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Post-traumatic stress can happen in the labour war as easily as on the battlefield. Guest post by author and therapist Karl Smith

Posted on 27 September 2017

Karl SmithFor this blog post I am handing over the space to another leading practitioner in the treatment of post-traumatic stress. Karl Smith is a former soldier and police officer who has direct experience of PTSD and decided to do something about it. He trained as a hypnotherapist and then developed a particular therapy called Kinetic Shift. He is the author of There is No ‘D’ in PTSD – trauma in the uniformed and emergency services and is shortly to publish a book on Kinetic Shift.

So, thanks for joining us here Karl and it is so good to see how experts like you are beginning to see the similarities between the traumatic experiences of women in the birth process and what happens to soldiers, police officers and emergency service workers on the front line.

Here is what Karl has to say:

 There is no D in PTSD“As a former soldier and police officer I have come across PTSD in all sorts of ways. I have seen it in colleagues, and I have suffered from it myself. I managed to turn these experiences into something positive by learning all I could about what happens in the mind to cause this trauma and what is on offer to solve it.

Eventually I trained as a hypnotherapist, but found some of the ‘sitting down just reading a script’ approach by some was not really working. I began to look at things such as Neuro Linguistic programming (NLP) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprogramming (EMDR). I started to adapt and use some of these and then began to adapt them, formulating a system which I called Kinetic Shift, about which more later.

I use Kinetic Shift with great success to help people with PTSD, and I keep an eye on developments in understanding and treatments.

Fiona is fast becoming one of the best-known therapists, combining cognitive hypnotherapy with eye movement techniques and an understanding of how memory works, to help women who have had traumatic birth experiences.

I was really pleased to be asked to contribute to Fiona’s blog as it is so good to see someone as good as she is working with PTSD in another field.

It might seem that a mother in the labour ward and a soldier on a battlefield are miles apart, but if you look at it a lot of the symptoms each suffer, then they are remarkably similar.

There are the common and horrible experiences. Flashbacks, hyper-sensitivity, insomnia, not being able to concentrate and feeling jumpy and emotionally disengaged can be present with the mother and the soldier. And, in the absence of help both can find really unhelpful coping mechanisms such as a reliance on prescription drugs or alcohol.

Reading Fiona’s blog I feel I am in very familiar territory when I hear about the sort of problems her post-natal PTSD clients bring to her. I also notice something else which is very worrying. Mis-diagnosis, or no diagnosis at all is still all too common.

As with the soldiers, police officers and others uniformed services personnel I see, the women who visit Fiona have often struggled for years on their own. They know something is wrong, they often visit a GP and often they are fobbed off with a wrong diagnosis or are told they have depression. This means that the help which they do get is not targeted at the right problem. There is not much point in treating someone for depression if what they have is PTSD.

Thankfully, in both our fields this is beginning to change. There is much more publicity around post-traumatic stress these days, and I see from what Fiona posts here the issues of post-natal PTSD are beginning to be covered in the press and there is rising pressure to have it treated as a distinct condition.

In the area I come from, there are more specialised services available now to help soldiers with PTSD. And this is great. But we need to look at what sort of treatment is on offer and if it is the best.

One thing which both Fiona and I agree on is the importance of the developing research into the working of our brains and how we make process and store memories.

I said I would tell you a bit more about Kinetic Shift and it is when we look at how we store memories that it comes into its own.

I always say that Kinetic Shift is nothing new but everything different.

Kinetic Shift came about because of the fantastic leaps we are making in understanding how our brains work and how our bodies and minds are interlinked and affect each other. Our subconscious, what I call our ‘monkey brain’, patterns our experiences and influences our behaviour even though we are not aware of this most of the time.

We are also now much more aware of how imaginings affect our brain. Now we can do detailed brain scans it is possible to prove that imagining something has a similar effect on the brain as actually doing it. What you think affects your brain, how your brain behaves affects all the systems of your body. Thinking well can mean good health, happiness and success. Negative thought patterns can mean problems and if you are constantly reliving a traumatic experience that is a very negative pattern indeed.

We now understand more about how our brain is part of our whole sensing and nervous system and that is not just in our heads. It includes our limbic system, what is often called our reptile brain. The limbic brain gets the term ‘reptile brain’ because it is the part of our system which we share with simpler life forms. It controls our most basic drives. Then there is the perhaps sad but very true fact that we human beings are not well, or yet adapted to life in the sort of societies in which we now live.

For most of our evolutionary history we have lived in small groups as hunter-gatherers. We’re well adapted to interact with a few (up to about 300) people, to endure short periods of great stress (for when we are hunting, or more likely running away from predators) and to interact with the natural world. That’s a long way away from living in a global city and spending most of your day on Facebook.

So, that goes some way to explaining why so many people have problems being happy and fulfilled and why so many people visit therapists.

Traditionally therapy was very long term, then, over the course of the 20th century different game-changers and innovators found out more about how the brain works and quicker more effective ways of therapy developed. The great therapist Milton Erickson, the developers of NLP John Grinder and Richard Bandler, the developer of eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing Francine Shapiro are some of the best.

I have used many of these techniques. And I set about pulling together the best of the new into a dynamic delivery which I call Kinetic Shift.

I sum up Kinetic Shift in 4 words Active, Intuitive, Dynamic, Energising. For those of you familiar with traditional hypnotherapy, it can come as a bit of a shock.  There is very little sitting down and nodding at the client. Similar to how Fiona works, there is a lot of open eyes, standing up and moving around. The aim is to get straight past the logical mind and address the ‘monkey mind’. and working to get the client active at all times.

This approach works well with all sorts of problems but it works fantastically well with post-traumatic stress. This is because post-traumatic stress is a lot about how we store our memories. With post-traumatic stress, the memories are being held as if the event which caused the problem is still happening. Good modern therapy, of the sort which I offer and I know Fiona offers, can move those memories to their proper place. In the past. Then you can get on with your present life feeling okay.

I hope that soon I can visit Fiona in her post-natal post-traumatic stress clinic in Harley Street to talk more about the shared experiences we have with our clients and see her work in more detail. It is just great to have some great people like her in the field so we can make even more strides.”

All the best to you all!

Karl Smith




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