Episode 377 Dr. Michael Barnes Understanding Secondary Trauma and Family Healing Transcript

This transcript is from episode 377 with guest Dr. Michael Barnes.

Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let’s get on with the show.

Hey everybody, welcome back to Drive On. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. And today my guest is Dr. Michael Barnes. Dr. Barnes is an expert with, in addiction counseling, uh, trauma integrated treatment and family therapy. And with over 40 years of experience in the field, he has dedicated his career to understanding and addressing the complex interplay between addiction, trauma, and family dynamics.

Uh, as a founder and director of the Michael Barnes Family Institute and chief clinical officer at the Foundry Treatment Center, he’s going to bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to our discussion today. And quite [00:01:00] frankly, I’m not sure where you find the time with all that other stuff you have going on, but I want to welcome you to the show.

Uh, uh, Mike, I’m glad to have you here.

Dr. Mike Barnes: Yeah, it’s great to be here. I, uh, I worked with Vietnam veterans and their families when I was in my doctoral program. And when I had the opportunity to come on this podcast, I was thrilled to be able to do that.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Yeah. And I’m always happy to bring in folks that have different perspectives, um, you know, different backgrounds and things like that. I, I like having folks with a military background because obviously the folks who listen to this show tend to relate more to the, the folks with military background, but we’re not all, um, You know, not all military experiences necessarily have to be, um, you know, uh, 100 percent military focus.

We, we can talk to other people outside of the military and learn from their experiences and their, uh, you know, maybe treatment options and other things that they might do, um, because there’s a lot [00:02:00] of crossover and similarities between, uh, some of the things that, that people experience in civilian life.

And. Things that people experience in the military, you know, there’s, there’s traumatic experiences and traumatic events that occur in civilian life too. And there are folks who are, you know, outside the military world that, that can bring in good perspectives. And that’s, you know, why I like having folks like you, and obviously you’ve worked with the Vietnam, uh, you know, era, um, And, you know, kind of getting your perspective and, and hear what you have to say about, you know, this, this type of, uh, uh, subject.

So let’s just jump in and, uh, and, and talk about, you know, could, could you shed some light on, um, this concept of, um, secondary trauma? And it’s impact on family members and caregivers of, uh, the individuals who have experienced trauma. So, so we’re talking about like, you know, what happens to the family members of the person who is [00:03:00] affected, um, you know, particularly within the context of, you know, mental health disorders and, and, and these other traumatic events that might, might occur,

Dr. Mike Barnes: Yeah, it’s really interesting. Um, so, so. You know, when we think about post traumatic stress disorder, an event happens, a person experiences it, they have symptoms, and it’s an event that is so overwhelming to our normal defense system that it’s, um, it sort of hijacks the way our brain manages us. And so, where the primary trauma survivor has symptoms related to an event, that their family members who love them dearly, um, have symptoms associated with their loved one’s symptoms.

And so, the secondary trauma is actually family members being traumatized. by the changes that the primary trauma survivor makes biologically, [00:04:00] psychologically, and socially, but also in how, like, the interactions change, and the distance begins to grow, and uncertainty. And so, secondary trauma, individuals who have it, have the exact same symptoms.

primary post traumatic stress disorder. Um, they’re just a little different and they’re more geared towards the loved one who’s been traumatized.

Scott DeLuzio: you know, that’s. It’s interesting because you don’t typically think about this as, um, you know, something that, that could occur when dealing with, uh, a traumatic event, someone who’s experienced this traumatic event, um, you don’t always think about those secondary and other effects that, that may, uh, May end up occurring, but we oftentimes see folks coming back, uh, from a deployment, for example, where there’s plenty of opportunities [00:05:00] to experience traumatic events.

Um, and they come back home and then Their marriages fall apart and their relationships fall apart and things are, you always hear it, it’s just not the same as it was before. Well, okay, well, why isn’t it the same? You know, obviously the person who went overseas, they, they changed to, you know, due to the trauma that they experienced.

Um, In a way, it’s, it’s also traumatic for the family members to be sitting at home worrying about their loved ones overseas. Right? That, in a way, that, that’s a sort of trauma that they’re dealing with that maybe doesn’t get recognized very often. But also when, when Love One comes back home and they see how much they’ve changed and all these things, they tend to change too, like you were just saying.

And so it’s no wonder that we have all these problems that we end up having, right? I mean, this is quite a bit to go through.

Dr. Mike Barnes: Well, and if you [00:06:00] think about while the, while the individual is deployed, their partner is basically taking on all the roles of parenting and all of these things and they get good at it. And then, uh, their loved one comes home and if their loved one is not, um, not the same in many ways, then, um, it, it does add a lot of tension to the relationship in that I know you want to come home and be a part of.

This leadership of this family again, but I had, I had it like a fine tuned machine. Now it’s, it’s, it makes it a lot harder. And I always think, I always explain it as if you worked with someone for a long time and you knew what they were going to do before they did it, and they knew what you were going to do, that you could go about your business.

And it made work so much simpler. And then that person quits and you get a new person who doesn’t know the policies and procedures and doesn’t know. [00:07:00] The day to day routines, and then it just complicates everything and makes everything a lot harder. And so I think a lot of time when, when people come home, there is a conflict about, um, the day to day.

Um, I’ll tell you an interesting story. Um, I was doing a research project with families of individuals who had mental health issues and addiction and trauma. And I asked them, what is the most. What’s the most difficult trauma that you have with this? And what they told me wasn’t really a trauma at all.

It was a grief response. And the idea, and they said, it’s the shattering of dreams, the shattering of expectations, and the, the, You know, and I hear families say it all the time, it’s not what I thought I was signing up for, and it’s just so different, and, um, and there’s so much conflict and so much uncertainty and [00:08:00] fear that, um, that’s, I think for many of these families, that’s the foundation, that it’s, it’s, uh, they desperately want everything to go back to the way it was before, and that isn’t necessarily going to happen.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. It’s, it’s sort of mourning the loss of what was, um, you know, the, the good thing, quote unquote, good thing that you had going before, whatever that traumatic event was, um, or events, plural, you know, depending on, uh, what the situation is, um, you might’ve had a good thing going. And then now, now you come back to a situation where it’s changed and it’s different.

