Ten percent of American women and five percent of American men will experience Post-Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during their lifetimes.1 In a national study of 4,023 adolescents ages 12 to 17 almost half reported some type of traumatic experience: sexual assault (8%), physical assault (22%), and witnessing violence (39%).2 Neglect, domestic violence, sexual, physical and emotional abuse, terrorism, war, natural disasters, and mass shootings appear in our headlines every day. Trauma and its dire fallout is prevalent even in early childhood!
We live in harsh times and effective intervention for victims of trauma is urgently needed. Although the military and others are exploring alternative interventions such as EMDR (Francine Shapiro),3 Somatic Experiencing (Peter Levine),4 various forms of energy work, psychotherapy for emotional adjustment and medication for symptom relief5 are considered the primary treatments for PTSD. The long-term experience of the author, working internationally with trauma release processes in disaster survivors, has brought her to the conclusion that the current primary treatments are not adequate and do not address the unconscious, neurosensorimotor needs of those with PTSD. While it can be helpful to address rational and emotional functioning, to work with conscious and unconscious motives, to provide pharmaceutical support and to ease tension in the muscles and tendons, these interventions do not always succeed in creating a stable on-going process that orients PTSD clients toward new perspectives and a new positive sense of life.
Both acute and chronic symptoms of trauma originate in the protective and survival mechanisms that govern the reflexive freeze and fight or flight responses. The author contends that the grip of PTSD on trauma victims can only be released by working with these non-rational non-emotional automatic responses where they originate in the nerve networks of reflex systems in the interbrain (basal ganglia, thalamus, amygdala, insula,and limbic system) and brain stem. It is crucial for practitioners to understand and work with reflex patterns as they not only govern our actions, behavior, and thoughts in traumatic stress but are also a key resource for positive survival and neurodevelopment.
This article discusses effects of stress in normal and traumatized brains (Part 1), presents a model of the neurophysiology of stress based on reflex system functioning (Part 2), and proposes original PTSD Assessment and treatment protocols developed by the author and used effectively for over 25 years in work with trauma survivors (Parts 3 and 4). Part of a larger body of work known as Masgutova Neuro-Sensory-Motor and Reflex Integration (MNRI®), the MNRI® PTSD protocol was used with great success by the author during her many years of work with patients evacuated from traumatic events such as: the Chernobyl nuclear disaster (1986-1996), the Baku conflict (1990-1991), the earthquake in Armenia, the train crash in Ufa (1989), the Chechen War (1996-1999), conflicts in Israel (2001-2005), suicidal individuals, and survivors of fire, explosions, and abuse. MNRI® trauma recovery work uses the inherent sensory-motor links of reflex circuits to reroute brain stem neurons (lower motor neurons of the extrapyramidal nerve net system) from their anchors in an ‘unbearable past trauma’ to the experience of a ‘safe here and now,’ oriented toward positive survival in a safe healthy future. Part 5 presents in detail the results of using the MNRI® trauma protocol with 174 children and adults directly or indirectly involved in the tragic Sandy Hook School shooting in Newtown, CT on December 14, 2012.