What is Trauma Therapy?
If you are struggling with feeling disconnected from yourself and others, trauma may be the source of your suffering.
Is your life lacking pleasure because you are so used to feeling wired and anxious, or completely disconnected and numb? Does it feel like you’re always preparing for the worst case scenario? Have you ever wondered how your life would be different if you never experienced the really challenging events in your life? These feelings, along with so many more, capture what it can be like when we’re trying to live a “normal” life after experiencing trauma.
You may have even believed that the best way to move forward is forgetting what happened, “shake it off” so to speak, and just focus on the present and future. And maybe you’ve tried that, but without success. So you’re left wondering, “will I ever trust again?”, or “will I ever be able to have a full night’s sleep without having nightmares?” These are common questions we hear when we meet with our clients who have been struggling for years after experiencing a traumatic event.
Maybe you’re even questioning if what you faced is considered trauma.
Many of us think that going to war or experiencing a car crash are what we’re talking about when we’re referring to trauma. The truth is, enduring a traumatic experience is much more common than people think, but we may not use the word “trauma” to describe what it is. Everyone will experience a trauma at some point in their life.
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It can be a single traumatic event, like a death of a loved one, a natural disaster, or a divorce. Or it can be an accumulation of trauma over the course of a person’s life. These events can include child abuse, domestic violence, the death of a parent as a child, bullying, family dysfunction, a toxic work environment, or a sexual assault.
Maybe you question if what you went through was bad enough to be considered trauma. Many of us will question if we’re exaggerating an event, and we’ll tell ourselves it wasn’t really that bad. When we dismiss our own experience, the trauma still gets stored in our brains and bodies and will have lingering effects. Trauma is about how you experienced the event, not the event itself. If this is you, we encourage you to reach out. We can validate your experience and help you understand how treatment will help mitigate the lingering effects of trauma. When you’re given the insight to better understand your experience, it’s a stepping stone to healing. To start, it’s crucial to understand what trauma is, how it impacts us, and what we can do to begin our journey of healing.
What is Trauma?
Trauma results from the exposure to any event or series of events that are either life-threatening or emotionally distressing with lasting negative effects on the person’s emotional, social, physical, and mental wellbeing. The trauma often overwhelmed our ability to cope, leaving us likely feeling helpless and profoundly afraid. When we perceive danger, we go into a mode that is referred to as fight-or-flight. This is a protective mechanism that automatically happens in our attempts to find safety from the traumatic event. With lingering symptoms from trauma, we may continue holding onto this protective mechanism even though we are no longer in a vulnerable position. Living in a constant state of stress is incredibly taxing on our bodies, and this fight-or-flight state can lead to chronic mental, emotional, and physical conditions.
When we experience something negative, depending on the severity of it, our brains store these memories differently than positive or neutral memories. Automatically, we want to bury the pain, shame, and distress associated with the memories, but unfortunately, it doesn’t really work. Unprocessed trauma lingers, and it can manifest in ways we wouldn’t necessarily expect. Additionally, if we have pre existing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or any other challenges to our mental health, it can make it that much harder for us to bury the pain without it having a significant impact on our day to day life. Lastly, if we’ve experienced childhood trauma and additional challenges throughout adulthood, we are at a greater risk of developing a more complicated presentation of trauma.
Some of the symptoms you may notice as a result of experiencing one or more traumatic events include:
- Flashbacks to the traumatic event
- Trouble sleeping
- The experience of very intense emotions that are difficult to regulate
- Intolerable pain when exposed to reminders of the traumatic event
- Feeling disconnected from people in your life
- Feelings of guilt, shame and worthlessness
- Feeling easily started
- Lack of enjoyment in activities you used to love
In our attempts at coping with these painful emotions, you may find yourself wanting to feel numb. This may lead you to engage in excessive use of substances, gaming or watching television, or other addictive behaviors. Unfortunately, these behaviors lead to more problems and exacerbate our symptoms. You may feel even more alone and disconnected from the world. What’s important to know is you are not alone in your trauma. Our warm, compassionate, and highly skilled trauma therapists at Uplift can help.
What is trauma therapy and can it really help me?
Trauma focused therapy aims at addressing the needs of individuals with post traumatic stress disorder and other difficulties related to traumatic life events. We work together to focus on building the skills necessary to face past trauma, develop insight and a deep understanding of those experiences, while also working on everyday life challenges. We combine practical solutions that will help with emotional regulation, trust, and setting boundaries that can help you feel emotionally and physically safe.
Not only do we store the traumatic memories in our brains, but our bodies also remember the trauma. You may have experienced your heart racing when you pass by a location that reminds you of the trauma, or tingling or heaviness in other parts of your body when you are triggered. You may suffer from panic attacks when you hear something that also reminds you of the event. This is why we use approaches like somatic therapy to help identify these bodily sensations, connect them back to the trauma, and re-establish a healthy and comfortable mind-body connection.
We help you get to the root of your distress so you feel empowered to make the necessary changes in your life and reach a sense of strength and peace within yourself. We provide a non-judgmental and confidential environment so you can begin to feel a sense of security. Therapy is not focused on discussing every detail of the traumatic event. Instead, therapy will help you do the following
- Develop healthy coping skills – At the beginning of treatment, your trauma therapist will ensure that you have adequate coping skills and stress management techniques so you feel safe before we begin discussing anything related to the trauma. Doing so can help in feeling a sense of control and regulation over the symptoms that have been negatively impacting you for so many years.
- Identify Triggers – Trauma therapy can help to learn and identify memories and feelings that are associated with the trauma. Therapy will help your mind and body believe that you are no longer in a state of danger. Understanding triggers can help create a healthy response over time.
- Decrease traumatic stress symptoms – Trauma therapy will decrease anxiety, shame, guilt, and other negative emotions associated with the event. We’ll offer practical solutions to become aware of and stop patterns of behavior that helped you survive the trauma but are no longer helpful in your life.
- Reduce fear – Trauma therapy can reduce fear and avoidance of people or places that remind you of a traumatic experience. You will feel less triggered overall, and you’ll begin to feel like you can live a fuller, more satisfying life.
- Create a new narrative. Your trauma therapist will provide the support and guidance to lead you toward healing and clarity about the trauma you faced. This will build self confidence and self compassion.
We recognize how big of a decision it can be to begin trauma therapy. We understand that it may be incredibly challenging to even think about discussing your experience with a stranger. This is why our trauma therapists will move at a pace that you feel comfortable with. We know how much unprocessed trauma can compromise one’s quality of life. That’s why we encourage you to invest in yourself and your future. You can create the life you want and end the cycle of trauma that so many of us can get stuck in. Call us today for a free phone consultation, and learn more about how you can finally live a life full of joy and emotional freedom.