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|Stairway to Heaven - Page 9|
I met repeatedly with my FBI liaison and members of the behavioral science team, who, I later learned, agreed with me that further escalation by law enforcement would more likely provoke disaster, not surrender. But they were not in charge. The tactical team was, and they would listen but not hear. They believed that they were dealing with a fraud and a criminal. They did not understand that Koresh's followers truly believed that their leader was a messenger of God, possibly even Christ returned, with the self-sacrificing devotion and commitment such a belief implies. This clash of group worldviews shaped the escalating actions that contributed to the final catastrophe.
After I had completed my initial interviews more than a dozen people from my home institutions in Houston joined me in Waco to form the core of our clinical team. Along with the guards, CPS workers and Methodist Home staff, we worked to end the unstructured chaos in the cottage. We scheduled a regular bedtime and regular meal times, created time for school, for free play and for the children to be given information about what was happening at the Ranch. Since the outcome of the siege was unpredictable, we did not allow them to watch TV or expose them to any other media coverage.
In the beginning there was a push by some in our group to start "therapy" with the children. I felt it was more important at this time to restore order and be available to support, interact with, nurture, respect, listen to, play with and generally "be present." The children's experience was so recent and so raw, it seemed to me that a conventional therapeutic session with a stranger, particularly a "Babylonian," would potentially be distressing.
Incidentally, since Waco, research has demonstrated that rushing to "debrief" people with a new therapist or counselor after a traumatic event is often intrusive, unwanted and may actually be counterproductive. Some studies, in fact, find a doubling of the odds of post-traumatic stress disorder following such "treatment." In some of our own work we have also found that the most effective interventions involve educating and supporting the existing social support network, particularly the family, about the known and predictable effects of acute trauma and offering access to more therapeutic support if—and only if—the family sees extreme or prolonged post-traumatic symptoms.