapy supplies. There are no administration fees taken out.

If we raise more than $200/month, HFC can re-hire some of the therapists who have been let go. Before I leave Ethiopia, I will purchase paper, markers, pencils and erasers for Zemzem, as she is out of all of them.

If you would like to help, you can contact me or donate directly to Hope For Children, US and specify the money is to go to support Zemzem and psychotherapy at HFC. Thanks so much for anything that you can do!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Final Week: Consultations, Visits, and Networking

Who knew that this trip would also mark the start of my career in radio? One of our EMDR students asked Woiny and I to appear on his nightly radio show where he combines music with psychological information and a chance for Ethiopians to call in with questions. We discussed trauma, EMDR, addictions and many other topics.

The next day I visited one of my students who counsels students and teaches at Unity University, a privately funded university in the outskirts of Addis Ababa. UU is beautiful, modern and well equipped. 

She and I discussed EMDR with several members of the administration, and they were very interested in finding out more about how EMDR is taught at universities in the US and other countries.
On another day, at the invitation of two more of my students, I met with faculty members of Addis Ababa University. Four of our Part 1 students are in AAU's Master of Psychology program and one is both a lecturer and a candidate in the Ph.D. program of the  Special Needs Department of Education. Again, there was a lot of interest in getting clinical skills, especially EMDR, to a greater number of students.
And throughout the week I met with students for consultation sessions, both at their places of work throughout Addis and at the meeting room generously donated to us by the Addis Regency Hotel. It was both exhausting and inspiring.

The impact of these therapists is going to be quite far reaching. Their work is more diverse than I imagined and includes working with adolescent street children, impoverished women, AIDS-orphaned children, hospitalized mental health patients, and troubled school children. Each therapist we train has the potential of reducing trauma in countless clients each year!

Using EMDR with Children

Our 7th straight day of teaching was a Specialty Training, and 45 current and previously EMDR-trained therapists show up for "Using EMDR with Children," a program that Joset has created for them. We began with case presentations from three of our more advanced therapists and everyone was very impressed at the excellent work they are doing. Two of the three therapists have been working as volunteers in order to practice EMDR.

Because there are so many traumatized children in the NGO's that our therapists work for, Joset decided to teach the "Butterfly Hug Protocol." This approach allows groups of children who share similar traumas to be treated together. The therapists drew pictures of their "safe place" and their "traumas" so they could directly experience the process.

Food, networking and new connections again took place at lunch time. 

And at the end of the day, in addition to the finger puppets that Joset has brought for everyone, all of the therapists who have previously studied Sand Tray therapy with Joset were given armfuls of sand tray figures, fences, bridges, trees, and other small objects that would otherwise not have been available in Ethiopia. 

Thank you, Joset, for lugging over two large trunks of supplies!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

EMDR Part 2

Our Part 2 class was smaller and was composed both of therapists taking the class for the first time and others reviewing the material. We are in the process of increasing our focus on participants from previous years and encouraging them to repeat the trainings. EMDR is complicated enough when English is your first language!

During lunch one of the therapists reported she had been having a headache since early morning, so I took the opportunity to demonstrate Dr. Steven Marcus'"Headache Protocol" Despite the limited amount of time we had for the demonstration, the headache completely resolved (from an 8 to a 0) in about 15 minutes. 


Friday marked Day 6 of our traings... one more day to go before we can take a short break.

An Unexpected Move

Getting to Hope for Children for the training each morning was taking almost an hour due to an unprecedented amount of traffic this year. It turns out that a new subway is being built through the center of Addis Ababa, so many streets around our hotel were completely dug up and almost impassible.

So, in the midst of Part 1, we located a new hotel and moved ourselves in. What an improvement! And we are now about 5 minutes from HFC.

Part 1 finished up with 29 therapists
completing the full three days. The group was extremely enthusiastic and planned to begin using EMDR in the next few days. Almost all of them signed up for Joset's Specialty Training this coming Saturday.