Recovery Luminary of the Month: Judy Crane

Recovery Luminary of the Month

There isn’t much Judy Crane hasn’t seen. A child of the 60’s, she describes her early adult years as “sex, drugs, rock and roll, the Vietnam War, civil rights and rebellion in the streets.” There was also rebellion at home. When Crane was 27 years old, she woke up in bed next to her husband and found him dead of a drug overdose.

Judy CraneAs a widow with three kids, she couldn’t stop using drugs. She struggled and was in and out of detox until the summer of 1987, when she went to a detox center where somebody gave her a copy of the book Adult Children of Alcoholics by Janet G. Woititz. She read the book, identified with it, and realized her struggles with addiction and trauma were deeply rooted in her childhood. That’s when she made a decision to go to treatment and break the generational cycle of addiction. It was the beginning of her early trauma work.   

Healing trauma has become Crane’s raison d’être. After getting clean and sober, she earned a BA from Rutgers University and an MA from New York Institute of Technology. She was involved in AA and also worked extensively with a therapist on her own trauma issues. While employed as a counselor in a women’s treatment center in 1996, Crane noticed—both in her personal recovery meetings and in her work—that there was a common issue holding people back from fully embracing recovery; that issue was unresolved trauma. Unresolved trauma was causing the women she worked with to struggle and people with years clean and sober to not only be miserable and angry but also to repeat destructive patterns in their lives.

This realization planted the seed for Crane’s future endeavors. Crane hasn’t always found support for her trauma focused outlook from other addiction professionals, particularly in the early years of her career. At that time, she described “hard core” addiction professionals as focusing solely on addiction mental health without considering emotional health. She credits Judith L. Herman, MD, Dr. Peter A. Levine and Bessel van der Kolk, MD, among others, for influencing her with their pioneering work in trauma. Her most fierce admiration is reserved for Canadian physician Dr. Gabor Maté. She calls herself a “groupie” of Dr. Maté (rock and rollers never die, they just grow up), who believes not only in the idea that trauma is the cause of addiction but also in the role of neurotransmitters in healing addiction and trauma.

Today, Crane is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Addiction Professional in Florida, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, Certified hypnotist, EMDR therapist, and specialist for healing trauma and PTSD. Crane is co-founder or founder of two rehab facilities specializing in addiction and trauma treatment: The Refuge and Ocala Guest House. She also serves as a trauma consultant for people around the world and has developed a training program for trauma therapists called ( Now, in the summer of 2017, she is publishing her first book, The Trauma Heart. For additional information, a review of The Trauma Heart can be found on page 50

Crane’s take on trauma therapy is so simple that it’s brilliant: ask the right questions. Her belief is that trauma can be identified and healed no matter what the behaviors are, as long as the client is willing to do some very deep work. She theorizes that many addicts and alcoholics with unresolved trauma have spent their lives being misdiagnosed and treated with little success because nobody ever asked the right questions. To illustrate this point, Crane tells a story of a young man she calls David.

David came to Crane for help with his addiction. He had been in several rehabs without success. He was abusing meth, Xanax and prescribed Adderall. When they talked about detox, he was desperate to keep taking the Adderall, claiming he needed it to concentrate. She probed deeper, asking David how long he had been taking Adderall. He responded that he’d been on some sort of stimulant to treat ADD since his mom sent him to a therapist for the first time when he was 8. Crane asked what happened when he was 8 that made his mom think he needed a therapist. He told her that was the age he quit paying attention in school and started having discipline problems. Crane asked why. He told her nobody had ever asked that question before and revealed that a camp counselor had molested him that summer.

Crane said she’s met thousands of people with this same type of story in her career. She calls these individuals “Davids” and emphasizes that effective trauma treatment starts with asking the right questions and then probing until the client reaches his or her own truth. This is how the healing can begin. She explains that trauma is held deeply on a cellular level. Sounds, smells and circumstances can trigger the feelings of a past traumatic event at any time.

When asked about the future of trauma-informed addiction treatment, Crane says there will never be a quick fix. Trauma-informed means just that: informed. Once all the facts are out in the open, the real work begins.


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