RCASA’s Sunday Book/Article Review: SMART

In Advocacy, Sexual Assault Awareness on December 27, 2009 at 9:00 am

Article Review:  SMART by Tanya Singleton

Victims of sexual assault present with many signs and symptoms of traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, panic disorders, to name a few.  Below is the review of a treatment modality which can easily be adapted to minister to anyone suffering from a traumatic experience.

A holistic approach to the treatment of clients suffering from PTSD has been utilized by Chan, Chan and Ng (2006), tested in the aftermath of the SARS epidemic in China.  This program was called the Strength-Focused and Meaning-Oriented Approach to Resilience and Transformation (SMART) approach to trauma management.  This group incorporated Eastern spiritual teachings, expressive therapy, and yoga, meditation, and psychoeducational techniques to promote dynamic coping skills among its clientele.  Compared to conventional trauma management, which the authors describe as:

a pathology-based framework . . . geared toward the removal of symptoms and the revival of functioning to a pre-crisis level . . . and . . . . has become an endeavor of reaching down and salvaging vulnerable people from all sorts of personal predicaments and social injustices.  The key objectives are to identify vulnerabilities and to apply remedial patchwork. (p. 11-12)

The holistic approach, instead, recognizes trauma as an opportunity to guide an individual towards transformation.  Posttraumatic growth can facilitate positive changes in life perspective, interpersonal relationships, and the self.

This approach is time-limited, accomplished in a six-week series, and attempts to foster growth in persons experiencing a crisis.  The SMART intervention is built on the principle that “the mind and body constitutes the synthetic whole of a person . . . physical components that can bring about emotional change . . . to heal is to strengthen the patient’s entire bodily system by restoring the balance” (p. 19-20).

Many components of the SMART intervention are in keeping with a Spiritual philosophy, which will be supported in the following section of this paper.  Three aspects of the intervention are (1) exploring alternative meanings through spiritual teaching, which include teachings on suffering, unpredictability, karma, and perseverance; (2) building strengths through physical expression, and (3) consolidating new meanings and strengths through psycho-education.  Approaching spirituality in a non-religious  way asks the questions “why me, why do bad things happen to good people, and what is the purpose of suffering?”  The above listed  Eastern approaches that mirror Christian ones have to do with unpredictability, which is answered Scripturally by Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you , declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future”; and perseverance – “. . .let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance  the race marked out for us” (Heb. 12:1).

The three aspects are addressed through the following strategies; (1) emphasizing growth through pain, (2) teaching the mind-body-spirit connection, (3) developing an appreciation of nature, (4) facilitating cognitive re-appraisal, (5), nourishing social support, and (6) promoting the compassionate helper principle.  The outcome of utilizing the SMART approach demonstrated an increase in social commitment, mastery of life, and learning and growth in the adolescent population studied. 

Chan, C. , Chan T., & Ng, S. (2006). The strength-focused and meaning-oriented approach to resilience and transformation (SMART): A body-mind-spirit approach to trauma   management.   International Social Health Care Policy, Programs, and Studies , 9-35.

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