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New treatment targets effects of trauma

Trauma specialist Natalie Smith has recently added a new dimension to treatment options she has been offering in Albuquerque for several years.

Smith launched a new program called Healing in the Desert in April which provides intensive outpatient treatment for individuals seeking to overcome the effects of trauma.

Natalie Smith

Natalie Smith

“Trauma is subjective,” Smith said. It can stem from major events like a car accident, sexual abuse or a war. It can also come from growing up in circumstances where an individual experiences chronic neglect.

“There’s nothing particular that they can point their finger at and yet there is impairment in how they function, how they interact with others, their ability to maintain relationships or be employed,” Smith said.

Those that qualify for what Healing in the Desert offers are those that recognize that there is impairment in their lives and that it is not being addressed through standard outpatient treatment and that therapy hasn’t helped them get better, she said.

The program offers 30-day, 45-day and 60-day options. Individuals who seek treatment go through an extensive assessment process and develop a personalized plan with a primary therapist. They work five hours a day, four days a week with practitioners who specialize in different types of therapy. They include therapies focused around movement, art, yoga, meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy.

“We really try to stay very present to the needs of the individual,” said Smith.

She said the program is founded on Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which was developed in the 1980s by psychologist Marsha Linehan to help treat borderline personality disorder. It has since been used to treat other types of mental disorders. Smith said the approach is to teach the individual skills to be able to regulate their own responses to situations and to help change their behavior.

“For us, the emphasis is really on how you can start living in ways that increase the quality of the life you live, as opposed to spending all your time in past events trying to resolve them,” Smith said.

Smith has been offering shorter programs using the dialectical behavior therapy approach since 2009 at her Awake & Aware counseling center at 2001 Carlisle Blvd. NE. She saw a need for a more intensive outpatient program and developed Healing in the Desert after conducting a series of clinical studies.

Healing in the Desert is offered at 1128 Pennsylvania NE, Suite 250. Smith said she currently has capacity for six to eight individuals at a time but hopes to expand in the future. Some insurers will cover a portion or most of the treatment cost.

For more information, call 505-492-9149.