In March 2020, much of the world shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. When stay-at-home orders were first mandated, reactions varied. Most people worried to some degree about their health and their financial future. However, there were also extreme reactions. On the one end, those in denial, minimizing what was happening, or using humor to avoid it. At the other end of the spectrum were those who were not only distressed by the current crisis, but also plagued with memories from past traumas. This group in particular struggled with debilitating anxiety and depression.

For survivors of past trauma, depression, anxiety and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) increased even more as any current stressor can trigger memories and feelings of past trauma. For example, someone who came from a broken home, might struggle with community stay at home orders during the pandemic. Being forced to stay at home as an adult could trigger childhood memories of being unable to escape dysfunction or emotional or physical abuse. Individuals who become ill during the pandemic, might have extra difficulty because of being reminded of being powerless as a child while, for instance, taking care of an alcoholic parent who was often sick. Or being bedridden with childhood flu or serious illnesses. Worries about finances might stir memories of witnessing domestic violence when a parent lost their job.

While everyone is dealing with the Covid-19 crisis in their own way, anyone with underlying trauma issues is likely to feel as though the world is crashing down.

Bouts of stress, depression, and anxiousness that many normally feel in response to a crisis is amplified exponentially for someone already struggling with trauma. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. Crises are sudden and unpredictable. Nobody knows what to expect. That can be disconcerting for anyone, but for someone with a history of trauma, a current crisis can create compounding stress. Trauma itself is usually sudden and always unpredictable. This is true, for example, for anyone who experienced inconsistent parenting and crises because of living with an alcoholic or mentally unstable parent. A current crisis can cause that person to feel as if they were back in their childhood when their parent might become violent, abusive, or neglectful.
  2. Confusion. Lack of information, misinformation, or confusing information can trigger  stress in anyone. When leadership gives mixed messages, everyone becomes more confused.
  3. Feeling out of control. Anyone who has experienced trauma, didn’t have control over the situation. With the intrusion of this new, unknown virus, we must wait months or years for the doctors and scientists to get control of it. In the mean time, taking safety precautions like washing hands, is the best we can do. Not knowing personal risk factors, treatment options, and so on, increases everyone’s stress.
  4. Feeling like it’s never going to end. When there is not a predictable end point to something like Covid-19, it can feel like it’s going to last forever. And that can stir feelings of hopelessness.
  5. Grief. Anyone might feel grief even if they have never experienced trauma in their life. To one degree or another, everyone is grieving for what life once was, the “old normal.” Every community has lost a sense of normalcy with social distancing and shelter in place orders. For children, it can be especially challenging as they don’t understand why they no longer can be with their friends or play at the playground. Someone who usually finds walking on the beach or hiking a favorite trail to be a soothing ritual then all of a sudden loses access, experiences a normal feeling of loss: something once cherished has become out of reach.
  6. Isolation. As humans, we aren’t meant to be alone. We need connection with others. Social distancing has caused many people to isolate and as a result, feel disconnected from others, and perhaps even from themselves.
  7. Addiction. Many people who already struggle with addiction, may find it easier to fall back into or increase addictive behavior. Being isolated from others can cause people to lose their sense of purpose so they look for solace in alcohol or other drugs.

Collective trauma

The Covid-19 pandemic is a collective trauma, that is a trauma shared by a group of people. In this case, the worldwide magnitude of this trauma is something like we’ve never experienced in most of our lifetimes. While there are a few advantages to shared experiences (i.e. “we are all in this together” mentality), mainly there are disadvantages. When a collective trauma like Covid-19 happens, it’s difficult to escape it because everyone is talking about it. When the whole world is in turmoil, it’s hard to stay calm and clear thinking.

Feelings like anxiety and depression can be quite contagious. Currently the most discussed topic is the pandemic. There’s almost no way to avoid it. Under normal circumstances, individuals in stressful situations often look for refuge in other people or in other places. However, during a collective stress like this where the stress is everywhere, refuge might be difficult to find.

The first week the stay at home restrictions were announced,  one of my clients expressed her concern: “Everyone’s traumatized,  even my support system is traumatized.  Who am I going to go to now for comfort?” I assured her that although I was stressed, I still felt strong enough to be able to help her. That helped. She needed to know that there was someone who could hold strong and be the rock and be a kind of refuge. 

 Being overly empathetic towards others can affect your own well-being. It is possible to pick up other people’s stress by feeling so bad about their situation. A big danger of collective trauma is collective sadness which can feel like you are being smothered by a blanket of sadness.

What to do?

Over my decades of experience as a trauma psychologist, I have seen how trauma often creates a disconnect inside a person. Trauma can make you feel disconnected from your body, from your heart, mind, loved ones, God, or spirituality—eventually from who you truly are. Your whole self.

As the Covid-19 virus hit and spread, combined with individual, community, and governmental responses, it provided a “perfect storm” for trauma. Trauma symptoms became exacerbated in those who had already experienced it, and developed anew in people who may not have experienced trauma before.  This has led to many more people becoming disconnected from themselves, their families, their communities, their faith, and so on.

Below are the five of the steps I have discovered that will help to empower you during this crisis, and help you to reconnect.

Step 1: Understand trauma

To understand yourself and to normalize your feelings, you need to know what trauma is and how it affects your physical and emotional well-being. Many people are frustrated because they haven’t been able to overcome past trauma on their own. They somehow believe that they should be over symptoms when much time has passed; trauma is complicated and individuals have a tendency to beat themselves up if they can’t just “get over” their trauma. However, trauma healing requires patience and (usually) support from others. A couple of points of sound advice:

    • Don’t make drastic life changes in the midst of any crisis
    • Don’t give up on yourself
    • Don’t be surprised if your past trauma feels as if it is happening again, triggered by the current crisis.

