Do you feel like traumatic events from your past are preventing you from living the life you so desperately want?
- Do you fear that you’re broken and have no chance of ever feeling normal?
- Think you will never be able to move on and leave the past behind?
- Are you struggling to keep your anger and stress under control?
- Do you feel like you can’t handle “normal” things that other people find easy?
Exposure to trauma is devastating – it changes your life and it’s easy to fear that you’ll never be “normal” again. No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to feel safe and you live your life in survival mode.
Simple things, like getting a good night of sleep or feeling happiness, become so difficult.
Not only is this exhausting and upsetting, but it also robs you of the experiences you want to have in your life. It’s like your past prevents you from any chance of having the kind of life other people get to have.
You end up feeling disconnected and alone, struggling to trust anyone enough to create meaningful relationships.
Did I really experience trauma? It’s common to question if your trauma “counts”
People often think trauma only means major, obvious experiences like being in war, violent assault, a horrible accident or rape. And of course those are traumatic, but trauma includes much more than that.
Trauma includes many more experiences that overwhelm your ability to cope and engage your body’s survival mechanism.
Many of the traumas people don’t recognize include relational and developmental traumas. These are experiences that happen in a relationship (parenting, friend, or romantic) like emotional control/abuse, neglect, abandonment, prolonged distress, shaming behaviors, etc. It’s impossible to catalog all of them here.
Generally, my thought is that if you an experience from your past is causing you pain and you’re unsure if it’s traumatic – there’s a good chance that it was.
Trauma is far more common than you probably think
First, I should note that it is very difficult to accurately determine how many people experience traumatic events because many people question whether their experiences were actually traumatic.
Studies have shown that nearly half of all children in the US experience at least one “adverse childhood event (ACE)” growing up and 10% (1 out of every 10) experiences 3 events, which places them at very high risk for PTSD.
Other studies show us that at least 60% of men, and 50% of women report experiencing at least one traumatic event in their lifetime.
Roughly 7% of the population will experience PTSD at some point in their life and at least 90% of people in therapy have been exposed to past traumas, even if they don’t have PTSD.
The good news is that because trauma is so common, we have very effective ways of helping people heal.
PTSD Treatment Can Help You Heal
The most important thing to know is that therapy is very effective for helping people heal trauma, whether they have a diagnosis of PTSD or not.
There has been extensive research done on the effects of therapy and the best data tell us that the average “treated person” is better off than 80% of those who have not engaged in therapy.
I have been training in trauma treatment since 2006 and I have been formally trained in most of the evidence-based approaches to trauma therapy (like prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy, emotion-focused therapy for trauma, EMDR). With therapy, there is not “one size fits all” approach, so I work to find the best way to work with each individual client.
Typically, I have multiple goals in the treatment of trauma. There will usually be work done on current functioning – teaching coping skills to help you manage the current symptoms more effectively. I also often address the unhealed wounds from your past that are causing the currently painful symptoms. This has to be done from a place of safety – I work to create safety in the therapeutic relationship as well as internal safety while we’re doing the difficult healing work.
The more you feel able to manage your symptoms, the more safety you feel inside, which allows your best self to emerge. Furthermore, addressing the unhealed traumas from your past allows your symptoms to go away and you find a whole new level of freedom in life.
Before healing, these past traumas can feel like they are happening now even though they are far in the past – after therapy, they are like any other memory that stays in the past unless thought of.
Many people find they are shocked at how much easier life is once they are free from these old wounds.
One important thing to understand about work with me is that I believe you get to determine how therapy goes. This is true on multiple levels.
First, it means that you get to determine the pace of therapy – my job is to give you options and facilitate the treatment you want, not to force you into things you’re not ready to face yet.
Second, it means that each person’s path to healing is unique. I use approaches that listen to your specific pains and let those guide what needs to be healed – I don’t come in with an idea ahead of time of what “your issues” are or what needs to be healed ahead of time.
Another important thing to know is that I check in with my clients frequently to see how we are doing. I check in at the end of each session to see how the session felt and find out if I can adjust anything to meet your needs more effectively. My goal is for every session to feel useful to you – if that’s not happening, I’m not doing my job.
You May Still Have Questions about Trauma Therapy…
Are You Sure I Can Be Helped?
I get it, when you’ve been struggling for a long time and found no way to improve things it’s natural to think that nothing can help. And I’m no snake-oil salesman, as much as I wish I could promise you I can help you that wouldn’t be honest.
I can say that the evidence (both my own experience and the research) says that you probably can be helped.
The other thing I tell all my clients is that there are no long-term commitments here. You can give it a try, see if it’s for you and keep coming if it is, or stop if it’s not helpful.
I guess it comes down to deciding if you’d rather try it out to see if actually can help or not. Either way I get it!
Do I Have To Talk About What Happened?
I totally understand this question. Who would want to talk about the most painful things they’ve experienced? I think that’s natural.
The good thing is there’s work that can be done to help you even without talking about it. In fact, we can do a lot!
The days of being forced to talk about the trauma over and over are behind us, thankfully. Two effective treatments can be done without telling me everything that happened, not to mention the other treatments that focus on dealing better with your life right now that don’t go into the past.
I can’t promise you won’t think about it – in fact, we know you will, but I am not going to require you to talk about it in detail.
Honestly, you are the most important person in making these decisions – we only talk about things as you want to. In fact, in the early sessions I actually will help you NOT tell me a lot about what happened, because it takes a trusting relationship to share your traumas safely, and that takes a bit of time to develop.
How Can You Help? You’ve Never Been Through What I Have
You’re right, I will never understand your exact experience. I would be a fool to claim that I can.
The best I can do is trust your report of your experience and help you work with it to improve things. Thankfully, I don’t have to fully understand everything about what you went through to be helpful – our treatments are focused on you understanding it, not me.
That said, most of my clients are pleasantly surprised that I am able to genuinely be with them no matter what they’ve been through. I am a no-BS therapist, so I’m not going to lie to you and say “I get it” when I clearly don’t or can’t. All I do is focus on your emotional experience, and that is something I do understand as a fellow human being.
Are You Sure My Trauma Counts? I Am Not Sure
This is such a common concern. I have worked with trauma for 13+ years now and not once have I dismissed someone’s trauma, or thought it didn’t count.
Comparing traumas is a pointless exercise that will only be destructive. Trauma is a very personal experience – essentially it is any experience that overwhelms your ability to cope with what’s happening. Too many times people think this only means a violent event or something like war, but most of my work is with people who have had developmental or relational trauma and these are exactly the things that make people question if what they experienced was “bad enough.”
My answer is always, “of course it was, yes yes yes!”
Trauma Therapy Can Help
I’d love to talk to you more to see if therapy with me could help you. I offer a free phone consultation with me to answer any questions you might have about me, how I work, or anything else you’d want to ask. You can schedule a call easily online – click the link below to get started. It’s that easy.