"When people experience traumatic events and are harmed by others, they can unfairly lose that chance at having the life they want because of someone else’s bad actions. I think that is a tragedy, and I want to be able to do what I can to change that."
Dr. Vassilia Binensztok is a licensed and board-certified mental health counsellor in private practice in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Additionally, Dr. Binensztok teaches psychology and counselling at a local university. As a therapist, researcher, and professor, she is an expert in several areas including anxiety, depression, trauma, and relationships. You can learn more about her on her Instagram @junocounseling or her website www.junocounseling.com
SWY: Can you please describe what you do and the way you came into this work?
VB: I am a trauma-focused psychotherapist. I work with individuals, couples, and families to help them achieve emotional and interpersonal wellbeing. I help people work through difficult situations and identify tools to help them reach their social, emotional, and personal goals. I became a therapist because I love helping people. I particularly care about helping people recover and regain their power from unjust experiences they have endured, like childhood abuse and other traumas.
SWY: What inspired you to do the work that you do?
VB: My values guide me. I believe everyone deserves a fair chance at life. I think we all create the meaning in our own lives and every person deserves that opportunity. When people experience traumatic events and are harmed by others, they can unfairly lose that chance at having the life they want because of someone else’s bad actions. I think that is a tragedy, and I want to be able to do what I can to change that.
SWY: In a general sense, what is trauma therapy and why do you think it is important for trauma healing?
VB: Trauma therapy addresses the damaging experiences we had that were scary, out of our control, and emotionally overwhelming. It involves processing those experiences and undoing the effects they left on our bodies and brains. Therapy is extremely important for trauma healing because the therapeutic relationship, the sharing of the story with a professional, and the use of focused tools is instrumental to healing.
SWY: What are some of the treatment methods that you use in your sessions to help children and youth heal from trauma?
VB: I use a lot of creative treatments like storytelling, journaling, letter-writing, visualization, play therapy, sandtray, etc.
SWY: What are the benefits that come from these types of treatment?
VB: These treatments help integrate the past into the present and reduce the power the events have over the client. People can get frozen in their traumatic memories and sometimes only a creative approach can change their relationship to the memories.
SWY: What is a piece of advice you would give to a child or adolescent dealing with abuse and trauma that is looking for ways to heal but doesn’t know how?
VB: Don’t give up. Just because things might not seem like they are getting better doesn’t mean they won’t get better. Sometimes we need to make changes before we are ready to make changes. If you hurt yourself to get back at others, you are only hurting yourself.
SWY: How do you think therapy can be used as an intervention in stopping childhood abuse and trauma from being passed down from generation to generation?
VB: The research is clear on this. Parents who were abused as children are statistically more likely to abuse their own children, but parents who were abused as children but processed their abuse and reflected on what went wrong are statistically much less likely to abuse their own children.
SWY: What do you think our community can do better to help survivors of childhood abuse recover and grow from their traumatic experiences?
VB: Our community can believe survivors and value child rights. Children’s rights are often overlooked and subsumed by parents’ rights. This lets parents get away with a lot of abusive behaviours. Children are minors in the eyes of the law but should still have some legal rights.