Step 2: Reconnect to your mind

During a traumatic event, the reasoning part of your brain becomes less accessible and makes it difficult for you to think straight. This causes you to disconnect from your mind. After the fact, high stress can cause the same kind of disconnect. Practicing mindfulness is one way to reconnect. Stay focused on the present—you are in the here and now—instead of paying attention to the future or the past. If you do that, your thoughts will stop racing. Traumatized people often struggle with self-compassion because of deep shame or self-hatred. It can help to make peace with yourself, accepting what was. Watch out for your negative self-talk, as that can make you feel worse.

Step 3: Reconnect to your body

Most people are not used to thinking of their body as contributing to their emotional well-being. They see their bodies as only physical. They don’t understand or feel the connection between their body and emotions. But, there’s a vital connection between the two. Trauma may have disconnected you from your body through dissociation.Someone who has been under threat, might learn to deal with the pain and protect themselves by leaving their body. We humans have the capacity to decrease our pain by “checking out.” You can reconnect to your body by exercising regularly. Mindful walks, yoga, and tai chi are some of the ways to calm your body and your nervous system.

Try out this simple grounding activity

  • Sit comfortably in a chair in an upright position. Make an effort to reduce your thoughts so you can better pay attention to your senses.
  • Start by first looking around the room while breathing normally. Notice what you see: the colors, the shapes, and anything else that gets your attention. Make sure you move your neck slowly from right to left as this helps orient you to your surroundings.
  • Next, pay attention to the sounds you hear—voices, cars, birds, any kind of sound.
  • Then tune into your sense of smell. Is there any smell that you pick up? Are you able to breathe through your nose? Maybe go to the kitchen to smell your favorite spice.
  • Next shift your attention now to your sense of taste. What do you notice? Maybe you have just eaten something and you can still taste the food in your mouth. Or you can take a piece of chocolate or a raisin. Pay attention to that.
  • Lastly, pay attention to all this at once—what you see, the sounds you hear, what you smell, the taste in your mouth. Resist the desire to analyze and simply stay focused on what your senses perceive instead. Then pause, and ask, “How am I feeling?” If you feel uncomfortable, anxious, or scared, stop and don’t judge yourself. But you might discover that when you focus on your current sensations, you feel calmer and more present.

Step 4: Reconnect to your heart/emotion

Stay connected to your heart by validating your feelings and not judging your reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic. Share your feelings with those who will not judge you. Don’t attempt to numb your feelings with drugs, drinking, or overeating. Writing down your feelings can be a helpful way to deal with the stress and trauma. When you talk or write about what happened (or is happening) to you, you access the more logical part of your brain. And you can access the more emotional part of your brain by writing or talking about your feelings or expressing them, for example, through art.

Here’s an exercise you can try to help you reconnect to yourself. When you wake up, write down your thoughts and feelings in a free-form style, nonstop without thinking. Write whatever comes to your mind, and if nothing comes to your mind, feel free to write, “I don’t know what to write…this is stupid…I don’t feel anything…” and so on. You may be surprised that you start getting in touch with your feelings as you do daily writings this way.

Step 5: Reconnect to spirituality/community/nature/family

Stay connected to your loved ones and your community. If social distancing is recommended, call or text, write letters or emails, or connect via video media all on a regular basis. Connect to nature. Find ways to be outdoors and notice the beauty of nature. And don’t forget to connect with your spirituality or God in whatever way is meaningful to you. Many religious and spiritual groups have regular meetings and services online.

The truth is every reaction to this and other crises is individual and everyone’s feelings should be respected rather than judged. So be gentle with yourself no matter what. We all need support now more than ever (and that includes supporting ourselves internally). As Buddha stated, “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

Dr. Karol Darsa

Psy.D.

Director

Dr. Darsa received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California Graduate Institute, and has about 20 years of clinical and administrative experience in trauma and mental health disorders. Dr. Darsa began her career in 1998 as a foster care social worker and continued her work with abused children and their families and adults abused as children. Dr. Darsa later worked as a trauma specialist in private practice and at a variety of treatment centers including Clearview, Moonview Sanctuary and PCH.

In 2002, Dr. Darsa began studying with Christine Schenk, founder of the CHRIS-Technique, a unique energy work focused on teaching clients how to ground themselves in their bodies. Dr. Darsa has completed numerous evidence-based trainings in the treatment of trauma and mental health disorders, including Level III in Brainspotting, Level I and II trainings in EMDR, and Somatic Experiencing and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. With each advanced training, Dr. Darsa developed a deeper understanding of trauma processes and healing, and how to help each person achieve freedom from the effects of trauma.

In 2012 Dr. Darsa became the co-creator of Invisible War Recovery, a program designed to treat military sexual trauma survivors. This sparked a passion for Dr. Darsa to develop and create her own trauma recovery program in the form of Reconnect Integrative Trauma Treatment Center. In a short span of time, Reconnect Center has served hundreds of clients recovering from trauma and mental health disorders, leading to exceptional treatment outcomes in their recovery process.

Dr. Darsa realized that what is often missing in trauma treatment is a finely attuned, gentle, body based process to help heal and reconnect mind and body when clients become disregulated due to traumatic events, developmental trauma, or emotional disorders. Reconnect Center embodies that philosophy in offering intensive one on one work to help truly heal each individual that comes through her doors.

