Dr Cathy Kezelman is the director of Adults Surviving Child Abuse and passionate about reform
As a publicly declared survivor of child abuse, Dr Cathy Kezelman has had a significant period of time to reflect–and act–on the subject of complex trauma. Dr Cathy Kezelman is the director of Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA). She is also the author of Innocence Revisited, a memoir chronicling her battle with depression and suicidality, at the core of which was childhood trauma.
Dr Kezelman was one of the presenters for a recent Mental Health Professionals Network complex trauma webinar. In a wide ranging conversation, she talked about her passion for reform, and the role MHPN plays in bringing it about.
Dr Kezelman became involved with MHPN in running a webinar around complex trauma because the whole area of trauma in general, and complex trauma in particular, had not received the focus it deserves within mental health reform.
‘I really wanted to clarify that there is a significant research base that indicates a need for a different treatment path for complex as opposed to single incident trauma, and that it’s important for practitioners to be informed about the presentations of complex trauma, its cumulative impacts and potential long term repercussions.
‘What I could bring to the webinar was the lived experience of individuals who have experienced complex trauma, and clarity around the relationship between their needs, their ways of coping, their symptoms, and the underlying trauma.’
Her aim was to enable a greater degree of understanding so practitioners and systems could respond appropriately.
‘For me personally, it was an opportunity to speak to a diversity of health professionals about an area which is close to my heart and which I passionately want to champion.
‘[It needs] education and greater awareness among health professionals so they will become more trauma-informed and systems will respond with better care … for those who have suffered repeated interpersonal trauma.’
She described her campaign as a personal response to having worked through her own childhood abuse. She felt privileged that she had been able to access very good private based care with a clinical psychologist who had skilfully collaborated with a psychiatrist and a GP.
‘I received coordinated care within the private sector and that’s what the MHPN networks are trying to promote. I’m a case in point. I’ve been privileged to be able to get that degree of expert care for the period of time for which I needed it.’
She believed it was important to see consumer voices being accepted as a critical part of that process.
‘What I’d like to see in the future is that consumer managed organisations also become part of the conversation because they also offer crucial supports for mental health consumers and they really need to be added to the mix.’
Dr Kezelman felt the conversation on complex trauma had now begun. The webinar experience has persuaded her that further online sessions on trauma-informed care and practice were in order. She felt the principle of care needed around trauma is to move away from a traditional medical model to one which responds holistically to individuals in the context of the lived experience.
‘We need as a workforce to understand the particular vulnerabilities and sensitivities of trauma survivors if we are going to respond in a respectful, empathic and collaborative way.’