“Trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness.” -Dr. Peter Levine
We typically think of a traumatic event as one that is acutely life-threatening or catastrophic–a car accident, being the victim of a crime, or exposure to violence and war. Some therapists and researchers refer to these as “Big T Trauma.” Research on trauma is growing, and shows the toll these experiences takes is real and can be devastating; the good news is that there is also increasing research on the avenues for healing and methods of treatment.
As a trauma-informed therapist, I take into account wounding experiences, emotional trauma, and developmental trauma as experiences that may have been overlooked or minimized, but can take a significant toll on your emotional well-being. I also take into account the impact of socio-cultural systems that can create or exacerbate the impact of trauma. This helps me approach clients without pathologizing or stigmatizing their emotional experiences, and instead acknowledges their resilience for finding a way through.
What is trauma?
Some examples of experiences that can be wounding or traumatic include things that occurred in childhood or adolescence–abuse, neglect, or growing up without access to needed resources. Having a caregiver who struggled with mental health and/or addiction, or who was chronically mis-attuned to your emotional needs, or overly dependent on you before you were developmentally able to be there for them. We include negative and harmful sibling or peer interactions. We include the loss of someone close to you, or otherwise complicated grief. Maybe there has been an emotionally or physically abusive relationship in your past or present, or you’ve experienced ongoing denigration because of the identities you hold.
All of these can have a lasting effect on our memories, the way we feel about ourselves, and the way we process and react to current-day stress.
The impact of these experiences may be confusing and hard to name, and your present-day reactions may seem completely disconnected from these past events. Sometimes there are overwhelming feelings of shame, fear, or anger. There might be patterns of behavior that have historically helped you cope, but no longer seem to be working as effectively to manage feelings of overwhelm. That can show up as anxiety, hyper-vigilance, and perfectionism. At other times, you might numb out with substances or food, shutting down or feeling disconnected as a result. When really stressed, you might think “it feels like I’m not in control” or “I just don’t feel like myself.” Even though these patterns serve a purpose, they usually end up taking a toll on our relationships, our careers, and our general well-being.
How can I Help?
I am trained in IFS Therapy, which is an evidence-based model that takes a radically non-judgmental stance towards all of the ways you have adapted to protect yourself. It goes beyond the ways pure talk therapy is beneficial, and offers meaningful and lasting change to the way you relate to your patterns. Instead of seeing your reactions as “problems” you can begin to have compassion and respect for your own resilience and adaptation. As unlikely as it sounds, this changes neural pathways in the brain, as well as the cycles you find yourself stuck in.
“Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going inside ourselves.”
-Bessel van der Kolk
When appropriate, our sessions will incorporate both the mind and body (where we hold the impact of trauma), so that you can access regulation of your nervous system, and experience deep healing. Together, we can help you to feel calm, capable, and connected to others and to yourself. You are not the burdens you carry.
According to the four types of symptoms listed in the DSM-5
- Avoiding specific locations, sights, situations, and sounds that serve as reminders of the event
- Anxiety, depression, numbness, or guilt
- Intrusive thoughts, nightmares or flashbacks
- Anger, irritability, and hypervigilance
- Aggressive, reckless behavior, including self-harm
- Sleep disturbances
Negative Mood and Cognition Symptoms
- Loss of interest in activities that were once considered enjoyable
- Difficulty remembering details of the distressing event
- Change in habits or behavior since the trauma
If you or someone you know resonates with what I have named above, I am confident that I can help you find your path to healing. I invite you to contact me today for a free consultation.