As a man rowing my boat backward into the future, I have learned that ruminating over the past is not helpful; however, reframing my life’s unfortunate experiences and unfavorable exposures has played a vital role in my own journey toward resiliency. For one, rewriting my narrative places me in the author’s chair, and by reflecting, I am afforded a deep wisdom that previously was undiscovered. There is one more benefit that comes from backing my way into tomorrow: I am less stressed over things that are unknowable. The future has always been filled with ambiguity, and trying to predict the future is fraught with costly perils. Meanwhile, time is moving by so fast that I cannot grasp all that is valuable. Taking time to revisit my yesterdays and focus on lessons learned and values acquired is at the core of what makes me who I am.
From this philosophy, I conclude that human suffering is not a fate to be borne but a mission to overcome. My journey to find a way to live through trauma and early childhood adversity began in utero. My mother’s body was still trying to recover from the violence inflicted upon her when I was conceived, and while my brain’s foundation was developing inside her womb, I struggled to survive.
The impact on my ability to build and feel secure in relationships was significant, and it took many years to learn how to communicate my thoughts and feelings to others effectively. It took me 22 years of multiple starts and restarts, but I eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Science. Twelve years later, after more starts and restarts, I graduated with a Master’s in Counseling, and in 2015 I earned my Doctorate. In 2021, I was awarded the Arizona Aging Services Star Award for Innovation by the Arizona Department of Economic Security, recognizing my decades of innovative trauma and resiliency work to improve health outcomes among the aging population. In 2022, I was honored to be accepted as a Diplomate with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress.
For more than 44 years, I have been married and deeply committed to Melody. She and I have lived through and faced together our share of challenges and crises. We raised our three children and now play with our eight grandchildren.
Since 1980, I have endeavored to help individuals, families, and organizational teams work through trauma, toxic stress, and histories of adversity. My focus has not just been to reduce suffering and resolve past painful learning, but there has always been a determination to lead people to build their readiness to face the coming challenges with less impact on their health and wellness.
My work with those suffering from trauma has taken me to lots of colorful places, working alongside lots of compassionate human beings, providing direct services and care to juvenile boys in Fresno, California’s Youth Authority, children and teen groups in Tennessee, Texas, and Pennsylvania, children born exposed to radiation exposure in Romania, survivors in war-torn areas of the former Yugoslavia, foster and adoptive families in Arizona, and a host of community service organizations and governmental agency personnel throughout the United States. As well, I serve as a consultant to mental health professionals in Pakistan, India, Peru, and Malaysia. Since 2018, I have been a Senior Faculty member at the Arizona Trauma Institute and the Trauma Institute International and Director of Organizational Programs.
At my core, I am a resistance fighter. Not against people but against systemic ignorance and apathy. While I am a consultant, coach, and conference speaker, I am also a learner. I believe those who dare to teach and train others need to be open and ready to be taught and trained. I am a life-long learner.
My personal, professional, and academic journey uniquely qualifies me as an authority on trauma-informed care, principles for building towards resiliency, and leadership development to address the complex issues of a post-pandemic world.
I have survived adversity but do not see myself as a survivor. Rather, I am a human being who has lived through adversity and continues to learn how to do it better. On several occasions, I have faced life-and-death situations in each, it was the principle that human beings are not broken creatures but rather injured beings capable of healing and resiliently adapting to new realities. With sufficient support and time to learn essential skills, I know that everyone can incrementally get better, stronger, and wiser.