Stressed Brains Can’t Learn, But Unconditional Love Can Help

Oct. 21, 2016 / By

By Katherine Lambert of The Guidance Center

LONG BEACH, Calif. Nearly 150 people attended the trauma-informed film screening event hosted by The Guidance Center at the Art Theatre on 4th Street in Long Beach on Oct. 12, 2016.

The free community event showcased the impact of toxic stress on developing brains and the transformative power of trauma-informed communities through a screening of the documentary, Paper Tigers, and a panel discussion with experts.

Directed by James Redford, Paper Tigers follows six Lincoln High School students over the course of a school year in Walla Walla, Washington as the school’s staff try a new approach to discipline: one based on understanding and treatment rather than judgment and suspension

Through diary camera footage and filmed interviews, viewers learned about each student’s adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), witnessed how staff helped them cope through unconditional love, and ultimately experienced how each student uniquely triumphed to excel in and outside of high school. Across the student body, Lincoln saw a profound increase in test scores and graduation rates as well as a decrease in the number of fights and suspensions.

The purpose of the screening was to provide an opportunity for the community to learn more about a similar local program, It’s About T.I.M.E. (Trauma-Informed Movement in Education), recently launched by The Guidance Center and Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) at Beach High School. As the first of its kind to be implemented within LBUSD, T.I.M.E. launched this fall and equips staff with tools to understand and help children experiencing negative impacts of trauma. The science behind the program is based on evidence-based practices of Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) and Neurosequential Model in Education (NME) developed by Dr. Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D., founder and senior fellow of the ChildTrauma Academy, and Steve Graner, M.S., NME project director. For more details on the program, visit

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-4-07-13-pmGraner, who was in attendance, kicked off the screening event with a brief introduction on NME – the science that The Guidance Center and LBUSD used to create T.I.M.E. Graner also participated in a panel discussion after the screening led by Patricia Costales, LCSW, CEO of The Guidance Center, with T.I.M.E. program lead, Nathan Swaringen, LCSW, clinical therapist at The Guidance Center; and Britt Sexton, a teacher at Beach High School.

“Paper Tigers offers a glimpse into how a community of caring and committed adults can powerfully change children’s lives,” said Swaringen. “We hope the film inspires others to join the trauma-informed movement and bring this nurturing approach to more students in Long Beach.”

In addition to The Guidance Center Board Members Tim Sailor, Luis Maimoni and Ana Perez, and supporters Betsy and Ed Snare, the screening saw support from LBUSD staff and leadership, and other local nonprofit agencies.

Beach High School Principal Troy Bennett attended the event along with Tiffany Brown, EdD, assistant superintendent of School Support Services at LBUSD; Megan Kerr, LBUSD School Board Member for District 1; and Diana Craighead, LBUSD School Board Member for District 5.

Representatives from CASA of Los Angeles, ChildNet, For the Child Long Beach, Long Beach Blast, Port of Los Angeles High School and Women Shelter of Long Beach also attended.

About The Guidance Center
Established in 1946, The Guidance Center provides comprehensive mental health treatment to more than 3,000 children and families in the communities of Long Beach, Lynwood, Compton, Paramount, San Pedro and Avalon annually. The Guidance Center offers individual, group and family therapy, crisis intervention, case management, community education and outreach, and intensive mental health treatment. Headquartered in Long Beach, The Guidance Center also has clinics in Compton and San Pedro. For more information on The Guidance Center, please visit

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