Wilma Bass Date: July 28, 2009
Interviewers: Artem Agafanov, Vanessa Arnaud, Shirley Taylor, David Harris, Christine Fairless, Elise Marinkovich with Howard Levin
Wilma Bass, MFT, is a licensed mental health professional who has been active in the field of trauma response for two decades. She is the founder of Trauma Outreach Associates, Inc., a group specializing in providing state-of-the-art crisis intervention services to businesses that experience a workplace critical incident. Wilma is inspired and invigorated by the scope of crisis intervention and trauma response in restoring equilibrium following a traumatic experience. Wilma has consulted to a wide array of organizations, from schools to non-profits to businesses. She has been a regular contributor to Urban School's Telling Their Stories project, advising teachers and students as well as volunteering since 2003.

Click on links below to watch and listen to Wilma's answers. If movies do not appear in the left frame after clicking the answers below, install the free Quicktime Player and try again.

Known errors or those requiring clarification are signified with this text style. Please report other errors to: oralhistory@urbanschool.org.

Wilma Bass was interviewed by adult members of the 2009 week-long workshop, Telling Their Stories: Producing Web-Based Digital Video Oral Histories summer professional development course. This section is not transcribed but instead the interview is presented in total via the seven parts below.

  • Part 1 of 7 - interviewer introductions; introduction of Wilma Bass; growing up in South Africa and her own experience witnessing trauma; active in anti-Apartheid movement; jailed in South Africa due to protest; her reasons for getting involved in the anti-Apartheid movement; reasons for entering field as trauma therapist; defining trauma and characteristics.
  • Part 2 of 7 - separating personal life from work as a therapist; compassion fatigue and vicarious traumatization where the listener can take on symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); need for healthy practices for interviewer/listeners; preparation and debriefing strategies with students (direct instruction about trauma); healing benefits for the interviewee in having his/her story witnessed; making debriefing process safe for students via a confidentiality understanding; strategies to help student/interviewers.
  • Part 3 of 7 - potential of triggers of trauma for interviewee; signs and symptoms of trauma; cognitive symptoms (ex., confusion, concentration, forgetfulness); emotional; behavioral (eg., addiction); somatic/physical (eg. sweating, nausea, heart palpitation, breathing difficulties); range of trauma and human resiliency; being non-judgmental and respectful.
  • Part 4 of 7 - varied responses of students/interviewers; varied victim responses; flight or fight mode (examples from animal world); more on supporting students/interviewers (checking in, journaling); power of the interview group process.
  • Part 5 of 7 - students/interviewers who do not react; secondary trauma as passed down via generations; characteristics of PTSD; brain mapping of trauma centers; disconnection of emotions from physical body; therapy centering around mind-body harmony; collective bonding of mass event.
  • Part 6 of 7 - caring for selves when interviewing trauma; her experiences with Telling Their Stories and Max Garcia's interviews; when to move forward or hold back on going deeper; showing empathy; reads letter to Max Garcia in 2003; bringing witness back to their moments of trauma.
  • Part 7 of 7 - interviewer's capacity to be with the interviewer; tips/advice on how interviewee can listen and attend to trauma stories (take stock of self, avoiding detachment, healthy food and exercise, using the group as support); preparing for possibility of interviewees attempts to shock interviewers into understanding their story; exercises to learn boundaries.



next page