Ask the Advocate Podcast: Episode 2

Healing From Trauma With Incident-Focused Therapy

Featuring: Marian Volkman, President of Applied Metapsychology International

Ask the Advocate Podcast Episode 2

about the Episode

"When people ask, 'What's Traumatic Incident Reduction?' I say, 'It's the shortest distance between traumatized and traumatized anymore.'"

Sit down with Marian Volkman, President of Applied Metapsychology International, and hear her share lessons learned from her nearly 50 years in trauma resolution. She covers the impact that repressed trauma can have on victims, and the tools and techniques used by incident-focused therapy methods like TIR (Traumatic Incident Resolution) to help victims find healing.

Listen to the podcast to learn more, and to see how nonprofits are working to overcome these hurdles.

Billie Jo Weyant: (00:01)
You’re listening to Ask the Advocate, a podcast series that features advocates for domestic violence, sexual violence, and all other survivors of abuse and serious crime. I’m your host, Billie Jo Weyant, and for the past three decades, I’ve worked in the victim services industry, serving as the executive director for a Pennsylvania based nonprofit named CAPSEA which stands for “Citizens Against Physical Sexual and Emotional Abuse.” I invite you to join me as I sit down with my guests, each episode to discuss critical victim’s service resources and to help raise awareness for the most pressing challenges facing survivors and the nonprofit agencies that serve them.

Billie Jo Weyant: (00:45)
Hello, and welcome to episode two of Ask the Advocate, CAPSEA’s podcast series for victim services, and we cover a lot of different, great topics. I am so excited today to talk to you about Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR). And, uh, with me today is a premiere trainer, one of the founding mothers of TIR and my dear, dear friend, Marian Volkman. Welcome, Marian.

Marian Volkman: (01:16)
Thanks for having me. I’m glad to be here.

Marian Volkman: (01:19)
We are so glad to have you here. Also just wanted to add and let people know, uh, who were listening to our podcast that, uh, I come with over 30 years of experience in victim services and Marian, uh, also comes with over 30 years of experience in Traumatic Incident Reduction. So, we are hoping today that we can get you some great information and be able to educate you on traumatic incident reduction and some great, great things that we developed for, uh, victim services, Marian, I am going to turn this over to you. I’d like you to give a little bit of an intro of yourself and then we can get started.

Marian Volkman: (02:01)
Sure. Okay. Well, I have actually been doing Traumatic Incident Reduction for nearly 40 years. I’ve been in the field of trauma resolution and personal growth for nearly 50 years. So yeah, I’ve been at it for awhile. Um, it’s what I love to do, I never get tired of it. It’s just so rewarding when you can help people effectively and get results. Um, you know, a lot of people in the helping professions talk about burnout because, you know, it’s hard if you’re trying and failing, but if you’re trying and succeeding to help people, it’s very uplifting. I am President of Applied Metapsychology International, which is this organization that is an umbrella over traumatic incident reduction and many, many other techniques that are really good for helping people.

Billie Jo Weyant: (02:52)
That’s fantastic. And I think first of all, to kind of set the foundation for today’s discussion, uh, I want to really impress upon people, listening to us and viewing how serious trauma is to the human body and some of the effects and things that can occur. Could you expound on that a little bit?

Marian Volkman: (03:16)
Sure. Well, human beings repress things. When something bad happens to us, we repress it. We shove it away, and that is a survival strategy that we’ve learned because we can’t just wallow around in the things that hurt us. We have to pull ourselves together and carry on somehow. So that repression, you know, it’s still there. Even if we were successful at kind of pushing it away. It’s still there. So it takes our attention and it also is stored as stress in our body. We talk about the effects of traumatic stress and that’s what it is, is that something bad happened. It was painful, we resisted it at the time and then going forward, we’re still resisting it. And that is not an ideal or healthy place to be. Um, but we, once we, once we’ve got that situation, we’re not sure what to do with it.

Marian Volkman: (04:10)
So we just keep repressing it. So, um, I don’t know that you want me to go there yet, but I could just say that Traumatic Incident Reduction gives us a safe time and place for somebody to unrepress something. That’s sitting there like a boulder. Now they can take it out. They can look at it in this safe environment and they can look at it, “view it,” as we call, it until there’s nothing left that is going to bother them about that anymore. It’s not going to cause a trigger reaction, the things that caused them to flinch before. It’s just not there.

