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Rising Stars: Meet Constance Scharff

Today we’d like to introduce you to Constance Scharff.

Hi Constance, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
Too many people unnecessarily suffer from un- or under-treated trauma and addiction. My work is to help those who experience these or other mental health issues to live better and more fulfilling lives by providing important information about accessible and affordable mental health practices.

In the 1990s, when I first made an effort to quit drinking, there wasn’t great treatment for trauma. Every time I would stop drinking, trauma symptoms would overwhelm me. I was plagued by flashbacks, body memories, hypervigilance, and terrible fear. Eventually, I was able to stay sober with the help of friends in a well-known support group, but I was frequently suicidal.

In the support group I attended, I met many veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were receiving treatment at the West LA VA hospital. I saw that they too often had trauma symptoms and had a difficult time staying sober. Several killed themselves.

I was outraged. There had to be better treatment available to us all.

I didn’t get sober to be miserable and these veterans were really struggling. I re-envisioned my studies (I was in graduate school at the time) and dedicated my life to studying complementary and alternative mental health therapies that in conjunction with traditional forms of psychotherapy, can help improve treatment outcomes.

Since then, I have written three books about recovery from addiction and trauma. The most recent is “Rock to Recovery: Music as a Catalyst for Human Transformation.” In this book, I look at how playing music and singing can have an important positive impact on our mental health. There is hope and healing for those of us who have trauma and addiction problems, but we need to know more about how to access quality mental healthcare services.

I am currently writing a memoir about my journey to find freedom from addiction and trauma. I also regularly speak at events around the world — giving keynote addresses and workshops — to inspire people to make simple changes that have a significant effect on their mental health.

We all deserve to live full and inspired lives that have meaning and purpose.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The greatest challenge working at the intersection of addiction and trauma is that sometimes people die before they have a chance to recover. We are facing a mental health crisis of proportions not seen in recent history. More than 100,000 people died of overdose from May 1, 2020-May 1, 2021. That’s an increase of more than 28% over the previous year, according to the CDC. These deaths have hit close to home at times.

The challenge to those of us involved in mental health is letting people know that there is quality mental healthcare available and what it looks like. A lot of these complementary practices are not well known to the public or not covered by insurance.

I have made it my life’s work to help people understand how complementary mental health practices can improve their mental health. That’s why I wrote “Rock to Recovery: Music as a Catalyst for Human Transformation” — to let people know that playing music and singing can lift mood and improve treatment outcomes for those in structured programs. More important, however, is that singing can help ANYONE improve their mental health.

We need to know that there are tried and true activities that can help us and the people we love.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I write nonfiction, fiction, and poetry that helps people transform their lives.

Having overcome significant early trauma and alcoholism, I now use my experience to help others reframe their experiences so that they can heal. I do this through my books, interviews, and speaking engagements.

Not only do I have personal experience healing from alcoholism and trauma, but I also have a PhD in Transformative Studies. I spent most of the last 20 years researching complementary healing modalities that help people recover from a host of mental health concerns, most notably addiction and trauma. There are proven, inexpensive, accessible activities that can help people change and improve their mental health. My life’s work is bringing information about these activities to the public.

What sets me apart from others is that I am not paid to advocate for any specific modality. I am a mental health researcher and am free to recommend those activities that I believe have the best outcomes. My goal is to help people find new skills they can use in their everyday lives to make their lives more content and meaningful. Most of the activities I suggest cost the individual nothing to learn and practice. They are also very often about building meaning and connection. We recover not in isolation but in community.

Is there something surprising that you feel even people who know you might not know about?
My academic training is in “change” — looking at how change occurs. My specialty is in personal transformation, helping people overcome life-limiting experiences to live more fully.

While my life’s work has been in the field of mental health, I am also passionate about limiting the impact of climate change…an unraveling event that will potentially have significant life-limiting impacts for us all.

To that end, I have written a “cli-fi” novel… a powerful story about the choices we have as a community to define our collective future. We have the capacity to change, but can we do it before a tipping point is reached, a point that will mean the end of our societies or even our species?

Want to know more? Imagine that the films “Oh God!” (1977) and “Don’t Look Up” (2021) were combined into a single treatment. If you’re a literary agent and that interests you, contact me and we’ll talk!

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