Sonoma psychologist Rebecca Bailey has helped Jaycee Dugard, others recover from abduction nightmares
Jaycee Dugard was abducted on her way to school near Lake Tahoe at age 11, rescued at age 29 from the Antioch backyard where she was imprisoned for 18 years, and today is 37 years old.
Glen Ellen psychologist Rebecca Bailey has been the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's go-to resource for families in crisis for more than a decade.
Within days of Dugard being reunited with her family in 2009, the Center phoned Bailey, and Dugard arrived at Bailey's modest ranch in Sonoma Valley to begin the long process of recovery.
Bailey pulled together a team and spent two years actively working with Dugard, her mother, aunt, sister and two daughters. Amid the endless media coverage of the case at the time, the fact that they were in Sonoma was a secret that the community kept proudly.
'Without knowing who we were or the specifics of our situation, the community really rallied around us while we were living in Sonoma Valley,' said Jaycee Dugard when reached by phone earlier this week.
'A handful of people here – and they know who they are – gave in extraordinary ways to make sure that Jaycee and her family had the basics they needed to stay here and heal,' added Bailey, mentioning in particular the support of Sonoma Police Chief Bret Sackett and local church groups who gathered donations.
'Families typically arrive with very little,' explained Dugard. 'My mom quit her job and moved to Sonoma with me right after I was freed. We had almost nothing.'
Dugard eventually received a settlement from the State of California, and today, Rebecca Bailey's ongoing work with families in crisis is made possible in large part by Dugard's JAYC Foundation.
'I wanted something good to come out of this,' said Dugard. 'Something beyond, 'oh that poor little girl.' These kinds of needs are not met by any other groups that we know of and I want families going through similar situations to have access to what helped me so much.'
While Bailey has been involved with many of the highest profile cases that make the pages of People magazine, and been on virtually every network talk and news show, she says that many more cases don't make the news.
Bailey began with a small local practice in Glen Ellen, working closely with the Redwood Family & Child Center, and was a well-known fixture around town.
Over time she realized there were cases for which an hour a week or even an hour a day wasn't effective enough, and she started bringing families to her ranch.
'The local work we did with children here in Sonoma in the early years laid the foundation for the high profile work we do today,' she said.
She pays her bills through 'high conflict' divorce cases and her therapy practice, called Transitioning Families, but the work that feeds her soul is the work she does through Dugard's foundation.
When Bailey was 11 years old, she herself was part of a high-conflict divorce.
'I saw firsthand how hard the system is on children,' she said.
Bailey tailors the therapy to the family and what it needs.
'It's easier for some family members to move on than for others, and it isn't always the ones you expect,' she explained. 'Things will never be the same but we help each person work toward a new normal. Families are treated in the hospital but they do their real healing here.'
Bailey, 51, who has the energy and enthusiasm of women half her age, is known for her innovative responses and problem solving, for out-of-the box therapeutic solutions.
'Treating these children like they are sick and have a problem misses the point,' she says. 'It was only their situation that was sick.'
Her team, which includes social worker Jane Dickel and equine and art therapists, typically works with one family at a time, for a few days to several months.
'Their attitude and use of humor was very healing and it broke the ice in those early days,' says Dugard. 'You just don't want to cry all the time.'
Bailey says that families like the fact that they aren't stuck in a room just talking.
'We started doing innovative workshops with equine therapy back when incorporating animals into therapy was enough to discredit you,' said Bailey. 'But horses add an intensity to the process of therapy. They help to people to build trust, increase self-esteem, face fears and understand boundaries, without thinking about the heavy ordeal they've all survived.'
Dugard loved animals as a child and when she was told she would be recovering on a farm in Sonoma with horses, she said, 'Let's go.'
In addition to animal therapy, Bailey places a strong emphasis on healing with good food, thanks to her husband, professional chef Charles Holmes.
'Food is the language of a family,' she said. 'Participating in activities of daily living like cooking and eating together is an essential part of a family's reconnection.'
Today, Dugard jumps on a plane regularly to meet up with Bailey for workshops where she uses her story to create more victim-focused awareness among law enforcement officers.
During the 18 years she was held captive, the authorities made close to 60 visits to the house where she was imprisoned by Philip Garrido, who was on parole at the time. Sex offenders are monitored much more closely now as a result of her case.
'Jaycee is the most inspirational person I have ever met,' says Chief Sackett, who spent a lot of time with Dugard in those first few months.
Today, Dugard keeps busy with writing (she has published two best-selling books) and running the foundation, which is based in Los Angeles. She is proud of her two daughters, who were 11 and 15 when released, and are both now attending four-year universities.
And she speaks fondly of the community where they spent so much time recovering.
'Sonoma was the perfect place for us to heal,' she said. 'To recover in such a peaceful and beautiful place, where we felt we could fit in was so important to me.'
She says she is doing everything she ever wanted to do when she imagined being free.
While she's quick to credit Bailey and her team, for her recovery, her therapist quickly demurs.
'The only heroes in this process are the families,' she said. 'Responsibility for the care and treatment of Jaycee's family has turned out to be the most meaningful work I've ever done.'
Contact Lorna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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