What is trauma?
Trauma occurs when a person’s physical or psychological health has been threatened to the extent where it is damaging physically, psychologically or both. Examples of situations that can cause trauma include emotional abuse, physical abuse, elder abuse, sexual abuse/rape, fire, muggings, natural disasters, auto accidents, plane crashes, war experiences, being held hostage, etc.
During these kinds of events it is common to feel overwhelmed, helpless and experience an inability to cope or be paralyzed. The ability to think clearly is also significantly impaired and a person might feel “outside” themselves.
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) occurs when the stress effects of trauma continue or get worse over time.
Effects of trauma
Trauma results in distinct physical and psychological changes. People who experience trauma may function in the everyday world as if the trauma is still occurring and the world is not a safe place. The nervous system stays on high alert and they may be in a state of hyperarousal or dissociation. The fontal lobes of the brain may also be shut down and the person can often find themselves in a state of “flight or fight.” It could feel like they have their foot on the gas pedal and the break at the same time.
Over time the following symptoms may be experienced:
- Eating disorders
- Compulsive behaviors
- Trouble thinking clearly
- Unwanted thoughts
- Trouble managing relationships
- Easily overwhelmed
- Sexual issues
- Sense of numbness
- Sense of the unreal – being out of one’s body
- Re-occurring nightmares
- Memory loss
- Thoughts of suicide
In an effort to deal with these symptoms it is common for a person to use any number of substances or activities to regulate discomfort and difficult feelings including taking drugs, alcohol, drinking food/eating, sex.
Fortunately there a number of highly effective treatment methods and tools available to release the negative effects of trauma and help people live happier, healthier lives.
The treatment modalities of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and Psychophysical Psychotherapy have proven to be gentle yet extremely effective methods for releasing held trauma. They also provide great resources for helping people to learn how to manage physical symptoms and difficult emotions.
The Expressive Arts provide powerful and creative tools for accessing deeper unconscious material, resolving distressing life issues and helping people lead a happier more satisfying life. No artistic ability or training is necessary. Visual art, music, movement, sand tray, imagery and dream-work provide a variety of options for healing and self-expression.
When an individual experiences trauma, that event becomes “stuck in time” in the mind and body. EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing helps a person review memories and experiences so that they can view disturbing material in a new and less distressing way. The traumatic memories become “unstuck”. EMDR helps the brain re-process information; very similar to what naturally happens to information processing while sleeping.
Essential to the success of any treatment program is a compassionate, non-judgmental environment where a person can feel safe to work through the effects of being harmed and feeling hurt.
Benefits of counseling:
- Release trauma from the body/mind
- Stop using alcohol, or other drugs or engaging in unhealthy activities
- Learn how to deal with difficult memories & emotions without addictive behaviors
- Gain more control over everyday life
- Feel better in your own “skin”
- Improved self-esteem
- Improved relationships & communication skills
- Less depression/anxiety
- Increased ability to deal with stress
- More happiness & joy from everyday life
- Develop a support system
To discuss how counseling can help you overcome trauma, email me in confidence or contact me by phone at 415 420-4464.