Billie Jo Weyant: (04:47)
That’s fantastic. And yes, and we will get more into the viewing and the processes of TIR. But first I really think it’s great that you and I discuss and we share the fact that Traumatic Incident Reduction… I had never heard of it. I mean, when those of us who were in victim services and those of us who work with victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, crime victims, human trafficking, what we mainly do is we are working with people in an empowerment and options arena. That’s what we call it. It is a trauma informed mode of trying to help someone. So until we found, or I recognized in- hearing it’s TIR, it was like, “Oh my goodness. Look at all these extra tools for a victim service providers, toolbox.” And Marian, If you could share a little bit about some of the things that maybe you’ve seen on your end, how productive this is and how helpful for survivors of abuse.

Marian Volkman: (05:58)
Sure. Well, as I said, if we’re carrying something along, it takes our energy. It takes our attention. And because human beings are so incredibly resilient, we just keep going. We do the best we can. We keep putting one foot in front of the other and we can get to considering it normal or just typical, “That’s life. You know, life is you feel kind of not so good a lot of the time.” Now that’s not normal. That’s a reaction to what we’re carrying around behind us, like a sack of cannonballs. And what Traumatic Incident Reduction does is it allows somebody to take each cannonball out and fully investigate it and put it down. And now it’s not part of their load that they’re carrying forward anymore. And they’ve got all that attention and energy, freed up to use wherever they want to in life.

Billie Jo Weyant: (06:54)
And it’s fabulous. And, uh, just, uh, to let folks understand we started this well, you and I met in 2014, and I think it’s really important that maybe we share that little story. Uh, I’ll give you my quick little overview. I actually went to visit a program that did trauma informed work with some other department heads and directors from Elk County in Pennsylvania. And we went to visit this establishment. And as we were talking about some of the programs, uh, one of the, uh, therapist, and one of the counselors, uh, raised this little brochure to me and said, “Everything you need to know is right here. And you can change somebody’s life by putting it, we, everything can fit in the back of an index card.” And I thought, “Oh my gosh, I want to know more about it.” So without going into a lot of detail, I got your name Marian from, uh, this gentleman.

Billie Jo Weyant: (07:53)
And I also did some research. And I remember Googling you literally and calling you on the phone. I did a cold call. And the rest is history. And you came and did our first basic TIR training in February of 2015. Now to date CAPSEA is trained in all five levels of TIR, making us the only victim service program in the United States that can provide all five levels free of charge and will help anybody, from a survivor to a veteran… Uh, anyone with PTSD, we, we will welcome anybody because everybody deep down has some form of trauma or another that we want to help with. And again, uh, right now we have about a minimum two week wait list. This is how popular this is getting. And currently on record, I believe our TIR coordinator, excuse me, Tiffany has 60 plus individuals that are working with her or have been working with her. So it’s taking off and we’re very fortunate that we’re continuing to train staff members and continue to allow TIR to grow.

Marian Volkman: (09:12)
Great. Could I talk a little bit about this trauma informed concept?

Billie Jo Weyant: (09:17)
Yes, absolutely.

Marian Volkman: (09:18)
I think it’s absolutely vital and it, it really changed the world when finally the penny dropped and people got, oh, trauma informed. What does that mean? It means that people are now aware that trauma has a big impact on life. Isn’t that like, oh, something bad happened to you. Okay. You just carry on. And like before no, it actually has an impact. And can we do something about it? So being trauma informed is being aware that if somebody is behaving oddly or badly, or they have a lot of psychosomatic pains and aches or whatever, um, they have something there in the realm of trauma and we can do something about it. So phase one is recognizing it. Phase two is being able to do something effective to help that, and people could have all kinds of bad things happen to them: Losses, losing a family member, losing a job, losing a part of your body if you have an accident. You can have impact of, you know, accidents, injuries, medical procedures, all kinds of impactful issues. And it’s, it’s up to the person. And we don’t say to you, oh, you, you must be traumatized because this happened to you. We ask the person, “What’s going on with you? What’s going on in your life? What grabs your attention?” They go, “Oh, what grabs my attention is what happened in second grade.” Okay. We’re going to go with that then, because we let the client guide us to what we should be working on. And also, the client gets to say when they’re done. So that’s a huge, um, piece of what makes this work.

