REBT offers guidance for people feeling lost

It all started five years ago with a flood, a favor and a great idea.

When the flood hit Tri-County Hospital in 2009 and caused countless counselor layoffs, Mike Tramuta was left with no place to go to do what he loved most, which was helping people.

He went to Father David from Holy Trinity Church in Dunkirk at the time and asked if he could start a meeting.

It took a few weeks to take off, but once it started, people began to come and Tramuta was back in the business of helping people overcome obstacles in their path.

“We have had a lot of people who come out of these meetings and go on with their lives,” Tramuta said. “We do a lot of mental health here.”

Rational Emotive Behav-ioral Therapy helps people in a way that Alcoholics Anonymous does not, according to Tramuta. It brings people to a realization that what they think they feel is irrational and can lead to bad behavior.

“We allow them their space,” Tramuta said. “They don’t have to make introductions unless they want to and what I try to do is get them to be their own counselor.”

When he started the program, about 15 people attended, and now there are anywhere from 30 to 50 people every week.

“There are more and more people in prison for mental health,” Tramuta said. “I am glad we can do this therapy.”

Tramuta said he was certified in chemical dependency for 25 years and has been teaching the REBT program for 30 years. He started it in Buffalo on Delaware Avenue. Now, he said, he enjoys doing the treatment for free in Dunkirk.

“I was taught in my Catholic upbringing to give back,” he said. “I find this to be very rewarding.”

Tramuta said this is what he always felt he was supposed to do.

“I have always been worried about people and wanted them to get better,” he said.

Tramuta said he felt inspired to do this program because he wanted a place for them to go that was theirs.

“This group has been rewarding,” he said. “We work together to find an alternative.”

Attendee Ricardo said he had been coming to Tramuta’s program since 2012 and it has been “a big help.”

“Mike takes time after work to help us find a way of living,” he said. “It is important to get along with everyone in the program and all of us seem to matter.”

Kenny said he has been an alcoholic for more than 30 years and he wanted to know why he reacts the way he does.

“We are spoon-fed here; it is very beneficial,” he said. “Mike puts up with us and donates his time for free; this is a neutral place.”

Frank said he has been coming to Tramuta for 14 months now and feels this is the best self-help program out there.

“It takes us all the way back to the root of the problem – the childhood – why we think and behave the way we do,” he said. “It is a good way to humble yourself and let go of the small things.”

Frank said any newcomer who comes plants a seed and hopefully can grow from it.

“We have a very different view on society,” he said. “We all have been used to it.”

Frank was inspired to go to school in September and plans on majoring in counseling.

“It is like bread crumbs, we are all just trying to recover these pieces that have been scattered; recover our lives,” he said. “This is my weekly medicine; it is very rare if I miss a week.”

Another attendee, Pam, said she came to the meetings a little over a year ago when a friend of hers told her about them.

“My whole family lived with addiction,” she said. “It is why we became the way we are.”

Pam wanted to know how not to repeat the past.

“I wanted to change and not pass it on any further,” she said. “It comes down to accepting what we have done and making our lives better.”

Pam said Tramuta helps them find the good in themselves and shows them how to change.

Steven has been at Tramuta’s program for a little over a year now and he likes it.

“I think this place saved me,” he said. “It helps people like me get their lives in order.”

Steven has spent 26 years of his life coming in and out of these types of programs.

“This time I came in on my own,” he explained. “I come in and settle down and listen.”

He said there is no discrimination here.

“I took the cotton out of my ears and put it in my mouth,” he said. “I am glad I found the help I needed here.”

Tramuta said he uses a lot of coaching principles and worksheets every week with the group.

“It all comes down to understanding,” he stressed. “I have been there and I know how you are, so I teach things that can help them remain successful.”

Tramuta wanted to thank Father Joe of the Holy Trinity Church in Dunkirk for allowing him to have the place for free all these years.

“Father Joe doesn’t ask anything of us,” he said. “The people have been excellent and very respectful.”

Everyone is welcome and if anyone out there is feeling lost because of addiction, Tramuta said he can help. The group meets every Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m. behind the Holy Trinity Church on Central Avenue in Dunkirk.

“This place is like home, “he said. “I don’t want to have to move from this spot; I don’t want to change it.”

The back of his brochure summarizes Tramuta’s mission nicely..

“There are times when we just aren’t okay. It doesn’t help knowing it’s temporary, counting our blessings doesn’t work either. It’s one minute at a time rather than one day at a time. Breathing may simply be the best you can do. You don’t need to be fixed. You aren’t broken. You are just going through a messy patch, you’ll find your way through it. You really always do. Remember you can’t calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.”

Comments on this story may be sent to jwillis@observertoday.com