New program helping women overcome PTSD

BROOKLINE, Mass. — For women suffering the effects of post traumatic stress disorder, the symptoms can show up in confusing ways and cut them off from life and loved ones.

For many of the women, traditional therapies have been ineffective, but a program developed in Brookline is making inroads, providing hope to women who thought they had lost their chance for healing.

Just a short time ago, an on-camera interview would have been out of the question for Jude Mathews.

“I never would have done it,” she said. “Literally.

Diagnosed with PTSD and chronic depression, the symptoms showed up as anxiety, emotional numbness and frequent migraines.

She believes it’s all rooted in painful secrets.

“I’ve never really said this before, but it’s just a lifetime of, you know, I’ve experienced sexual, emotional and physical abuse starting from a very young age,” Mathews said.

What’s allowing her to shine light on such a dark area of her life now is a program called TIMBo.

“Nothing else worked in my life,” Mathews said. “I’ve tried therapy, drugs, trying to find ways to cope and deal. This is the only thing that’s worked.”

“It was much more powerful than I ever anticipated,” program creator Suzanne Jones said.

Jones designed TIMBO in 2009 during a difficult point in her life. It draws from her yoga practice using breathing techniques and meditation to interrupt the body’s normal fight or flight response, common in sufferers of PTSD.

“One of the things that PTSD really facilitates is a long of self-stigma and social exclusion and social anxiety,” Jones said.

Program facilitator Emily Peterson says in TIMBo, women are able to share their experiences with others in a safe setting.

“You can show up however you are,” she said. “You can fall apart, you can be quiet.”

Mathews said it was there that she realized for the first time that other women were suffering the same way she was.

“In order to recover, you have to take a risk in being with other people, and that’s really what TIMBo is,” Jones.

A study by Boston University found the technique reduces symptoms of depression, anxiety and trauma.

Mathews said she doesn’t need the statistics. She came in as a skeptic, but said she’s now seen its life-changing impact and wants others to know what she knows.

“There is hope,” she said.

The curriculum has been shared with inmates at MCI Framingham Prison, in community groups in several countries and doctors have been referring patients to the program when nothing else seems to work.

Now, Tufts is interested in conducting clinical trials on how the program is benefiting participants’ immune systems.

For more information about the program, click here.

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