When I read Mark Epstein's op-ed "The Trauma that Life Brings" in the 8/3/13 New York Times, I had to reply. Epstein, a psychiatrist said that trauma and grief are inevitable and that there's nothing to do about them but wait it out and suffer. I like that he was normalizing both, and I was horrified that he 1. Conflated grief with trauma; 2. said that there was no way to clear trauma; and 3. said both to the many people who see the Times as the "paper of record".

Letters to the Times can have no more than 150 words. To make the words count, I skipped issue #1. Luckily another letter writer picked it up. My letter is the second one in this link  Here's the letter, but you can hit the link to read the others:

"Mark Epstein’s essay does a grave disservice to trauma sufferers when he says people must live with trauma. There are many psychotherapies that heal trauma.

The most effective therapies for trauma that truly clear the shock, fear, flashbacks, bad dreams and emotions include eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or E.M.D.R.; many somatic therapies, and Brainspotting.

In my work with grieving people, I first help them clear the trauma of the illness, accident or moment of finding out about the death. Then we target the grief. People still move through the grieving process but are no longer stuck in the past. When the grief resolves — and it does resolve — patients still miss the person who died but are no longer stuck in the moment of the death or in active, acute grief.

Trauma runs through everyone’s life. But unending suffering need not.

Seattle, Aug. 4, 2013


The writer, a social worker, is the author of “The Trauma Treatment Handbook: Protocols Across the Spectrum.” "