Dr. Mariel Buqué Is Teaching Us to Heal Generational Trauma

Dr. Mariel Buqué

Photo by Moe Alyasini

Our bloodline holds wisdom from the generations that came before us. Your tears may be the tears your great-great-grandmother cried while escaping enslavement. Your worries may mirror those of your grandparents who experienced an arduous journey to the States. Your responses may be influenced by the limited emotional resources your parents had. Our body remembers the stories that bring us to this very day.

It is this knowledge that informs Dr. Mariel Buqué’s contributions to the mental health field. Dr. Buqué is a Columbia University-trained psychologist, intergenerational trauma expert, and author of the upcoming book "Break the Cycle," a guide to healing intergenerational trauma that fuses modern psychology with ancient and indigenous healing practices. She is shifting the way we view mental health, pulling the focus from the individual and shifting to the mental health of families, communities, and society as a whole. 

Creating Change Outside of the Conventional

Dr. Buqué’s eclectic use of various modalities, like sound bath meditation and breathwork, isn’t only innovative—it is a homage to those of us who come from cultures with healing modalities that are often overlooked in the Western world.

During her studies, she was offered a clinical fellowship framed around integrated mental health care, which is now commonly referred to as holistic psychology. In addition to the various classes she took during her studies, she also received guidance from supervisors who taught her eclectic approaches, like meditating in session with clients. “I have known for quite some time that my approach can be a bit unconventional. It can tap into layers and dimensions that many of us have not been ready to touch,” she admits. Yet, it only makes sense that when healing trauma that began generations ago, she’d turn to ancient practices. 

I have known for quite some time that my approach can be a bit unconventional. It can tap into layers and dimensions that many of us have not been ready to touch.

The intergenerational transmission of trauma speaks to the burgeoning evidence that parental trauma can impact their children, even if the trauma occurred before they were conceived. This may speak to those who sense they have inherited ways of coping and responding to stressors that mirror those of their caretakers, despite their best attempts to do otherwise.

A 2022 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that the adverse childhood experiences of fathers were predictive of negative family health outcomes. This proves what we don’t heal persists, underscoring the importance of Dr. Buqué’s work.

Honoring the Body’s Wisdom

Dr. Buqué approaches healing with an emphasis on the somatics. This means she incorporates the body into healing, recognizing the limitations of merely talking about trauma and addressing the fact that our body can internalize trauma. However, this may feel overwhelming for those who are newcomers to their healing journey.

Keeping this in mind, we asked Dr. Buqué what she might suggest for those who are just beginning to recognize how events in their life and lineage may be impacting them and she maintained that somatics is the place to start. “My biggest piece of advice to them would be to focus on your body,” she shares. She continued by explaining that it is natural for many to want to go straight to what hurts. Yet, this approach doesn’t respect that a large aspect of emotional pain is situated in the body. “We have to settle our body and settle our nervous system enough so it can tolerate the healing journey in a more profound way,” she continues. 

It isn’t uncommon to feel disconnected from your body, especially if you’ve been exposed to traumatic events. There are three practices that Dr. Buqué swears by as starting points to tap into the body: deep breathing, rocking, and humming. She explained that the power of these three simple exercises is that they impact the nervous system immediately, providing an instant soothing impact. Additionally, they help heal the nervous system in the long term. “I always say rock, hum, or breathe and you’ve already got three practices in your back pocket that you can practice anywhere,” she shares.

Heal Yourself, Heal Your Lineage

When considering how our own internal explorations may impact those around us, it is important to keep in mind that we can’t heal other people. They must engage in their own work as well. However, healing ourselves can contribute to inspiring others to do the work. Dr. Buqué explains that while one conversation or practice won’t eradicate generations of pain, it can redirect one’s lineage by breaking the cycle of dysfunction and trauma. “When we step back into our family homes or back into our communities with a more healed mind, body, and spirit, people around us have to shift,” she explains.

When we’ve healed, we have different boundaries, perspectives, and ways of communicating. This sets a precedent for those around us to adapt to our new boundaries and ways of being, which can disrupt the cycle of familial dysfunction. “The work is layered, complex, nuanced, holistic, and needs time. And, the work can be started at the very least with you,” she continues. 

The How Generation

If you open Instagram or scroll on TikTok long enough, you’ll likely come across honest accounts of mental health struggles and actionable tips on how to get well. It is obvious that the landscape of our culture has changed significantly, with mental health losing its taboo nature. I asked Dr. Buqué how she views the state of mental health today and she shared a powerful observation.

She noted that five to ten years ago, our collective culture was in what she refers to as the “what” stage. This was an era of folks expressing genuine curiosity about various mental health conditions, with many learning about anxiety and depression for the very first time.

Now, she sees that we are in the “how” stage, with those who may have wondered what anxiety was now shifting to a curiosity about how to heal anxiety. This current era of mental health awareness is very action-oriented. Yet, we cannot forget the context of our climate and the realities of mental health as we come off the heels of a pandemic. “It is even more pertinent and necessary for us to have these tools and tips in this ‘how’ stage we are in,” stated Dr. Buqué.

Visions of a Well Future

At this point, it should be abundantly clear that Dr. Buqué has adopted a visionary perspective on today’s state of mental health. Curious about how she sees generations of healing moving forward, we asked her what her hope is for the future. “My hope is that we can one day see mental health as part of our global health... So that we don’t treat it separately in treatment centers and doctor’s offices,” she shared.

From her holistically-oriented mind, she sees an opportunity to dismantle the current structure of mental health to create a system that accounts for the mind, body, and spirit connection, catering to those who are in need of healing. 

My hope is that we can one day see mental health as part of our global health... So that we don’t treat it separately in treatment centers and doctor’s offices.

Shifting systems may feel daunting. Some folks are awakening to what it means for them to shift their own perspectives and redefine what they want their future generations to experience for the very first time, bringing in the idea of changing our culture together may be all too much. Yet, I heard Dr. Buqué use the term “we” quite often throughout our time together. This notion of a collective “we” invites us to radically reconsider the possibilities that await when we all begin to do our part.

Our part boils down to beginning to address our hurts, remembering that when we do so, we respond to our world differently and in turn, the world responds to us differently. “If I could have a dream… It would be for us to do profound healing in this generation and then, as a generation, be able to see the impact in the upcoming generation,” mused Buqué.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Yehuda R, Lehrner A. Intergenerational transmission of trauma effects: putative role of epigenetic mechanisms. World Psychiatry. 2018;17(3):243-257. doi:10.1002/wps.20568

  2. Reese EM, Barlow MJ, Dillon M, Villalon S, Barnes MD, Crandall A. Intergenerational transmission of trauma: the mediating effects of family health. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022;19(10):5944. doi:10.3390/ijerph19105944

By Julia Childs Heyl, MSW
Julia Childs Heyl, MSW, is a clinical social worker and writer. As a writer, she focuses on mental health disparities and uses critical race theory as her preferred theoretical framework. In her clinical work, she specializes in treating people of color experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma through depth therapy and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trauma therapy.