A native of Turkey, Dr. Darsa has been living in the United States for 25 years. She has also lived in Spain, France and Brazil. Dr. Darsa’s exposure to numerous ethnic and social groups allows her to understand the cultural differences in human thought and behavior. She can provide therapy in English, Spanish, French and Turkish and is able to converse in Italian and Portuguese as well.

JORGE RIVERA

Chief Financial Officer

Jorge is a University of California Economics graduate with a computer science, finance and investment background. He has over 30 years of experience managing investments internationally for high net worth individuals, Non-Profit Institutions and Pension Plans. His expertise includes designing information systems dashboards, data simulators and data base integrated solutions for investment firms, pension plans and other institutions.

Jorge has been participating at Reconnect Psychological Services since its inception supporting proudly the efforts of Dr. Darsa in establishing an efficient network of clinicians that can offer one of the best trauma treatment programs.

A dual citizen from Mexico and the United States, Jorge loves spending time with his 3 children camping, snow skiing or hiking.

Dr. Viviana Suaya

MD

Medical Director

Dr. Viviana Suaya is a Los Angeles psychiatrist with more than two decades of experience in pediatric, adolescent, and adult psychiatry. She and her professional team are committed to providing patients with the very best of care, using expertise and compassion to achieve the best possible outcome for each patient.

Dr. Suaya pursued a medical degree at the Buenos Aires University School of Medicine in Argentina, where she graduated Cum Laude. Her interest in pediatrics inspired her to become a pediatrician, and she completed a postgraduate program at the Children’s Hospital in Buenos Aires in 1988. Two years later, she relocated to Los Angeles to continue postgraduate training at the Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Psychiatry.

She is an associate professor at Keck school of medicine USC teaching introduction to clinical medicine through the family practice department.

Today, she remains in Los Angeles, where she has unfailingly served patients for more than twenty years. As a Los Angeles psychiatrist with a background in pediatrics, Dr. Suaya specializes in the treatment of children and adolescents.

Shilloy Sanchez

LMFT

Clinical Director

Shilloy Sanchez is Clinical Director of the Reconnect outpatient programs. A licensed marriage and family therapist, she has extensive administrative and clinical experience in trauma, addiction, eating disorder treatment, and school-based programs.

Her career spans three decades and a wide range of leadership positions in clinical psychology, crisis communications, public relations, technology, and youth theater activism. Her journey has been featured on CNN Health and in Seeking Serenity: The 10 New Rules for Health and Happiness in the Age of Anxiety (Penguin Random House 2015).

Before Reconnect, Shilloy was Program Director and Primary Therapist at The Bella Vita, a residential eating disorder treatment facility, and an administrator at Passages, a world-renowned addiction treatment center. In both facilities, Shilloy worked from a strong family systems orientation integrating multifamily and community support groups to the program’s experience.

She earned her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology specializing in Trauma from Antioch University and is a doctoral candidate in Analytical Depth Psychology specializing in Integrative Therapy and Healing Practices at Pacifica Graduate Institute. She holds certifications in Trauma Focused CBT and Systematic Training for Effective Parenting. She is also trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Brain Spotting (BSP), and the Comprehensive Resource Model (CRM).

Shilloy’s approach at Reconnect focuses on the transformational process of restoring wholeness and a deep sense of purpose, achieved by bringing a creative alchemical balance of spirit and soul to structured treatment. Shilloy is committed to working closely with the founder, Dr. Darsa, on individualized trauma treatment that includes an elevated sense of awareness and compassion in its programming. She is also dedicated to ensuring ongoing compliance with licensing and regulatory standards consistent with The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), for all levels of care in the supervision and training of Reconnect’s multidisciplinary clinical team.

An aspiring runner, Shilloy has completed three marathons and is training for her fourth. Her hobbies include hosting backyard barbecues, trying new recipes, and hiking. She lives in Southern California with her partner and two bulldogs.

Nicole Moore

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)

Nicole Moore is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), and registered yoga teacher in California. She earned her master’s degree in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University. Nicole works with children, families, and adults. Using attachment theory, mindfulness, traditional, and alternative modalities to personalize each treatment plan, she strives to make a genuine connection with every individual to help inform her approach.

Miriam Rothman

LMFT (LMFT 48136)

Mindfulness Teacher, CBT Therapist, Brain Spotting

Miriam is a licensed Marriage Family Therapist. Her specialties include teaching Mindful meditation, treating clients with addiction through helping them to identify triggers for their unhealthy behaviors, and helping clients overcome their problems of anxiety and depression.

She received her BA from the University of Southern California in communications, and her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University Los Angeles. She has worked with patients recovering from drug and alcohol addictions during her time at the Southern California Alcohol and Drugs Program. She worked at the UCLA Dual Diagnosis Program.

Miriam is invested in the field of Mindful meditation. Having worked with children and adults, she is committed to helping clients increase the vitality in their lives. Through helping them increase their ability to be present in the moment, rather than distracting themselves by obsessing over their pasts or their futures, clients to experience the ordinary of their lives as extraordinary.

Matthew Porter

LMFT 42042

LMFT and EMDR Trauma Specialist

Matthew Porter LMFT specializes in treating trauma, PTSD, and addictions. He has served as Clinical Lead, Primary Therapist and EMDR Trauma Specialist in various addiction and mental health treatment centers. His passions include teaching Mindfulness, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills, and making a personal connection with all of his clients. Matt obtained his master’s degree in counseling psychology and drama therapy from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco in 2001 and has been Licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist since 2005. He led Drama Therapy and DBT skills groups at UCSF Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, taught psychology at Berkeley City College, and has trained and supervised dozens of therapists in DBT and Mindfulness skills. He is also trained as a Yoga Teacher and focuses on the body’s wisdom to heal and recover from trauma, addictions and other compulsive behaviors.

