What is the Impact of Childhood Medical Trauma?

One of the most important outcomes of the therapy we do at ITK is to reduce the long-term impact of medical trauma on children.  Trauma impacts a developing child’s brain and body in a very particular way.  It is different than the normal stress and challenges of childhood, in that these are stressors that are scary, chronic, unpredictable, and often difficult for adults in the child’s life to navigate or help support.


In her book, Childhood Disrupted, Donna Jackson Nazakawa, describes how adverse, chronic stressors in childhood change the very architecture of a child’s brain.  In the case of trauma (which distinguishes it from normal stress), the genes that drive stress hormones go into overdrive, triggering an inflammatory response that can last lifelong in a child.  She writes, “This early biological blueprint depicts our proclivity to develop life-altering adult illness such as heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, fibromyalgia, and depression.”  This means that even if a child is “cured” of an illness in childhood, the trauma of hospitalization and treatment of a life-altering medical condition can set that child up for a lifetime of secondary medical problems.   That is, unless the child is given therapy and support during treatment.


This is ITK’s unique and deeply valuable contribution to the treatment of children with special medical needs.  By providing therapy that supports not just physical, but also emotional, psychological and spiritual healing, we give children the ability to heal from not just their illness but also the trauma of hospitalization and treatment.  By also treating the families of these children, we help reduce trauma in parents, siblings and caregivers, which allows them to be more present and supportive of the child.  In this way, ITK not only contributes to the healing and well being of children with special medical needs in the here and now, but also sets them and their families up for ongoing wellness in the future.

How to Elicit the Relaxation Response

At ITK we understand the profound importance of caring for the whole child in body, mind, heart and spirit. When we see others in the health care profession who strive to attain the same goal we love to give their work a shout out and share some of the great insights they have to offer!

Herbert Benson, MD, has been a pioneer in Mind Body Medicine. Throughout his 40+-year career, Dr. Benson has worked to bridge the gap between Western and Eastern medical practices. A graduate of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Benson continues to lead the field with research into the efficacy of Mind Body Medicine to counteract the harmful effects of stress.

In his bestselling book Relaxation Revolution Dr. Herbert Benson shows that by calming the mind, one can calm the body and alleviate stress, pain, and illness. Recent landmark research from the genome project has proven Benson's theory: using the mind to quiet the body not only eases stress, it actually alters the activity of thousands of genes, promoting wellness. Science now proves that relaxation not only changes how a patient feels physically and emotionally but, it also has the power to transform genes, molecules, cells, and other physiological functions to relieve a variety of conditions from high blood pressure to chronic joint pain. The relaxation response can simply be thought of as “a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress”... It is the opposite of the fight or flight response.

 So how do you enter this state of relaxation, and trigger your body’s natural stress defense? Dr. Benson details a simple step-by-step technique that anyone can use.

1.   Sit quietly in a comfortable position.

2.  Close your eyes.

3. Deeply relax all your muscles, 
beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face. 
Keep them relaxed.

4.  Breathe through your nose. 
Become aware of your breathing. Focus on a word, phrase, short prayer, or only your breathing. If you choose for example the word “one”
As you breathe out, say the word, "one", 
silently to yourself. For example, 
breathe in ... out, "one",- in .. out, "one", etc. 
Breathe easily and naturally.

5.  Continue for 10 to 20 minutes. 
You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm. 
When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes, 
at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened. 
Do not stand up for a few minutes.

6.  Do not worry about whether you are successful
in achieving a deep level of relaxation. 
Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace. 
When distracting thoughts occur, 
try to ignore them by not dwelling upon them
and return to repeating "one."

With practice, the response should come with little effort. 
Practice the technique once or twice daily, 
but not within two hours after any meal, 
since the digestive processes seem to interfere with
the elicitation of the Relaxation Response.

The relaxation response can help people to counteract the toxic effects of chronic stress by slowing breathing rate, relaxing muscles, and reducing blood pressure. Through eliciting the relaxation response, in combination with standard medical treatment, you may also find that you can reduce your medication dosage or have less invasive surgical procedures. This ideally is a daily practice you can use to keep you feeling great all year long. Happy relaxing from all of us at ITK!

5 Essential Elements of Wellbeing!

Because at ITK we absolutely love wellness, we wanted to open our blog with fantastic wellness tips and ideas that you can use in your daily life. It feels so good to live in harmony with your deepest source of inner and outer wellbeing!

What differentiates a life filled with struggle from one that is happy and thriving?

Gallup scientists love doing polls! Recently, in partnership with leading economists, psychologists and other scientists, they explored the common elements of wellbeing that transcend countries and cultures. What we love about this data is that it came from research conducted in more than 150 countries!

5 Key Elements of Wellbeing

These elements are the currency of a life that matters. They do not include every nuance of what's important in life, but they do represent five broad categories that are essential to most people.

  • The first element is about how you occupy your time or simply liking what you do every day: your Career Wellbeing.

  • The second element is about having strong relationships and love in your life: your Social Wellbeing.

  • The third element is about effectively managing your economic life: your Financial Wellbeing.

  • The fourth element is about having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis: your Physical Wellbeing.

  • The fifth element is about the sense of engagement you have with the area where you live: your Community Wellbeing.

While 66% of people are doing well in at least one of these areas, just 7% are thriving in all five. If we're struggling in any one of these domains, as most of us are, it takes a toll on our wellbeing and creates strain in our daily life. 

However, there is a simple solution to this problem! If we can find short-term incentives that are consistent with our long-term objectives, it is much easier to make positive changes in the moment.

For example, we are more likely to skip an impulsive trip to fast food when we consider the short-term reality that chowing down now will lead to a "high-fat hangover" that ruins the rest of the day. Or we might choose to exercise now because we know that just 20 minutes of activity can boost our mood for the next 12 hours.


So, today is the day to inspire yourself to make long term changes by focusing on short term gains. You can do it! Your ITK community is right here with you, cheering you along every step of the way!

To learn more about this topic, be sure to check out the book Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath and Jim Harter, Ph.D.

ITK's Latest and Greatest!

We are delighted to announce the new Integrative Touch for Kids website!  Our website now offers user-friendly access to ticket purchasing for all our special events, photos of our programming, current information on our community endeavors, and so much more!  Please enjoy!


Did you hear?! ITK was recently awarded a generous grant of $67,000 from State Farm to help grow Our Hospital Heroes Program! To expand the care provided by the health professionals at Banner Diamond Children's Hospital, our Hospital Heroes program brings integrative wellness into hospital rooms and offers free service to children, siblings, and their care givers. We are thrilled to enhance our program to serve even more members of our wonderful community. Check out our Hospital Heroes page under the Programs tab to learn more about the work we are doing!

Stay tuned for more late-breaking ITK NEWS!