Is PTSD / Trauma Wreaking Havoc on Your Life?

  • Do you have difficulty feeling connected to yourself and others? Do you react to others in ways that you later feel poorly about and/or don’t understand why you reacted so strongly? Are your strong reactions hurting the relationships most important to you?
  • Do you need to stick with a routine to feel stable?  Do you struggle when routines get off track? Do you wish you could be more flexible and spontaneous in your life?
  • Are there certain people, places or situations you avoid because they cause heightened stress and anxiety?  Do you avoid situations that trigger traumatic memories and arouse charged feelings?  
  • Do you feel numb and lack pleasure in your life?  Perhaps you feel like you are floating through life. Do you have a tendency to prepare for the worst?
  • Do you have difficulty sleeping because your mind won’t stop thinking or perseverating? Maybe you suffer from nightmares or are easily startled? Do you wish that you could express your feelings and thoughts to others, but do not feel it is helpful or safe to do so?
  • Do you wonder what it would be like to trust others and have more flexibility in your life? Do you long to experience close, deep and/or meaningful relationships, but feel it is safer to simply be alone and depend solely on yourself?
  • If your child has experienced trauma, does he or she engage in behaviors that seem off the wall or are hard to understand?  Is your child’s trauma creating havoc for the whole family or making it difficult for him or her make and keep friendships, stay focused at school or to meet full potential?

If you can relate with some of these feelings, trauma may be the underlying issue.

Trauma Is Not Always What We Think….

Trauma is very misunderstood in our society.  Most of us think of trauma as a one time occurrence or event, such as being in a car accident, a war, robbed or physically or sexually assaulted. These are all traumas, and often cause symptoms of PTSD.  However, trauma is much more than this. Trauma can also be anything that is prolonged, overwhelming or unpredictable. When it continues on in the body/mind system unexpressed, unprocessed and misunderstood, PTSD is likely to develop. Some others things that can cause trauma include medical procedures, bullying, neglect, domestic violence, adoption or prolonged stress. Trauma get stuck on a BODY level, creating stuck images, thoughts, feelings and body sensations that make it hard to function on a daily basis or that cause a body level charge and/or reactivity. Anxiety and depression can follow, as well as sleep difficulties, nightmares, perseverating thoughts, irrational fears and other symptoms.  Relationships are difficult to create and maintain with the body mind system in such a state.  

Trauma can also result from lack of something needed, as opposed to something happening directly to us...

We often think of trauma as something that happens to us or that someone does to us to hurt us in some way. However, trauma can result when you do not receive what you needed, such as with neglect for example. We often think of neglect as not getting necessary food, shelter or other physical needs mets. However, PTSD symptoms can result from not getting love and nurturance as a child, as well as growing up feeling unloved or unworthy. This can cause Developmental Trauma and have a far greater impact than the trauma of physical abuse or various forms of assault. We can also experience the effects of developmental trauma through family dysfunction, abandonment and attachment and bonding deficits.  

Early Trauma Affects Our Brains,
Behavior And Relationships

Our brain requires a lot of sensory input as infants and toddlers in order for proper development and function. In today's society, an increasing numbers of infants and young children are not receiving the consistent, sensitively attuned care and responses from caregivers that is needed for brains to optimally develop for emotional health and well being. Neglect results in a brain that is underdeveloped and/or severely compromised. When this happens, some thoughts that may develop include, “I am not worthy; I am not good enough; I don’t matter; My thoughts and feelings do not matter; I cannot trust others; or Expressing my thoughts and feelings is not helpful.” As these children grow into adults, these thoughts carry on in as if they are true, and people behave, protect themselves and react to others based on these beliefs. This makes it very difficult to maintain healthy relationships whether it is with a partner, friend, child or co-worker. If you have experienced this type of trauma, you may have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Bi-polar Disorder ADHD or a mood or anxiety disorder.  

How Does Trauma Look in a Child?

