Angels Among US: Getting back into life

Name: Joel Wardi, Organization: The Israel Center for Treatment of Psychotrauma of Herzog Hospital,Mission: To help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Address: Rehov Shmaryahu Levine 59, Web site:

Name: Joel Wardi Organization: The Israel Center for Treatment of Psychotrauma of Herzog Hospital Mission: To help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder Address: Rehov Shmaryahu Levine 59 Web site: As Itamar stood under the huppa on his wedding day, he looked out upon the sea of happy faces and there, beaming in the front row, sat the man who had "given him back his life." That's the phrase he had used after completing an intensive stint of therapy with clinical psychologist Joel Wardi at the Israel Center for Treatment of Psychotrauma (ICTP) of Herzog Hospital. At 23, recounts Wardi, Itamar (not his real name) had been wounded in a terrorist attack at a Jerusalem cafe. The strapping, popular, handsome young man studying computer science at the Hebrew University had suffered a head injury that left him physically and emotionally wounded. "After the attack," says Wardi, "Itamar lost his sense of security in the world and in himself. This once self-confident man became isolated from his friends and family, dropped out of university - he felt he could not go on." A 20-year veteran therapist, it was in his capacity as director of the ICTP's Metiv crisis clinic, a position he's held for the past three years, that Wardi met Itamar. "I meet people at a critical point in their lives," says the Danish-born psychologist. All the cards have been shuffled, and they've been dealt a bad hand." It's very moving, he says, to be able to help people get through such traumatic situations as terrorism, loss or physical injury. "When something bad happens to a person, they feel like a failure and their world collapses around them," he explains. To help rebuild that world, Wardi digs deep into his arsenal of experience and expertise to help them reconnect to themselves - and their trauma. "It's a gradual process in which they look upon the experience as a person who holds the reins, not a helpless victim. They have to reown the situation and translate it into terms that make it life-affirming in some way," he says. While that sounds like a tall order, Itamar succeeded in regaining his life. He was able to go to cafes with friends again; he went back to school on scholarship and graduated at the top of his class; and a year after completing therapy, he strode into the ICTP office in Kiryat Hayovel to invite Wardi to his wedding. Established in 1989, the ICTP has an extensive range of programs. These include the Resilience Unit, which provides resources for those exposed to long-term stress, such as police, firefighters and ambulance paramedics; therapeutic workshops for soldiers who have completed combat service and reservists of elite units; and the National School Resilience Program, which provides a sense of safety in the school setting and helps students manage stress.