Therapy for Trauma & Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Are Events From Your Past Impacting Your Ability To Cope?
Have you experienced an event or series of events that has had long-term ramifications on your mental health? Did you endure physical, sexual, or emotional abuse as a child? Are you struggling with uncomfortable or painful symptoms that stem back to a particularly stressful time?
You may have recently endured an accident or other physically distressing injury that has left you in shock. Perhaps you witnessed an unexpected or particularly traumatic death that has caused you to be in denial. If you observed a critical situation or act of violence, it’s entirely possible that the event shook your emotional foundations.
Alternatively, you may be struggling with unresolved incidents from your past. If you are the child of emotionally negligent parents or a survivor of physical, sexual, or verbal abuse, you may be dealing with the long-term consequences of the trauma experienced during your upbringing. Or you may find yourself haunted by flashbacks, uncomfortable memories, or a sense of feeling damaged by your past.
Regardless of when the event took place, unresolved trauma manifests in both physical and emotional symptoms. You may be impacted by disordered sleep, chronic pain, or symptoms of anxiety and depression associated with the traumatic memory. Perhaps you’re experiencing a lack of emotional resilience, causing you to feel unregulated or become detached and withdrawn from others. And you may seek to numb your mental state in an effort to forget the painful or disturbing experience you endured.
While you may feel like you can or should be able to resolve these issues, navigating trauma on your own can be an isolating, counterproductive, and frustrating undertaking. That is precisely why the perspective of a trained therapist can pave the way for healing your trauma and providing clarity through counseling.
Wounds Left Unhealed Can Create A Domino Effect Of Re-Traumatization
Trauma takes many forms and affects a wide range of individuals. In fact, I estimate that almost half of the clients seen at my practice seek therapy services because of unresolved trauma from their past. Whether this post-traumatic stress is the result of a frightening accident, an act of violence, or an instance of emotional abuse and neglect, healing from such an experience takes time and the right kind of support.
Moreover, individual trauma can be complicated by external factors. For instance, throughout the #MeToo movement, survivors of sexual assault, harassment, or violence may have been triggered by graphic descriptions seen on the news or social media—increasing the potential for flashbacks and emotional distress. Similarly, current events like global health emergencies, environmental disasters, and an increasingly charged political discourse may cause those of us who have been traumatized in the past to become hypervigilant and constantly worried about how to cope or what might come next.
In addition, cultural factors play into how we conceptualize trauma. What may be considered abusive or neglectful in other cultures might not translate as abusive and neglectful in ours and vice versa. And this creates discrepancies in how we characterize trauma for those of us who are immigrants or adapting to a new culture.
Regardless of the trauma, an adverse experience makes us feel different and outcast from others. Oftentimes, we aren’t equipped with the vocabulary to identify and resolve our trauma and in some instances, we may not even know that we have been traumatized at all. And because trauma so often results in feelings of guilt and shame, we choose to avoid the memory at all costs, shutting ourselves off from the possibility of healing.
Seeking therapy for trauma does not indicate a weakness or a character flaw, however. In fact, treatment is the quickest and most effective way to relieve yourself of the emotional and physical burdens that a traumatic event has placed on your shoulders.
Therapy Gives You The Opportunity To Identify And Resolve Trauma
No matter the issue or ailment, therapy allows clients to achieve a high and meaningful quality of life. By giving you the tools to help you identify and respond to trauma, a therapist can help you gain the skill set needed to overcome and reduce the possibility of re-traumatization in the future.
Tailoring treatment to meet the needs of each individual client, I can ensure that trauma therapy moves at your pace and according to your comfort level. Because I integrate trauma-informed care into my approach, I will gain a better sense of what your foundations are for coping as I begin to learn more about your emotional regulation skills. Using that information and a sense of your goals for therapy, we will collaborate to find the most effective treatment plan and solutions to guide you on the path of healing.
Throughout the course of counseling, I will provide you with psychoeducation about the ways in which trauma has impacted your physical, mental, and emotional functions. Not only will you learn about where the body stores trauma, but you will also be encouraged to develop further awareness of your mind-body connection. Over time, you will gain a better understanding of trauma and trauma-related symptoms, as well as the emotional regulation and mindfulness skills that will be essential in managing triggers in the future.
Using elements of trauma-informed care, anxiety reduction, and behavioral modalities—such as cognitive behavioral and dialectical behavioral therapies (CBT and DBT)—I will help you better understand the relationship between your thoughts, feelings, and reactions. In addition, I will introduce narrative and exposure therapies when necessary during counseling sessions, giving you the chance to re-evaluate and reclaim the story of your trauma.
Traumatic responses are normal reactions to an abnormal situation. You are not alone in experiencing your trauma, nor is it your fault that this unfortunate event occurred. And when our therapist-client relationship is enhanced by the sense of support and collaboration that I offer, you will begin to feel even more empowered in the choices you have for telling the story of your trauma.
By providing you with a safe, trustworthy, and culturally competent space for you to explore your experiences, trauma therapy with me can help you to feel optimistic in facing both your past and future with confidence.
Perhaps you are considering enlisting the help of a trauma therapist, but you have some questions…
I am afraid trauma counseling will make me feel worse about my experience.
While it is scary to confront these uncomfortable aspects of your experience, I assure you that trauma therapy is meant to be an avenue for healing and not harm. I can’t imagine that counseling will make you feel any worse than you do right now because you will have the support and guidance of a trauma therapist to help you in cultivating the necessary tools for distress reduction. There may be painful and uncomfortable moments as we rehash your story, but this process will likely provide you with a sense of relief more than anything else.
How long until I feel better?
This will be a collaborative experience aimed towards finding you a sense of healing and relief. Therapy is a process that takes time and commitment, and you’re not likely to feel an improvement overnight. However, the skills and strategies I will help you to cultivate throughout treatment are meant to provide you with a path forward. I will check in with you frequently to make sure you feel supported and hopeful. And as long as you are feeling a sense of optimism—no matter how slight—that signals to me that things are moving in the right direction.
What if we determine that you aren’t a good fit as my trauma counselor?
I am invested in finding you healing and relief, even if that means that you need to look elsewhere for trauma therapy. My long career as a counselor has allowed me to network with a wide range of mental health professionals and gain an understanding of the resources available to clients struggling with unresolved trauma. If, after a few sessions, we determine that we are not a good therapeutic match, I am happy to provide you with a referral to other therapists and counselors who use trauma-informed approaches.
Reclaim The Life That Trauma Has Taken From You
If you struggle with painful associations and uncomfortable memories that stem from trauma, therapy can offer you the toolbox needed to find relief. For more information about how I can help or to schedule a free, 15-minute consultation, call (616) 835-0215 or contact me.
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition related to the experience or witnessing of a traumatic event. Most people who survive trauma have some symptoms of PTSD for a short time following the incident. These symptoms typically diminish with time, but for those with more severe PTSD, the symptoms of trauma recovery will increase in severity, remain undiminished for months or years, and interrupt your ability to function from day to day.