And how do you, Cope with that. How do you deal with that? Um, it’s not always easy, uh, to, to do that. Right. Um, and particularly

Dr. Mike Barnes: Anytime there’s, I was going to say, anytime there’s [00:09:00] change, it requires the establishment of new kind of stable patterns. Meaning now we have to have new plans on how we’re going to make this change work. And the reason that I titled my book, When the Solution Becomes the Problem, is because what happens is families begin to make these shifts, to be able to live with the uncertainty that actually makes it harder for the individual to actually resolve their trauma symptoms.

Uh, and so it kind of, it’s a solution to make things doable, but it’s often a solution that creates. Far more problems down the road for the, for the family and for the, the members of the family.

Scott DeLuzio: and when you create these, these, Kind of unforeseen problems. Um, it has that, that trickle down effect where, where maybe, [00:10:00] uh, you know, initially it’s just affecting maybe the spouse, but then maybe it’s also, uh, affects your spouse and then, then it affects the children and that, you know, it kind of has that, um, we’re talking about like a secondary effect, but maybe even a, uh, tertiary and, you know, even go, go down the line, um, you know, where maybe it affects.

You know, the spouse’s career affects the kids in school and people around them, the relationships that they maybe had, um, it, it, it can kind of expand out, uh, you know, rather quickly if, if you don’t kind of nip this in the bud, uh, you know, before, before it gets a little bit out of control. Um, so. In your experience, um, what are some common maybe signs or symptoms of this secondary trauma that maybe family members might be exhibiting, uh, and what And how, how does that, how do you see it in their daily lives and in the relationships that they, [00:11:00] they’re, um, you know, they’re going through their daily lives?

How do you see that affecting them? Yeah. You know, in a, in a real world sense.

Dr. Mike Barnes: Well, I think oftentimes if we kind of think about, you know, like a mobile over a baby’s crib, like, and if you touch one, it all moves. And it’s always trying to find homeostasis. It’s always trying to find its balance and that when a loved one is traumatized and it could be any, like our son was hit by a car.

I have a son who’s 37 years old and he was hit by a car when he was five and he was never supposed to live. He was supposed to, his injuries were so severe and I was studying secondary trauma at the time and I thought, wow, that’s pretty, I used to joke with him. He didn’t need to get hit by a car to give me a dissertation topic.

I could have done that all by myself. But there are so many subtle changes. There are big changes. Because there are, you know, circumstances that you have to deal with. But [00:12:00] there are lots of subtle changes in terms of anxiety and hypervigilance, needing to feel in control. And so, what we will often see is family members or family leaders beginning to control all of the people around, in the family to say, You know, we need to make sure that we’re doing what we need to do in order for mom to be okay, or dad to be okay, or the, or the kid to be okay.

And so we begin to see changes in the rules of communicating, you know, let’s not talk about those things. Let’s not, you know, um, um. You know, try to manage our, our, our behavior so that, you know, he, he, or she gets really angry or really, um, um, what we call dysregulated when there’s a lot of noise in the house and there’s a lot going on.

And so let’s, let’s. Um, make this as safe as possible so that we can, you know, be [00:13:00] here to love and support each other. Well, that, what message that tends to send and one of the things that we realized in research that I had done at Florida State University when I was there was the idea that when there is a traumatized individual, everyone else in the family seems to assume that their needs are less important.

then the traumatized person’s name. Which, as long as that’s a short term process, but, you know, we can defer gratification of those things, but if I’m a But if I’m a kid and my, and I’m never allowed to run through the house and, and, you know, be funny or, uh, you know, how do kids learn how to feel their feelings?

They, they learn how to feel them by experiencing them and then having adults kind of work with them and, um, regulate, help regulate them. And so if kids are told, you know, you need to behave all the time [00:14:00] because it’s, it just makes matters worse. Then kids begin to, they begin to question. Maybe I’m the problem.

Scott DeLuzio: Hmm.

Dr. Mike Barnes: And so there are a lot of things that we see with kids that, um, you know, I, I think the, the, I’m trying to think of like the best way to say it, the, when kid, when kids have adults in their life that, that they know are the primary support for them and that, The primary support systems are always upset or, or controlling to try to keep everything safe.

Kids don’t really have the, little kids don’t have the ability to say, well, you know, I just need to defer gratification of my needs for a while and then I’ll be fine. And what they, what they say is, these are the people that are supposed to be taking care of me. [00:15:00] And so I need to be whatever they need me to be so that I can be loved and cared for.

Scott DeLuzio: Mm hmm.

Dr. Mike Barnes: And ultimately what, what we found in our, in our research was that what kids will say is eventually, you know, being me is dangerous. I need to be what they need me to be.

Scott DeLuzio: Uh,

Dr. Mike Barnes: And, and therefore there’s this, then this lack of a self. This sense of being me is, is always gets me in trouble. So I need to be something other than me.

And so, um, this is why as an addiction counselor, I often see these 20 year old, 25 year olds who, um, just have no idea who they are. And then I’ll ask, so what, what kind of trauma happened in your and your life and in your family. And, um, they’ll say, Oh, you know, nothing, nothing that I’m aware of. And, but then the mom will say, well, you know, um, [00:16:00] one mom told me that she had three miscarriages before he was born and that she.

I treated him like nitroglycerin, you know, like I don’t want him to be the next one to get injured. So, uh, and we did that with our son a lot, this idea of, we didn’t want him to grow up because, you know, we wanted to bubble wrap him,

Scott DeLuzio: yeah.

Dr. Mike Barnes: wrap around him in case something else would happen, but not because of him, but because it was so frightening for us as parents.

And so I think those are things that we have to kind of keep in mind that, you know, we call addiction treatment rehabilitation. But in many cases it’s habilitation, it’s, it’s really teaching young people who they are and that they have a right to have needs and they have a right to get their needs met.

And so often that, when there is trauma in a home. That oftentimes the person who is the primary [00:17:00] survivor, they’re, they’re, everyone’s so worried about their needs that other people’s needs don’t get met. So that’s, that’s one thing that we begin to see. The, the other thing is that the longer the family member’s autonomic nervous system stay on red alert.

