Roland Bal is the founder of the Facebook community “Resolving Trauma and PTSD,” which provides information and help for survivors and people who are looking to recover from trauma. He has traveled the world in his studies, and currently resides in Barcelona, Spain where he works in private practice in addition to providing one-to-one counseling and online courses for people across the globe. He is the author of the Trauma Essentials eBooks, which can be found here, as well as a blog dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of trauma and PTSD. Check out his website to learn more!
You are the founder of Resolving Trauma and PTSD, a Facebook community with over 20,000 members that focuses on healing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Can you begin by telling us your motivations for creating this community? Who did you hope to reach?
Facebook, right now, is a great way to reach many people that relate to any topic so it makes sense to share my resources on trauma there and create a community.
My fb page is meant to educate and provide support for those who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress. It has the intention to convey that you can rebound from trauma and that it does not have to be a life sentence.
How did you get into the field of psychology, specifically the study and treatment of PTSD? What made you decide to pursue this as a career?
I started with different forms of bodywork in my early 20s; massage, cranio-sacral therapy, visceral manipulation. After seeing many, many people for treatment, I noticed that pains and especially chronic pains will shift, after treatment, but not necessarily resolve.
I learned that most chronic pains have some form of emotional residue (trauma) related to them and hence my interest grew to dig into that.
After following several trainings in body-based trauma work; somatic experiencing, somato-emotional release, I started to develop and integrate a treatment module myself that is accurate, holistic and turns out to be very effective for my patients.
In addition to seeing clients in private practice in Barcelona, you offer one-to-one online counseling sessions that are based on a somatic psycho-therapeutic approach, utilizing audio and video to help heal trauma in patients across the globe. How is communicating with patients online different than in-person?
Every form of working has its pros and cons, independent from if it is online or face-to-face. What determines effective treatment though is a commitment and willingness to work through the tough parts of trauma and that starts with an intention and determination to want to heal. Of course, my experience and insights into trauma as well as the ability to ‘hold space’ for whatever emotional activation that might come up are equally essential.
To come back to your question: online work limits in some ways in using physical space and distance as tools to work within the treatment process. That said, I see a lot of clients with high anxiety levels and not having to be physically with someone else in the room helps them to not shut down and of course assist the healing process. Besides that, the work is very similar face-to-face or online.
Your main and related fields of study are expansive, and you draw on the teachings of many different experts in your work. Have you found that there is one technique in particular that patients seem to respond to the best? Which is your favorite method of therapy?
The model I adhere to the most is the one I set up myself. You will see this model reflected in my writings and other resources on the website.
I advocate an integration of a cognitive and somatic approach as one without the other will be incomplete and thus not assist fully in recovery. My approach focuses on regulating, processing and containing the processes of dissociation, the fight-flight-freeze-please responses and re-learning boundaries and vulnerability. In a nutshell!
You’re the author of several articles which explore trauma and PTSD in depth, as well as The Trauma Essential EBooks, which serve as a resource for many individuals who suffer from trauma and PTSD to help understand and resolve their trauma. How is education important to the treatment of trauma? How can better outreach and understanding benefit individuals dealing with trauma, and our society as a whole?
Knowledge, for most people, is a first entry to start giving some sense of containment to the overwhelming feelings they are experiencing.
When you start to understand your reactions and symptoms as coping survival patterns rather than outright self-sabotage it acknowledges to yourself that you are not crazy. Your body-mind is actually very intelligent in its responses. This helps to ease self-reproach, blame and guilt as well as moving away from the stigma around trauma and take responsibility to start to heal.
When an individual changes, it affects society on a whole.
Your approach to resolving trauma is more spiritual. How is spirituality tied to trauma, and how can increased spirituality help to mediate symptoms?
Post-Trauma Stresses are really a set of reactive patterns due to feeling overwhelmed, out of control
and helpless. It is these reactions or coping patterns that helped you survive but they also perpetuate your post-trauma symptoms. If you keep in fight, flight, freeze or pleasing mode long after the original trauma(s) happened that starts to define your reality and you will keep reenacting and attracting similar situations that will be re-traumatizing.
Once you start to see how that works and you become aware of those patterns at that very moment you bring in another element. You can call that observation, awareness, presence, spirituality – it does not matter. That very presence creates a little space, a little distance and dis-identification with what has been occurring automatically and hard-wired in you.
The process then starts to move from duality, from reaction – into non-duality or presence, observation, awareness. It is like the energy is held within the material, within the nervous system and thoughts and this limitation gives rise to so many ailments and pain symptoms. Once that energy starts to free up it can move back into presence or non-duality and conflict ceases.
Lastly, what advice do you have for people who wish to recover?
Keep going at it with intervals of letting it rest. Follow what your needs are at any given moment. If you need more knowledge; read, listen, watch. When you are ready to go a little deeper – work within groups or better still, find someone you resonate with and work one-on-one through your issues. Doing personal counseling, with the right person, is like taking an airplane; you will cover the distance much faster! Don’t worry about money. Money follows right intention. Be resourceful. And finally – there is nothing wrong with you! You have a certain set of survival responses in relation to an overwhelming period or incident(s). You will never ‘get over it’ but you can certainly move through, process and/or contain it and you will be more resilient and resourceful after that. Post-Trauma does not have to be a life sentence.
Thank you, Roland Bal, for your community, outreach, and the information you share, and thank you for giving this interview!