Managing Trauma in Israel. Interview of Dr. Cathy Lawi

Question: Israel is constantly under the attack of terrorist and/or strikes from the Gaza strip. What are the tools implemented to fight trauma and what means are used? How can one fight back and help the victims?6

The State of Israel is in constant struggle against terrorism and occasionally war, and has at its disposal an array of reactions. From searching visitors’ bags at the entrance of shopping malls, all the way to police and military measures.

We are healers. Based on a technique called Somatic Experiencing® which we brought from the US, we’ve developed in Israel an emotional first aid method (EmotionAid™) which enables us to help people, whose trauma is so powerful that their body is unable to bear.

By administering EmotionAid™, we can intervene in a preventative mode amongst first responders, such as: Soldiers, police officers, ambulance and first aid personnel, doctors, social workers and non-profit organizations’ volunteers. Once trained, they are capable of helping people in traumatic situations, while taking care of themselves, not to be drawn into the trauma vortex.

This method isn’t based on the ‘psyche’, but rather focuses on working with the body, and in particular the part of the brain that has encapsulated the trauma, aiming for discharging the trauma from the autonomic nervous system. This is done without using medication, on the spot, everywhere, with people of all ages, by both professionals and lay people.

Trauma is an accumulation of stress that can affect our sensations and capabilities. Whether the trauma was caused by great violence (a terrorist attack or rape), a shock (such as a car accident), or accumulation of stress (burnout), it is essential to identify its symptoms: Physical pain, digestive or metabolic disturbance, sleep disorder, loss of libido, sensory hypersensitivity, dissociation that can manifest as a wish to flee or to no longer feel, sudden or irrational movements or behaviors, panic attacks, rage, obsessive thoughts, feelings of disorientation, of not making sense of what is.

It is important to note, that trauma is analogous to a physical vortex. Its violence pulls us down. It is magnetic and contagious. If the characteristics of trauma are not taken into consideration, an ‘epidemic’ of catastrophic events can be witnessed. Nowadays, trauma is no longer fatal. It can be prevented and cured, thanks to advances in research and the development of efficient techniques.

Question: Who is the International Trauma healing Institute – ITI-Israel? What is special about this organization?

ITI is a non-for profit organization whose president and founder is Mrs. Gina Ross, MFCC. Dr. Cathy Lawi is the executive director in Israel. ITI provides training in Somatic Experiencing®, and Somatic Experiencing® practitioners (SEPs) of ITI provide short training sessions in EmotionAid™ for the general public. ITI has developed expertise in four domains in Israel:

  • In hospitals and in Resiliency Centers, healthcare personnel are our clients. They are also trained to auto-administer EmotionAid™, as well as use it on their patients.
  • In schools, EmotionAid™ projects are being deployed nation-wide to teach the children and the educational staff how to prevent and treat trauma symptoms.
  • In the army, whether with veterans with PTSD or with young soldiers who are experiencing challenging situations, EmotionAid™ and SE® are being taught and used.
  • Finally, the ‘Shared Society’ project, which can also be translated as ‘Living Together’ is being implemented in Jewish and Arab professionals from the educational and welfare sectors. The results are very promising.

Question: Can you envision an international cooperation? Do the Israelis offer their experience to other countries?

Yes, of course. ITI-Israel intervenes currently in Europe. A program to train 70 social workers working with refugees has been initiated in Munich, Germany at the end of 2016. A second project is planned for Berlin in 2017. ITI-Israel is also planning to bring along Israeli-Arab practitioners for these projects.

In addition we are planning a project in Sweden and have been approached by victim associations in France.