Billie Jo Weyant: (11:02)
In the victim service world, we say that the survivor drives the bus; we’re just along for the ride. You know, um, we started doing this, but I think a brief overview of TIR, if there’s anything else you want to add to that Marian so that people can understand, you know, what it’s all about.

Marian Volkman: (11:25)
Yeah. Okay. So first of all, there’s the creation of a safe space, a safe space, and a safe time for somebody to do this work as a client. And there’s lots of- there’s a set of rules. There’s a set of communication procedures that we use in order to establish this safe space. And that allows somebody to come in and say, “Okay, here’s, what’s bothering me.” And they don’t have to worry about a time limit, like a 50 minute hour, something like that. They don’t have to worry about being cut off and say, see you next week. We’re in there until we get this piece done. So the safe space is extremely important. And then there’s the technique itself that allows somebody to view what happened to them as many times as they need to, until, you know, at first it’s hard, you go through and you’re looking at it and then it’s painful. And you know, you go through and through it through, and eventually it lightens up, lightens up, and sooner or later, the person gets to the point where they say, well, that’s what happened. And they are not impacted by it anymore. It’s almost like magic. It’s hard to believe that something so simple could be so effective, but I’ve seen it work more times than I can count.

Billie Jo Weyant: (12:41)
And it works great. And again, I mean, and there are so many different techniques, again, I can’t say enough doing the work I’ve done for as many years as I have, and being able to help people. But sometimes it takes a long time and being able to use this for people that choose to want to do it, we don’t make people do this. It’s their choice because remember the survivor, the victim drives the bus, but it works beautifully. Uh, I also wanted to add to that and I thought of how we’re going to be working with, and hopefully, and I would like to, in a future episode, talk about first responders. TIR is fantastic for folks who in their everyday life face, things like trauma and terrible car accidents, we’re talking law enforcement, ambulance personnel, fire department, anything like that, that is so imperative that we’re able to train those folks so that they can work peer to peer and, uh, use TIR techniques and different things. And, uh, Marian, you probably have a better perspective on that than me. I’m brand new to that piece of it. But I think it’s just fantastic.

Marian Volkman: (13:55)
It is. It’s ideally suited to community-based work such as CAPSEA, you know, it’s a really- CAPSEA is a community effort and agency, and it’s perfect for that. And it’s also ideal for peer support. We’ve seen, uh, firefighters in England and Australia and police in various places learn this and do it for peer support. So it’s not just, you know, not just sort of saying, “There, there you, you got through this, you’ll survive. Let’s go out and have a beer and you’ll feel better in a while.” We can actually do something about it. We can actually, you know, take specific action that moves the person from traumatized to not traumatized anymore. In fact, when people say what’s Traumatic Incident Reduction, I say, it’s the shortest distance between traumatized and traumatized anymore. And let me just go off on this for a second, Billie Jo: That is I wanted to really make the point that there are people who are diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, because they’ve had enough impact in their life that causes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Marian Volkman: (15:08)
The majority of us do not have that diagnosis and wouldn’t qualify for that diagnosis. That doesn’t mean that we haven’t had something really painful happen that’s still bothering us. So if we think of a memory that still hurts, that’s a perfect example of where Traumatic Incident Reduction can help. And it’s so effective. It’s almost unbelievable. One of the problems we’ve had with it is that when research is done on it, the results are so good that people tend to just dismiss it and not believe it. They can’t believe it’s that good, but it actually is.

Billie Jo Weyant: (15:48)
And it’s just unbelievable. I just absolutely love this. I do. And, uh, I mean, I also want to make sure that anybody listening or viewing us understands that we, in no way shape or form are discounting traditional therapy or other counseling services. We work with those other agencies through releases and collaborative efforts so that we all work together, and TIR is another wonderful component with that. And it just works beautifully. It just works beautifully.

Marian Volkman: (16:23)
Yep. It really does. So I, you know, if, if you’re listening to this podcast, you might think, well, “What does this have to do with me?” And here’s an example. If there’s something that happened, it still causes you pain and distress. When you think about it, that is something we can address and make a real difference. And you’re the one who says, you know, “What was the outcome of that?” But we see it over and over that people not only come back sort of up to normal- their normal after something bad. And we’ve had a chance to process that, but then they actually get personal growth from processing the trauma. And sometimes in the research, we see that not only do the results hold up over time, but I was hearing of a, of a particular case the other day, this is a fire fighter who was in England, went to New York for 9/11 to help with the disaster after 9/11. And that, from that he developed post traumatic stress disorder. And he was in a really, really bad place. And he got his first, and at that time only, TIR session turned it around. And so the, the post test for him showed, you know, he was doing way better and then year or so after that he was doing even better than that. So that’s so interesting. Just shows again, human resilience. It’s so amazing. So if we’re burdened with traumas, we can’t use our potential. If we are able to get rid of those things, those things that are dragging us down, then our natural ability to, to flower comes to the fore and our natural ability to thrive and learn and grow comes to the fore.

