Cottage Health Offers Natural-Disaster Therapy Sessions

Free Program Open to Anybody Traumatized by Recent Fire, Flood

Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital
Paul Wellman

In response to Santa Barbara’s now-infamous Thomas Fire and attendant 1/9 Debris Flow that claimed 23 lives, Cottage Health is now offering free group therapy sessions for those traumatized. The 90-minute sessions are offered four nights a week. “Trauma is very relative,” said Darcy Keep, head of psychiatric services for Cottage hospital. “We’re hoping to provide skills in an intensive outpatient setting to help people manage their trauma. There’s no ‘suck it up,’ no white-knuckling it.”

The sessions target different communities. In one, only first responders and direct victims are invited. One is more spiritually bent, another focused on teens and school-aged kids. One of the six groups is for people whose primary language is Spanish. In the first session, Keep said it was not uncommon for many participants to tear up. Many reported a sense of hyper-vigilance that causes their hearts to race and a sense of being overwhelmed. Sessions start off with grounding exercises. “Facilitators understand that not being okay is okay,” said therapist Layla Farinpour. “We’re trying to help people let go of pressures they put on themselves to move on.”

The aim, said Keep, is to foster hope and promote a sense of resilience and cohesion. “Resiliency has less to do with money and a lot more to do with the connections we have.” Keep said the friendships formed in the group sessions should engender connection. Cottage has committed to maintaining the groups for at least a year.

For more information call 805-569-7501 or cottagehealth.org/howweheal.

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