They begin to focus more on survival than they do on other things. And so, um, this is when you might see enabling happening where we’re going to, we’re not going to hold someone responsible for their behavior because, um, we don’t want them to get upset and we don’t want anything bad to happen. So we’re going to, um, allow things to sort of happen and we’re just going to have to deal with it.

Scott DeLuzio: Mm hmm.

Dr. Mike Barnes: And so, um, uh, you know, and so often it comes, you know, in addiction, we talk about powerlessness and the idea of, it’s an illness, you can’t just will it away, and that family [00:18:00] members also have to come to terms with a bit of powerlessness, and that if they could make this all go away, they would, but they can’t.

It’s a chronic. progressive, you know, illness that, um, it functions better when the whole family begins to say, you know, I think, I think we all have trauma. And I always know I’m getting somewhere when, you know, someone in the family says, you know, I think I’m just as traumatized. It’s like, oh, okay, well now we’re getting somewhere.

Let’s, let’s talk.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. It’s interesting, uh, perspectives on this cause it’s, you know, but before, Before we, uh, you know, started chatting, um, you know, before this, this, uh, episode, um, really secondary trauma was not something that really in my head was something that ever existed. Um, and now, now that I think about it, it, it makes a lot of sense because of all [00:19:00] the things that we just talked about.

Um, and. Yeah. You know, having, having kids especially not understand that there’s a temporary time, maybe that, um, dad’s not gonna wanna be around loud noises, and so let’s not run around the house and slamming doors and, and being a kid, basically. Let’s, let’s put that off for, for just a bit because dad kind of has a problem with that.

Um, let’s, let’s try to, let’s try to, uh, you know, kind of just. Help that out and everything. And the way I think of it is like, if somebody like in your, your son’s case, somebody got hit by a car right then, no other needs are as important as the needs of that person who just got hit by a car, like you’re going to drop everything.

It’s like, well, I’m hungry. I need to go get food. Well, no, you don’t. Not right now. [00:20:00] You need to go help that person, right? That’s, that’s the immediate need. Um, Um, you know, I’m, I’m cold. I need to go get my jacket. No, you need to go help that person, right? That’s the immediate need. But to a little kid, that It’s something that I just probably don’t understand, uh, like that right now is not the time for me to be me.

I, right now I need to be something a little bit different for mom, for dad, for whoever, um, so that they can. Get the help that they need and they can heal without, uh, you know, having more trauma added onto it or more things triggering that traumatic event. Um, that’s a really hard concept for a little kid to grasp and depending on the age, probably impossible to grasp.

And so that’s, that’s where you get that. Um, you know, what you’re just talking about where, where they. Kind of think, well, maybe I’m the problem or something’s wrong [00:21:00] with me. Maybe I’m the one causing dad to get mad. I’m the one who’s, you know, causing mom to, to lose it when I slam that door or whatever, you know, um, And that’s not true at all. And I think the reason why I wanted to have you on the show is because I think there’s a lot of folks out there who might be listening to this, who maybe have experienced something like this in their own families and maybe didn’t quite realize what was going on. And why is my kid acting, you know, like walking on eggshells around me?

Or, you know, why is my kid, um, you know, maybe starting to have problems as I get a little bit older with maybe drugs or alcohol or something else. Why is this happening? And I don’t want to say, Hey, it’s because of you. Right. I don’t want to say that. I want to say that. It’s because they just don’t know who they are, right?

And they, they need to be okay with being themselves. And, and they need help now [00:22:00] to, to understand who they are. And, you know, all of these experiences shape who we are. So you can’t just take that away and be like, Hey, pretend this never happened. Just go back to the way you were when you were four years old or whatever the time period was, you can’t, can’t just do that.

You can help them kind of be okay with who they are and not feel like they have to walk on eggshells around you. Um,

Dr. Mike Barnes: You know, I think, I think one of the primary factors,

Scott DeLuzio: you.

Dr. Mike Barnes: yeah, it’s, you’re right on target with this and it’s like one of the big factors is one of the rules, one of the rule changes that happens of not wanting to upset anyone or to keep everything as safe as possible is that we don’t talk about it.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah,

Dr. Mike Barnes: And, and what a kid needs might be.

Let’s talk about it. Let’s really talk about why do I get upset when that happens? Well, you know, there was a lot of, so [00:23:00] if we remember how trauma symptoms and how trauma memories are processed, there isn’t a story that’s going on in our head when it’s happening. All’s What we’re remembering are the sensory information that’s happening while the trauma is happening.

And so if I go into a village and there are kids yelling and screaming and running and there’s a firefight or there’s something going on, and then I’m at home and my son brings three of his friends in the house and they’re running through the house yelling and laughing and to me it sounds like screaming, that’s going to bring everything back to me. And that’s how, like, um, uh, Bessel van der Kolk, who’s a very famous neuroscientist, says that trauma isn’t going to come back to you as a memory. It’s going to come back to you as a reaction because something triggers that reaction. And that’s why parents get angry. And that’s why the traumatized individual maybe withdraws because [00:24:00] something’s happening around them that is reminding them of that.

And I think if, you know, one of the things is. People talk about it and just say, you know, it’s not really bad. It’s not about you. It’s, this is just one of the things, this is one of the struggles that I have. And, um, but that means breaking the rule of don’t talk about it. That means you have to talk about it.

Scott DeLuzio: that’s right. And sometimes it’s hard to talk about it, uh, especially in an age appropriate way when you, you might have somebody who’s, uh, you know, really young or like a child, and, uh, you may not want to get into the, the gory details of. All the, the things that happened, you could probably work with them and, and talk to them in an age appropriate way, you know, and everybody’s gonna be a little bit different, you know, cer certain kids, arem much more mature too than others.

So I, I don’t wanna say a, you know, a 5-year-old, you have to talk to ’em this way. Be because, [00:25:00] you know, a 5-year-old might have a, you know, a higher, uh, you know, maturity level than, uh, than their peers. And so you might be able to talk to ’em with a little bit more. Um. More detail than, than you might somebody else.