Billie Jo Weyant: (18:13)
Oh, it’s just fantastic. Just wonderful. You know, and then we always talk about who’s your ideal candidate for TIR and how effective and different things like that. And I think you and I have talked about that many times, Marian, again, it’s up to the person who is ch- wants to find out more about TIR and is this something for them? And can you talk a little bit and give a, like an overview of, you know, we just don’t put somebody in this situation, there is a process to get someone prepared for TIR.

Marian Volkman: (18:51)
Right. Well, so first of all, we check in with them, how are they doing? We want to make sure, and you know, a lot of other services might be available and necessary depending on what the circumstances. A person’s got to have a safe place to be, and they need to be well fed and well rested, because this is hard work. Even though you’re sitting in a chair, it doesn’t look like hard work, but if you’re working through your traumas, it requires a lot of energy. So, and we do quite a bit of education to make sure the person understands what are we doing? Why are we doing it this way? And what’s expected of them. And what’s- what we’re going to provide for them in terms of this safe space. So then as they go through it, they get to experience it. And they’re the one who says, yep, I’m done with that piece. It was bothering me and now it’s not anymore. Did I answer your question?

Billie Jo Weyant: (19:44)
You certainly did, and then some. And I think too, in my experience here at CAPSEA and in the victim service world, we then begin in, when we have folks that go through TIR and they want to keep coming back, it’s because it’s exposed other layers. So there have been other traumas that have also been suppressed that they want to work on, but again, it’s always in their time and we accommodate that. So I just think, again, it is just a wonderful, wonderful set of techniques. It’s well worth it. If someone’s more interested in learning about this to reach out to us, and we would gladly, uh, talk further about that. And, and at the end of our episode here, I will be giving you information, whereas you can email us and get more information. And if you’re interested, um, couple other things, Marian, uh, you know, we wanted to talk about, like, we already talked about how impacted somebody’s life and it can come out many different ways. And I’m sorry, if you had something else you’d like to discuss first, go right ahead.

Marian Volkman: (20:55)
Just going to elaborate on what you said that, you know, sometimes a person’s just had one major event that’s having a huge impact on their, on their life. And it doesn’t take very long to address that and get them past it. Um, other people have lots, lots of things. And so it’s obviously going to take longer. We’re going to take one piece at a time, but one of the things I love about TIR: It, doesn’t just throw you in the deep end. You know, you take one piece of stuff at a time, one incident, one feeling that you want to address, and we work on it in that one session and take it to what we call an end point. So then that piece is done, and we might have more pieces to do, but we’ve got that piece done. So there’s like a buildup of successes as a person goes through this process,

Billie Jo Weyant: (21:48)
Oh yes, it’s fantastic. And while you were talking, I was just thinking about, you know, we’re doing it here at CAPSEA. And I know that in, um, another area of Pennsylvania, they’re victim service- they’re victim witness program, they’re victim advocates in court, they’re court district attorney based, uh, we have a program that is doing that. And they have two staff members that are trained to do TIR, and they are providing that service not only to serious crime victims, but to folks who are sitting on a jury and have to experience and witness some very, very traumatic situations. So TIR is used for that also. I mean, the options are endless, just absolutely endless for this. And it is just fantastic. I mean, I can’t say enough good about it.

Marian Volkman: (22:46)
Yep. It’s pretty exciting stuff. It really is.

Billie Jo Weyant: (22:51)
You know, I, I, I know that, um, you and I have talked to in the past and over the years about, uh, mi- misconceptions of trauma and people need to just get over it and to truly understand that people just can’t get over it. Not by themselves. Many times they, as you said before, go through the motions.

