VOICES NYC Resiliency Symposium | 2015
On Wednesday, September 9, 2015 VOICES hosted our Resiliency Symposium, “Knowledge to Practice: Pathways to Long-Term Healing.” This event was an insightful day featuring presentations led by accomplished researchers, victims' advocates and clinicians. We were pleased to bring together this group of mental health professionals, government agencies, emergency managers, law enforcement, and those providing services to individuals impacted by traumatic events. VOICES thanks the Rutgers School of Social Work for supporting this educational initiative.
The day-long event included the following speakers and presentations:
Stephen E. Flynn, PhD, Professor of Political Science, Director for the Center for Resilience Studies and Co-Director of the George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security at Northeastern University, opened the day defining resilience and discussed how communities help one another in times of tragedy. He noted that in a time marked by more frequent manmade and naturally occurring shocks and traumas, it is imperative that we take meaningful actions toward building greater societal resilience. “The reason why we come together as a community is because we need each other’s help,” Dr. Flynn emphasized.
Stephen J. Cozza, MD and M. Katherine Shear, MD presented, “Grief in Bereaved Family Members: Understanding Normative and Complicated Reactions.” Dr. Cozza described his experience as the Associate Director for the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress and as a Professor of Psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University, introducing data about grief and adaptation from a large community-based survey. Dr. Shear, Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University School of Social Work and Director of the Center for Complicated Grief, outlined a way to think about loss, grief and adaptation, highlighting factors that can facilitate adaptation and factors that contribute to risk for complicated grief.
Next, we learned from those have responded at a local, state and federal level to events of mass violence in hearing from Kathryn Turman, Liam Lowney and Sue O’Sullivan. Kathryn Turman, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance and Victim Services Programs, spoke about her experience and the work of her office in responding to victims of multiple acts of terrorism and other forms of mass violence from the 1980s through more recent events, including 9/11. Liam Lowney discussed his work responding to the Boston Marathon Bombing as Executive Director for the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance and what challenges victims and survivors faced after the event. Sue O’Sullivan, Canada’s Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, focused on how the voices and experiences of victims inform efforts to sensitize key participants in the criminal justice system to the needs and concerns of victims.
Joseph C. Napoli, MD, Psychiatrist and Co-Director, Resiliency LLC and Assistant Clinical Professor Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons began the afternoon with his presentation on “The Resiliency Pathway.” He described how the pathway to healing depends on various factors, including characteristics of the trauma. Dr. Napoli highlights that using one’s strengths, beliefs, motivations and having a positive attitude are a few ways to practice resiliency.
Craig Haen, PhD, RDT, CGP, LCAT, FAGPA and Maureen Underwood, LCSW spoke on a panel next about “Approaches to Fostering Resilience in Children and Families After Trauma.” Dr. Haen, who has a private practice in White Plains, NY, is Adjunct Faculty at New York University and Lesley University, and is the Co-Chair of Community Outreach for the American Group Psychotherapy Association, presented on how everyone has a capacity to be resilient when responding to traumatic events. Maureen Underwood, Clinical Director for the Society for Prevention of Teen Suicide, noted how “it’s okay to not be okay” sometimes and how strength-based interventions can foster healing in the aftermath of traumatic events.
In the final panel, Susheel Gupta, Director of the Air India Victims’ Families Association and Vice-Chairperson of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal touched on how the loss of his mother in the bombing of Air India Flight 182 in 1985 affected his work to ensure a public inquiry after the event. Heidi Illingworth also presented on her work as the Executive Director of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime and highlighted lessons learned from interventions with family members impacted by terrorism and other forms of mass violence. Mary Fetchet, LCSW, VOICES Founding Director discussed the organization’s unique model that provides long-term support services for those impacted by 9/11. She summarized the evolving needs of victims’ families, responders and survivors and programs that promote a pathway to resiliency and healing.