Meet Terrorist Therapist and Wellness Warrior: Dr. Lieberman

February 18, 2019

Meet Salonpas Wellness Warrior, Meet Dr. Carole Lieberman, a well known psychiatrist who devotes her life to helping people keep calm and carry on in the face of terrorism. As The Terrorist Therapist, Dr. Lieberman has written award-winning books and appeared on TV and in other media. She authored the award-winning book Lions and Tigers and Terrorists and Oh My! How to Protect Your Child in a Time of Terror which is the first and only book about terrorism for kids (and their parents and teachers).  Dr. Lieberman also hosts a radio show called The Terrorist Therapist Show that analyzes the top news in terror to help people feel like they are on top of what is going on, to decrease their anxiety.  Salonpas sat down with Dr. Lieberman to learn more about her life:

What was the catalyst from 9/11 that inspired you to specialize in helping people to keep calm in the face of potential terrorism?

I am a born and bred New Yorker and, although I had already moved to California when 9/11 occurred, it felt like a personal attack. Also, my daughter was in college in Manhattan at the time. So, I asked myself what I could do, as a psychiatrist, to help America (and the rest of the world) cope with terrorism. This turned out to be the title of my first book about terrorism that was published in London in 2006, as the first anniversary edition of their ‘9/11’, which was 7/7 (2005).

People all over the world are still showing the impact of 9/11 and the terror attacks that have ensued since then. For example, there is an increase in obesity because we eat more comfort food. There’s an increase in alcohol and drug abuse because people want to escape from the reality of ongoing terror threats. There’s an increase in physical and emotional pain, and suicide. So, although some are in denial about the lingering impact, there is actually ever more need for my work as The Terrorist Therapist.

This past year, as I traveled the world receiving awards from the London, Paris, New York and Hollywood Book Festivals for my latest book, Lions and Tigers and Terrorists, Oh My! How to Protect Your Child in a Time of Terror, I gave talks and media interviews to provide opportunities for people to express their feelings and learn what they can do to build resilience in themselves and their families.

What is Terrorist Stress Syndrome?

The Terrorist Stress Syndrome is the name I give to a constellation of symptoms, including several that are similar to PTSD, caused by being exposed – directly or by over-consumption of news media- to terror attacks or ongoing threats of terrorism.

Tell me about the Terrorist Stress Hotline?  What is the criteria to be eligible to call?

The Terrorist Stress Hotline was something I created soon after 9/11 to help people with the immediate after effects. It is not in existence at this time, though I am thinking of restarting it again. It was open to everyone.

What are the unique concerns that children have about terrorism and how is this fear affecting their lives?

Children’s reaction to terrorism falls mainly into four categories —they feel scared, sad, mad or bad.

Each reaction results in different symptoms, which can develop into serious psychological problems later on if parents don’t encourage them to express their feelings.

What are the top three pieces of advice you offer parents in your book, LIONS and TIGERS and TERRORISTS, OH MY! How to Protect Your Child in a Time of Terror?

  1. I call terrorism the ‘birds and the bees’ talk for the 21st century. Just like sex, it’s a fact of life that children need to learn about in order to be prepared. And because parents feel awkward about it, they postpone the talk until kids have spent too many years feeling confused and worried.
  2. It is best for parents and teachers to tell the truth about terrorism, tailoring the details to the age and psychological maturity of the child. Otherwise, when kids hear about it on television or from older siblings, they become more upset because now they can’t count on those they trust most to tell them the truth.
  3. It is important to include resilience building activities into each family’s way of life – from the basics of eating healthy food and getting enough sleep and exercise to stress-busters and reading about real life heroes who overcame obstacles to follow their dreams. I write about 88 things grownups can do with kids and 10 things kids can do for themselves to become more resilient.

Tell us about a typical day in your life from when you wake up to when you retire.

A typical day starts at 5 am, and consists of a combination of my work as The Terrorist Therapist (speaking, media interviews, hosting my Terrorist Therapist radio show, etc), my additional media work, my work as a clinical psychiatrist and as a forensic psychiatrist. I take time almost every day to ride my horse and train to compete in dressage and jumping. I try to make time for friends and family, seeing movies and plays and so on. I want to squeeze as much as possible into each day.