When classical guitarist Karen Schoenhals first learned about how the Trauma Resolution Center of Miami was helping people overcome post-traumatic stress disorder, she thought she would be the one whom the center couldn’t help.
Once she started treatment in 2012, she realized she was wrong.
“I almost feel like I had soul surgery, it was that extreme,” she said.
Now, Schoenhals plans to give back to the TRC in the way she knows best — through her music. On Saturday, she will perform in a classical guitar benefit concert to raise funds for the TRC, which helps people find relief from PTSD, anxiety and depression associated with traumatic life events.
Exhibiting an array of musical moods and including the “Concerto de Aranjuez” by Joaquín Rodrigo, Schoenhals will be joined by musicians Katarina Franjic, Scott Tripp and Bryan Morgan Smith.
Having left a career in the software industry to pursue her passion, Schoenhals performs regularly in South Florida.
“The way I’ve always been able to give is through music,” she said. “I’m more comfortable playing music for someone than saying a bunch of words. I feel like my words fall short.”
But Schoenhals had no lack of words for how the TRC helped her when a series of life stressors, including her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s and a visit to her childhood home, triggered unresolved childhood trauma and a diagnosis of PTSD.
“Nothing ever really got deep down,” she said. “Here, you deal with the deep stuff. And I felt safe enough to deal with it, and I’ve never felt that way anywhere else.”
The TRC is a nonprofit organization founded by Teresa Descilo in 1995. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office helped in the founding after concluding that mental health needs of crime victims weren’t being met.
Today, the center offers a holistic treatment approach to children and adults for traumas such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, torture, stalking, natural disaster and attempted homicide.
The core of the TRC is Trauma Incident Reduction (TIR), in which a facilitator helps guide the client through past negative experiences that are stored in the unconscious. One-on-one sessions are supplemented with massage, acupuncture, mediation, yoga and psycho-educational groups that help clients understand their trauma.
“There have been so many people who came here and just couldn’t function, then they leave and they are going to school and getting jobs,” executive director Descilo said. “It’s so frequent, it’s awesome.
“We know what we do is incredibly effective,” said Descilo. “It eliminates or completely diminishes PTSD, depression and anxiety in a relatively short period of time, about 25 hours.”
Descilo believes the TRC helps empower those who feel like failures after conventional methods don’t work.
“These people have been fried by one-size-fits-all treatment,” she said.
Schoenhals was one of those people.
“I had a therapist, but the approach she was using didn’t work,” she said. After researching online and reading books, she discovered the method and the center.
Despite the success rate, finances are a constant source of stress. Many TRC services are free to Miami-Dade residents, and while the county provides most of the funding, the center has a wait list of about 80 and will have to halt admissions in the coming months.
“I wish I could hire five more clinical staff right now,” Descilo said. “I’ve been having to turn people away, and it’s hard, but I’ve had to get real,’’ she said. “I really think once it’s really grasped what we do someone is going to pour money into it.”
Descilo hopes that the concert inspires people to donate or even sponsor a client, which costs $3,000. There will also be a silent auction for massages, acupuncture, artwork and dining.
Schoenhals said she will wrap up the concert with a poem she wrote.
“I always feel like I have the strength of this place behind me, in my heart,” she said. “I feel like I learned how to be myself here.”