Help for storm stress: Free seminar aims to serve many

Published 12:12 am Wednesday, March 16, 2016

LAPLACE — Using the Emotional Freedom Technique, Dr. Gail Gillespie will try to help St. John the Baptist Parish residents deal with the trauma that goes along with experiencing a disaster such as the tornado that came through Feb. 23.

Gail Gillespie

Gail Gillespie

Gillespie is a licensed psychologist in private practice specializing in the evaluation and treatment of children and adolescents ages 2 to 17.  She received her Ph.D. in 1993 and specializes in individual and family therapy for children with learning, attention, social/emotional and behavioral challenges.

Gillespie, along with 15 other licensed mental health and healing arts professionals, works at Affordable Healing Arts in the New Orleans Healing Center.

Gillespie is hosting a free workshop, Taming the Tornado Trauma, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at LaPlace Elementary School, 393 Greenwood Drive in LaPlace.

The event is open for residents ages 8 and up.

“The purpose of this workshop is to assist in reducing or eliminating the negative, emotional and physical effects that resulted from the recent tornado, or even for those who have any symptoms of trauma from Hurricane Isaac,” Gillespie said.

Residents who have been through a situation in which they feel their life might be in danger can develop symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, such as insomnia, anxiety, recurrent thoughts about the event, physical tension in the body and fear of situations that remind them of the event, Gillespie said.

The psychologist said these symptoms are a normal and expected consequence of having experienced a traumatic event.

Gillespie said Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as tapping, utilizes the system upon which acupuncture is based, but without needles.

“In the same way that a migraine or back pain is reduced or eliminated with acupuncture, emotional pain, anxiety, stress, fear, etc., is reduced or eliminated through stimulating those same points on the body by tapping on those areas,” Gillespie said. “With EFT, an individual brings the event into their conscience, which can then trigger negative emotions. Through tapping on specific points on the body, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, which calms the entire emotional and physical body, and sometimes clears out the trauma along with it.”

During the workshop Gillespie will provide general information about PTSD and Emotional Freedom Technique and also have those in attendance tap along with her.

“I understand and expect some apprehension,” she said. “I also know that this technique has helped countless people overcome overwhelming feelings that burden them in their lives. What is good about EFT is that people don’t have to feel vulnerable, or open up, or say much of anything. It just requires a willingness to try something radically new and different, and a desire for relief from burdensome emotions.”

Though she personally is not dealing with any trauma as a result of the recent tornado, Division B Councilwomen at Large Jaclyn Hotard understands there are numerous people in the community dealing with issues.

“If you were in the house when the tornado came and had to run for cover or anything like that, you can definably lose sleep over it or have anxiety,” she said. “Oftentimes, when we’ve had a traumatic experience and we experience some symptoms, we just ignore it. Maybe people think because it’s so recent the effects will wear off. We ignore these types of things, and they can manifest into something if we don’t deal with it properly.”

When you are having trauma or anxiety, it’s not necessarily something you can see, Hotard said.

“It’s not like a little ‘x’ on your hand that says ‘I have anxiety, insomnia or depression I need to see somebody,’” Hotard said. “People start to question themselves, asking ‘does this really exist or am I being weak?’ It’s really unfortunate. Because we let those things go unchecked, then they manifest into something later on.”

Gillespie said that Emotional Freedom Technique is being utilized internationally with remarkable success. For more information log onto