What is Trauma?
Trauma happens when we go through something devastating, overwhelming, and/or terrifying without the chance to process our feelings about experience. These trauma experiences can be a single event, multiple events, or chronic toxic stress that is above and beyond our capacity and resources to cope. Because our mind and body did not process through the emotions, we lock them into our memories and bodies. It is as if our emotions become frozen in the time of trauma. Sometimes the trauma gets trapped in our mind and body enough that we develop what mental health professionals call "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" or PTSD. If you're experiencing some of these symptoms, your mind and body are trying to recover and return to normal and it's the perfect time to reach out and begin trauma therapy.
Symptoms of PTSD After Trauma
Some of the symptoms of PTSD that can happen after you've experienced a trauma include:
- Recurrent, intrusive images, thoughts, and perceptions
- Recurrent distressing dreams or nightmares
- Reliving the trauma through flashbacks, hallucination, illusions (e.g., seeing your attacker in a crowd of people)
- Feeling emotionally distressed and physically reactive when you come into contact with people, places, or things that reminds you of the trauma (e.g., news stories, going back to the place where the trauma occurred, etc.)
- Avoiding anything that could remind you of the trauma
- Having trouble remembering parts of the trauma
- Struggling with negative beliefs about yourself; blaming yourself for what happened
- Persistent negative feelings (e.g., horror, anger, guilt, shame, etc.)
- Things that you used to enjoy no longer feels enjoyable
- Feeling detached from the people that you love, feeling numb to emotions and physical sensations
- Thoughts that you are better off dead; thoughts of harming yourself
- Easily startled, feeling on-edge, constantly aware of your surroundings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Feeling that you are outside of your own body; feeling that the world is unreal
Do I need Trauma Therapy?
Not all traumatic experiences cause trauma symptoms or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For example, two people can experience the same car accident and yet one may develop trauma symptoms while the other does not. Trauma symptoms can develop when there is a lack of support from family and friends who can help you identify, express, and make meaning of your emotions after a traumatic experience.
The symptoms of trauma can be debilitating and significantly impair your daily functions. You may find it more difficult to go to school, function at work, stay engaged with your friends and family, and take care of yourself. When you have unprocessed trauma in your body, you may find yourself having emotional reactions that seems out of your control and more extreme than the context calls for. This is why, I believe, it is important to address not only the symptoms, but also address the trauma directly for long-term relief and lasting change. Trauma therapy can help you work through your past traumatic experiences, relieve the symptoms of PTSD and allow you to move forward with your life! As a trained clinical psychologist, I can help.
What does trauma counseling look like?
What does counseling for trauma look like?
When we experience something devastating, overwhelming, and/or terrifying, we often react from our “animal brain,” the parts of our brain that focuses on survival above all. These parts of the brain contain the fight, flight, freeze, or appease reactions. These parts of the brain do not have a sense of time nor can it make meaning of our experiences. This is why when we are triggered, we tend to act from a place of fight, flight, freeze, or appease as if the trauma is occurring right now instead of in the past. Therefore, trauma treatment is focused on supporting your mind and body’s natural process to integrate and make sense of the emotions about the trauma.
When you enter into treatment with me, I will first take a broad and comprehensive approach to understanding you and your life. This includes understanding your current stressors and symptoms, your relationship dynamics, your past experiences, your family history, your sociopolitical context, your cultural background and identities, your coping strategies, the patterns that you have noticed in your life, your strengths and resilience, etc. As trauma treatment may bring up a lot of difficult emotions, we will focus on building up your coping strategies and protective factors. This means identifying and practicing strategies to reduce tension, sooth yourself, and care for your mind and body, as well as seeking support from friends and family. When you are ready, we will go through the trauma experiences slowly. In the retelling process, we will allow your mind and body to experience and make sense of all of the emotions in the safety of therapy.
How will I know I am making progress in trauma treatment or when I am better?
Progress in therapy is not as a linear path across time but a circular journey to health and healing. Progress in therapy is like a screw. In therapy, you may feel like we are going around and around on the same issues but each time we pass by them we are going deeper. Through the identification and practice of effective coping strategies, we will immediately address the most painful aspects of your life. Our initial focus in trauma therapy will be decreasing the PTSD symptoms that hinders that most keep you feeling stuck or unable to live your ideal life. From there, we will go deeper to process through your trauma. When you have noticed significant improvements in your mood, relationships, and functioning, we will then focus our energy to prevent triggers and to explore ways for you to live a life that is full of hope, joy, and empowerment. To get the most value out of our work together, you can take responsibility for your part of the therapy process: show up on time, communicate cancellations timely, think about our sessions beforehand, complete assignments, be ready and motivated to make changes in your life, value directness in feedback, take risks, try new things, and apply the new coping strategies to your life.
Begin Trauma Therapy
You don't have to live feeling stuck in the past or held back by the trauma you went through in the past. I know it can be hard to ask for help, but things can get better. If what you've read here resonates and you live in the Seattle area, I encourage you to reach out and contact me today. We will schedule an appointment to meet at my counseling office in the Ballard neighborhood. Then, together we will begin exploring how psychotherapy can help you on your journey toward healing.
Other Counseling Services
Trauma and PTSD symptoms may not be the only thing you are coping with right now. That is ok. Humans are complex individuals and it's common for people to come into my office with more than one concern about their emotional & mental health. That is why, I offer a variety of counseling services at my Ballard counseling office. I take a wholistic approach to your mental health using techniques from various evidence based counseling approaches to help you find deep, lasting healing. Some of the specific other services I offer include depression counseling, anxiety treatment, marriage & couples therapy and psychotherapy to help you develop a healthier relationship with food. Whatever your specific situation might be, if you are looking for a multicultural, bilingual, caring psychologist, I am here to help. I look forward to helping you reconnect with your authentic self so you can find balance, joy & peace in your life.