Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story

Marla Handy has nothing to hide — anymore. She is a college teacher, a professional consultant and a happily married, resilient woman. But she was terribly mistreated as a child, sexually assaulted as a young adult, and burdened by chronic PTSD for decades. In an intimate conversation with trauma expert Frank Ochberg, MD, she explains how she manages her complex trauma and chronic PTSD symptoms. Marla Handy is the author of No Comfort Zone: Notes on Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, published by Mocassa Press and available on Amazon.

Dr. Frank Ochberg is a psychiatrist and the former Associate Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, and a member of the team that wrote the medical definition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Dr. Ochberg is a founding board member of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

This DVD introduces therapists, survivors and the general public to the topic of prolonged PTSD through comments and conversation of two individuals who are uniquely qualified to explain a complicated condition in clear, compelling terms.

Symptoms of PTSD, early childhood experiences, latest brain science research, relationship between Chronic and Complex PTSD, what it’s like to live with Chronic PTSD, what can trigger a stress reaction, how does the past affect the present, what to look for in a therapist, how to support others with PTSD.

Running Time: 54 minutes Available in DVD

$20 Special price – for survivors of trauma only.
$65 Individual Therapist/Health Professional
$95 Institutional/Group Viewing

Note: $20 Special price for survivors of trauma only. If you live outside the US please see our ordering information.


DVD Review

“Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story.”

Dr. Angie Panos
Psychologist, Clinical Director
Hartland Center for Refugees
Salt Lake City, Utah

Making Peace with Chronic PTSD – Marla’s Story is appropriate for professionals, survivors, and their support systems. Dr. Frank Ochberg and Marla have a discussion that imparts informative, powerful information about living with PTSD. Marla Handy describes informative elements from her trauma narrative, which she has published in a book titled No Comfort Zone. Dr. Ochberg provides clinical insights about PTSD and briefly details the importance of recent neuroscience in making meaning of the trauma memory system. This DVD has the potential to assist with preparing clinicians to be more sensitive to clients’ trauma experiences. It is an excellent instructional tool that can be used for multiple purposes. First, it can be used across disciplines in courses and trainings to teach students and clinicians about the actual experience of PTSD. Second, it can be used as a clinical intervention with survivors, whether in one-on-one counseling or in support groups. Finally, viewing this DVD can offer comfort to anyone who has experienced PTSD, through its affirming message of hope. Dr. Ochberg stresses the importance of the clinical relationship as one of partnership. He highlights that in this type of therapeutic partnership, between healer and survivor, no one needs to feel alone, and all have hope to confront and resolve chronic PTSD.
DVD Review

“Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story.”


Because of Gift From Within I learned about Marla’s book, No Comfort Zone, as well as the DVD, Making Peace with Chronic PTSD, Marla’s Story. I read the book first, which I found easy to follow and understand, a source of normalization, a source of validation, and found myself breathing a sigh of relief, whispering, again and again, I really am not crazy, after all. After finishing the book, my therapist and I watched the DVD together in session, which I found to be an enlightening and healing experience. The DVD is organized into sections conducive to watching one or two at a time and then discussing feelings, reactions, and insights with your therapist.

This time was filled with a lot of quiet introspection, insights, sadness, grief, and a quiet strength in learning more about CPTSD. I found it healing and validating to learn that learning to live with some of the side effects is a reality, and a sign of health, not illness. Many others need to hear this message. Just because we may have an occasional flashback or emotional flooding does not mean we are defective, or not cured. Healing from CPTSD is a journey, one that we will travel for our lifetime. I appreciated Marla’s openness, honesty, and strength. I have read a lot of books and articles on trauma recovery, and I feel that Marla’s book and the DVD Making Peace with Chronic PTSD reflect a compassionate, normalizing, balance of this type of trauma and the recovery involved. I am so grateful to Gift from Within for being here and providing so much quality, helpful information and support.

Dr. Orchberg’s compassion, knowledge, and walking alongside Marla as a companion, not a guide was also monumental in helping me to come to the understanding that I, too, am a survivor. I am now in my fourth year of therapy recovering from multiple childhood abuse and we are talking about termination. I would love to see this topic covered in depth by Marla and Dr. Orchberg as related to a longer psychotherapy, a deep therapeutic relationship, in the context of recovering from CPTSD. I am requesting this because termination for me is scary and confusing. At times I want to run away, but I am learning to be present, and I know this is part of my healing. I would welcome any wisdom on this phase of therapy.
DVD Review

“Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story.”

