Clinical References

Barbera Bashan contacted me to understand more about the neural mechanisms underlying the changes individuals experience after undergoing STAR therapy. I had in-depth discussions with Barbera, reviewed the literature regarding the effect of trauma on the brain and interventions targeting the symptoms, and experienced a STAR session myself.

Below, I briefly summarize what we know about PTSD. I then provide my opinion regarding how STAR therapy may work to change disordered neural connections. Lastly, I discuss how a STAR session changed me.

The last couple of decades have seen an explosion in brain imaging, and technologies have allowed us a bird’s eye view into the inner workings of the mind. Researchers ask varied questions, including, and relevant for STAR, What are the neural mechanisms underlying severe stress or trauma (currently known as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD)?

PTSD is not reserved only for combat veterans1. It can result from natural disasters, transportation accidents, unwanted sexual experiences and violence. In fact, many professions regularly expose workers to highly negative experiences.

Regardless of the source of stress, such events make individuals vulnerable to negative health outcomes. People may be unable to sleep well or concentrate, or have night sweats or have difficulty breathing when reminded of the negative experience. They might be unable to stop reliving the event, experience persistent anxiety, and feel the loss of joy in life. It is not uncommon for suffers to turn to drugs or alcohol for relief.

In PTSD, there are fewer neural connections between areas important for emotions, motivation and memories2. A healthy “fight or flight” response is natural and important tool for survival. However, in individuals exposed to extreme stress or trauma, this natural, protective brain response fails3.

Both pharmaceuticals and device-based treatments are used to target the disordered brain connections. Device-based treatments like deep brain stimulation (DBS) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) use hardware to change brain patterns in trauma patients4. In my opinion, STAR therapy may act in a similar fashion. However, instead of using hardware, STAR recruits the individual’s own natural energy field to change disordered brain patterns.

This is conjecture, because the mechanism of action such treatments is unclear. But we know that PTSD is characterized by fewer, disordered connections. And we know that when symptoms are relieved, neural connectivity is also normalized. And we know that therapeutic outcomes of STAR therapy are overwhelmingly positive.

My own experience with STAR was transformative. I do not have PTSD, or anything resembles trauma. However, through the session became aware of issues buried deep in my childhood, before I had conscious memory. During the subsequent days, I felt I was more complete and calm. Issues from my past that were like a thorn sticking through my flip flop subsided. They don’t irritate me; I have let them go.

Due to my personal experience, I feel that STAR therapy could be beneficial for many individuals who simply have high levels of stress due to everyday living. Like getting a massage or acupuncture to relieve pain or stress, STAR should be considered a wellness therapy to maintain the well-being of the workforce.

I would also recommend STAR therapy for individuals with brain-based psychosomatic disorders, including anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and PTSD. I can also imagine benefits for other disorders, including eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia and addiction disorders.
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Select references:

1. Michopoulos, V., Norrholm, S. D. & Jovanovic, T. Diagnostic Biomarkers for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder : Promising Horizons from Translational Neuroscience Research. Biol. Psychiatry 78, 344–353 (2015).
2. Garfinkel, S. N. & Liberzon, I. Neurobiology of PTSD : A Review of Neuroimaging Findings. Psychiatr. Annu. 39, 370–381 (2009).
3. Editorial. Neuroscience Letters Neurobiology of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A path from novel pathophysiology to innovative therapeutics. Neurosci. Lett. 649, 130–132 (2017).
4. Bowers, M. E. & Ressler, K. J. Review An Overview of Translationally Informed Treatments for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder : Animal Models of Pavlovian Fear Conditioning to Human Clinical Trials. Biol. Psychiatry 78, E15–E27 (2015).

Lesley Ann Sand, PhDHuman Development & Cognitive Neuroscience
College Park, Maryland

Trauma and addiction go hand-in-hand. Prevalence rates for people contending with both conditions at the same time are becoming increasingly common in addiction treatment settings. And while accepting change on a deep personal level is a critical challenge for anyone receiving addiction treatment, seeking this required change for people with deep trauma issues can be like insisting they ignore and drive through a red light.

STAR methodologies applied by Barbera Bashan allow people recovering from addiction and trauma to be reliably catapulted into late-phase advancements in their treatment. This is true regardless of the severity of either the substance disorder or various forms and severities of trauma. In addition, after a session with Barbera, clients I have counseled become so ebullient in their new-found mental and emotional liberation from trauma that their level of hope and confidence in overcoming substance addiction also rises strikingly.

Without exception, clients participating in this remarkable therapeutic intervention exhibit increased commitment to their addiction recovery as they apply greater energy, enthusiasm and urgency to their simultaneous addiction treatment, even as they appear noticeably more comfortable and relaxed in their dispositions. Clients suddenly show up to therapy sessions open, engaged, present and ready. These clients now sense and display that they “get it.” Although some progress may be seen otherwise, invariably ingrained traumatic responses deflect and stall therapeutic gains in ceasing substance use. Improved outcomes from the STAR program practiced by Barbera suggest that where they had been emotionally captive before, they have now leaped into a framework in which necessary change is possible, vastly improving their prospects for lasting recovery. This holds true as well for people who may have only sparse awareness of their trauma that, for them, is simply a mysterious barrier without form to articulate.