Marian Volkman: (23:16)
Yes. And another thing is that people, if you talk about how this works, that we’re going to have the person go back through this incident that happened to them many times. And it’s the repetition that allows us to achieve this really, really good result. But you know, if you talk to some people they’re going to say, oh, well, that’s terrible. You’re going to, re-traumatize the person I wanted to address that because it’s so important how you re-traumatize, somebody is you put them in the middle of it and you leave them there. That’s how you re-traumatize them. If you say, “Okay, we’re going to take this time. It’s all for you as much time as you need. We’re going to address this trauma, no matter how big it is. And we’re going to go through it as many times as we need to,” until you come out the other side and you say, you’re done, you’re not re-traumatizing them then.

Marian Volkman: (24:09)
And you could say, “Ooh, it’s really painful to go back and look at that.” Yeah, but it’s still there. It was always there. You’re holding it off. It’s still there. All right. Now we’re going to say, okay, it’s time to take this out, look at it and completely remove all the pain, the resistance, you know, the frustration, the emotion and the effort and everything from this incident, until it’s just something that happened. And the person can see it for what it is. They know what happened. There’s no mystery there and there’s also no pain there. So it’s not something to be afraid of. If anybody’s ever worried. And they’re usually not, they’re like they can’t wait to get in there and do it. But if they were concerned about, oh, what if I can’t do this? I say, “Well, look, uh, you’re carrying, you know, you’re going to always bring this up.”

Marian Volkman: (24:59)
Right? You think about when your dog died and you feel the tears welling up in your eyes. It’s right there. If you look it’s right there. So it’s not going to cause more pain for you to face up to it in this session and take it to an endpoint. It’s actually less pain to do that than it is to keep pushing it away for the whole rest of your life. And I just want to mention the time thing. It’s important that we allow as much time as we need to, but it’s also, doesn’t often take that long. I remember one session, and this was a recording sent in for somebody who was looking for, you know, applying for certification as a TIR practitioner. And the client had lost a child, a baby, her baby died 10 years earlier. And she, it was still, it was still right there for her.

Marian Volkman: (25:51)
It was very raw. It was very rough. And she goes through it and lots of emotion, lots of stuff going on. It keeps shifting and changing. And then at the end, she’s, she’s out the other side. You can hear it in her voice in the beginning. She’s like, there’s lots of strain and grief. And at the end, she can just talk and say, “Yep, that’s what happened. And I tell my other children, he was your brother. And, you know, we celebrate his birthday.” You know, it was just amazing. And that was 59 minutes, start to finish. A giant loss, loss of a child, it doesn’t get any worse than that. And it only took 59 minutes.

Billie Jo Weyant: (26:30)
Wow. That is wonderful. I also want to mention, and we are going to have to wrap up, unfortunately, but you’re coming back for future episodes. If anyone would like to read a survivor’s story, someone who through CAPSEA has done TIR, and their testimonial is phenomenal. You can find that on CAPSEA’s website. And, uh, our website is capsea.org, and you just go to the Education tab. You can then go to the About tab and you’ll find it in there. Um, also, if you would like more information on TIR or the organization that Marian is involved with; Marian, can you give us the websites, uh, please?

Marian Volkman: (27:21)
Yes. The easiest way to get to everything. And there’s a portal website, which is www dot TIR, for Traumatic Incident Reduction, tir.org. And that will take you to the Traumatic Incident Reduction Association. And that’s all about all the practitioners around the world and how to find out about this as an individual. And there’s the appliedmetapsychology.org website. And that one’s a more about training, professional training and things like that. That there’s a wealth of information there and articles and interviews and both websites. And there’s also TIRbook.com that tells you about the books on the subject.

Billie Jo Weyant: (28:07)
Fantastic. And one last thing, if anyone is more interested in this, or if you would like to participate in our, uh, podcast series, please email us at asktheadvocatepodcast@gmail.com. Uh, you can also go and find our archived podcast. If you go to CAPSEA.org, go to the Education tab, then go to Ask the Advocate. We are posting everything there. I am so grateful to have you be with me today and spend this time, Marian. And I hope that we have helped someone I’m sure we have, and given someone some hope out there and that they’re going to reach back out to us and help them find a practitioner in their area, or bring TIR into their programs. I’d be so happy to help with that. And I’m sure you would be too. On behalf of Marian Volkman and the TIR organization, I’m Billie Jo Weyant from CAPSEA. Thank you so much for joining us.

Billie Jo Weyant: (29:15)
Thank you for listening to this episode of ask the advocate. If you have a topic suggestion, or would like to be a guest on the podcast, you can contact me directly at asktheadvocatepodcast@gmail.com.

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