Children's brains are not equipped to have the insight and understanding of themselves that allow them to express their feelings and thoughts in a controlled, calm manner. Nor are they often able to process the difficulties that they have experienced so as to create the healing that they need.  Instead, they act out their feelings, worries, anxieties, stresses, struggles and traumas via their behaviors. Some of these behaviors include anxiety, a need for control, being oppositional or defiant, being distant or overly needy/clingy, as well as more severe behaviors, such as urinating or defecating in their pants or in strange places other than the toilet, physical or verbal aggression and other behaviors that seem strange or out of context. These behaviors most likely have their roots in stresses or traumas, some of which could not necessarily be prevented or were out of the control of their parents. Some children with a history of very early trauma may have a diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), as well as another diagnosis, such as Depression, ODD, ADHD and Anxiety Disorders.  

How Treatment Can Help You

We have learned a lot about the brain in the last 25 years, including the ways in which trauma affects it and how to heal it. With this understanding, many effective treatments have been developed to literally change the detrimental affects of trauma on the brain so that you can live a full, authentic life of joy, contentment and meaningfulness.  

I specialize in providing PTSD treatment to those who have experienced trauma of every sort, whether it is a single trauma, early trauma before there is even a conscious memory, or Complex Trauma, which is an accumulation of trauma within the context of family and other intimate relationships that happen repetitively over time. It is important to find a therapist that you feel comfortable and safe with so that you can build a relationship for the healing work that you do.. It is also important to choose a therapist who is knowledgeable and experienced specifically in providing trauma treatment.  

I begin working with you to create the safety and stabilization you need to feel confident to do the more intense trauma work. This may include learning to ground yourself and learning coping skills or mindfulness to manage and respond to stress, triggers and anxiety in your everyday life.  

I will work at your pace, gently challenging and supporting you to move forward in your healing process.  Just like if you were training for something physical like a running race, we will move slowly to increase your strength, confidence and sense of empowerment before we do the actual trauma treatment.

Some of the treatments that I use include EMDR, Laurell Parnell’s Attachment Focused EMDR, various Body/Mind therapies such as Somatic Experiencing, April Steee’s Imaginal Nurturing using Guided Imagery, Sandra Paulson’s Early Trauma Protocol/Model, Narrative Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Mindfulness Training.  

For children, I work together with parents to teach them how trauma affects the brain, behaviors and relationships of their children so that they have the understanding they need to impact their children. With this understanding, I guide parents to implement strategies in their everyday interactions with their children. By using their relationship and responding to their children in ways that will create regulation and calmness, their child’s brains can process, heal and recover from the effects of trauma, as well as alleviate severe behaviors. I can also consult with school personnel to help them implement strategies in the school environment for success. I work with parents and children together to provide trauma treatments, such as EMDR in conjunction with Narrative Therapy or Play, Play Therapy and Dan Hughes Model of Attachment Family Therapy.  

Will I have to talk about and relive the
Trauma Over and Over?

Trauma gets stuck in the body, along with the images, feelings, thoughts and body sensations that occurred during the trauma. Although cognitive behavioral therapy and other talk-based therapies can relieve some stress and provide acknowledgement, understanding and empathy, as well as teach coping skills to learn how to manage some of the triggers and other symptoms of PTSD, there are limits to using only talk-based therapy. Trauma is stored on the right side of the brain with no concept of time or history, where as the logical, rational part of our brain is on the left side. Talk-based therapy typically only engages this left side of the brain, not addressing the actual trauma. Trauma therapy aims to provide integration through the development of new neural pathways in the brain. Thus, effective trauma treatment must engage both sides of the brain—where emotion and reason can connect—in order for the brain to fully process, integrate and heal the effects and symptoms of trauma.  

The good news is that you do not always have to talk about every detail of the traumatic experience(s) for your body/mind system to fully process trauma so as to create healing. EMDR treatment, for example, offers a unique way to process trauma in which you are not doing a lot of talking if you prefer not to. Please refer to the document here for more information on how EMDR works.  

How will treatment improve my relationships and life?

Life does not have to be a constant struggle. Your body was made to be able to recover from trauma. With the help and guidance of a therapist who specializes in trauma, you can regain your life and a sense of freedom. You can feel safe. You can calm your entire system to allow for better sleep and concentration. You can calm or eradicate the triggers and reactivity that developed from trauma and respond to others in the way that you would like or intend to.

Please feel free to give me a call or send me an e-mail to ask any questions you may have, to determine whether I may be a good fit for you as a therapist and/or to schedule your first appointment and begin the healing process.