Lisa Lopez Levers, Ph.D.
Counselor Education & Supervision
School of Education
Duquesne University

This 54-minute DVD is packed with powerful information about the lived experience of PTSD. In an accessible and comfortable conversation between Dr. Frank M. Ochberg and Marla Handy, Ms. Handy offers informative elements from her trauma narrative, which she has published in a book titled No Comfort Zone. Conversational chapters in the DVD are separated by relevant questions concerning PTSD, and the ensuing discussions are punctuated by insightful comments from both Ms. Handy and Dr. Ochberg. Ms. Handy’s creative use of metaphoric language helps the viewer to understand her perspective. For example, she asserts that people are not quite correct in the assumption that writing the book must have been cathartic for her; rather, she goes on to explain, it was much more like defragmenting a disk drive. Her representation of how she went about unpacking her chronic and complex PTSD strikes of chord of poignancy, genuineness, and peacefulness.

One particularly enlightening passage regards the trauma memory system. Dr. Ochberg describes three sets of overlapping PTSD-related problems with a clarity that is illuminating. Even for seasoned therapists, his rich and understandable descriptions make arcane clinical constructs more palpable. He also briefly details the importance of recent neuroscience in making meaning of the landscape found in the no comfort zone of PTSD. Ms. Handy emphasizes the importance of affirming her reality in dealing with the experiences that led to a diagnosis of PTSD. She and Dr. Ochberg discuss the need for “conscious management” of PTSD responses. The conversation highlights the profound existential need for therapists “not to be afraid of it.” As an advocate for trauma survivors for nearly four decades, I resonate with this notion; for far too long, individual clinicians, the mental health system, and academic pre-service training programs have been far too fearful and reticent about engaging with the horrific experiences that trauma survivors bring into the counseling relationship. Fortunately, this has been changing in more recent years, as our understandings of PTSD continue to improve. A DVD like Making Peace with Chronic PTSD: Marla’s Story contributes to such understanding and has the potential to assist with preparing clinicians to be more sensitive to clients’ experiences.

This DVD is an excellent instructional tool that can be used for multiple purposes. First, it can be used across disciplines in courses and trainings to teach pre-service and in-service clinicians about the lived experiences of PTSD. Second, it can be used in clinical interventions with survivors, whether in one-on-one counseling or in psycho educational support groups. Finally, viewing this DVD can offer solace to anyone who has experienced the no comfort zone of PTSD, through its affirming message of hope. Dr. Ochberg stresses the importance of the clinical relationship as one of partnership—and in this type of therapeutic partnership, between healer and survivor, no one needs to feel alone, and all can savor a sense of hopefulness about making peace with chronic PTSD.
DVD Review

“Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story.”

Nancy Fair, M.A.

For victims of traumatic violence (and their therapists) who struggle with the intrusive, numbing and often debilitating effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), I highly recommend the DVD, “Marla’s Story” with Dr. Frank Ochberg. The DVD consists of close to an hour-long interview between Marla, a survivor of multiple types of childhood abuse, and Dr. Ochberg, who was part of the group of professionals who first established a definition of PTSD. Marla captivates as an articulate and intriguing storyteller; while Dr. Ochberg helps the viewer to understand the clinical aspects of PTSD in greater depth.

As a clinician, I have shared the DVD with colleagues and master’s level counseling students, all of whom have reported feeling deeply moved and encouraged by both Marla’s resilience and Dr. Ochberg’s kind and compassionate stance toward individuals suffering with the aftereffects of severe and chronic interpersonal trauma. For victims and survivors, Marla’s Story highlights the strength of the human spirit in overcoming a childhood filled with hurt. For clinicians, the DVD serves as an example and reminder of the elements necessary for successful trauma therapy: empowerment of the victim, respect for the individual’s process, and an educated and compassionate therapist.

For those who are interested in finding out about Marla’s healing journey in more depth, I also recommend her book, “No Comfort Zone: Notes on Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” It is a highly-readable book (I finished it in one sitting!) that is both sobering and heartening.
DVD Review

“Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story.”

Dr. Amy Menna – Counselor Education and Supervision- Survivors of Rape- Reflections of Hope

Making Peace with Chronic PTSD: Marla’s Story imparts information in easy to understand language which would benefit counselors, students, and survivors themselves. Through providing an overview of PTSD, this video provides information to many unanswered questions about surviving trauma. By doing so, it may lessen feelings of isolation and explain the symptoms one is experiencing. I highly recommend it to anyone who has experienced any sort of trauma or works with trauma survivors.Dr. Ochberg’s expertise blended with Marla’s personal experience offers a unique perspective on surviving trauma and explains the ideas and concepts behind the fragmented memories and lack of safety that so many survivors experience

In addition, counseling students from every background will be working with trauma survivors at some point in their career. Making Peace with PTSD will begin to prepare them by arming them with knowledge of the aftermath of trauma. In doing so, trauma survivors will get the compassionate and professional treatment they need and deserve.

