Phoenix Center taking part in international childhood trauma symposium

The Phoenix Center staff — including executive director Sarah Garrett and therapy dog Mabel — are participating in the International Neurosequential Model Symposium in Banff, Alberta, Canada, on June 8-10. Several staff members are also presenting at the symposium, which focuses on childhood trauma therapy. Courtesy photo

The Phoenix Center staff — including executive director Sarah Garrett and therapy dog Mabel — are participating in the International Neurosequential Model Symposium in Banff, Alberta, Canada, on June 8-10. Several staff members are also presenting at the symposium, which focuses on childhood trauma therapy. Courtesy photo

DANIEL CLIFTON • EDITOR

MARBLE FALLS — When Sarah Garrett, executive director of the Phoenix Center, learned about the innovative work Dr. Bruce D. Perry was doing in childhood trauma and care, she knew it was something from which the Marble Falls facility and its patients could benefit.

“He had developed NMT — Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) — which essentially is that childhood trauma impairs the child’s brain development and you have to use interventions that help them process through it,” Garrett said. “Say a kiddo comes here from CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) at 3 years old, but the parent was addicted to something and so they weren’t cuddling with that child. So the child missed all that connection. That can really affect a child’s development.

“Or what if the child comes in here, 11 years old, we can’t just hold them and rock them at that age,” Garrett continued. “But what Dr. Perry found was we can recreate that through rhythm, repetition and regulatory experience. Something like beating a drum.”

As Garrett looked deeper into Perry’s research and techniques, she found much of it validated what the Phoenix Center was already doing through its various services such as yoga, art, play therapy, and equine and canine therapies.

“He has MRI brain scans that show this works,” Garrett said.

And Garrett wanted to learn more. She approached one of the Phoenix Center’s donors about funding her and therapist Lindsey Humphrey’s year of intensive study and training with Perry and his staff at the ChildTrauma Academy in Houston to learn NMT and how to utilize it. The Linda and Jerry Strickland Foundation underwrote the training.

“They have a lot of research that supports what we do here,” Garrett said.

The Phoenix Center, which Garrett founded in 2007, offers high-quality mental health care to children and their families. All the services are offered at no charge to the patients.

Earlier this year, Garrett learned of the second annual International Neurosequential Model Symposium on June 8-10 in Banff, Alberta, Canada. Many of the topics related to the types of therapy techniques the Phoenix Center provides, so Garrett decided to submit a proposal for presenting on the topics.

The symposium extended an invitation to Garrett, Humphrey, therapist Erin Givarz and music therapist Niamh Fahy to give presentations.

“It’s pretty exciting to be asked to present. This is an international symposium,” Garrett said. “We’ve put a lot of work into our proposals.”

A grant from the Episcopal Health Foundation is funding the trip and airfare for the presenters as well as the rest of the Phoenix Center staff. Even Mabel, the center’s therapy dog, is making the trip.

“It’s going to be a great experience for all of us,” Garrett said. “The list of this year’s speakers is very impressive. They are all leading researchers, clinicians and therapists. I am humbled to be included as a presenter, excited for the opportunity to learn from others, and so happy to share what we have discovered through our work at the Phoenix Center.”

The Phoenix Center relies on donations, grants and fundraisers to provide the high-quality and innovative therapy at no costs to the children and their families. Go to phoenixcentertexas.org for more information.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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