TRAUMA & POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)
You have probably heard the term “trauma” before, and maybe associated it with veterans returning from combat, or victims of a natural disaster. It can be hard to use apply such a significant term to yourself, or to something that happened in your personal life.
The way trauma is defined, in psychological terms, is as a time when you experienced a terrible event that threatened your bodily safety or life, or where you witnessed an event that threatened the bodily safety or life of another person. Trauma can be a single event, or a series of events over a period of time. How the effects of trauma manifest in your life may look very different than its effects on someone else.
Immediately after an event like this, it is normal to feel like it wasn’t that big of a deal.
It is normal to reflect that it is surprisingly easy to get back to real life. This is your resilience helping you bounce back, and taking great care of your overtaxed nervous system. Over time, though, reactions to a traumatic event can be unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. (America Psychological Association)
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is, simply stated, describing a life laced with the persistent after-effects of living through a trauma. (To learn more about symptoms of PTSD by clicking here.)
You might notice that you are feeling numb, depressed, stressed, or taking on destructive patterns in your thinking and behavior. This can really get in the way of how you approach relationships, day-to-day life, and even the safety you feel in your surrounding environment.
Does this sound like something you, or a dear person in your life is going through?
In therapy, we provide treatment for the symptoms of traumatic stress. We want to help you make sense of the experience you have gone through, and find ways to heal and get back to living your life.
We know this can be a scary prospect—to come to therapy and risk opening the issue that your mind has tried to bury. It is totally normal to be ambivalent about therapy, and think that the way you have managed the trauma on your own has yielded good enough results.
Here are 5 things you need to know when considering therapy with me for traumatic stress:
1. It is incredibly brave to show up and face the issue head on. In the short-run, it may feel easier to avoid an issue that has brought up so much pain, rather than approaching it. But in the long run, the mind and the heart don’t forget—and the body—the body never forgets. We want to help you understand your symptoms, and learn to manage and heal them. But for us to help you, you need to show up for yourself and make your healing a priority. And this takes serious courage.
2. Part of the therapy for traumatic stress is setting the stage. It is essential in this kind of treatment that together, we foster a space that provides you a sense of inner safety, agency, and choice. It is your choice how fast or slow you get into the details of the traumatic event. What you discuss in therapy. You will never be pushed to talk about something before you are ready to. This is a delicate, respectful process—and it is essential you hold all the power in your healing process.
3. You get to develop your toolkit. My work, as your therapist, is to guide you to discover your own path to recovery and what has worked well, and gotten in your way in the past. I am here to help you acknowledge where in your life you have choice, how you can take effective action, and eventually, help you create new rhythms in your life.
4. You start to feel again, in a safe environment. This can be very scary, but is a vital step in the healing process, especially if you have experienced some kind of physical trauma like assault, abuse, or a life-threatening accident. It is possible that, in response to your trauma, you have learned to cope by choosing not to feel. By entering therapy, you are beginning a slow and safe process of opening yourself up to feeling again, with someone who is rigorously trained in working in these types of situations.
5. Post-traumatic stress symptoms will ebb and flow with life. Knowing this in advance is so important because it will help you stay confident in your healing progress even as things gets tough at times. Life will offer events or milestones that activate a memory of the traumatic event and the difficult months that proceeded it. It is normal for your symptoms to get triggered in these moments-- and it is part of our therapy to plan for them: How will you remember the tools you now have to cope with this traumatic stress? What kind of support and resources can we arm you with when these symptoms inevitably return? To remember that life comes in waves, and some waves are not as strong as others. Ultimately, we will help you to trust in yourself that you have the tools and resilience to roll with the waves.
We take a very delicate approach with folks struggling with traumatic stress. Trauma-informed Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to help clients alleviate the symptoms and stress that the aftermath of trauma can bring to one’s life. Together we will work to decrease the intensity of symptoms while building on the foundational strengths you bring within you. Our goal is to restore and empower you as a whole person.