Critical training to better protect, support, and heal vulnerable children


series: emotional wellbeing of children by Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD, Richard P. Brown, MD
& Somiari Demm, MA/M.Div, CYT, CTS


When we are interacting with any children, but especially children who've been traumatized, we need to be a little bit more aware. We need to be aware of ourselves and we need to be aware of the child. What do I mean by that?

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Being aware of oneself means doing a check-in with yourself. Notice how your breathing -- is your breathing rapid, is it's shallow, or is your breathing slower, deeper? Notice your own body tension. Are your shoulders up? Is your neck tense? Little things will clue you in that you could benefit from being a little more relaxed.

Sometimes just taking a couple of big relaxing breaths or even doing a little bit of coherence or resonant breathing yourself. You may just need two or three minutes to get yourself into a relaxed state meet. You may have had to drive a long way. Rush, carry things, pr make your way through an obstacle course to get to your place of work; and there you have to face a classroom of children that you're just getting to know who have been through, who knows what. A lot of things can be going on in your mind and your body and you need to calm and center yourself first.

Fortunately, you can learn to do coherent breathing even with your eyes open. Find moments in which to do it. You can do your coherent breathing while you're heading for your workspace. You can do it while you were in your classroom waiting for the kids to come in and at other moments during the day. It's very personal and private. Nobody knows you're doing it. That's one of the beauties.

First, get yourself into a calm centered space. If you're calm and centered, that will emanate from you and the children will pick that up from you. So you'll be the rock of Gibraltar and they'll be the waves crashing all around you. Hopefully, once you learn these techniques, you'll get them to calm down so you'll have a calmer sea around you.

So that's the first thing. Be aware of your own stress level and what you need to be in a space where you yourself are resilient and centered

Then of course you need to be aware of the children. You want to get the focus then off of yourself. If you're thinking and worrying about your own stuff, you're not focusing on the kids.

You want to focus all your attention on the children. Notice them. Notice the expression on their face. Notice their physical language. Are they very still and shut-in and hunched over with their heads in their eyes down? Or are they in a very disorganized way running here, there, and everywhere. It gives you a sense of who's depressed, who's anxious, who scattered, and you can take the temperature of the room [more effectively].


Dr. Patricia Gerbarg

Patricia L. Gerbarg, M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor in Psychiatry, New York Medical College. Dr. Gerbarg has lectured and taught about a wide range of topics in psychiatry, psychoanalysis, women’s issues, trauma, neurobiology, natural treatments (herbs, nutrients), and the integration...

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of mind-body practices in psychotherapy for the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Meetings and many other conferences, academic centers, and community organizations.She serves on the APA Caucus on Complementary and Integrative Psychiatry and is a board member of the American Botanical Council.

Dr. Gerbarg practices Integrative Psychiatry, combining standard and complementary treatments. Her research focuses on mind-body practices for reducing the effects of stress and trauma, particularly in survivors of mass disasters, including the Southeast Asia Tsunami, 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, war in Sudan, Gulf Horizon Oil Spill, veterans, and stress-related medical illnesses.


Dr. Richard P. Brown

Dr. Richard P. Brown is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons where he obtained his medical degree 1977. The recipient of numerous awards, he has authored over 100 scientific articles,...

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books, and book chapters on pharmacological treatments, clinical studies, and complementary and integrative treatments in psychiatry.

Dr. Brown developed a comprehensive neurophysiological theory of the effects of breathing exercises on the mind and body, particularly its benefits in anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Dr. Brown gives over 100 lectures and courses every year. Since 1998, he has taught full-day courses on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as well as Mind-Body trainings for the American Psychiatric Association, other national and international conferences, veterans, and community service programs.


Somiari Demm, MA/M.Div, CYT, CTS

Somiari is a certified trauma specialist, a certified yoga teacher, and a certified breath body and mind teacher. Her areas of concentration include children and adolescents, trauma, mindfulness, and spirituality. She is a passionate scholar-practitioner in the...

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field of clinical psychology who has divided her time betweenclinical practice, training, workshops, and consulting. As a mental health practitioner, she uses mindfulness cognitive behavioral therapy (MCBT) and other evidence-based practices to help adolescent and adult clients with a wide range of emotional, and behavioral issues.

Somiari has received extensive training in the treatment of addiction, mental illnesses, affect regulation, and trauma. In her consulting work, she has provided bullying, violence, and trauma training for elementary and residential schools. In addition to clinical practice, for 3 years she worked as a consultant counseling Chibok girls that escaped Boko Haram.Somiari has been interviewed by 60-Minutes, CNN, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, BBC, and Aljareeza.

As a trauma thriver, her life experiences have fostered her love of, and dedication to the mental health field. Following the words of Gandhi, she believes that “purity of life is the highest and truest art.” Somiari also believes she is here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. Through her work, she is enriching the world through love, healing, and peace