Clinical Psychologist Heals Unseen Wounds
A clinical psychologist helps PTSD patients find a path forward.
In honor of her work in the community, Priscilla Partridge de Garcia 63, MS 67, EdD 72 lit the Olympic torch in Santa Barbara, California, as part of its journey to the 1996 Atlanta Games. Accompanied by police officers, she high-fived cheering bystanders as she ran along the designated route. It wasnt until later that she learned some observers were less supportive. Id received 17 death threats, she says. Turns out, the runner who lights the torch is always a target. She subsequently discovered that beyond the police that I knew of running beside me, there were also CIA members all around and snipers covering me from the trees.
She might not have known about the threat to her life, but she does understand the impact of fear. Her lifes mission is to help people whove grappled with violence and loss.
A clinical psychologist in private practice, Partridge de Garcia works with clients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. She also studies mind-body connections in the aging brain, dementia and Alzheimers disease. Through her one-on-one work with patients in Camarillo, California, she helps heal unseen wounds that lie deep in the psyche, helping her patients move past trauma.
She entered the field in 1975 as a young psychologist at Oxnard Colleges Re-Entry Program. She transitioned people experiencing PTSD into college courses, then careers. The students Partridge de Garcia encountered ran the gamut from domestic abuse victims to Vietnam War veterans. I realized they had a lot of blocks from the past, she recalls. The goal was to help remove disabling patterns. Sometimes talk therapy alone just doesnt do that. For someone to really get well, working on all levelsemotional, physical, spiritual and intellectualhas to come into play.
Beyond traditional therapy, Partridge de Garcias uses eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, hypnotherapy, neuro-linguistic programming, biofeedback and a brain-training machine akin to a video game. She emphasizes the power of the mind. Were fragile, but able to overcome our past, Partridge de Garcia says. Theres always that little light, hope or person in the background letting us know were going to be OK.
She encouraged Oxnard College to expand the program by establishing a Re-Entry Center, where she worked until 2002. Grateful clients have kept in touch. Each Christmas, I get phone calls from veterans Ive worked with, thanking me because they can sleep at night, she says. Or Re-Entry Program participants whove turned their lives around and become lawyers, doctors, social workers.
As a devoted Trojan with three degrees, shes also stayed close to her alma mater. She proudly rattles off, Im a Helen of Troy, on the board for the Half Century Trojans and 50th Reunion Committee, member of Town & Gown, donor for USC Rossier School of Education, holder of Cardinal & Gold season tickets. She and her husband, Pedro Garcia EdD 83, a professor of clinical education at USC Rossier, havent missed a home football game since 1977.
Much like the day she carried the Olympic torch, Partridge de Garcia knows firsthand that moving ahead in life often requires support from others. Her Trojan network helps, and so do her guiding words: Keep your mind on your lifes purpose, be with other people, stay present and in control of what you can learn and build.