Last week, I did a presentation about ACEs science and trauma for 150 people who attended Stanislaus County’s 17th Annual Family Domestic Violence Conference in Modesto, CA. The conference participants work in family court, social services, education, law enforcement, and probation.
From the Merced Sun Star, Merced County, CA:
When I became a pastor as a young man, I was prepared to minister to my congregants through all phases of their lives. I expected to spend my time welcoming new babies into the world, sharing biblical principles with thriving families, and ministering to our elders in their last days. I knew I would be called upon to offer comfort through hard times, illness and loss.
What I didn’t expect to do much of was bury parishioners in their 40s and 50s, or even in their teens – men, women and children who died from everything from heart attacks to lung disease to suicide; parishioners who were suffering mightily from a lifetime of seemingly bad choices.
For years, I tried to figure out what was going on. Had I signed up to be a pastor in the dysfunctional family capital of America? I moved to another community and found the same despair and early demise among parishioners of all economic backgrounds and ethnicities.
I began reading up on family trauma, trying to get a handle on what was going on. It wasn’t until my wife handed me a copy of a study by Drs. Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda that it finally began to make sense.
Felitti, who was then head of the department of preventive medicine at Kaiser Permanente, and Anda, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had studied the life histories and health of 17,000+ Kaiser patients in San Diego. They found a far higher-than-expected degree of “adverse childhood experiences” or ACEs, including abuse, neglect and various types of household dysfunction. And they found something else that was groundbreaking: the impact of these ACEs lasts a lifetime, affecting not just behavior and mood but our physical health.
In their study, Felitti and Anda listed 10 types of childhood traumas, and assigned each study participant a point for each type of trauma they had experienced. So, for instance, a person whose father had been an alcoholic and had left the family would have an ACE score of 2. Felitti and Anda found that those with ACE scores of 4 or above were many times more likely to suffer from a whole host of ailments – everything from heart disease and asthma to chronic pulmonary lung disease and dementia.
Here was my answer. Here was why I was spending so much of my ministry burying people who were far too young to be dead.
Fast forward several years, I decided that helping people overcome adverse childhood experiences is my true calling. I left the ministry and went back to school to study psychology. I studied the research on how ACEs have this dramatic impact, learning that trauma results in toxic stress that can have a profound effect on a child’s developing brain and body.
I developed ACE Overcomers, a 12-week program in which I teach participants to retrain their brains and reset their nervous systems. I help participants understand the impact of what they went through as children, and to see that they can make different choices today. Among the many positive outcomes, participants have reported that they parent differently now, helping to break the cycle of family trauma in ways I could only dream of back when I was a young pastor.
Adverse childhood experiences are common and widespread: two-thirds of Californians have reported at least one ACE. No single type of intervention can do it all. That’s why I now lead workshops on working with childhood trauma for educators, social service agencies, law enforcement, and religious organizations.
That’s also why I am thrilled to be part of the first-ever statewide summit on overcoming ACEs in San Francisco. The summit convened by the Center for Youth Wellness will bring together health professionals, policymakers, advocates and educators to address what is truly a public health crisis in our state. By marshaling our state’s resources, we can chart a common course forward to heal all of our children so that they can go on to become healthy, thriving adults. [Note: This California ACEs summit subsequently convened in November 2014; report at https://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/ca-aces/ ]
Pastor Lockridge, of Atwater, is the founder and director of ACE Overcomers, a nonprofit to help teens and adults overcome the effects of a difficult childhood.
Merced Matters: Former pastor helps people overcome traumatic childhood experiences
October 19, 2014 07:37 PM
Understanding and overcoming the effects of a difficult childhood are essential for a healthy adult life, at least according to Dave Lockridge’s research findings.
Lockridge, 61, is the founder and executive director of ACE Overcomers, a local program that focuses on helping people understand the mental, physical and cognitive effects of adverse childhood experiences.
The Atwater resident offers weekly faith-based and community-based classes in Merced County and travels across the country presenting his ACE Overcomers curriculum, a compilation of a decade of research.
Currently, Lockridge’s curriculum, titled “Overcoming a Difficult Childhood,” is being used in a number of states and Canadian provinces, he said.
According to Lockridge, early childhood stressors, such as abuse, neglect or a dysfunctional household, produce emotional and physiological changes in a person that causes them to take on destructive behaviors that cause their early death.
“We teach people to calm their nervous system and become better aware of their responses, and to monitor and then moderate what they’re doing,” he said.
Lockridge said in the five years of his program’s existence, he has seen scores of people labeled with various disorders. “I’ve seen people with eating disorders, ADHD, ADD, bipolar disorder, but really there was nothing wrong with them. They had just experienced a stressful childhood,” he said.
The program helps these people manage their emotions and behaviors, encouraging them to lead productive lives, he said. ACE Overcomers has also been introduced to school officials in an attempt to better understand the causes and effects of children’s and teens’ behaviors.
Lockridge first became interested in studying psychology about 11 years ago during his time as a pastor in the Central Valley.
“I kiddingly say that pastors only have two jobs: we marry and we bury. The problem is I was burying more people than I was marrying,” he said. “People who had the genetics to live up to their 80s, I was burying them way too early.”
Lockridge returned to school and obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology. “This way I can marry biblical principles with solid science and create a program that is scientifically sound and yet biblically accurate,” he added.
The former pastor also offers classes at the Merced County Rescue Mission and serves as an intervention specialist at Yosemite and Sequoia high schools. He is also a chairman for the Family Wellness Council of Merced County.
Recently, Lockridge approached UC Merced, where a team of researchers is studying his program’s effectiveness.
Don Caballero, a pastor and program director at the Madera County Rescue Mission, took Lockridge’s leadership class that would enable him to become a facilitator. Caballero now teaches a four-hour ACE class at the Madera County jail every Friday.
According to Caballero, many of the inmates connect with the class. He’s witnessed how inmates come to a realization that their tough childhood experiences did in fact play a role in their adult choices, he said.
Caballero believes the ACE Overcomers works not only because of all the research and science the program is based on, but because of Lockridge’s genuine interest in restoring lives and families.
“He is so passionate about what he is doing,” Caballero said. “His hope is to see lives transform, and that makes all the difference in the world.”