Janice Taylor

MFT

Marriage and Family Therapist

Janice is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and has both her Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in Psychology from Antioch University. She is a certified EMDR therapist and trained in the Trauma Resiliency Model.

She works collaboratively with clients to explore behaviors that are preventing them from leading the kind of life they deserve. Janice believes we all developed coping strategies when we were young to protect ourselves. While they helped us survive at the time, she finds they are often the very things holding us back now. Janice uses EMDR and TRM to target the original traumas by employing both the body and the mind. Her belief is that once the original traumas are dealt with, the need for the now maladaptive behaviors are no longer there. She finds symptoms such as depression and anxiety can be alleviated faster when EMDR and TRM are used in conjunction with traditional talk therapy.

Janice became a therapist after seeing for herself the transformative effects of psychotherapy. She knows firsthand that EMDR and TRM are indispensable in the treatment of trauma.

Kasey Curtis

LMFT (LMFT99698)

EMDR and CRM

Kasey graduated with her master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Argosy University, Twin Cities (MN) in 2008. Since then, she has worked with adolescents in detention, families, and children in outpatient and community mental health settings, and with people struggling with eating disorders. Her early work led her to seek out additional training to help clients with trauma experience deeper and more lasting change than she was seeing in traditional talk therapy. She has been trained in EMDR and has participated in other various modalities that focus on the mind-and-body connection such as iRest Yoga Nidra, and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. Most recently, Kasey has completed training in CRM (Comprehensive Resource Model) in the hopes of having more extensive tools and creativity in helping clients reach their goals.

Ben Miller

Certified Neurofeedback Practitioner

Along with his work at Reconnect, Ben is the Neurofeedback Coordinator at the Salvation Army Bell Shelter where he helps Veterans heal from extreme PTSD. Ben has extensive experience in helping Veterans reduce symptoms ranging from lack of sleep to severe panic attacks. Additionally, Ben works on alleviating chronic pain, tinnitus, hyper-alertness, excessive worry and many other anxiety related symptoms. Specializing in Neurofeedback Ben has helped Veterans and Private clients improve memory, word finding, creativity and executive thought process. Ben realizes the importance of having the brain and body working together as efficiently as possible. He believes that Neurofeedback is a key component for Peak Performance in sports, the arts, and business. As an avid golfer, Ben especially enjoys working with golfers and other athletes of different levels to help improve their overall performance.

Sarit Z. Rogers

Somatic Experiencing Practitioner

Sarit Z. Rogers, is a Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner, accomplished photographer, writer, group facilitator and trauma-informed yoga teacher. Sarit is certified to teach Hatha/Vinyasa, Accessible Yoga, Yoga for All©, Restorative and Yin yoga. Sarit has dedicated her life to being of service and sharing the gift of yoga and SE™ to adults and adolescents. She has experienced the power of SE in her own physiology and lights up when there is an opportunity to share it with others.

Sarit draws from different modalities, including movement, creative writing, art, mindfulness and Somatic Experiencing to promote the cultivation of healing and foster the development of accessible tools for self-care, self-regulation, healthy boundaries, and ultimately, a nervous system that is more regulated and has more capacity to live life at its fullest.

Sarit assists Somatic Experiencing® trainings and continues to participate in continuing education classes in order to deepen and broaden her ability to bring healing to her clients. Sarit strives to empower and support her clients, inspiring embodiment, presence, and a greater sense of aliveness.

Lisa Schwartz

L.Ac.

Licensed Acupuncturist Specializing in Emotional Trauma

Lisa Schwartz is a California state licensed acupuncturist and herbalist specializing in treating emotional trauma, addiction, depression, anxiety, stress, chronic pain and headaches.

Lisa received her master’s degree in traditional Chinese medicine from Emperor’s College of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Californian board acupuncture license in 2000. She is also a Member of the National Addiction Detoxification Association.

Her passion for treating emotional trauma and addiction began during an internship at a hospital in Marina Del Rey, where she treated patients with great success recovering from PTSD, drug and alcohol addiction. She has served as a clinic supervisor at UCLA’s Arthur Ashe student health center for acupuncture students, where she taught them proper diagnosis and treatment for stress, anxiety, insomnia, and headaches.

Her specialized technique helps individuals who are suffering from drug cravings, stress, anxiety and panic attacks. Lisa offers her patients compassionate and personalized care, creating a safe, calm and relaxing environment for the sole purpose of healing the body, mind, and spirit.

Gina Simonelli

M.A. LMHC

Gina obtained her Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling with a specialization in Expressive Arts Therapy from Lesley University. She has been working in the field of mental health and trauma treatment for approximately 10 years, in psychiatric hospitals, residential treatment programs, skilled nursing facilities, addiction treatment centers, and community outreach. Providing individual and group support, Gina has worked with clients across the life span to develop a deeper sense of meaning and fulfillment at every age.

Each of us possesses the inner wisdom to guide our unique healing journey. Gina utilizes compassion, attunement, and mindfulness to help connect with this wisdom. Her therapeutic process is person-centered and strengths-based, drawing upon creativity, warmth, and humor in each clinical relationship.

Gina is trained in expressive arts therapy, mindfulness, body-oriented psychotherapy, and Brainspotting. Gina is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in Massachusetts and is currently working towards obtaining California licensure. She continues to maintain an active connection with the arts as a way to support both her personal and professional development.