This DVD is essential to counselor educators when addressing the issue of trauma. It outlines the aftermath of trauma and some of the specific aspects of PTSD which every student needs to know. By doing so, it best equips students to work with trauma survivors from all backgrounds, a skill necessary for all clinicians.
DVD Review

“Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story.”

E.K. Rynearson, M.D., Cofounder and Medical Director of Separation & Loss Services/Homicide Support Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle Washington

This DVD is a clinically rich conversation between Dr. Frank Ochberg, an exceptional trauma therapist, and Marla Handy, an author and articulate teller of her childhood trauma and treatment. Their conversation is filled with insightful nuggets for clinicians and patients in clarifying the differentiation of complex PTSD as a distinct sub-syndrome of trauma.

The production artfully synthesizes the intrusive images of her childhood trauma and their distortions of her thoughts and feelings as an adult. Most notably the conversation is a celebration of her remarkable resilience in transcending the shadow of complex PTSD with assistance of a collaborative therapist and the creative mastery of her trauma though writing.
DVD Review

“Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story.”

Louise McOrmond-Plummer, Sitemistress of Aphrodite Wounded and Director, Pandora’s Project

Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story is a most useful resource for survivors, professionals and supporters alike. Towards the end, you will also hear from the featured Dr. Ochberg that those who are completely non-conversant with PTSD and who consequently are likely to do the most damage, are another crucially important viewer.

The conversation between Marla Handy, who has had chronic PTSD for most of her life, and Trauma specialist and psychiatrist Dr. Frank Ochberg is gentle and informative without being jargon-laden.

Traumatized people do not respond to various situations as non-traumatized people do, and this is pointed in a way that is impressively non-stigmatizing of people with PTSD. This is most important in a world where we are often told to “get over it,” “stop being weird,” or treated as frankly crazy. This is no slur, by the way, against anybody who has experienced psychosis as a result of traumatic experience; they too will appreciate what it is to be treated as lesser beings.

Just some of the points that I, who have chronic PTSD found interesting and affirming, were:

Comfort Zones: Marla and Frank illustrate how traumatized people often have either an altered comfort zone, or no comfort zone. Stepping out of our comfort zones in order to “get better,” to “grow” is something espoused by many therapists and other people in the recovery movement. While it may contain some valuable truth, it has also become a sacrosanct cliché that is not entirely realistic. Is it okay to have a comfort zone? And is not pushing oneself beyond it always a negative thing? And, do we who have been so chronically scared always have to engender more fear so we will get better? Marla suggests not, and I am inclined to thankfully agree with her – where, of course, the comfort zone is not a major impediment to well-being – and I say this as a recovering agoraphobic for whom pushing some barriers was necessary for functioning. However, if there are certain things I never like or feel comfortable with, that may just be okay.

Catharsis: There has been a long-held belief that traumatized people need to have a “catharsis”, a purging, cleansing, or “working through” of the emotions around traumatic experiences, then they’ll get better. Marla beautifully illustrates the pressure this can put on survivors when they may have had years of therapy and tried many techniques that may or may not have been useful up to a point, yet still experience the ravages of PTSD. Such people often consequently feel that they’ve “failed” therapy. This resonated so deeply with me! I have had some good therapy that I expected to clear things up for all time. In my forties, I realize how unrealistic this is; PTSD just doesn’t work that way. It is surely useful to have counseling to get support and learn new ways of understanding what has happened to us, as well as dealing with seriously detrimental effects. But in the end, it may be better to accept that PTSD doesn’t necessarily go away because we’ve had some powerful crying or rage-releasing sessions. The damage that was done by trauma is physiological and may persist in varying degrees irrespective of the work we’ve done. We do not need to feel like failures, this is the way it is. Also, I like the way this DVD neatly does away with an old chestnut that most people with PTSD have been subjected to: “If you take Step A or Step B, you will function as you ‘should’.”