So, you know, I guess put it this way, you’re going to know your kid a little bit better than, uh, you know, anybody else would. So kind of use your own judgment there. Um, but it’s not even just kids, you know, it’s also, you know, your, your significant others or your other, other folks that you have any sort of relationship with, friends and coworkers and, and people like that.

Hey, look, this is something that happened to me. And this is what happens when this thing happens. It triggers this response in me. Um, you know, I, I could, I could use your help in, you know, kind of minimizing that and maybe giving me a heads up before you bring your friends over and have them yelling and screaming, going through the house, you know, so it’s not a, you know, just [00:26:00] a shock to the system.

Um, you know, something along those lines, I would, I would imagine is, is the right way to go, right? Is that kind of what you would suggest?

Dr. Mike Barnes: Yeah. I’m not talking about going into the trauma story at all. I’m just saying, you know, boy, loud noises, just, you know, my nervous system, it just makes me really anxious. And it’s been my experience in working with veterans is that they’re so focused, so aware of not wanting to traumatize the people that they love that sometimes they’ll avoid going to therapy.

With family, because they think that the therapist is going to have them tell this big trauma story and, um, and I clearly that is not what I, as a therapist, my thing would be, we’re going to talk about symptoms. We’re going to talk about what’s going on in the house, not what caused it. That’s between you and, you know, whomever, you know, and again with our son, [00:27:00] um.

You know, we knew what caused it for him and my wife was, it’s interesting, my wife was standing maybe 10 yards from him when he got hit. And so he got hit, she witnessed it, but I did not witness it. I was at school. And so our Our experience of the trauma is really different. And I think that’s the other part of this is that when you have different family members, some of whom were closer in proximity to what was going on and others, that not everyone in the house is going to have the same understanding of what the problem is

Scott DeLuzio: Right. Right. And, and, and the other thing too, is even, even if you were there, uh, and you did witness it happen, maybe you’re staying right next to your wife and you saw it happening in real time, uh, the, the two of you still could have completely different responses to the same, uh, same event. Right.

Dr. Mike Barnes: Well, the [00:28:00] research on eyewitness testimony tells you a lot about that, that four people standing on four corners watching the same automobile accident, you would think their stories would be pretty consistent.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah.

Dr. Mike Barnes: they are not, they’re not consistent. They’re really, really different. And so not getting into, and so often therapists will say, well, you know, we need to get to the truth of this or the family says that.

And it’s like, Who’s truth? Like, your truth? Their truth? Like, the idea that everyone, um, does have their own kind of truth. One of the other things I found in my research was that perception is way more important than reality. Meaning, my view of what I think is going on Um, has, in many cases, very little to do with what’s actually happening.

And so, um, particularly the more anxious I get, the more rigid my beliefs become, and I become less solution oriented and more problem focused. And, um, [00:29:00] and I think that’s a big part of the therapy process, is to help people move back into more of a solution oriented view than a problem oriented view.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, yeah, for sure. And, and when you’re talking about the, you know, four people on four different. Uh, Corners watching the same, uh, accident and, and having totally different, uh, description of what, what happened. Um, so my, my brother was killed in Afghanistan and I’ve read the, uh, the reports, the, the kind of sworn statements from all the people who are on the ground, all the soldiers who are there and their description of what happened and all those, those events, and there’s probably 20, 25, uh, uh, descriptions and.

Very few of them had, you know, lined up details of everything that happened. Some people saw at a different point in time and they, they didn’t see the initial thing or they didn’t see everything that happened and, or, uh, their. Their [00:30:00] point of view, like they thought maybe the shot came from a different place and then someone else, and it’s, it was really hard to line up the story and say, okay, what actually happened?

Right. And, and as I was reading it, I realized just how much, like what you just said. Uh, perception, uh, For, for each one of these people, their perception of what happened, uh, has got to be, uh, more important in their own mind, in their own, um, uh, you know, their own, um, uh, mental, uh, state, uh, than what actually happened, the reality of what actually happened.

And, you know, we may never know exactly. The reality of every single detail. And that’s fine. What we know is what happened, uh, as far as the, their, their perception goes, and that’s what they’re carrying with them to, to this day.

Dr. Mike Barnes: Well, and think about it. I mean, we are by nature sort of [00:31:00] driven to try to solve our problems based on how we understand them. And so, um, therapy, therapy is about, I always say, you know, new insights, um, create. New Solutions, and New Solutions Create New Behaviors, and New Behaviors Create New Relationships, and New Relationships Create Family Healing.

And so, the idea of, like I think there’s two different kinds of clinical intervention for for families. One is more of a coaching philosophy, which is a lot of teaching and a lot of support, and helping them to begin to really see things differently. And the other really is a therapy, um, component that’s looking at symptoms and new ways of interacting and really helping them begin to make those changes.

And I think both are absolutely critical, um, to help families. ideas or begin to [00:32:00] put a little crack in the belief system of what if it didn’t happen exactly that way? And it’s like, or what if this is way more complicated than you’re making it? Like maybe. There’s more to this. Um, and that opens the door to, well, if there’s more to it, maybe there are other solutions that I can find to help our family heal.

That’s the beginning, in my mind, of the process, is where everyone begins to question. This is what I remember, but it’s not. necessarily what it all is.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. And so. I want to talk about your, your book. I don’t think I mentioned that earlier. Uh, and I apologize for that. But, uh, so your book, When the Solution Becomes the Problem is the title of the book. Um, you discuss the, the concept of the family resilience and the change process and [00:33:00] healing from the trauma.

Can you talk about this a little bit? You started talking a little bit about this here, but can you talk about how, um, They relate to supporting the families affected by addiction or trauma or, you know, things along those lines.

Dr. Mike Barnes: Yeah. Back in the late 1980s, I think it was 89, uh, my mentor, a guy by the name of Charles Figley, um, who was a Vietnam vet who is now a renowned trauma, um, researcher and scholar, um, published an article that said, you know, family, family resilience is that everyone in the family realizes that we’re in this together.

Not we, this is, so it’s like in therapy, we call the person with the trauma, the identified patient, because that’s how everyone looks at them. They look at him like, well, if he would just get better, then we could go back to normal. Well, that’s not true at all. That there’s a new normal that’s evolving.

