The Adverse Childhood Experiences study reveals that as individuals answer “yes” to more of the 10 questions, high correlation with unwanted consequences occurs in many. Unhealthy lifestyle behavior, then serious illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease and finally, in many cases, early death can be the result. And yet, many people who are quite high functioning also have many “ACEs”. These folks ask, “how did I survive?” The fact is, humans are hard-wired for survival. Resilience factors cannot be left out of the picture when we speak of ACEs.
Over the last several years, TIC has gained status in micro and macro settings. Psychotherapists are not the only ones using this approach. Hospitals, schools, court rooms, community mental health settings and others have adopted some form of “what happened to you?” versus “what’s wrong with you?” thinking. Some have done this voluntarily, others have conformed due to mandates from funding entities such as SAMHSA, the federal Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration. As with any transformative conceptual change, TIC has met with various degrees of what I would call success.
Trauma therapy is not about blame and shame of our caregivers, but it is about the importance of acknowledging the effects of our life experiences. In 1995, the Adverse Childhood Experiences study was conducted in San Diego, California. A questionnaire with 10 specific questions about early family life was given to over 17,000 volunteers who were patients at Kaiser medical centers. Astounding results showed that 67% of recipients answered "yes" to at least one of the ten questions. As participants answered "yes" to more questions, a high correlation with serious health conditions was revealed. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, addictions and early death were all associated with positive answers to the ACE questions. The Centers for Disease Control with Drs Vincent Filitti and Robert Anda gave a foundation of science to what many psychotherapists have known, anecdotally, for decades. Our experiences affect our health and beahvior. If we allow ourselves to bravely face our pasts, we can assure ourselves a better future. Why? Because there is so much we can do to reverse the effects of our ACEs. Psychotherapy in all its many forms is a primary way to heal. I invite you to learn more and to enjoy this brief talk by Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris.