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may suffer from anger, guilt, flashbacks, dreams, be tearful, be startled by certain sounds and in some cases become withdrawn.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.
Victims need to know as much about their own situation as you can tell them, and they need to know as much about the incident as they want to know, Kaplan said.
They must have a sense of understanding what happened, and they need to know about their medical situation.
"Their range of feeling is from being quite numb to upset to euphoria over being alive, and it is important that they realize all of these feelings are very normal," Kaplan said.
It is important to make their lives, as they are right now, very real, and to integrate the incident into their thinking, Kaplan said.
This holds true for all of the victims, wounded or not, and for surviving family members, she said.
"If you can listen and talk about what happened, it will help those who are involved, but some may not want to talk very much," she said.
"It is not necessary for you to respond too much, and you should not be judgmental about the incident, what they did or what happened.
"I remember when I was wounded, my husband felt vengefulness, rage and a great sense of guilt because he was not there to protect me," she said.
"This guilt was a consuming thing with my husband, even though he was 40 miles away when it happened and there was absolutely nothing he should have felt guilty about," she said.
"Surviving family members need counseling and assistance from ministers, friends, therapists and others who can help with understanding, rationalization and acceptance to deal with the frustration of loss, anger, guilt and fear." BIOG: NAME:Archive ID: 279681