Maia Akiva

Writing Teacher

Maia Akiva is a Motivational Speaker, Entertainer, Facilitator, a reality bender and an emotional researcher who dips into every flavor of human behavior and self-discovery using self-help fiction, magical realism, original visual storytelling and and emotional coaching.

Originally from Israel. Her award-winning self-help plays and short stories have been produced and published all over the United States in the past 10 years, inspiring hundreds of people to go on a journey of understanding, get to know themselves better and deeper, and ask themselves some important questions about their inner emotional lives, their struggles and their relationship with themselves. She led workshops of self-discovery at Models of Pride conference in the US, and at Brave Trails Camp, Resilience Treatment Center, Reconnect center and many more awesome places. She teaches meditation at The Den Meditation in Los Angeles. Maia’s creative work and her desire to help people take a look at themselves come from her own experience. After turning her back on herself for many years, suffering from depression and self-negativity she finally decided to start a new relationship with herself and turned her life around, living a life full of Joy and positivity.

Nadine Flowers

M.S., Associate Professional Clinical Counselor, CMT, EMDR, CRM

Nadine graduated her masters program in Clinical Psychology 2015 with a focus on healing from a holistic perspective; with an emphasis on trauma and the utilization of eco/wilderness therapy, somatic approaches, resiliency and post traumatic growth.

Nadine has had the privilege of working with clients who come to Reconnect since 2014.  Nadine’s personal approach is passionate, empowered, purposeful and authentic. When working with clients; compassion, empathy, and faith in the client and their process are primary.

Nadine works to nurture strengths, interests and passions while aiming to encourage radical self love and acceptance. Additionally, Nadine infuses eco therapy and nature based work, nested with various forms of resourcing to support clients in building self care skills and mindfulness to facilitate a deeper sense of connection and wellbeing to Self, that, in turn can support a person on their journey of ongoing healing and be- coming whole. Nadine is EMDR and CRM trained and continues her study of Somatic Based work as well.

Soleah Nicolis

CNHP, TRE, CEBT, C.Ht

Certified TRE® Provider & Resilience Tool Kit Facilitator

Soleah is a Certified TRE® (Tension & Trauma Release Exercises) Provider and graduated from the TRE® Los Angeles certification program. She also has extensive training and certifications in a variety of modalities some of which include Natural Health Practitioner, and Life Coach.

Soleah Nicolis found her way into the wellness field because of her own personal healing journey. She began her holistic health career in 2004, as an assistant to renowned holistic chiropractor Dr. Eileen Kenny. Under her guidance, Soleah assisted with clients of all ages, health concerns and backgrounds. Soleah’s curiosity about health, community, and service allowed her to apply her lifelong passion for helping people uncover and rediscover their wholeness.

Marina Dumanyan

Outpatient Program Manager

Marina has eight years of experience in the banking industry and close to a decade in the herbal industry providing elaborative instruction in the use of herbal therapy and understanding and practicing principles of preventive nutrition, eradicating the cause of disease utilizing wholesome foods and intensive detoxification programs, and healing the body through natural methods. She holds a Nutritional Herbalist certification from the School of Natural Healing and is pursuing a BS degree in natural health science, concentrating on clinical nutrition. She loves the outdoors, traveling, watching documentaries, reading, decoding ingredient lists, yoga, drawing, festivals, has great appreciation for cultural diversity and listening to music from all over the world. As program coordinator, she works closely with the clinical director as well as clinicians to ensure that clients are assigned the best possible schedule.

Sharon Holly

C-IAYT, YTRx-800c

Certified Yoga Therapist, The Resilience Toolkit Certified Facilitator, Certified TRE® Provider (Trauma / Tension Release Exercises)

Sharon is a graduate of the Loyola Marymount University Yoga Therapy Rx, TRE® Los Angeles and The Resilience Toolkit certification programs.

Sharon discovered TRE® and then The Resilience Toolkit on her own healing journey, discovering the benefits of turning on the body’s natural ability to restore itself to balance. She has built a private practice integrating yoga therapy and The Resilience Toolkit as needed for those who suffer from various illnesses, injuries, mood disorders and complex and/or shock trauma. Sharon believes that her role is to guide individuals into their own healing potential by creating a safe space whereby they can progress towards self-regulation and self-empowerment.

Sharon also teaches small therapeutic yoga groups and The Resilience Toolkit sessions at PCH Treatment Center as well as therapeutic yoga at several physical therapy offices, yoga studios, cancer centers and group classes in both public and private schools (preschool – 12th grade) throughout Los Angeles. Additionally, Sharon has experience with support in the 12-steps for addiction and codependency.

Caitlyn Budd

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Caitlyn is a somatic therapist specializing in trauma and works with disordered eating and self-injury behaviors.  Caitlyn received her degree from Phillips Graduate University’s Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy program in 2013 and has a specialization in the Post-Modern therapies.  In 2014, Caitlyn was trained in the Trauma Resiliency Model (TRM) and in 2016, she was trained in Pat Ogden’s Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, a body-oriented talk therapy.

In her work, Caitlyn is informed by the teachings of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and offers her clients a space to have a different experience of themselves and to find a greater sense of safety within their own body.

Jane Alt

Licensed AMFT
Eating Disorder Specialist

Jane Alt Clark is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. She earned her B.A. in sociology from the University of Colorado and her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pepperdine, since then has been working to provide each and every one of her clients with a safe space and a bright future at every level of care. She integrates complementary methodologies to offer a highly personal approach uniquely tailored to each individual.

