Transforming Trauma Episode 034: Trauma Healing, Hope and Bringing NARM into Residential Treatment with Deirdre Stewart
A podcast brought to you by the NARM® Training Institute
In this episode of Transforming Trauma, our host Sarah Buino interviews guest Deirdre Stewart, the Vice President of Trauma Resolution Services for Meadows Behavioral Healthcare in Wickenburg, Arizona. The Meadows is a well-known, cutting-edge treatment facility providing a full continuum of care, specializing in trauma and addiction. In addition to being a NARM Therapist, Deirdre is trained in Neurofeedback, Somatic Attachment Focused EMDR, and Somatic Experiencing. Throughout the episode, Sarah and Deirdre share their reflections on what the NARM training has brought to them in their professional and personal lives, and the deep sense of hope that healing from trauma does exist– that joy and freedom are possible.
Deirdre has worked for The Meadows for twelve years, and shares her personal journey of starting there as an inpatient years before being hired as a therapist. At that time, she was well into her addiction recovery but was “brought to her knees” by her recognition of deep patterns of codependency. Through her own healing journey and career, Deirdre has come to see the ways that early childhood experiences like neglect, shaming, and codependency impact a child’s developing sense of Self, their inability to experience Self-Love, Self-Worth and a struggle to set appropriate boundaries. For example Deirdre shares, “Not even knowing…that it’s even an option to ask someone ‘You're in my space. I need you to please back up.’” This level of self-neglect and shame around basic needs is common in the patients she works with today.
Deirdre shares that she has seen a sharp increase in the complexity and disorganization of patients more recently at The Meadows. When she was introduced to the NARM approach for working with Complex Trauma, she found hope in helping clients who are suffering from such disorganization and trauma. Specifically, Deirdre shares about the fundamental shifts that she sees through how NARM supports therapeutic consent. She begins by asking her patients “What is it that they most want out of their time at The Meadows?” She shares how powerful this question around intention truly is, as most patients find that they have never been asked by someone else (or even by themselves) what they truly desire.
Sarah asks Deirdre what she would do if she could wave a magic wand to change current trauma treatment systems. Deirdre emphasizes the need for trauma-informed education, specifically as our understanding of trauma shifts from shock or event trauma (PTSD) to greater recognition of complex trauma (C-PTSD). Deirdre finds that the way NARM operates through both a “top-down” and “bottom-up” perspective simultaneously, working with both the mind and the body, helps work more effectively with complexity and disorganization. She has learned that therapeutic models that support behavioral change only go so far, and that models that support self-regulation can be very helpful for many conditions, but as they say in NARM, “you can’t regulate Self-Hatred away.”
Sarah and Deirdre discuss how going through the NARM Therapist Training has impacted them both professionally and personally. They reflect on the experience of heartfulness in NARM, and how this resonates among the training participants. Deirdre shares her personal experience of shifting old patterns in an environment of heartful support, saying, “I think of the onion. And it's like, if I shed all these things, all these things that I'm not, then I get to drop down into all that I am.” This experience of shifting old trauma patterns has had big impacts on her clinical work, as she describes, “It's shifting the way I'm working with patients and clients, but it's also shifting how I'm supervising [therapists].”
Deirdre and Sarah describe common “traps” therapists can fall into: spending so much time and energy to figure out what’s going on with their client, focusing on knowing what happened for their clients, and putting pressure on themselves to have all the answers for their clients. When this efforting shows up in therapy it can impact the interactions between the therapist and client. Deirdre has gained clarity and a new approach to this impulse through NARM, describing it like a “clean windshield effect,” in that she suddenly had a new perspective on countertransference. “It's like, I'm seeing things for the first time and…once I see them, I can't unsee them.”
The interview concludes with the pair reflecting on the transformation that happens within the therapist as they deepen into the principles and understanding of NARM. They both express the gratitude and inspiration they have experienced in learning to relate to themselves in a new way, and how this supports them to stay open, receptive and curious with their clients. Deirdre shares, “This is what makes NARM different, I think, than any other modality I've encountered, is that we're exploring or inquiring not to get anywhere, just for curiosity sake. And…that's one of the missing ingredients of healthy attachment.”
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Deirdre Stewart, LPC, SEP, BCN is the Vice President of Trauma Resolution Services for Meadow’s Behavioral Healthcare. She’s been with The Meadows nearly 12 years – The Meadows provides a full continuum of care, specializing in trauma & addiction. Deirdre is a licensed professional in the state of Arizona, board certified in Neurofeedback, trained in Somatic Attachment Focused EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, and the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM).