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Building Awareness and Preparing for Action: Domestic Human Sex Trafficking

January 10, 2018

As part of the 2018 Continuing Education (CE) Series at MSP, Core Faculty member Ann Smith, PsyD will offer a workshop entitled “Building Awareness and Preparing for Action: Domestic Human Sex Trafficking” on January 31 on campus.  Dr. Smith offers the following as a workshop preview.  

I am still struck by the looks of disbelief mixed with horror when I venture into a conversation with an acquaintance about the problem of human sex trafficking in Michigan.  

I, too, used to imagine girls in Nepal or India (somewhere “over there”) as only those vulnerable to the atrocities of sex slavery.  My beliefs were changed rather profoundly when I sat in my cozy private practice office and finally recognized that it wasn’t ghosts of the past that fueled a raging eating disorder and self-harm, but rather, present day unthinkable trauma in the form of one human being sold by other human beings for a cash profit.

It isn’t always easy or obvious to see the invisible wounds of a person being profoundly harmed.  Despite training in rigorous inpatient hospital settings and sitting with patients for years who presented with more serious difficulties, I felt very ill prepared to identify the signs and respond to both my patients’ and my own angst in this matter. 

In the years since, Attorney General Bill Schuette has cited Michigan as ranking second in the nation for human sex trafficking; our border location, trucking paths, and waterways fostering greater opportunity for this visibly invisible crime to manifest and flourish.

Extensive research and a refusal to look away from those who remain enslaved lead me to commit to helping my students and colleagues to feel better prepared to lean into the uncomfortable territory associated with the human suffering and maltreatment directly and indirectly associated with this heinous crime.

This particular population generally calls for a greater integration of creative interventions than traditional psychotherapy courses offer. My advocacy efforts have primarily focused on expanding training, educating, and consultation efforts, as well as an interest in raising awareness in the community at large.  I assist therapists, attorneys, and medical professionals to more readily identify symptoms and modes of survival that are common among traumatized people, as well as provide insight and clarity regarding the tactics used to silence victims and create perpetrator trauma bonds.

On January 31st from 6 to 9:30 PM, I will facilitate a Continuing Education training, hosted by MSP, outlining the nature of the problem in Michigan and offering some measures that professionals can take to feel better prepared to respond.  Specific suggestions will be discussed for modifying standard protocols in practice; rapport building, engaging survivors in helping relationships (not an easy task), and relational dynamics that frequently emerge will be discussed. 

This training will be relevant for clinicians sitting with a broad spectrum of patients with complex trauma, furthering understanding of how extreme trauma might manifest symptomatically, in order to expand our understanding of and responses to patients that challenge even advanced practitioners. 

Find out more information about this training or register now.  

Ann Smith, PsyD - psychology associatesAnn Smith, PsyD is a Core Faculty member at MSP, where she provides clinical supervision for doctoral students and chairs several dissertations concerning trauma.  She teaches students to lean into uncomfortable territory associated with human suffering and maltreatment and to integrate creative interventions with traditional psychotherapy. Her clinical practice at Dennis & Moye & Associates in Bloomfield Hills focuses on consultation with and advocacy for women in accessing quality psychological treatment, trauma-informed medical care, and legal assistance.