Jane believes that eating disorder recovery is an integral part of healing as trauma and eating disorders are highly correlated. At Reconnect, Jane strives to bring equilibrium to her patients transitioning into life and works to broaden their experiences with food and eating as they move forward in their recovery. Jane is an active member of the Women’s Association of Addiction Treatment (WAAT) in Los Angeles, a member of the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) and a member of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals.

Jessica Calgav

Clinical Support

Jessica graduated Magna Cum Laude and currently holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of California, Riverside. Now, she is pursuing a Doctorate Degree in Clinical Psychology (PsyD). Jessica has been involved with the counseling and psychological services provided by the Board of the University of California, advocating and educating students to normalize mental health. Her passion currently resides working with individuals who have been affected by trauma as well as working with the underserved population.

Jessica has been working under the supervision of licensed psychologists and therapists for over two years, gaining experience and knowledge in trauma related disorders, crisis management, and grounding techniques. She previously worked at Reconnect in the residential facility as a Resident Advisor for 2 years catering to the adult female population that were survivors of trauma. Jessica currently also works in substance abuse treatment to provide case management services, implementing a treatment plan to individuals ages 18 to 26 years old. Jessica meets with clients weekly to maintain and work on goals set forth to increase their success in all areas of their life. She supplies guidance and support to all her clients while maintaining program guidelines and professional, yet empathetic boundaries.

Her academic research interests revolve around intergenerational trauma and how trauma affects brain development within cultural minorities. The focus of her research lies on how trauma affects individuals at the individual level, communal level, societal level, and the environmental level.

Day 1: Friday, November 15, 2019

8:15 – 9:00 – Registration

9:00-10:30

10:30-10:45  Break

10:45-12:30

12:30-1:30  Lunch

1:30-3:45

3:45-4:00  Break

4:00-5:00

 

Day 2: Saturday, November 16, 2019

9:00-10:30

10:30-10:45 – Break

10:45-12:30

12:30-1:30  Lunch

1:30-3:15

3:15-3:30  Break

3:30-5:00

Charles Cook

Recovery Coach

Charles is a Registered Addiction Specialist and has spent the last 7  years working in the substance abuse and mental health wellness field.  During that time he has acquired extensive exposure and experience in  a myriad of roles: Resident Manager at Promises Treatment Center,  Group Facilitator, Sober Companion, Case Manager, Recovery & Life  Coach, Sober Living Program Manager and Meditation Mentor. Applying  his training in DBT Skills, Motivational Interviewing, Vippasana  Meditation, Core Values and Goal Setting as well as his personal  recovery experience, Charles has developed a philosophy of connection  vs control in working one on one with clients. He believes that  providing a safe, reliable, and secure base affords the most effective  opportunity to support clients in self actualization.

Rhona Rosenblatt

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

Rhona Rosenblatt is a Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and Integrative Body Psychotherapy practitioner.  Using an integrative approach that favors somatic modalities, Rhona works with clients to explore what is held non-verbally in the body as an avenue toward healing and growth.  Using the body’s wisdom as a guide, therapeutic interventions address traumatic memory, post-traumatic stress, and nervous system dysregulation.  Rhona has found somatic work particularly effective with clients who have experienced acute and relational trauma, and clients often find a reduction in symptoms and an overall sense of improved well-being.

Rhona received her MSW from UCLA and is licensed as an LCSW.  Rhona has previously worked in the field of child abuse and neglect, foster care, and domestic and international adoption, including work with multi-racial and non-traditional families.  Rhona has presented at conferences and spoken on the subjects of adoption and foster care on NBC television and KPCC and KABC radio.  Rhona also worked as a school therapist in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district with children and families presenting with anxiety, panic, depression, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, family violence, and adjustment issues.

Jessica Improta

LCSW, EMDR

Jessica is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, with more than 10 years of clinical training and experience providing therapy to children, adults and families. Jessica has provided counseling to a range of populations and across multiple settings, from foster youth in LA County to sexual assault survivors at UCLA’s Rape Treatment Center.

As a fully-trained EMDR therapist, Jessica has a particular interest in helping clients heal from developmental trauma, and believes that current life stressors and challenges are often the unprocessed ghosts of past trauma and memories. Jessica specializes in working with binge eating disorder, body image issues, and bulimia and practices from a Health at Every Size perspective as well as being a certified Intuitive Eating counselor. Jessica offers a warm, congenial presence, compassion, and humor in the therapy room, and views the relationship between client and therapist as ultimately one of the most important factors in healing. Jessica graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Molecular Biology and received her MSW at UCLA.

 

Sherry Alamdari

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

Sherry is Level II trained in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, and working towards certification.  Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is a modality which blends somatic awareness with mindfulness, attachment work, and neuroscience.  She loves using this modality in her trauma work as she has witnessed healing happens as a result of bringing awareness to the wisdom within a client’s body.  She interned under the guidance of Bonnie Goldstein, Ph.D. at Lifespan Psychological Center.

Sherry assists current Sensorimotor Psychotherapy training at both levels and continues to stay active in staying informed and educated about advancements in the field of psychotherapy.  She earned her BA in Communication Arts at Loyola Marymount University and her MA In Psychology at Phillips Graduate University.

Caroline Lawson

Massage Therapist

Caroline developed an interest in Massage Therapy when she was working as Wellness Director and Yoga and Meditation teacher at a drug and alcohol treatment facility in New Jersey.  She witnessed the immediate effects of massage on clients’ mood and attitude, and realized that was what she wanted to make part of her life’s work. She is a graduate of the Cortiva Institute School of Massage and Bodywork in King of Prussia, PA. Caroline has been practicing massage for several years, first in Philadelphia, and for the past three years in California, in both treatment and studio settings.  Her passion is helping clients integrate muscular wellness with relaxation and self-care.  Her favorite expression is, “Massage doesn’t have to hurt to work.”  In her spare time she enjoys learning about nutrition, cooking, studying for her Recovery Coach certification, hiking, rock climbing, and days at the beach.

