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Touches Help Survivors, Counselor Says

R.L. Smith Published: August 27, 1986

Wounded victims and unhurt survivors of the Edmond post office massacre "do not need fancy therapy. They need a subtle hug, a friendly hand on the arm, a touch on the shoulder," said a Boston psychologist.

Clinical therapist Barbara Kaplan was the victim of a multiple shooting in 1981 in which two associates were killed at a health center north of Boston.

She is part of a six-member team from the National Organization of Victims Assistance (NOVA) and visited Mercy Health Center Friday to talk with professionals who are helping victims of the post office shootings.

"The victims and families need counseling and therapy to help integrate the incident into their lives. This therapy is not as a mental-health patient, but to relieve the trauma of the shock," Kaplan said.

"The wounded victims in the future may suffer from anger, guilt, flashbacks, dreams, be tearful, be startled by certain sounds and in some cases become withdrawn.

"You cannot be shot or injured in such a manner, nor be a family member or even a close friend, and not undergo substantial stress, and this can be helped through emotional counseling and therapy."

Kaplan said the Washington, D.C.-based organization was asked to help the families and victims by state Attorney General Mike Turpen.

The NOVA team includes people from San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington and Boston who have had experience working with the aftermath of mass shootings or have themselves been involved in incidents of this type.

NOVA teams were accompanied by members of the state department of mental health.

About 20 members of Mercy's medical staff who attended the wounded postal workers attended the session.

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