A Community of Heart Profile: Alan Cohen
Two years ago, in September 1995, I met Alan Cohen at a Level I training in London. Originally British subjects, Alan and his wife, Katya, immigrated to Israel in the early 80’s. He received his first degree in General Psychology from Manchester and his second degree in Applied Psychology from the University of Aston in Birmingham.
I noted his wry sense of humor when we first met, but it was not until I visited Israel in June 1996 that I got to know and appreciate Alan and the important work he has been doing with Mooli Lahad and his colleagues at the Community Stress Prevention Centre in Kiryat Shmona. The Center was founded in 1981 in the north of Israel after a number of attacks on border settlements. From that time, it has served all of the people of Israel’s northern border towns, villages and kibbutzim, no matter their religion or ethnic background. The stated aims of the CSPC are, according to Alan, “to prepare the civilian population to cope with crisis and disaster, to train local authorities to cope with the situation and handle it effectively, before, during, and after these incidents, and to train professionals in emergency intervention techniques.” The CSPC’s work is known throughout Israel and has been adopted by cities, local municipalities, government offices and countries outside of Israel. Their first project was successful-a model for the development of a psycho-educational program to handle the effects of attacks or threats of attacks through the schools.
Alan and his colleagues have been in the forefront of the provision of services to the Kiryat Shmona area. He is among the first to enter a site after bombs, missiles, and/or terrorist attack has occurred. When I asked how he handled his own trauma, he answered, “I have a great tolerance for trauma. I tell myself the statistics for who is his. And, in truth, it’s a rare occurrence!”
Both Alan and Mooli were among the first trained in February 1989 when Francine Shapiro did her first training in Israel. Since then, EMD and later EMDR became an important part of their treatment protocols when treating trauma. Alan used EMDR when he intervened with the emergency teams after the terrible helicopter crash in the small suburb of Shear Yeshoof in which 73 Israeli soldiers lost their lives. The social work staff was so impressed that they decided to take the training in EMDR themselves and sent about ten people to Alan to deal with the horror of the crash. Recently, he was called in to work with the 9 th grade girls who were attending a school outing when a Jordanian gunman killed seven of their friends. He reported that, “EMDR brought about a significant transformation in most cases in two to three sessions in seven out 10 of those treated.”
Since 1989, the CSPC has received referrals for people of all ages who are suffering from all types of traumatic incidents. Ultimately, Alan wrote, “Our hope is that in the future we will be able to use EMDR to enhance creativity and nurture potential rather than put right the damage done by one person to another.