Sarah Patterson

Certified Yoga Therapist
C-IAYT, E-RYT, AHC

Sarah is a Certified Yoga Therapist, trauma-informed yoga teacher, and Ayurvedic Health Counselor. Years ago, on her own path to healing from trauma, Sarah personally experienced the therapeutic power of yoga and body-based mindfulness. Since then, she has dedicated herself to assisting others on their healing journeys by offering guidance in these integrative practices in treatment centers and private practice. Sarah loves learning and is constantly engaged in continuing education in the field of somatic therapy and healing. She also frequently assists courses at her Yoga Therapy alma mater: Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy. Sarah received her certification through the International Association of Yoga Therapists, and has focused Yoga Therapy training in recovery from addiction and eating disorders, and processing trauma. In addition to her somatic work, Sarah also has an extensive background in art and loves to paint, draw, take photos, and create beautiful things from clay. She loves spending time in nature and with animals, and enjoys reading, cooking, and designing websites.

Laura Gajda

Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist

Laura Gajda has a background in eating disorders and mental health diagnoses. Laura was the Adolescent Dietitian at Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders and specializes in educating and working with families of adolescents with eating disorders.  She also specializes in working with adults that have eating disorders and building sustainability in their own recovery. Laura graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a Bachelors of Science in Dietetics where she also completed her internship.  She looks forward to providing individualized care to each and every client. She helps each client build their own sense of autonomy around food and decrease the power that food can have over their life.

Anita Patel

Certified Massage Therapist

Anita is a Certified Massage Therapist in the state of California and has been National Board Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork since 2008. She uses massage and bodywork to fulfill her passion of assisting others to decrease stress levels, relax the nervous system, relieve pain, trauma and physical disabilities. She is trained in somatic bodywork, a holistic mind-body approach used to release, integrate and heal emotions that remain in the body from past negative experiences. Consequently, restoring wholeness and well-being. Clients frequently comment on their increased ability to handle stress more effectively. She works with addiction, PTSD trauma, sexual abuse, and dissociative personality disorder. She also has experience working with special needs and terminally ill children and their families, in a Children’s Hospice Program. Anita is an Ayurvedic Health practitioner and has taken 200-hour Yoga Teacher training. Drawing on these holistic modalities she is able to assess dietary habits, lifestyle choices, and mental states. Thereby, assisting clients maintain a healthy life, eliminate impurities, reduce stress, and disease prevention. Prior to 2008 Anita has worked as a Radiation Therapist in Oncology both in hospital and private clinical environment for over 14 years. She has volunteered at Children’s Hospital Orange County, with the Homeless in Orange and Los Angeles counties. She recently volunteered at a global outreach program teaching and giving massage in India.

Samantha Giertych

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Samantha Giertych has a background in the treatment of eating disorders, substance use, and mental health. Samantha graduated with Distinction from the College of
Human Ecology at Cornell University, and completed her dietetic internship at the City University of New York, Hunter College, prior to relocating to Southern California. Since 2013, Samantha has provided individualized nutrition counseling and nutrition education to clients and groups within the mental health field. Samantha’s journey into healthcare began with a passion for helping those in need, and has sought to provide quality nutrition care services to all who require them, regardless of financial or insurance constraints. She has worked with multiple eating disorder and mental health treatment centers – The Renfrew Center of New York, Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders, and
La Ventana Treatment Programs. Her specialty areas include intuitive eating, ERP, severe and enduring eating disorders (SEED), compassion-focused and values-based care, relational work, DBT skills for prevention of disordered eating behaviors, and sustainable and individualized treatment models. Throughout her time working in
treatment, Samantha has observed the necessity of a multi-disciplinary approach in producing positive medical and mental health outcomes for individuals. She is appreciative to be able to support Reconnect staff and clients in seeking holistic health and well-being.

Rebecca Berg

Dietitian

Rebecca Berg is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in eating disorder recovery, intuitive eating, and weight-inclusive nutrition therapy. Rebecca helps clients re-discover what it means to be attuned to their body’s needs as they work to heal from their trauma. Rebecca uses MI, DBT, and CBT skills in her counseling interventions to reduce the use of eating disorder behaviors and develop a sustainable and peaceful relationship with food. Rebecca’s approach is client-centered, compassionate, and humorous.

A graduate of Northwestern University in Chicago, Rebecca found herself working in the field of non-profit marketing and event planning in New York City. She soon discovered that she was passionate about food justice, public health nutrition, and Health at Every Size® (HAES). Continuing her journey, she returned to school and completed a Master’s of Science in Nutrition from the Hunter College School of Urban Public Health. She then relocated to Southern California, completing the Veterans Affairs of Greater Los Angeles Dietetic Internship program. Rebecca is deeply curious about each clients lived experience and is appreciative to be supporting the Reconnect team.

David Grill

EMDR, Primary Therapist

David Grill has been a licensed psychotherapist with over 35 years of specialization in the treatment of trauma as well as other difficulties and struggles that result in fear and a disconnect, with ourselves and others, and with life. He has extensive training and certifications in both cognitive behavioral and somatic treatment approaches and is one of the pioneers in understanding the importance of working with the psychological and physiological symptoms and difficulties of traumatic stress and PTSD.