From [00:34:00] the day he gets home, or the day she, you know, comes back from, you know, whatever surgery she just had, or the kid getting hit by a car, that a new normal is happening with us trying to figure out how to live with it. And so, the first step in resiliency for families is to recognize, you know, we’ve all been traumatized.

And if we keep looking, I was teaching a class last night at the University of Colorado, and we were using that mobile analogy. And I said, as long as the client is the one in the middle of the mobile, they’re the only one that doesn’t move. else is changing and everyone else is moving and that person stays stuck in the middle and, and, um, as the focus, and we’ve got to take that person out of that role and into, well, we’re, since we’ve all been traumatized, how do we begin to, to manage it?

Um, and one of the other things is, um, resilient families. Um, [00:35:00] really do think in terms of solutions rather than always thinking about the problem and the idea of, um, since there’s no one that’s identified patient and we’re all part of the healing process that we’re going to be really gentle as much as we can with each other.

We’re going to give each other the opportunity to have a bad day without resentment or without. frustration. Um, family resilience allows each member of the family to have their own support systems. Like the kids get to have kid friends and with a lot of family, a lot of issues like addiction, the family, and if there’s a lot of pretty significant trauma symptoms, families tend to put a really rigid boundary around the family and, and they do that.

Because it’s, they’re still trying to figure out what to do and how to, how to help and information coming in from outside just confuses things. And, you know, the kids getting information from the [00:36:00] outside. So a lot of times that’s some of the trauma for kids is that they’re not able to hang out with their friends the way they want to.

They’re not able to, you know, go to events at the school the way they want to. And so, um, you know, we want to make sure that those boundaries stay open so that everyone can get. Get help. Um, social support is the number one thing. And, uh, actually the research says that social support’s the number one mitigating factor for trauma.

And that rather than circling the wagons and like keeping everything blocked off, that the more they can open the wagons and let, um, let each person in the family have their own. support system, um, that that’s really helpful. Um, getting rid of any kind of drinking or drugging or any kind of dangerous behavior that makes it harder for the family to heal is another one of those factors.

And so we know that, um, Paul Early, who’s a fellow in the [00:37:00] American Society of Addiction Medicine, wrote a really really good book that says there are three reasons that people become addicted. One is genetics or epigenetics, the environment that they live in turns genes on or turns genes off. The second is self medication of trauma and mental health issues.

And the third is being in an environment where heavy use of drugs and alcohol is the norm. And so we know when at the foundry where I was the chief clinical officer actually until two weeks ago where I’m now a senior. I have a new title, senior clinical fellow or something or senior clinical consultant or something like that.

But the idea is, um, that we know that 30 to 35 percent of our clients have post traumatic stress disorder. Like, we, we do testing and we know that. And we know another 30 to 35 percent have what we call developmental trauma. And developmental trauma is those kids that don’t get their needs met when they’re [00:38:00] little.

Uh, don’t go through the developmental stages the way they, um, are, are healthiest when they do. And so that’s when they begin to question themselves. And so about 70 percent of our clients have. And so you can’t just treat addiction, you have to treat both. And, and so, um, but by its very nature, addiction treatment is a triggering event for most traumatized individuals because we have them talking about the things that happened because of their addiction and the people who’ve gotten hurt and the consequences.

And so often that fear response or defensive response of, I don’t want to talk about those things when the therapist is saying, you know, it’s really important that we talk about those things because We, we have to, um, you know, there are, there are, in my mind, there are three stages to [00:39:00] treating trauma. And the first one is safety and safety is teaching folks how to manage their autonomic nervous system, how to stay calm, what we, we call regulating, how to regulate themselves and, um, how to stay sober and how to not engage in risky behavior.


Self injurious behaviors, things like that. Um, and then they can start talking about the trauma story. Once, once they can have the ability to be focused on the trauma story without re traumatizing, then they can talk about it. And so, a lot of times clients will say, Well, when are we going to start working on the trauma?

You have been working on the trauma since you got here. We’re just not talking about the event. We’re helping you be ready to talk about the event. And so. All family members need, [00:40:00] and like if I was doing family therapy with a family, I would be doing some coaching as well as some therapy and really making sure that they would learn why mindfulness is so important or why going for a long walk is so important and so, um, you know, I, I think those are, are really important to, for each member of the family or they’re not going to be able to participate in therapy.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. Um, and, and I think, uh, yeah, I think it does. Um, I think that makes sense. Um, uh, and I, I think the, the way The way I think of it is when you have somebody who is addicted, you know, drugs, alcohol, you know, whatever, uh, the, pick your poison, um, they’re, they’re using that to kind of cover up the, the, [00:41:00] uh, mess of their feelings, uh, that they, they may be going through, right.

Uh, temporarily might make you feel good, uh, to have that drug or the alcohol or whatever it might kind of serve as a distraction. never actually addressing the core of what happened. Why do you need to feel this, uh, get this temporary high, this temporary, you know, happy feeling or whatever? Why, why do you need that break from reality?

Um, what’s, what’s caused that? And so, like you were saying, being able to have that conversation and talk about it, um, sometimes that might be the first time that they’re actually speaking about these things. Right. Is that, that kind of, uh, where you’re going with that?

Dr. Mike Barnes: Absolutely. And then the family programming, our family program is every [00:42:00] bit as trauma integrated as our. As our addiction treatment, meaning the partner. So we only treat men at our treatment center. So I’ll always say they’re, they’re partners. Um, um, yeah, they have to learn the exact same thing. They’re very hypervigilant.

They’re very controlling. They’re trying to keep all the balls in the air for the kids and all of these other things. And so to just say, well, here’s your loved one and this is what they need. It’s not going to, that’s a solution that’s going to become the next huge problem if we don’t teach the family members, and I don’t know, you, there’s a parallel process here and the both are going to need to go into this healing process, um, in order for the family to truly heal. So, and it’s not done in a accuse, and it’s not like an accusatory way, it’s, it’s really looking. Um, at [00:43:00] chronic disease management from a medical perspective. And when someone has a chronic disease, like a mental health issue or

a multiple sclerosis or something, you know, the family has to begin to realize that we’re all going to be living with this for a really long time. And so we all have to be in healing mode to create the new normal that actually will become a solution that is a solution.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that is an important concept too, that new normal. Um, I know after my, my brother was killed, it was. Uh, something that, that people had said, there’s going to be this new normal. And I started to hate that phrase because it’s like, well, none of this is normal. I don’t want to get used to this.

