A Revolutionary Approach to Treating PTSD

Inhabiting an improvised play designed to heal trauma. Fascinating exploration of art and the human mind.

A Revolutionary Approach to Treating PTSDEugene had already called on some group members to play certain roles in his story. Kresta, a yoga instructor based in San Francisco, was serving as his “contact person,” a guide who helps the protagonist bear the pain the trauma evokes, usually by sitting nearby and offering a hand to hold or a shoulder to lean on. Dave, a child-abuse survivor and small-business owner in Southern California, was playing Eugene’s “ideal father,” a character whose role is to say all the things that Eugene wished his real father had said but never did. They sat on either side of Eugene, touching his shoulders. Next, van der Kolk asked who should play the man he killed. Eugene picked Sagar, a stand-up comedian and part-time financial consultant from Brooklyn. Finally, van der Kolk asked, Who should play the man’s mother?

Eugene pointed to me. “Can you do it?” he asked.

I swore myself in as the others had, by saying, “I enroll as the mother of the man you killed.” Then I moved my pillow to the center of the room, across from Eugene, next to van der Kolk.

“O.K.,” van der Kolk said. “Tell us more about that day. Tell us what happened.” –NYTimes.com.