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


For those who are the parents or longterm caregivers of children, there are some things that you can do to help these children. It's very similar to the advice that I've given for teachers and NGO/ Aid workers.

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It has two parts: 1) There's your part, your awareness of yourself and your preparation of yourself. 2) There's the child's part.

In terms of your part as a parent: We know that if you're in a refugee camp, you are under tremendous stress and you probably have experienced a lot of trauma. And here you are now under these extremely difficult and uncertain circumstances and you have the responsibility of making sure there's food and water for your family. So, you may have very little time, you might not have a lot of energy, and you have a lot of responsibilities. So, first is recognizing your situation and that you need to take care of yourself the best you can.

There are many things about your situation that you can't change. You're just trying to survive or make the best of the situation. The tools that we're offering [in this module], you can use yourself.

Realizing that: a) your nervous system is under stress; b) that you may be overreacting; c) that you may be exhausted; d) you may be having anxiety; e) you may be depressed because you've had losses too. All of the things that we've talked about you so need; and these tools can help you to recover from some of the terrible experiences.

These things will make you more stress resilient and they will make you better able to provide. Because when you're emotionally stable and grounded, and when you're not stressed out or upset, that's going to be the most helpful therapeutic thing that you can do for your children. Your emotional state is affecting the children. So, if your calm and centered, they're going to sense that they're going to feel reassured.

You're the one who can make your child feel safe. And that's the most important thing in helping them endure these difficult times and helping them recover to be healthy, whole people who can have fulfilling and happy lives.

So, be sure that you take a little bit of time -- because it doesn't take a lot of time-- to learn some of the simple practices and to do them each day whenever you can, and even to do them with your children.

If you do the breathing practices with your child, then it's going to be even more powerful than if they do them with their teacher, because you're their parent, they're tuned into you. This can be something that your family does together. All the people who are living in the same building can also do it together as a group. And when a large group of people together, they harmonize their energy, they increase their energy, and it creates a zone of safety, community, and sharing. And this is what we all need.


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


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