This isn’t, this isn’t something I want to just be okay with, but eventually you kind of have to. [00:44:00] Realize that you’re either going to be okay with it or you’re not doesn’t matter. It’s not going to change the reality of what the situation is. And so you kind of have to just give in and accept the fact that yeah, this is going to be the new normal, uh, despite how abnormal the situation may seem, this is life and you’re going to have to deal with whatever it is that, that had happened.

Um, and. So, yeah, you know, I changed, my family changed, the folks that were around us, we all changed because now there’s this person who used to be a part of our lives who isn’t, that’s a huge change. Um, how do you, um, how do you just accept that and, and go on with life, uh, you know, as, as if, um, you know, everything is normal, um, and that That might, that I would imagine might vary from person to person.

Like how, how do you pick [00:45:00] up the pieces and move on? Um, think for everybody, you have to, you have to figure that out. You have to figure out what that way is for you to, to move on and, and continue.

Dr. Mike Barnes: Yeah. I mean, I think the reality is that. That you’re going to, we’re going to create a new normal, like the new normal that my wife and I created was being overly protective

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah.

Dr. Mike Barnes: until our son at age seven said, what do you think I’m going to do? Get hit by another car. It was an accident. And we looked at each other and like, he’s the healthiest person in this house. We’re gonna, we’re gonna really impair this kid if we don’t start really looking at how are we doing this? And I always remember the look on his face that day and how he was, he was aghast at our behavior. Like he couldn’t get over how we had changed. And um, And so I would rather the new normal come from [00:46:00] conversations about difficult things and the reality of what our life is going to look like going forward than the reality that evolves out of not talking about it and the silence.

And I think that’s, that’s where the solution becomes the problem. Like there are so many examples, uh, where if, if we just. choose to avoid it, which is, isn’t that one of the primary symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder? Avoidance of people in places that remind us of the event and then being agitated when we’re faced with those things.

And so I always tell my staff that You know, if I’m a client and I come to the foundry and I get to use the same defenses that I used before, then I’m probably not going to get better because it’s going to be more of the same. So we have to be really, really careful to make sure that they learn new, new things and that they talk about them in that [00:47:00] way.

And so, you know, I think, I think therapy is often seen as being really daunting and, um, it can be. But it also can be really affirming.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, it can be. And you know, I, I think that’s been my experience, uh, through the therapy that I’ve gone through. Um, at times it. Was very daunting. Um, you know, and, um, quite frankly, you know, in the very beginning, it was downright scary. Like, I gotta talk about this stuff? I don’t wanna talk about this. This is terrible.

It was not the type of thing that I really wanted to talk about, but like you were saying, that was part of the problem, was I just wasn’t talking about it. Um, I wasn’t, I wasn’t expressing the emotions that I was having. I wasn’t telling the people around me what was going on, [00:48:00] uh, and, and why I, you know, had the problems that I was having.

And, um, you know, so. Sometimes you just gotta, you just gotta take that, that leap of faith and, and say, let’s, let’s just do this and let’s talk about it and, and things will, will get better, trust the process and, um, you know, things, things will get better. It’s like, um, in, uh, in the military, we, we do this training with our, our gas masks and we go into a building that has, All this like tear gas, uh, bill billowing inside of the building, um, to the point where your eye, if you take your mask off, your eyes are watering, your nose is running, you, you’re coughing.

And it, it’s a miserable experience. I don’t wish that on anybody. I,

Dr. Mike Barnes: It’s not limited.

Scott DeLuzio: it, it’s, it’s funny to, to, you know, watch other people go through it, but when you’re in the middle of it, it’s like, oh my God, this sucks. Um, but you learn to trust. The equipment that you have, you know, you, you learn that the, the [00:49:00] mass that you have works and it keeps that, that gas out and it filters all that, that kind of stuff out.

And you learn to trust it as miserable as it might be to go through that process to know, okay, this is how bad it is. You put that mask on and you clear it out the right way. And it works and you start to trust the equipment and you know that that equipment is going to work when you need it to, uh, and, and this is how, how well it, it’ll work.

Um, I think it’s the same kind of thing. You kind of have to just go through that suck for a little bit and trust the process and know that it’ll work. If you let it, um, you know, if you give it the time, if you give it the, the full attention, uh, to it and you, you know, cut out the, the drinking and the drugs and everything else and, and you go in with a clear mind and you, and you’re really focused on this, work, but you have to let it work. Um, I, I think that’s. That’s the point, right?[00:50:00]

Dr. Mike Barnes: it is. And I think one of the things we also have to remember is that, you know, when the brain begins to change or makes the change after being traumatized, one of the common reactions is not knowing the difference between being safe and feeling safe that they, they never feel safe. And so the idea of jumping off that huge high diving board that we’re talking about into, you know, into change really challenges that.

You know, that, that belief that I, I’m not, I, I don’t feel safe. So therefore I am not safe. And, um, I, I was, I went to a training by a psychiatrist and I think he was in Houston and he said, that’s the biggest myth in the United States is that if I don’t feel safe, that I’m not safe when the reality is.

That’s a trauma response. That’s not necessarily that you’re not very safe. [00:51:00] And so, um, sometimes we’re talking about this in class last night. The idea of, you know, if we just think of all of the factors. And give people the benefit of the doubt in that therapy process. I say to my staff, like, tell me again why we’re upset with a traumatized client acting like a traumatized client.

Like, we know this is what this client is going to struggle with. And it is harder. It is, you know, um, it’s hard to watch someone really struggle. And, but the idea is They need to, like, that’s part of the process is, um, and so we need to support them to jump, you know, to take the big,

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Yeah. To take

Dr. Mike Barnes: trying to, don’t, don’t try to keep them on the diving board because you’re afraid that they’re going to get hurt.

No. That’s not helping.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And [00:52:00] if you’re going to use that, the diving board example, um, could you imagine, you know, Olympic divers who, you know, if you ever watched it and they do these. Magnificent flips and jumps and twists and everything like that. And they land in the water, barely, you barely even notice the water move because they, they just go in with, with such precision, uh, with that.

