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Q&A with Gift from Within

Many thanks to Joyce Boaz, Director: Gift From Within-PTSD Resources for Survivors and Caregivers

How did GFW start?

Gift From Within started in l993 with guidance and support of Dr. Frank Ochberg. He is the Founder and I’ve been the Director since the beginning. I came across Dr. Ochberg's Survivor Psalm in a newspaper and was deeply moved. At that time I was working for a film company distributing a video we produced for our local child abuse council. I was responsible for distributing the film and as a result started talking with a lot of trauma survivors and health professionals. I contacted Dr. Ochberg because I wanted to give out his Survivor Psalm to child abuse survivors. Since then I would guess we’ve given out thousands. Dr. Ocherg has been in the field since the l960’s and is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University. He was one of the founding members of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from that Society. He edited the first treatment text in the United States on PTSD.

My philosophy in running GFW has been what I call The Mother Theresa approach. I once saw her on television when a reporter asked a dignified and serene Mother Theresa how she dealt with all the people asking her for solace and help on an hourly and daily basis. She looked into the reporter's eyes and said that she helps one person at a time. That statement had a huge impact on me. We frequently help one person at a time. We want people to visit, learn about PTSD, feel supported, and realize that they are not alone. And ultimately when you are feeling better, be available to help someone else. Showing a little compassion and a little understanding goes a long way.

How long has GFW been operating?

Gift From Within has been operating since 1993

Can you say a little about the community needs GFW responds to?

Gift From Within is a friendly and supportive website for people with PTSD. It’s also for people just starting out wanting to learn all they can about post-traumatic stress disorder for themselves or a loved one.

What else can abuse survivors get from GFW?

We have essays, articles, poetry and art, inspirational stories, webcasts, and a Q&A.

There are many excellent articles on the GFW site for Rape and domestic violence survivors. Are these the largest population of trauma survivors that GFW serves?

It seems that many of our members and website visitors include survivors of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault. Our intention is to be inclusive to individuals suffering from all types of trauma including car accidents.

Your pen pal support program seems like a powerful way to make sure that those who suffer from PTSD can find social support. What feedback have you received about this program?

This type of network works well for some and not for others. It really depends on where you are on your recovery and how social you are. I talk to everyone on the phone before they join. On the phone we decide together if the person should try it for a month or so. There has to be a commitment on your part to want to participate. If a person has been recently traumatized or new to the PTSD diagnosis ’d probably be a bit cautious as I wouldn’t want to someone to get triggered.

Can you tell us about the benefits of survivor peer-support?

One benefit and it’s major is that you meet like minded folks. People who won’t say “Why aren’t you over it by now.” Sometimes family and friends get burned out. And this is also a wonderful complement to therapy. I’ve had women join who said my therapist thought this would be good for me.

What other sort of trauma support does GFW offer abuse survivors?

We have a Question and Answer with Dr. Frank Ochberg. I submit questions from members or website viewers and Dr. Ochberg chooses one to answer. Usually the question that can help the largest amount of survivors is the one he will choose.

Can you tell us about the educational initiatives of GFW?

We’d like to help you become the most educated person on your block on PTSD. In addition to written materials, GFW develop DVD’s and tapes and CD’s.. We are also developing webcasts for survivors, caregivers and mental health advocates. We have a DVD called Living With PTSD: Lessons For Partners, Friends & Supporters. It’s a great tape filmed in a friendly atmosphere with Dr. Frank Ochberg and Dr. Angie Panos. Dr. Panos is a board member and has been in the field for 20 years. We answer basic questions about PTSD for the survivor and the caregiver. I’ve received emails and phone calls praising the program. It’s simple, effective and supportive.

How can other people get involved in GFW's work?

Visit the website. We just started a group on Facebook. You have to type in Gift From Within after you join or log in.

GFW founder Dr. Frank Ochberg says that people suffering from PTSD deserve the same recognition and support as those experiencing serious physical illness. This is great! What successes has GFW enjoyed in generating that support in the wider community?

I hope that we have helped families and loved ones and the outside community as well to think outside the box in terms of invisible wounds Vs physical wounds. I think this question has to do with the stigma that many trauma survivors feel when they are talked about by others outside their circle or even in their families who may not understand that PTSD is not trivial and it is real. Emotional wounds are invisible so we really only have the person’s testimonial about how they are feeling. Many times after a trauma we are in distress and we aren’t able to talk about our feelings. Caregivers can react in many ways. They may feel frustrated because they can’t help or they feel everything they are doing is wrong, and so many people need to learn how to be good supporters. I am an optimist so I believe more people are becoming aware of the importance of treating trauma victims and survivors with more compassion and understanding.


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