ImpACT for Treating Trauma

by | Jul 18, 2020 | Health, The Gathering Share

Submitted by Everyday Being Circle Partner, Dr. Christian Thurstone.

Introducing impACT for Treating Trauma

I recently spotted an interesting intersection between those of us who suffer from trauma and those who are trying to help us.

First, there’s the trauma sufferer: Charles Woodhouse Jr., who grew up in one of the most crime-ridden neighborhoods on Chicago’s notoriously crime-ridden South Side. He was just 11 years old when he witnessed a murder. He was 15 when he was deliberately targeted and shot 21 times. He was imprisoned at age 17 for an aggravated robbery he insists he did not commit.

Now 25 years old, under house arrest and desperate for healing, Woodhouse has shared with the Chicago Sun-Times, a powerful perspective on what it will take to curb violence. I encourage you to read it. His bottom line is this: we must recognize trauma, not just criminality, and take steps to heal it.

Then there’s the clinician researcher who is trying to treat trauma, especially in youth: Dr. Christian Thurstone, director of Behavioral Health Services at Denver Health and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Of the many reactions to Woodhouse’s column I have read, his caught my attention. Dr. T, as he is often called, moved from Chicago to Denver in mid 2003 for additional medical training precisely because he had encountered literally hundreds of kids like Woodhouse and wanted to develop treatment for them.

In the years since his arrival to Colorado, Dr. T has led development of a body of medical literature that is consistent with Woodhouse’s perspective.

“It’s important for everyone to know Mr. Woodhouse is not sharing merely anecdotes for an opinion page,” Dr. T said. “There is science supporting this young man’s observations and beliefs.”

That’s where impACT comes in. Over more than a decade, Dr. T and a team of social workers, addiction counselors and other specialized therapists—professionals including my community partner Julia Timmerman of Thrive Training and Consulting—worked in consultation with students who received treatment from health clinics set up on nearly a dozen Denver Public Schools campuses. Over and over, this team realized their treatment models needed to be adjusted to account for the profound trauma students had experienced. The result is impACT, the world’s first adaptation of Acceptance Commitment Therapy for the treatment of adolescent mental health and substance addiction. impACT specifically considers trauma in conjunction with other treatment needs.

Dr. T allows people to download from his website at no charge guides to the use of the impACT treatment model for anyone who works with youth. The guides are very simply worded and can be used by therapists, counselors, educators, coaches, pastors, kids’ club leaders — and even parents. There even is a version for therapists who want to incorporate the use of dogs during help sessions. Visit for more information.

If you’d like to learn more about impACT therapy for treating trauma, contact Dr. Christian Thurstone.

Filed under: Health, The Gathering Share


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