Could you imagine if, you know, their, their mother or their father or someone was just so afraid that of them getting hurt, that they just didn’t let them take that leap, that first jump into the pool, um, because no one’s going to be that perfect. Day one, right? But it takes time and time and time. And eventually they get to this point where there are these phenomenal, um, you know, divers. If someone was just so afraid to let them. Even take that first step, then they would have been held back. Or if they were that afraid, afraid themselves, they would have been held back and they never would [00:53:00] have realized the full potential that they could have achieved. And so sometimes you got to do something, even though you’re scared.

And I think that’s. That’s really kind of, in my, my book anyways, the definition of courage, um, is, is doing something that you’re afraid of doing, even though you’re afraid of doing it, you know, just, just doing it anyways, and, uh, being, and, uh, being a bit courageous, and I think it’s, Everybody who’s served in the military can understand the concept anyways, um, you know, whether they’ve been there and experienced, uh, situations where they needed to face fear, um, they, they probably can understand it, right?

And I think, I think that’s what we need to do is just be like, Hey. I got to do this. I’m, I’m so afraid to do this, but I know that this is what’s going to help. I got to, I just got to do it.[00:54:00]

Dr. Mike Barnes: Yeah, two guys from Yale, um, did a study years ago, and they studied, um, prisoners of war in Vietnam, and they were going to do a trauma study. And they realized that there were a significant number of people that you would have assumed had PTSD from years in confinement in this little bamboo. Boxes and things, but that they found that they didn’t have it.

They were really, you know, they were judges and they were, you know, legislators and they were really successful. So they decided to study them rather than the PTSD. And that’s where there, they wrote a book called, um, uh, resilience. And, um, they went on to study, um. Special forces and all kinds of different things.

But one of the things that they found was, um, optimism is a key resiliency factor, the belief [00:55:00] that I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I believe I can, I can live through it. I, I can’t, I’m going to be okay. And that they, that fear is normal. But that it doesn’t control them. And I think about when I was a kid, we had a local swimming pool with a high dive.

And how many kids climbed up there and then would climb down the ladder because they got afraid. And, and they would be embarrassed. And all the other kids would be like, dude, just go up there and jump off the thing. And once you do it, you’ll realize it’s, it’s safe. So often when I believe when people say, I’m going to make these changes and then it just is so terrifying that it’s, you know, it, it makes sense on some level to say, I’m just not going to do that.

Scott DeLuzio: I mean, I mean, there’s a lot of scary things that are out there that I’m not raising my hand and volunteering to doing, uh, you know, I’m not, I’m not going to go, you know, wrestle a bear. Like [00:56:00] that’s scary. And that’s quite frankly, it’s stupid. Like I would, I just wouldn’t do it. Um, but, but there’s different, uh, there’s, there’s like a wrestling a bear where.

Yeah, it’s scary and it’s scary for a reason. And it has really no sense, no purpose of, of doing it. Like there’s no benefit to doing it. So why do it? Right. But then there’s, there’s that trade off, right? There’s no upside to me going out and wrestling a bear. So I’m not going to do it. That, that would just be the most ridiculous thing if I did.

Um, right, exactly. So, uh, but there, there is an upside to. You know, opening up and talking and, and doing, trusting the process of, of the, the therapy and, um, and, and actually truly trusting it and, and letting it work, um, to, to help you get to a better place, because there is a benefit to that. And as scary as it might be for some people, [00:57:00] again, there’s a benefit.

And so there’s, there’s that risk reward trade off, um. feels like it’s a high risk thing because it is scary, but, but it’s really quite frankly a low risk, but a pretty high reward, uh, you know, if, if you go through it and it, and it’s working, you know, effectively with you. So, um, so for sure, I, I think, you know, everything that you’re saying is, is definitely spot on.

And I, I think for the folks out there who have experienced this sort of secondary trauma. Whether they’re the ones who experience it themselves, or their families, or somebody else has experienced it from their trauma that they’ve gone through, um, you know, uh, think, I think, The, the biggest takeaway, um, from this whole conversation to talk about the experience or not, not necessarily the experience, but just open up and talk [00:58:00] about what’s going on with you.

And, and that will kind of help get you in that, that right direction. Um, but without being able to open up and talk, um, you’re, you’re going to be stuck and it’s, it’s going to be pretty difficult to move on from there.

Dr. Mike Barnes: Yeah. I think that that’s really true. And I, I think the more educated people, um, like our program for the families, the first phase is a coaching phase. It’s like, this is what addiction is. This is what trauma is. Do you relate to any of these symptoms? Oh, by the way, this is what family trauma is. And then it’s like, Oh, wow.

Like we did, I did a study where I talked to 260 family members and I just asked them a bunch of questions, but one for this purpose was, is living with an actively using addicted family member traumatizing? And 75 percent said that it is extremely traumatizing. And 4% [00:59:00] said that it was traumatizing. So only 5 percent said, I don’t know what you’re talking about. And so that idea of, families really want to learn about the, their loved ones trauma so that they can better adjust to it. And then so often when they realize. Wow, I have it too, and it really opens the door then to family healing, and um,

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah.

Dr. Mike Barnes: education is key, new solutions, you know, new options, um, I asked a doctoral class I was teaching once, is it, is it possible to change the past?

And every single one of them said no, and I said I disagree completely, and they said well. How do you change the past? I said, well, you don’t change what happened, but you can change your understanding of what happened and change your reaction to it. And I used the example of growing up in a family with addiction.

I didn’t [01:00:00] understand what was going on. I just assumed it was just a really bad situation. And until then, as an adult, I looked at it and I thought, no wonder they acted the way they did. Given what they have been through. And it changed my anger and my resentment to empathy. And so once that happens, boy, the new solutions are all over the place.

And can

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, for sure. I mean, the, the understanding of it and even putting a name to it, um, because especially as a young kid, you may not even know really what trauma is. Um, but finally understanding what’s going on or, or addiction, or, you know, you may not understand what it is, but. Just putting a name, all of a sudden, maybe makes it a little less scary than, uh, what it, what it had been, um, or gives you a little more clarity to help you understand, [01:01:00] you know, what it is that’s going on.

