Trauma-Focused Therapy

I have a particular interest and specialized training in treating symptoms that can develop after acute or chronic trauma.  I have worked with people who have had recent trauma as well as those with trauma that occurred some time in the past.  Examples of types of trauma include combat experiences, rape and molestation, car accidents, death of loved ones, child abuse, and for a child it can include experiences like bullying, divorce, abandonment, and many other experiences.

Why does the trauma experience find its way into therapy? Trauma is an event or events that cause a sudden or significant negative change in our concept of self, the world and/or our future.  When this sudden or intense shift occurs, we experience it as loss, confusion, disorientation or even threat and danger.  To move through the trauma experience in healthy ways requires an adaptive neurological and psychological response that integrates the trauma experience into a new sense of identity, worldview, and sense of future.  The problem is that for some people this adaptive integration does not occur. There are many possible reasons for this, but the end result is that the person continues to experience parts of the trauma as if it were alive and in the present.  It is like they cannot get away, close the door, or just get back to “normal” life.   They are haunted by the event every day if not every hour.  And the haunting can lead to changes that complicate life.  Below are some of the more common symptoms*:

  • Intrusive re-experiencing: nightmares, flashbacks, or thoughts
  • Avoiding anything that triggers the memory: people, places, things
  • Elevated arousal, always feeling primed to react to threat, never relaxed, anxious
  • Mood extremes: depression, irritability, aggression
  • Feeling numb, detached, or spacing out and dazed
  • Memory lapses, concentration problems, learning difficulties
  • Reactivity and intensity– acting immediately and with intensity before thinking about consequences
  • Physical problems – GI problems, pain, migraines as examples
  • Distorted body perception
  • Relationship/trust issues
  • Self-loathing, shame

Counseling techniques have been developed to specifically integrate trauma and relieve symptoms.  The best evidence out there indicates that therapies that combine desensitization with cognitive (thoughts and thought patterns) restructuring are most effective.  I use these therapies.  I am trained in EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.  I am currently seeking full certification in EMDR requiring advance training and working closing with a certified consultant.  I have also trained in Prolonged Exposure Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  All three of these treatment approaches are ranked as Level A treatments by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies in their 2ndedition of Effective Treatments for PTSD. They are also best approaches advocated by 2010 guidelines advocated by the Veteran’s Association and Department of Defense

If you think you may be suffering from post trauma symptoms, please give me a call and I would be very willing to talk to you further about therapeutic approaches that will offer you relief.

* These are broadly defined symptoms of both posttraumatic stress disorder and complex developmental trauma.