Seeking Therapy: Frank speaks unequivocally about “bad therapy” of the type that does more damage to traumatized clients. Importantly, he highlights the danger of therapists who are interpretative of clients as “non-cooperative” – perhaps because a technique may not work (and I have had this experience) or because they have a different idea their client’s reality. Together with Marla’s recounting of an experience of the therapist who “fired” her, we know what to look for and what not to look for. We primarily need respect, positive regard, and somebody who views us as a partner, not a “case” to be managed.

Acceptance: In keeping with the above, Marla and Frank propose how we may live – even comfortably much of the time – with the realities and difficulties posed by PTSD. The answer may lie – and I am convinced this is true – not in seeking ways to “run away from” the effects – but how to make them manageable and look after ourselves. Marla and Frank correctly liken chronic PTSD to other chronic disorders such as diabetes as an ongoing thing that people live with and manage successfully, and epilepsy with its randomness. And I think that last is most important; we may have times where we feel overwhelmed and we don’t necessarily know why; times that are worse than others and feel completely random. Far better to accept it rather than be scared of it.

This review will become book-length if I say much more, but the DVD contains much more useful information, such as the way trauma memory versus ordinary memory works, not seeing victim and survivor as mutually exclusive terms, aspects of the PTSD experience that are missing from the formal list of sequelae, and PTSD and brain function. Also, I particularly love what Frank has to say about how the “set point” for vigilance has changed in people with PTSD. It’s so accepting of how nervous and frightened we can be at different times, about things that others mightn’t understand.

Although I am aware that there are those who believe that it’s negative, a downer, to accept living with PTSD rather than strike for the all-time “cure,” the tone of this DVD is actually incredibly hopeful and allowing.

The only thing that I would have liked to see was some discussion of the PTSD symptom Sense of Foreshortened Future. This is not a critique of the DVD, just a desire of my own since Marla has written so well (and possibly better than anybody else, in my opinion) about it in her book, No Comfort Zone. It was a little like opening a paint box of colours that you love, but there just isn’t that specific shade of blue. Whatever – it was still worth all of the 54 minutes.

It can be watched as an adjunct to Marla’s book, but works just as well by itself for different reasons.

Thoroughly recommended.
DVD Review

“Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story.”

Carl C. Bell, M.D.
President/C.E.O. Community Mental Health Council
Acting Director, Institute for Juvenile Research and Professor,

Department of Psychiatry and School of Public Health
Chicago, IL 60617

Making Peace with Chronic PTSD is outstanding, I especially liked the metaphor of Marla’s that writing her book on her PTSD experiences was like defragmenting her hard drive. I also liked Marla’s talking about how in personal growth seminars the leaders of the seminar talk about “getting out of your comfort zone,” and how that is not what you want to do when you have PTSD – you want to have a comfort zone.

It is really nice to see a psychiatrist and a PTSD patient working together to help psychiatrists and patients understand PTSD and live a partnership with each other as it is a great model of collaboration – one that I would hope would encourage psychiatrists and patients to be open, honest and collaborative with each other.
DVD Review

“Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story.”

Karen Grey, MA
Founder, PTSD The Truth In Numbers on Facebook

I am honored to have been asked to review this video. I will admit after the years I have dedicated to learning about PTSD, I subconsciously go into new material skeptical of information it will provide or that there will pieces that ring true for me. I cannot put into words the degree in which I am pleased with this DVD. Both Frank and Marla touched on knowledge that is not often shared in easy to understand terms. I believe this video will be one of the most beneficial sources about PTSD for sufferers, family members, educators, workers and others.

DVD Review

“Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story.”

Patti Pott, GFW Memeber

I just finished watching “Making Peace With Chronic PTSD”, a film based on Marla Handy’s book “No Comfort Zone.” Within the first few minutes my eyes were tearing and my heart was shouting “yes, yes, this is exactly how I feel!” What a relief and delight to see our struggle described honestly in her book and in this film. Kudos to Gift From Within for making this available. I know it will be a valuable tool for bringing much-needed attention to PTSD.

Hearing about Marla’s struggle made me feel less alone and less an alien in this world. Although I found myself grieving her struggles and her loss, I was equally thankful she was willing to share them so that others like me could feel more normal. The art and the portrayals, although sad, made the discussions more meaningful.

The atmosphere of the film is peaceful, having been filmed in a relaxed setting. The entire film is very professionally done, easy to hear and to follow. I found myself feeling I was actually present in the room with them, listening to their discussion in person. I know I will watch it time after time because of the valuable information and validation it offers. Whenever I begin to doubt my ability to function in the world I think back to Marla’s story and Dr. Ochberg’s warm and comforting interaction with her, and I begin to accept myself again and to be more patient with myself.

