First Ever Hearing on Childhood Trauma Held at US House of Representatives

Dr. Christina Bethell, advisory committee member of the Pocket Project, provides testimony both as a survivor and expert on the science and use of evidence-based practices to address the “epidemic” of childhood trauma in the US.

On July 11, 2019 an emotionally charged hearing on childhood trauma brought together leading experts and survivors to present their findings to members of the House, including Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) who led seven hearings on trauma during her eight years serving on the Boston City Council. Pressley, along with other members of Congress and the expert witnesses, shared their personal experiences of trauma together with the survivors who attended, allowing for an unprecedented opportunity for authenticity and opening in the hearing room.

Dr. Christina Bethell, an advisory committee member of the Pocket Project and a leading expert on childhood trauma in the US testified in the nearly four-hour hearing on the science and policies she’s been researching and implementing as professor at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative.

Watch video of hearing

“The science of ACEs and resilience shine a light on the importance of moment by moment lived experiences and relational health, and require a paradigm shift in how we think about child development, human health and disease and social dysfunction,” Bethell testified. “When enough people such as the two-thirds of adults and half of US children carry adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the trauma and toxic stress that can result we find ourselves in a syndemic, or synergistic epidemic, where what ails us cannot be addressed without addressing the long reach of childhood trauma and we adopt a salutogenic approach focused on factors that proactively promote human health and well-being.”

Drawing from twenty-three years of data-driven research and evidence-based policy design, Bethell stressed the importance of creating a social infrastructure in the US that will comprehensively address the urgency of this problem, much like the national highway system connects the country. In this way, she stressed, the evidence base of trauma combined with the knowledge of the impact of lived experiences would finally meet with policy, creating impactful programs and policies that will save money and increase well-being in the country.

Bethell also emphasized the importance of awareness and healing practices in integrating trauma. “Also critical to promoting the self-awareness and self-regulation key to healing and health are practices that involve sitting silently with intentional awareness on one’s breathing, body sensations and current thoughts and feelings. These mindfulness practices enjoy strong scientific evidence to assist in neuronal rewiring toward regulation and building capacity for other self-care practices, like exercise, healthy eating and engagement in learning. They may also contribute to reduction in body and brain inflammation and symptoms of autoimmune conditions and mental illnesses.”

Bethell speaks widely on childhood trauma and ACEs throughout the US, and will be speaking specifically on ways to promote healing and self-regulation in dialogue with Thomas Hübl, founder of the Pocket Project, at the Celebrate Life Festival that will be livestreamed from Germany later this month.

The Pocket Project is a non-profit organization based in Germany that trains facilitators and leads conferences and other international events around the topic of collective trauma. Their mission is to contribute to the healing of collective and intergenerational trauma, and to reduce its disruptive effects on our global culture. The Pocket Project is guided by spiritual teacher, author, and systems thinker Thomas Hübl who has led large-scale events with international groups, including with Israelis and Germans, to heal from the impacts of collective trauma. Active Pocket Project practice groups and competency centers currently work in the US, Israel, Germany, and Argentina.