The process of healing for clients undergoing substance abuse treatment is just that. It is a process. Both in terms of recognizable shifts in behaviors that clinicians are familiar with seeing at several stages and phases of a person’s progress, as well as shifts in thinking expressed in body gesture, language and attitude that reflect important internal emotional re-arrangements. Almost by definition, trauma suppresses the ability to access, address and advance beyond debilitating emotional enslavement. Someone who shows little direct overt effects of trauma may be just as significantly blocked from an ability to grow and change as someone demonstrating obvious outward symptoms from trauma.

At no fault of their own, the addict with trauma unintentionally values this protective psychic resistance over the desire to risk change, including the demanding changes necessary for an addict to become and remain sober — no matter how dire and desperate their desire to be free of addiction. Trauma often insults a person’s ability to change and adapt by inflicting intrusive unconscious reactions that shut down their ability to mentally process their complete palette of emotions. How does this affect their chances at recovery from addiction? Therapy consists of a series of techniques and interventions designed to help clients reconcile and align their behaviors with their own intrinsic values. Research bares out that the most effective approach to combatting addiction and regaining health is a holistic one. A holistic approach to treatment summons all aspects of a person including, if not especially, emotional well-being. If a person in substance addiction treatment has a compromised ability to feel, identify and regulate their emotions, they are not likely to enjoy success in maintaining their sobriety. They may appear compliant in their treatment, express increased knowledge about their addiction, and yet be prone to relapse and multiple treatments.

Of the many clients I have had work with Barbera, a case in particular brings to mind the astounding healing power of her trauma interventions. Few of my clinical staff held much hope that a 40 year-old male client, repeatedly relapsing from chronic alcoholism and other methods of self-harm, could reverse his self-destruction. After experiencing years of untreated childhood trauma related to a parent’s long-term battle with terminal cancer, the client resorted to self-medication with numerous types of drugs, alcohol and several process addictions. His denial of the severity of his conditions was stunning, as he could relate stories of broken relationships, lost high-powered jobs, financial ruin, repeated addiction treatments and many narrow misses with death directly due to his addictions — without flinching. An over-compensating ego had been fueled by success as an NCAA football player, well-paid regional sales manager for a prosperous technology company, and ability to superficially charm members of the opposite sex. Despite his increasing loss of control over his life, the client refused to relent that his willpower would deliver him from the death-grip of his addiction.

When encouraged to conduct an individual therapy session with Barbera using the STAR methodology of trauma therapy, the client initially declined, stating that he was too tough an individual to be influenced by such work. After repeated encouragement to try it, the client reluctantly agreed with great cynicism. Witnessing the astonishment on the part of this client following his session, as to the meaningful break-through he received, only indicates the level of resistance he intended to assert, and the depth of emotional damage he had been harboring for years. This client literally became another person after his work with Barbara. He exhibited never-before seen traits of humility and regard for himself in pursuing a balanced and healthy life. His addiction therapy transformed into a celebration of possibility from the gridlock battle it had been previously. To exceed the boasts that this therapy could never work for him required the client to experience an outcome not foreseen by him in order to circumvent his un-scalable wall of compensating ego. Staff members refer to this case and its eye-popping personality transformation to this day.

Overcoming addiction is an arduous, painstaking process. Virtually by definition, it is a messy proposition restoring a life ravaged by substance dependency. In the best of circumstances, people proceed through the process of addiction treatment at their own pace dependent on the individual’s desire to change, willingness to explore new ideas, and level of tolerance to adapt and take healthy risks. The methodologies used by Barbara to intervene on this pivotal inner conflict for people with addiction and trauma disorders opens doors of possibilities for many to gain a foothold on brilliant new lives.

Greg SchlichterMA in Addiction Studies and Co-Occuring Disorders, Board Certified Counselor (BCC), Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC II), Licensed Professional Certified Counselor-eligible (LPCC-eligible)

I have worked with Barbera Bashan for over a decade. I refer patients to her with traumatic events, past and currant. Her expertise is an in-depth, very effective technique that helps to process and integrate distressing personal issues.

When people engage in this particular therapy, they are able to move on in life without the shame, guilt, horror, fear or feelings of being a victim. The therapy allows them to break the shackles of their trauma to achieve a more joyous life. As a result, they oft times are able to decrease or eliminate medications as their mood lifts and changes.

I have not had positive results like this with other types of therapy including medication, hypnosis or talk therapy. Barbera gives a feeling of safety and competence as she does this treatment. The patient’s feedback is overwhelmingly positive regarding Barbera’s professionalism, as well as her skill.

I refer to Barbera because she is so effective. I am happy to whole-heartedly recommend her to you.

Ann Huycke MDDoctor of Naturopathic MedicineMetta Health Care

Since growing up in a dysfunctional family system I have been aware of both the nurture and the nature of our physical and emotional being. In my career I have spent 38 years assisting and helping others make new choices about their lives. I was curious as to how much difference the STAR technique would change the years of talk and experiential therapies I have practiced. Through Barbera’s skilled and compassionate handling of the session, I was able to gently detach any leftover residue from my history. I must say Barbera has both passion and temperament for this work. I have found this cutting edge technique to be valuable, helpful, and life changing.

