ABOUT DR. REGGIE
Psychologist Dr. Reggie Melrose is the best-selling author of The 60 Seconds Fix and creator of Brain Charge™: The K-12 Curriculum. She has authored several other noteworthy resources including the groundbreaking books, You Can Heal Your Child and Why Students Underachieve. She is a well-known international speaker and consultant specializing in the application of current neuroscience to educational practice and parenting. Dr. Reggie cultivates in others simple yet powerful pathways for stress relief, greater balance, more ease and, ultimately, joyful living. She works with adults, children and adolescents healing the effects of stress and trauma. Her private practice is in Long Beach, CA.
My experience as an educator and clinician began with adolescents 25 years ago in Montreal, Canada where I was a graduate student and intern. I worked for a dynamic and dedicated supervisor and his equally inspiring partner at St. Raphael Center, a school for acting-out children and adolescents. The students could no longer be on regular school campuses because of their problematic behaviors. My supervisor and his partner provided me with much insight on Richard Gardner’s work, so helpful with these students, as well as cognitive-behavioral therapy. It was their passionate discussion of old brain versus new brain theory, however, that really rang true for me concerning these particular students. I knew they were on to something when they explained the little power our newer cognitive capacities have over our oldest most instinctual responses when we feel threatened, and thus angry and afraid. This theory fit so well for the students we worked with, many of whom lived in low-functioning families, with parents and guardians struggling with issues of violence, poverty, and substance abuse.
Upon leaving St. Raphael Center and Montreal, Canada altogether, I embarked on a continuation of my training in Santa Ana, California at the Child Guidance Center (CGC). The families I served there were similar to those I had worked with in Montreal, highly diverse, and appreciative of the care afforded to them at a clinic largely operated through Medicare funding. There my training and experience extended for the first time to young children and whole families. I gained great insight into the workings of systemic and brief, solution-focused therapies as well as group therapy with children and adolescents. The clinic was closely partnered with Fullerton’s CGC branch, and there I attended a number of excellent trainings where I learned intricate details of the DSM-IV and, most interestingly for me, differential diagnoses.
It was at the Child Guidance Center in Santa Ana where I learned very specifically about PTSD in children and the importance of engaging in a careful study of differential diagnoses between ADHD and PTSD. My work today has been completely shaped by my related experience with one particular boy who was misdiagnosed by his psychiatrist as having ADHD. The 10-year-old boy was given psycho-stimulant then anti-depressant medication that exacerbated his symptoms. I argued extensively with the clinic, my supervisor and both on-site psychiatrists to consider the source of his symptoms, the traumas he had experienced, to understand that the symptoms of hyperactivity they observed were in fact signs of hypervigilance. The boy’s hypervigilance was coupled with recurrent, intrusive thoughts of the traumas. Sadly, over time, he became psychotic, and the family lost faith in the therapeutic process, but I learned a great deal that, in his name, I will carry with me forever.
My entry into the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) was the single best professional experience I have ever had. I was hired by the most positive, energetic, trail-blazing lead psychologist any school district has ever seen. She shaped the psychology department of LBUSD into what was the leading team in the country at the time, causing other school districts to study what we were doing. Dr. Judith McBride is featured in published educational texts and currently teaches at California State University, Long Beach where she is much admired by her loyal fans. She was my supervisor, mentor and inspiration. With her I learned my full capacity as a psychologist, and became more courageous and confident as she took me under her wing, all to the benefit of the children and families I had the privilege to serve. It was through my work at LBUSD over several years that I learned the most about childhood trauma and how it manifests itself in students at school.
When I began my work at LBUSD, I met a fellow school psychologist and clinical therapist, Maggie Kline. She gave me Dr. Peter Levine’s book “Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma,” and my personal and professional lives were never the same. It felt as though all of my experiences up to that point had culminated specifically for that moment – the moment of knowing finally that someone somewhere really understood what trauma is like – that it is not simply a psychological phenomenon, but a physiological one. It involves our bodies, minds, and spirits, and it will not be healed until we intervene not only with our psychology of the experience but also with our body (or brain/body). I read the book ferociously and wrote in the margins extensively each time I saw my students in the schools being explained and understood by this brilliant man. I was bowled over with hope.
