With adolescent trauma victims and their families, therapist Brad Rentfro, LPC, is using new brain research to great effect. Since neural pathways can actually be re-routed, says Rentfro, PTSD patients can literally change how their brains process both old and new situations.
Rentfro and his clinical team at New Haven RTC help adolescent trauma victims and their families explore past traumas, but in a context of love, emotional safety, and affirmation. This helps the young woman re-experience previously traumatizing experiences but in a safe and nurturing setting. Feeling loved, valued, and supported as she re-engages past experiences(s) actually creates new neural connections that allow her to perceive not only the event, but its meaning and her own value, very differently.
The result is that the young woman feels and behaves less more positively and less fearfully; this in turn helps her create new experiences and, therefore, even more positive neural connections/pathways. This way, personal growth becomes self-perpetuating, allowing changes made in treatment to continue post-discharge. “We teach families about how the brain works at the very beginning of treatment,” says Rentfro. “Knowing that they can actually change and heal at the neurobiological level really gives them a sense of tangible hope and helps accelerate progress.”