I highly recommend this film victims of PTSD. As an educational tool I also recommend it to those who counsel them, those who love them, those who seek to understand them, those who train therapists and those who work with anyone in a helping profession.

Thank you Frank and Marla and all who had a part in making this film a reality.
DVD Review

“Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story.”

“Making Peace with Chronic PTSD” was helpful to me both as a clinical social worker and a person with PTSD. Important information was included that is necessary for clinicians to remember: Dr. Ochberg’s telling the patient to “take me back there with you, that story needs to be told” is much more effective, therapeutic and healing than solely focusing on the Cognitive Therapy approach of “if you just think positively everything will be fine.” Marla’s reminders that the person with PTSD is the expert of their own experience and that work with a therapist should be a partnership are vital.

It was helpful for me to hear Marla discuss the way that “innocent items can create a reality.” In her example it was boxes, for me it was trees. Her description of living parallel lives was also helpful; that feeling that I am in my adult body but my cognitive process is that of a 5 year old is one I’ve experienced. Misinformed clinicians might consider these as examples of phobias, dissociative or delusional states.

Interviewing Dr. Ochberg and Marla at the same time was powerful because it provides the viewer with two first-hand accounts: A doctor’s experiences of working with victims/survivors and a victim/survivor’s healing journey. Both carry a wealth of knowledge and compassion.

Thank you for an opportunity to review this important project.
DVD Review

“Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story.”

Frances M. Buck PhD

The film “Making Peace with Chronic PTSD” is one of the most insightful, compassionate, and thorough descriptions of PTSD I’ve encountered. The film also has wider implications beyond PTSD. It should become a part of professionals’ training and available as a resource to people with all psychological or medical needs, including PTSD. I’ve been lecturing, training, and writing on many of the topics addressed in the film since 1980. Nothing has impressed me as much as this film.
DVD Review

“Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story.”

Catherine McCall, MS, LMFT
Marriage and Family Therapist/Writer

“I loved this film, and the first thing I wanted to do after watching it was to call my therapist friends and tell them about it. A resource I will keep in my office, this film is a real gift to anyone who is struggling with PTSD as a patient, to anyone who loves someone struggling with PTSD, and to anyone who wants to understand more about it. This film would also be an asset in therapist training programs.

Though the title of Marla’s book is No Comfort Zone, she is an articulate woman whose thoughtful, genuine manner of describing her experiences becomes a comfort to the listener. Likewise, Dr. Frank Ochberg’s dialogue with Marla creates an atmosphere of compassion and communicates hope.”
DVD Review

“Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story.”

Claire Harwell, Project Director
Community Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault

Marla’s heartfelt personal wisdom about PTSD is certain to provide others with comfort and insight into overwhelming traumatic experiences of all kinds. Real people suffer quietly with PTSD and it is extremely generous of Marla to reach out to others to let them know that they do not suffer alone. Frank Ochberg’s compassionate description of PTSD is a very useful, concise explanation of what patients need to know about the diagnosis. Anyone who’s been through a trauma would benefit from this discussion.
DVD Review

“Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story.”

Kathy Platoni, Psy.D.

The Gift From Within website has immeasurable value to both those who treat victims of trauma and to those who have been the victims of trauma as well. In terms of resource materials and what has been created by the great masters and experts in the field, they are incomparable. I continue to utilize these materials in numerous ways and with vast populations, from medical professionals in a hospital setting, to my private practice patients, and most importantly, with my beloved veterans with whom I have served through the course of four wartime deployments.

In particular, it is Making Peace With Chronic PTSD: Marla’s Story that lends itself to a heart searing journey into the mind of a trauma victim and allows us to witness survivorship at its very best.

Thank you for your valiant and successful efforts to assist those who experience the terrible trials of human suffering in so many venues.
DVD Review

“Making Peace with Chronic PTSD — Marla’s Story.”


I was really touched when I saw the DVD. My wife and I saw the first 13 minutes one evening and I saw the remaining next day for my one. I have been married to her for 33 years, still it was too painful to reveal Marla’s/and my story even with my wife. This DVD is so precious to me because it spoke about PTSD with respect and warmth, for me an almost unspeakable issue. I will show this to my family and friends. I’m very thankful to you, Frank and Marla! The site, giftfromwithin is really a source of comfort to me. I have Marla’s book and have read it. It impressed on me, her honesty, dignity and firm personality. Marla’s endurance is inspiring. (I have been in a bad condition but now I’m alright). Warm regards. T.