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Trauma Team Travels to Philippines

By Brett Wilson | February 28, 2014

Dr. Benjamin Keyes with 2014 trauma trainees.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Benjamin Keyes.

Three months after the water rushed away from Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, most of what remains is rubble and a community of hurting people.

Last month, Regent University's Trauma Team, led by School of Psychology & Counseling (SPC) professor and director of the Center for Trauma Studies, Dr. Benjamin Keyes, along with SPC alumnae Jennifer Cotton '13 and Nicole DiLella '10, traveled to meet the psychological needs of the impacted residents of Tocloba and other nearby islands.

"The problem with Tocloba is that there is no money, and it took two weeks for teams to get clearances for practical aid to people out there," said Keyes. "The rubble is still there; it's still a mess."

Keyes and his team were hosted by the University of Asia and the Pacific. There, they trained 80 members of clergy and non-government organizations (NGO) representatives, teachers, clinicians and emergency-response personnel in basic field trauma.

"The Filipinos were amazingly invested, studious and really just wanted this information. They were very serious about their training, and I was impressed with their dedication to being there," said Keyes.

Through the midst of the training process, Keyes discovered that the very people he was planning to help—many of whom were first-responders to the typhoon within 48 hours of its strike—had not been debriefed after experiencing traumas of their own.

Keyes explained that this process is geared to reduce the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and many of those who spent time training were suffering from tell-tale symptoms such as irritableness, experiencing nightmares and, at times, avoidance.

"Debriefing is important because it helps to alleviate guilt and the feeling that they could have done more," said Keyes. "It's best to do it right after a traumatic event, but because this was three months later, it was clear to us that these people had really experienced quite a lot."

Keyes and his teammates worked with the director of the team on site and taught them the model, so that in the future, the first-responders may have debriefing as a part of their policy.

"That's really a part of what our mission is about, it's to train local people in the various things that we have and we do so that they, in turn, can train people that they work with."

This method of training is what encouraged the president of the University of Asia to pursue a formal relationship with Regent and the Center for Trauma Studies. Keyes expressed his hope to foster this relationship in the future—and to encourage clinicians of all kinds in overcoming trauma as well as deepening their faith in God.

"It's amazing what a strong faith can do," said Keyes. "Everyone was there for a purpose and they truly believe, as I do, that trauma training is a way of practicing our faith."

Learn more about the Center for Trauma Studies and the School of Psychology & Counseling.


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