Um, you know, so.

Dr. Mike Barnes: I just say one other thing, I don’t in any way want to paint the behaviors and the coping strategies of families as being anything other than loving. Because they are loving. It is the attempt to keep everyone safe, and to keep everyone alive, and to keep everyone kind of moving in the right direction, when in reality, we sometimes don’t realize that it’s because we’ve been traumatized that we Thank you.

Protect people, like with our, with our son and so that’s why that educational piece of, oh, so this is normal to do this. Oh, yeah, normal to do. We’ve all done that.

Scott DeLuzio: Absolutely. Um, for the folks who might be listening, who are, uh, interested, uh, in the, the type of work that you do and maybe finding out a little bit more [01:02:00] about, um, you know, like secondary trauma addiction and, and other trauma type treatments, um, where can they go to find out more information about, uh, the, the, the work that you do and, and where, where they can maybe reach out and get some help?

Dr. Mike Barnes: Yeah, uh, my website is, um, www. drmikebarn. com MikeBarnes. com, and it has a lot of stuff on there of, there’s some videos and, and, uh, if anyone sends me an email, I, I will send them, um, maybe some tools that they could use to maybe help with this process. I could send them my, um, YouTube channel. Link so they can go in and watch videos of secondary trauma and some of the things we’re talking about today.

They can get my book on my website if they’re if they’re interested in that. And the book is really a kind of broken into two halves. One is this is what trauma and addiction are, and the other half is this [01:03:00] is what resiliency and healing look like, and this is what the questions families need to ask.

And so, yeah, they can send me an email at Um, probably the easiest email is mike at, um, Barnes, B A R N E S, E D, which stands for education, and consulting dot com. I’m happy to answer questions, I’m happy to make recommendations to people, um, this is my passion. I have the Michael Barnes Family Institute now, this is my primary job, um, and my passion and that is creating, um, programming for families who have a loved one with addiction or, and or trauma, um, and we’re piloting it and mental health programs as well as addiction programs

Scott DeLuzio: Excellent.

Dr. Mike Barnes: to help with both.

Scott DeLuzio: Well, I will have links to all of that in the show notes for the listeners [01:04:00] who are interested. So they, they will be able to reach out and find out more information, get a copy of your book and, um, you know, hopefully get the help that they need or, or, uh, you know, ask the questions at least to kind of point them in the right direction and get the ball rolling, uh, with, with that.

Because I think, um, you know, It’s important to, uh, you know, get the help and, and reach out and, um, you know, as, as scary as it may be, you’ve done, you’ve done things that are even scarier than this. Trust me. I’ve been, I’ve been through both ends. I, I’ve gone through, uh, traumatic experiences myself. I’ve gone through therapy.

I’ve, I’ve gone through all of it. Trust me. You’ve, you’ve gone through worse than, than therapy. It’s not. As scary as it, as uh, as it sounds. So, um, definitely reach out, get the help, um, that, that you need and, and get the ball rolling on that. So, um, before we wrap up this episode, um, I like to add a little bit of humor, [01:05:00] especially on episodes where maybe the subject’s a little bit dark and a little bit heavy and, and things like that, just to add a little, uh, levity to, to the, the conversation.

And, and, uh, sometimes, uh, laughter can be, um, you know, pretty healing in and of itself. And, um, so I, I don’t mind telling a joke, even if it is a corny joke and I’m, and they’re laughing at me as opposed to with me. Uh, and I’m, I’m okay with that just so long as somebody is laughing. Um, so it’s a quick joke here.

So, uh, the police officer pulls over a guy for speeding and, and he goes up to him and says, uh, you know, can I see your license? The driver says, I don’t have one. Uh, it was revoked when I got my fifth DUI. And the officer says, well, okay, well, can I see the registration? And he goes, well, it’s not my car. I, I stole it. And the officer’s like, his car stolen? And he goes, yeah, that’s right. And, uh, come to think of it, I think I saw, I did see the registration in the glove box when I was putting the gun in there. And the officer’s like, there’s a gun in the glove box? And he goes, yeah, there’s a gun in there, [01:06:00] because I put it there after I shot and killed the woman who owns a car and stuffed her body in the truck.

Officer’s like, there’s a body in the trunk? Driver’s like, yep, there’s a body there. And so after hearing all of this, officer calls for backup. And the car is surrounded by police officers and, you know, the captain comes out and, you know, he’s, he’s approaching the driver to handle this situation. And the captain goes, all right, sir, can I see your license?

The driver goes, yep, no problem. Here it is. Um, and the captain’s like, okay. Uh. Can I see the registration? And so he hands it to him and he sees that the car’s registered to the driver. Um, he said, can you open up your glove box so you can see if there’s a gun in there and there’s no gun? Uh, the captain goes, can you open up your trunk?

I was told that you said that there was a body in there and the driver goes, Oh yeah, sure, no problem. So he opens up, opens up the trunk, no body. The captain’s like, I don’t understand the officer who stopped. You said you told him that you didn’t have a license. You stole the car. You had a gun in the glove box.

There’s [01:07:00] a body in the trunk. And the driver goes, yeah. And I bet that lying bastard told you I was speeding too.

Dr. Mike Barnes: That’s perfect. Perception. Perception is everything.

Scott DeLuzio: That is a good example of perception, right? Um, anyways, um. Thank you for indulging me in that bad, bad joke. But, uh,

Dr. Mike Barnes: Love it.

Scott DeLuzio: um, anyways, thank you for taking the time for joining, to join us and sharing your information, your background, um, that, that hopefully can help some folks out, um, if they are dealing with, um, you know, secondary trauma, addiction, um, and, and that they can get the support that they need, uh, through, through your, your work, or, you know, if, if, um, uh, at least.

It can maybe put a name to the problem and can help lead them in the right direction. So I do really appreciate you coming on the show and sharing all of this, uh, you know, with [01:08:00] us.

Dr. Mike Barnes: Well, thank you for allowing me to be here. I appreciate it.

Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son on Amazon. All of the sales from that book go directly back into this podcast and work to help veterans in need. You can also follow the Drive On Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

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