Has a traumatic experience from your past never fully left you? Do you struggle to feel safe in situations? Unable to move past what happened, do you worry that unresolved trauma will follow you wherever you go unless you do something about it?
If you have experienced trauma, you could be impacted in innumerable ways, both mentally and physically. Perhaps you feel emotionally detached at certain times, while at other times you are sad and anxious, seemingly for no reason.
Although you may not always understand why, sometimes your body reacts as though it is in danger. And when something triggers you—like being in a place where you do not feel safe—you might experience a visceral reaction where your heart races, muscles tense, and you hyperventilate. As your mind flashes back to the traumatic memory, you relive the pain and fear all over again.
Your day-to-day routine may be punctuated by mood swings, anger, and irritability. Because you feel on edge, it might be hard for you to concentrate at work or home. And even though what happened to you wasn’t your fault, you may blame yourself for your emotional and physical distress. Maybe you have concluded that a stronger person would be able to handle things so you must be broken in some way.
To protect yourself from further hurt, perhaps you close yourself off from others or struggle to maintain close relationships. You may choose to sidestep confrontation or hard conversations at the expense of connection and intimacy.
Feeling isolated may cause you to turn to substances for relief. However, there are healthier ways to feel better. The good news is that therapy can help you process the unresolved trauma that keeps a part of you stuck in the pain of the past.
70 percent of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives. And although many are able to heal from trauma over time without intervention, some of us develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is a neurological and physiological shift into survival mode. For those with PTSD, it is safer for us to feel nothing than experience overwhelm, anger, stress, fear, and sadness. That’s why we often vacillate between feeling “checked out” emotionally and being triggered into fight-flight-or-freeze mode.
Our nervous system is equipped with innate survival instincts to keep us safe when faced with danger, such as physical threats. And so, after we experience a distressful event, our body and mind want to remember what happened—deeply and indelibly—as a way of keeping us safe in the future. Unfortunately, we may unwittingly hold onto traumatic memories to the point where they negatively affect our physical and emotional well-being.
No one experiences trauma the same way. For some, there is a clear cause and effect between what happened and how we feel afterward. But for others, we may not be aware of how events from the past still affect us now. Sometimes the aftereffects of trauma eventually resolve on their own without the need for intervention, but this is not always the case.
If you are still reeling from the fallout of a traumatic event—such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse experienced as a child—treatment can help. With therapy, you can learn how to manage the symptoms related to trauma or PTSD so that they no longer impact your daily life.
Perhaps you are reluctant to confront your trauma. Unfortunately, the emotional and physical distress that keeps coming up won’t relent until you make sense of what happened and process the trauma that remains unresolved within your nervous system. Therapy offers a clear, supportive path forward that allows you to turn the page on trauma and get on with your life.
In counseling sessions for trauma and PTSD, your counselor will aim to foster trust and ensure that a sense of safety has been established. With trauma-informed therapy, you get to set the pace to explore whatever feels comfortable for you. What’s more, processing trauma doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to relive your experience or talk about the details surrounding what happened. For some, that is part of therapy. For others, it is not.
After gathering your history and finding out how trauma has impacted you, your therapist will ensure they understand what your goals for therapy are. Once you feel ready, we will formulate a treatment plan that will address your unresolved trauma and the symptoms you may be experiencing, like nightmares, flashbacks, or hypervigilance. As you develop a better understanding of what happened, it will become easier to decrease the frequency and intensity of your symptoms. And by examining your trauma—single or multiple-incident, childhood, or other—you can connect how past experiences continue to influence your decision-making and relationships as an adult.
We utilize various forms of therapy to help you recover from trauma. Contextual therapy is a client-centered, goal-oriented, and collaborative way for you to gain a broader understanding of what happened to you as well as the systems in place that allowed it to happen. Rather than blame yourself, contextualizing your experience can help you gain valuable perspective that can shift your feelings surrounding the event.
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy that uses bilateral stimulation or eye movement to help dislodge traumatic memories and regulate the nervous system. With reprocessing, the indelible memories that have become stuck in your psyche will gradually decrease in intensity so that you can quiet your mind and restore calm.
Additionally, we may use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help you recognize the distorted thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that have resulted from your trauma. In conjunction with CBT, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) offers tangible skill-building you can implement for self-soothing, such as grounding techniques and mindfulness.
What happened to you isn’t your fault—you deserve to feel comfortable in your own skin and breathe easier. With trauma-informed therapy, it’s possible to resolve the symptoms of PTSD and live a happier, healthier life.
If you experienced trauma early in your life and suffer from debilitating PTSD, you may have doubts that counseling will be helpful. Your emotional wounds may run deep. But even if you were the victim of sexual or physical abuse as a child or sexual violence as an adult, therapy can help decrease the symptoms associated with PTSD. Working with a trauma-informed therapist, it’s possible to move out of fear and into a sense of safety.
Understandably, you may be concerned that counseling will entail having to confront and reexperience the fear you associate with your trauma. However, with an array of different modalities to choose from, you can select one you feel comfortable with. Some treatments can be effective without the necessity of having to revisit your trauma in detail.
As a trauma survivor, establishing relationships where you feel safe and comfortable enough to be vulnerable with another person can be challenging. In counseling, you will be given an opportunity to process unresolved trauma at your own pace. As the symptoms you experience gradually diminish, the walls of protection you have built to keep yourself safe will begin to crumble. Getting back in touch with feelings that have been long suppressed will allow you to open yourself up to a healthy relationship.
It’s never too late to restore well-being. If you would like to find out more about trauma therapy with Whole Health Psychological Center, please visit our contact page or call (561) 721-6400 to schedule a phone consultation.