He has been a faculty member and teacher/trainer for Somatic Experiencing. He was a faculty member for The Institute for Trauma & Loss In Children, and a national trainer and consultant supervisor for their National Certification Program. He was a faculty member and teacher for the Graduate Institute of Santa Barbara, and has presented at major conferences, and has conducted debriefings and trainings for major corporations, businesses, and schools.

David’s life work has been devoted to helping heal trauma and empower others. He specializes in working with strengths and resources to provide the means of building a sense of agency. He believes that connecting with ourselves and with others is vital for living a life we all want. He also believes that connecting with one’s heart, which can often feel so frightening, can be a most rewarding experience for our commitment and hard work.

Karina Rayo

Operations Manager

Karina has over 13 years of experience working with executives and administrators. Her experience also includes knowledge in various departments such as accounting, human resources and client and vendor relations. She has worked and volunteered in direct services with diverse populations and ages including low-income persons, disabled persons, the LGBTQIA community, immigrants, monolingual Spanish speakers, survivors of domestic violence, unhoused individuals, and persons with mental health disorders. She has experience in crisis intervention and de-escalation, conflict resolution, personnel management and training, policy development, and quality improvement.

As Operations Manager for Reconnect, Karina oversees the daily operations of our facility which includes supervising the Front Desk staff. In addition, she is also the Health and Safety Officer, the Human Resources Coordinator, and the Domestic Violence Coordinator. In her role she also provides support to the Clinical Director, Executive Director, Chief Financial Officer, and the Billing Department.

Currently Karina is a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner in training while also pursuing a B.A. degree in Psychology and Gender/Queer Studies. Her ultimate goal is to become an SEP and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in trauma and LGBTQIA affirmative therapy. As a gender noncomfirming Latinx queer immigrant it is important for Karina that she continue to work with underserved communities in a therapeutic setting, specifically with the Latinx and Queer communities.

Preferred Pronouns: She/Her/Them/They

Daniel Campos

Program Manager

Daniel believes in a holistic approach to healing and performance including mind, body, and soul which facilitates internal change and progress. Based on his personal and professional experience he has realized that healing and internal growth is connected to all aspects of a person, not just the cognitive mind.
Daniel is a former college and professional basketball player. He received a Master’s degree in Counseling with specialization in drug addiction from Pace University in New York in 2012. Daniel is a trauma therapist with knowledge on transgenerational trauma. He spent the last 8 years in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil having a private practice working with a variety of people with varying degrees of mental and mood disorders. He has been trained in Brainspotting since 2014 along with other modalities such as Neurolinguistic Programing, Ericksonian Approach, and Whole Approach to Mind Trauma Therapy. Daniel is also a certified HeartMath Institute trainer providing workshops and individual sessions teaching Heart Coherence Techniques for emotional wellbeing. Lastly, he is versed in Sports Psychology and enjoys working with athletes and anyone interested in enhancing their performance through mental skills and mental preparation.

Cara Coslow

Admissions Coordinator

Cara holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville NY where her major focus was theater and Shakespeare. She attended the Masters Program at The American Conservatory Theater and spent her junior year at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

Cara made a career move into the field of admissions seven years ago; She spent that time working in substance abuse treatment where she was the admissions supervisor for KLEAN Treatment Centers in West Hollywood. She is passionate about helping those who struggle with both substance abuse and trauma and is active in several recovery programs in and around Los Angeles. The article she wrote about opioid addiction can be read at Barron’s Magazine online. She hopes to bring her own experience into the field of helping others.

In an earlier life, Cara was a casting director for several major studios and productions companies. Her hobbies are reading voraciously, cooking, writing, and listening to true crime podcasts.

Enrique Munoz

Program Assistant

Enrique graduated and currently holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of California, Riverside. At the moment, trying to pursue a master’s degree in psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy. Enrique aspires to work with the Latinx community in hope of providing counseling and support services for struggling families. His intent is to help individuals who have been affected by trauma and bring means to these individuals who do not have them.

Enrique has been involved with educating individuals with autism and other intellectual disabilities. He has provided guidance and support to these clients by educating them on basic life skills and coping strategies. Creating connections and establishing boundaries, he was able to create a safe and professional environment for his clients. Furthermore, he builds relationships that cultivated into a thriving and overall, positive experience.

He loves traveling to many different places and experiencing the culture around him. From the food to the music, Enrique has a great appreciation of cultural diversity and to the people surrounding that. He likes to watch films, cook, run, hike, and embrace life. As a Program Assistant, he works closely with the administrative team and clinical team to ensure that clients are receiving the best experience while at Reconnect.

Pronouns: He/His/Him

Lauren Prendergast

Yoga Specialist

Lauren is a trauma-informed yoga instructor and a soon to be certified yoga therapist through the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT).

Lauren initially became interested in yoga and its self-care benefits as a result of her personal discoveries while healing her own trauma. During her deep work and research, she found that deliberate breath practice, postures and mindfulness tools could help to regulate the nervous system and aid in self-soothing, creating the foundation needed for true healing. Lauren understands the importance of connecting back to one’s body and she loves working with clients to help them to meet these deeply personal needs.

In an effort to help those in her community suffering from anxiety, addiction and other illnesses, Lauren has presented workshops addressing issues like Yoga for Overwhelm and Yoga of Recovery. She is dedicated to continuing her education but also knows the importance of making time to create and nurture her own practice. Lauren loves music and values time outdoors, as well as any opportunity to draw or paint, and she loves to dance.

E-RYT 200, RYT 500