Steps Mental Health

Trauma Treatment

Stephanie Dutson, LPC, CHMC

Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Most people have experienced some form of trauma during their lifetime. When discussing trauma reactions, we are focused on how you perceived and experienced a distressing event. The impact of trauma is different for everyone and no two people will experience one event in the exact same way. This means you can experience something that others believe was not significantly upsetting, while you may experience that event as extremely impactful and traumatic. Whether it was a painful childhood, loss of control, humiliation, a destructive relationship, abuse or assault, physical or emotional injury, these experiences can continue to impact your life in obvious, daily responses or on a more deeper, subconscious level. Trauma may hurt your relationships, your self-confidence, and general happiness with life.

Trauma is stored deep in the body and reactions can often surface before your conscious self (higher level thinking) can even register what is happening. You may experience a sensory trigger like seeing, hearing, or smelling something that relates to the original event and find your mind and body suddenly reacting in intense ways even though you know rationally that you are safe. You may feel trapped by your trauma responses and feel that you are at the mercy of every possible trigger. This lack of control of your life can become very exhausting over time.

When trauma is not associated with a single event and is instead the result of long-term, chronic stress, the symptoms may seem harder to pinpoint. For example, a highly chaotic childhood environment can lead to dysfunctional and chaotic relationship experiences as an adult without being able to identify very specific triggers of trauma. While sources of trauma may at times be more difficult to pinpoint, there is hope in recognizing that many of the treatment tools used will be similar and provide the same level of relief.

Symptoms of trauma

Unresolved traumas can lead to many different symptoms, some of which include:

  • Nightmares or sleep disturbances.
  • Intrusive thoughts about the past event that seem to show up out of nowhere.
  • Feeling triggered and experiencing strong emotional reactions that feel disproportionate to the situation.
  • Being easily startled and feeling “jumpy”.
  • Low self-confidence or self-worth.
  • Avoiding people, places, or things that trigger painful emotions.
  • Increased or decreased appetite.
  • Feeling disconnected from your body or feeling emotionally numb.
  • Getting stuck in the memory or feeling like you are reliving the experience.
  • Difficulty connecting or struggling with intimacy issues.

How is trauma treated?

Trauma typically affects your entire being – the mental, physical, and spiritual can all be impacted by the lasting effects of trauma. It is important to create a new, more healing-focused narrative in relation to your trauma. Some therapy techniques like talk therapy, emotion processing, and journaling will help create a sense of empowerment in your story, while also honoring and acknowledging how the event has impacted you. Your therapist will also help you uncover and heal from any distorted or limiting beliefs you have that may be keeping you stuck.

While talk therapy, including Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a very important aspect of trauma treatment, it is also crucial to address the somatic (body-based) effects of trauma in order to treat the whole self. This may include things like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), somatic processing, and other trauma-informed mindfulness and grounding techniques. Healing from trauma is a whole body experience that should be tailored to meet your specific needs.

At Steps Mental Health, trauma treatment involves helping the brain and body heal from the effects of trauma while also creating new perspectives of the experience. We will start by building a plan together that we both agree on to make sure you feel as safe and in control as possible throughout the process. We will then work on building coping skills and strategies to help you have the tools to help you manage any distress that may come up. This, combined with processing experiences described above, will provide the best possible setup for healing.

In any trauma healing experience, it is important that your therapist provides a safe and supportive environment and that you feel heard and understood. Advocating for your need for safety and empathy during this process is absolutely necessary and appropriate.

How will trauma treatment help me?

Healing from trauma can be a very scary thought because it involves facing the pains you have been working so hard to avoid. While the processing phases can be difficult, healing these old wounds allows you to take control of your life and become more empowered in so many areas of your life. When you commit to the healing process, many people feel more connected to themselves and others, more resilient, more self-worth, and an overall greater sense of meaning beyond their suffering.

In any trauma healing experience, it is important that your therapist provides a safe and supportive environment and that you feel heard and understood. Asserting your needs for safety and empathy during this process is absolutely necessary and appropriate.

If you have more questions about how trauma treatment might look for you, email me to schedule a free consultation.

Phone: (205) 213-2571

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