Feature

Through a new documentary film, APA and several of its members are helping people marshal their resiliency and heal from the trauma of the Sept. 11 attacks, anthrax exposures and the threat of terrorism.

In the film, "Reclaiming Hope in a Changed World," psychologists such as APA Past-president Norine G. Johnson, PhD, and numerous trauma experts share their expertise about the impact traumatic events have on people's lives and offer insight on how Americans can recover hope in the wake of the attacks. The one-hour documentary will air on numerous PBS stations nationwide this winter.

"This film is about what we do now in this changed reality," says Rhea K. Farberman, APA's executive director for public and member communications, who is coordinating APA's participation with the film project. "This awful thing has happened, but we have to go on. How do we help ourselves move on as individuals, as a community and as a country?"

The film, partially funded by APA and created by veteran documentary filmmaker Robert Parish, was distributed by American Public Television to all PBS stations nationwide for review and scheduling last month. Parish and APA also created a made-for-radio version that will likely broadcast on public radio stations this winter, and are making plans for a Web site for the video.

In addition to Johnson, psychologists Daniel J. Abrahamson, PhD, Laurie Pearlman, PhD, Anne C. Pratt, PhD, Karen W. Saakvitne, PhD, and Ervin Staub, PhD, share their thoughts on coping and resiliency and the roots of terrorism, along with several religious leaders and other mental health professionals. Some speakers share inspirational stories of people in other countries and throughout history who have coped with trauma and emerged stronger.

"Great tragedy can teach us many things," explains Staub, a renowned violence and trauma expert, in the film. "And one teachable moment can be to not only reach out to each other, and the value of that, but to reach beyond our borders and feel empathy for people in other places." In the process, we can thereby "do something special for ourselves and combat the recent terrorism."

Others offer ways to facilitate healing and recovery, such as reaching out to the community, connecting with loved ones and seeking professional help if needed.

"Sept. 11 brought the idea of trauma into everybody's kitchen and living room, but we really need to know how we live with that and how can we get better," says Sarah Gamble, PhD, of the Traumatic Stress Institute in Connecticut, who sparked the idea for the film. She and several colleagues spent two days doing crisis work at ground zero in New York City shortly after the attacks.

Gamble has shown portions of the video in workshops on trauma and healing that she's held for counselors and teachers, and other psychologists may soon be able to do the same: APA has tentative plans to make the video available to members to use in their communities and practices. APA Past-president Johnson hopes the film will help psychologists explore new ways to help people build resiliency.

"In my travels since 9/11 and in my contacts with psychologists nationally, I do hear of and see an ability of people to reclaim their lives and, with the reclaiming, to look forward to the future and to hope," says Johnson.

--J. CHAMBERLIN