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Innovative Therapy Helps Minn. Girl Deal With Traumatic Past

Washburn Center For Children Using Technique Because It Gets Results
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A girl scarred by unspeakable horrors in her home country of Colombia is now telling her story. It’s all thanks to an innovative therapy helped her heal – and regain memories of her lost father.

Meet Danny Campos today and it’s hard to imagine the trauma that clouds her past.

It’s a story that starts in Colombia, where Campos was born, where her father was a politician, and where he was brutally assassinated when she was only six years old.

“I was really little and that was really hard,” she said. “Because my whole life was turned over.”

Campos and her family moved around the country for the next two years waiting for political asylum and fearing for their lives.

“We had to move around because we were being followed,” she said. “It was pretty scary. Every time we went outside, we were scared somebody was going to come after us.”

When they moved to Minnesota, the fears should have been behind her. But they weren’t. In many ways, Campos’ mind was still in Colombia.

“You kind of get used to being like paranoid that something is going to happen every time you go outside your house,” she said.

She was hyper-vigilant, worried about every little noise and was scared to go outside.

“Bad people would come in and try to get me and be after me,” she said. “But most was part of my imagination, because of what I’d lived through.”

Worse yet, after two years of turmoil and terror, she’d forgotten just about everything about her father.

“I kind of forced myself to forget a lot of things,” she said. “Every time I would remember him, it would bring the pain back.”

David Hong is a trauma therapist at Washburn Center for Children in South Minneapolis.

“Any memory of the loved one who is lost is accompanied by severe pain,” said Hong. “So, it’s hard to remember that person.”

Hong helped her remember.

“She had a really hard time crying when it came to the memory of the trauma,” he said. “Of her father’s murder and of her father.”

They wrote the story as part of her therapy, working in Spanish because Campos barely spoke English back then.

“We’d meet like once a week,” said Campos. “I would just be talking to him and telling it. And he’d just type it.”

They worked on it for months, and with each revision, Campos would remember more of the good things about her father. Not just the pain of the assassination.

“Every time, every week, I’d remember more stuff,” she said. “So, we’d just keep adding to it.”

Trauma narrative is a key component of TF-CBT, Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy. It’s the same technique Hong used to help Saiku Kanneh, who was stuck in a bus when the Interstate 35W bridge went down, build up the courage to cross the new bridge a year later.

It was considered an innovative technique when he used it with Kanneh and Campos, but it’s become more common because it gets results.

“Just talking about it more and more helped me get used to the fact that it was something real,” Campos said.

“It’s the process of finding a way to do that in a way that’s not over-traumatizing,” said Hong.

In Campos’ case, it helped her remember the right part of her past.

“He was a great dad and a great man,” she said. “He tried to change the world. Unfortunately, he died because of it.”

To see more of our stories or learn more about Washburn, just click here.

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