Joyce TurnboomCounselor, Boise, ID (208) 338-9766

My name is Pat Neeser. I am an alcoholic in recovery for 38 years through Alcoholics Anonymous and personal therapy. I am a licensed clinical social worker in private practice and hold an alcohol drug counselor certification. I went to Barbera’s STAR session thinking I had already done all the work necessary to be whole and complete. I was wrong. Since my session, I have been calmer than ever before and triggers (memories, events) that used to set off predictable negative reactions seem to be neutralized. I had a similar experience when I went through EMDR, but I believe STAR has been much more effective. I now realize that I am not my story; I am free to choose my responses and focus on living in the present.

Pat Neeser, LCSW; CADCLicensed Clinical Social Worker; Alcohol/ Drug Counselor

Barbera began providing services to clients at Two Dreams in the spring of 2012. All I can say is that Barbera and her work has made a huge positive impact on the clients and on the treatment program. Her primary role at Two Dreams was in the clinical setting as an auxiliary intervention used to promote growth and change not only physically but mentally and spiritually as well. Her capabilities were apparent almost immediately. Client’s comments were overwhelmingly positive after intense sessions with Barbera and the clinical staff became aware of amazing positive shifts. Her insight helped bridge the gap between mind and body in a way I have never seen before. She is able to reach a place that talk-therapy cannot go and allows the clinical staff then to guide the self-healing process. Barbera’s virtues extend far beyond her professional qualifications; she is a true pleasure to work with. One of our therapist’s describes her as “intelligent, dynamic, always taking initiative, and personable”. She is a team player while being highly autonomous, and has developed meaningful relationships with clients and staff alike. An important unexpected bonus of working with Barbera was her impact on the staff at Two Dreams. Much of what the clients experienced, the staff experienced the same. Her contagious enthusiasm and positive energy encourages others in what we all know to be a stressful work environment. She has an ability to re-energize those around her. Given Barbera’s significant impact during her time with us, we certainly desire to keep her connected to our center and our clients. I can only say that rarely have I seen one individual make such a large contribution to this important work.

Sidney Miltz, MEd, LPC, CSAT, MACChief Clinical Officer and Administrator, Two Dreams Addiction Center

As a clinician working with clients diagnosed with substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders I have seen over and over the effects of trauma.  Many clients are afraid to address their traumas due to a fear of emotions that are produced.  My experience is that this leads to relapse.  This is why Barbera’s work is so important. I have experienced for myself and witnessed the immediate and powerful impact Barbera’s work has on clients.

I think of Barbera’s work as a key that unlocks parts of the brain that traditional “talk therapy” is unable to. After STAR sessions, clients have a sense of neutrality around past events and relationships that have been previously highly distressing.  After their STAR experiences, clients have a new sense of acceptance and are in a place where traditional therapy is much more effective. While my personal experience with Barbera has increased my efficacy with clients, it has also been transformational in my personal life.

Having experienced numerous modalities of therapy, self-help models, 12 Step programs and spiritual retreats, I can say that my session with Barbera was the most potent.  It has provided me with a deep sense of spiritual understanding and connection that coincides well with my personal path of recovery from addiction. I highly endorse Barbera’s STAR program for clinicians, clients with substance use disorders, mental health disorders, and anyone genuinely seeking personal growth.

As an expressive therapist and lifelong student of transformative practices, my curiosity was immediately piqued when a friend mentioned Barbera Bashan’s STAR process. On a conscious level, I went to Barbera to learn about the technique rather than to address any specific personal emotional/psycho/social issues.

At the start of the session, Barbera quickly helped me to identify a negatively charged memory involving complex traumatic loss, the unconscious residue of which I had been carrying for over three decades. Guided by her understanding of physiology, neuro-anatomy, and deeply soulful insight, Barbera masterfully guided me through unpacking and releasing numerous fear-based emotions, while simultaneously accessing and awakening generative emotional and spiritual resources.

Barbera’s supportive, caring, knowledgeable, and grounded presence helped me to feel very safe and protected throughout the entire process. The integrative experience of STAR takes place on multiple levels of consciousness, many of which occur outside of language centers of the brain. As a result, it is challenging to put the process and continued unfolding of the work into words. It has been three weeks since my session, and I continue to feel an energetic shift which includes a sense of lightness, openness, and grounded presence. The honey-gold- rose-light of my STAR experience continues to glow.

Karla Hanks PhD.CIIS Transformative Studies; Certified Thanatologist (ADEC)

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I felt safe, relaxed, and open. As we visited during the beginning of the session Jenn listened intently and never judged anything I said or told her. It was easy to open up and allow the process to proceed. I discovered that the heaviness of responsibility I carry around is not me but something I wear. It has lightened my load immensely! I am a caregiver and a healer by nature but the overwhelming responsibility I carry is not me. I feel lighter, more peaceful, less frazzled, and less critical. Jenn is truly talented and gifted in the work she does. Holding space is difficult and she seems to do it effortlessly with love.

Cyndi T.

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