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Oprah Winfrey thinks this therapy could help survivors of childhood trauma

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Megan Murray
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Oprah Winfrey has spoken out about a new type of therapy, that she believes would be beneficial to the recovery of people who have suffered intense childhood trauma. 

TV personality, chat show host, successful businesswoman and feminist icon, Oprah Winfrey, has shared her thoughts on the type of treatment she thinks should be used to help more people deal with the mental health effects of experiencing childhood trauma.

The globally-known star broached the subject while appearing on the American TV programme, 60 Minutes, alongside a woman who had experienced severe childhood trauma.

Speaking to Alisha Fox, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder at the age of 15 after being sexually abused and raped by her father over the course of 10 years, Winfrey discussed the positive outcomes of the new treatment called trauma-informed care.

Fox received this type of treatment at family-centred care unit, SaintA, based in Milwaukee. While she was there, the young woman said she finally felt “heard and seen” thanks to the expert’s innovative approach.

Winfrey explained that trauma-informed care, “focuses on a person’s experiences before trying to correct their behavior, whether it be juvenile delinquency, poor performance in school or out-of-control anger.”

The treatment framework involves understanding, recognising and responding to the effects of trauma and is designed to help survivors rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.

Winfrey continued: “It comes down to the question of not, ‘What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with that kid? Why is he behaving like that,’ to, ‘What happened to you,’ which is a very different question.”

Oprah Winfrey at the premiere of A Wrinkle In Time

A large part of trauma-informed care is something called the ACE test, which stands for adverse childhood experiences.

The test comprises of ten questions that ascertain the types of trauma and different experiences the survivor has faced. If the participant has a high score, it can be a powerful predictor of the physical and mental problems that they may experience in the future.

For example, Winfrey reported that a high score can make you up to five times more likely to be depressed and can even reduce your life expectancy, in some cases as much as 20 years.

The crucial thing that sets this therapy apart is the focus on understanding what has happened to a traumatised children before trying to “fix” their behavior. Speaking with Belinda Pittman-McGee, who runs a family center, Winfrey discussed the importance of asking why someone might feel like they “can’t control impulses” or be aggressive. 

Pittman-McGee explained that helping a child “put the pieces together” to understand why they feel and act a certain way, is the key to helping them deal with their trauma. 

This is a subject that’s very close to home for Winfrey, who has spoken out about her abusive childhood before, after being raped at the age of nine, molested several times between the ages of 10 and 14, as well as surviving physical abuse.

Hopefully Winfrey’s attempts to spread awareness about the treatment will see it more widely developed and it can benefit more survivors of abuse and trauma. 

Images: Getty