I began receiving Dr. Levine’s Somatic Experiencing (SE) sessions to heal my own past traumatic experiences and completed his three-year training program to become an SE Practitioner. I was determined to do whatever it would take to get this work into the inner-city public schools, to the students living daily on “planet trauma,” as Dr. Levine would say. Unless there is a concerted effort to care about these particular children and their families, I know that the future of our country and world is threatened. These are families that, without the public school districts of their cities, would receive no services at all for a wide range of needs, including the often devastating aftermath of trauma. There are practical school-relevant ways of getting Dr. Levine’s work to these students on a daily basis, and I believe doing so will make a huge impact on our world.
During my SE training, I worked as a Registered Psychologist and Post-Doctorate Intern at Family Service of Long Beach where I was encouraged and supported by my clinical supervisor to utilize the skills I was learning in my training. I had wonderful experiences with my adult clients who came to me for various traumas and symptoms including car accidents, panic attacks, rape, incest, and war refugee experiences. They were grateful for my knowledge and skills as a somatic therapist. They often commented that they had been in treatment for many years with other therapists and had never experienced such relief in such a short time as they did with Dr. Levine’s amazing approach. [br][br] I have created several resources including a trilogy of books (Why Students Underachieve: What Educators and Parents Can Do about It; Hope and Healing: An Activities Book for Adults Working with School-Aged Children; and, Hope and Healing: A Guide for Parents of Traumatized Children) to enlighten others about what stress and trauma are, what their effects look like in the classroom and on the playground, how there are very basic things we can do to, at the very least, do no harm. Currently, well-intentioned educators are approaching stressed or traumatized children as they would students with other problems, and unfortunately for everyone, this has done more harm than good. With basic knowledge of stress and trauma and their impact on the brain, however, we can learn the “do’s and don’ts” of helping stressed or traumatized children in order to make a lasting positive difference in their lives. This led to the creation of Brain Charge: Sensory Awareness for Student Achievement, the K-12 Curriculum that is finally, in very practical ways, bridging the gap between what science knows and what education does. Learn more about it at the“Brain Charge” page of this website.
While writing my first book and working at LBUSD, I opened a private practice in Long Beach, California where I continue to help children, adolescents, and adults who seek stress and trauma healing through somatic approaches. Additionally, I travel across North America as a speaker and consultant to educators, medical and mental health practitioners, as well as parents.
Self-Regulation Therapy (SRT) is what I sometimes call my approach, although quite simply, it is a quiet, naturalistic way of healing the effects of stress and trauma. Though I am a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP), the approach I practice today is an outgrowth of my training and experience as both a therapist and client. I have adapted Somatic Experiencing (SE), the short-term trauma-healing approach developed by Dr. Peter Levine (www.traumahealing.com), in response to my experiences as both a therapist and client, as well as further study in the areas of neuroscience, metaphysics, and meditation. Both SRT and SE recognize the limits of talk therapy and other treatment modalities that use catharsis and other activating techniques in order to “discharge” stressful or traumatic material. Such stimulating techniques may offer temporary relief, but because they do not address the underlying physiological effects of stress and trauma on the body, their benefits are rarely long-term. Moreover, these more activating approaches, in their lack of a complete understanding of the impact of stress and trauma on the brain, can overwhelm the nervous system and re-traumatize rather than heal.
SRT and SE help “renegotiate” patterns of arousal and anxiety by carefully supporting the body’s natural ability to release over-activation. By combining and interweaving elements of stress and trauma with strengths and resources, a new, complete and more empowering experience is created, thus creating new, more powerful neural pathways in the brain. This is when clients begin to notice a new and greater repertoire of emotional and behavioral choices. They move from being stuck in rage, helplessness, and anxiety to a fluid experience of empowerment, peace, and resiliency thereby strengthening and building resistance to future stress and trauma.
Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a leading medical doctor, scientific researcher, and teacher at Harvard Medical Center stated that the effects of stress and trauma rob people of their capacity to “be here.” He went on to say that “verbal meaning-making is a secondary part of what patients need to benefit from.” He said that what they need more primarily is to be helped to “move through physical experience and gain the mastery that traditional psychotherapy [has been] unable to help people with. Therapy needs to consist of helping people to be in their bodies and to understand their bodily sensations. And that is certainly not something that any of the traditional psychotherapies have helped people to do very well.”
[In the video below, I inform parents of how I can work with their children. However, I serve not only children and adolescents, but adults as well, and have for more than 12 years.]