Tag Archives: David Leong

A Narrative Psychoeducational Introductory Tool for Trauma Work

Posted by: Trudi Wyatt on June 5, 2015 2:08 pm

Following emotional trauma, people may develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) such as flashbacks, avoidance of reminders of the event, negative cognitions or mood, and hypervigilance (1). Observing that some clients with these symptoms seek an understanding of why they experience them, David Leong, MA, LMFT, created and often starts off therapy with a “story” about the neurological effects of trauma on the brain (2). While David notes that his story (based on work by Dr. Dan Siegel) might be over-simplified, he finds his clients find it helpful. This post is a summary of the story:

fistbrainThe brain can be thought of as a fist: Your forearm leading up to it is the spinal cord, and the base of your palm is your “lizard” primitive brain, that manages such automatic body functions as heartbeat and sweating. Next, if you fold your thumb sideways across your palm, this is your mid-brain—your “limbic system.” It houses emotion, memory formation, and the “fight or flight” response. Two important structures within it are the amygdala, thought to be a key player in emotional/fear/implicit memories (3,4), and the hippocampus, thought to be a key player in converting information into memory codes (4). The “language” of the limbic system is emotions. Finally, if you fold your fingers over your thumb, you have your cerebral cortex, which speaks in words, and houses sense of time and explicit memory—a more abstract, gist-based, structural recording of episodes than implicit memory (3). Continue reading

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