Trauma + PTSD
“Trauma affects the entire human organism: body, mind, brain.
In PTSD the body continues to defend against a threat that belongs to the past”
– Bessel Can Der Kolk
Trauma results from exposure to an incident or series of events that are emotionally disturbing or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, and/or spiritual well-being. During such events an individual’s ability to integrate emotional experience is overwhelmed, i.e., the person’s ability to stay present, understand what is happening, integrate the feelings, and make sense of the experience.
Trauma can mean something different for everyone. It is truly a subjective experience defined by the lasting imprint it leaves on the individual. “The situation is perceived as threatening one’s safety and survival, which stimulates subcortical defensive responses and hyper- or hypo-arousal.” – Pat Ogden 2002. “When neither resistance (fight) nor escape (flight) is possible, the human system of self-defense becomes overwhelmed and disorganized. Each component of the ordinary response to danger, having lost its utility, tends to persist in altered and exaggerated ways long after the actual danger is over” Judith Herman 1992.
All of this to say that, all though the event is over, your body is still trying to defend itself.
When I first meet clients who are interested in working on their trauma, they often describe a sensation of feeling stuck as though the same set of patterns, behaviors, and/or sensations are on repeat and nothing seems to help. Because many individuals who have experienced trauma later show up with various symptoms instead of memories, clients may not understand where their current experience is stemming from. Either immediately following a traumatic incident/persistent trauma or later in life, trauma may present as
- panic attacks
- various psychical sensation/physical pain
- autoimmune disorders
- chronic stress
When working with Trauma, my primary goal is to help a client first help a client understand what trauma is and how it impacts us. The less agency we believe we had over what happened the more traumatic an event will feel. During such events the prefrontal cortex (logic, thinking, problem solving part of our brain) goes off line and our subcortical defensive responses take over, these are the primal parts of our brain that are designed to keep us safe. Without time, space, and/or resources to process the trauma, the brain can get stuck in this survival mode; basically living as if there is constant threat. After helping clients understand what trauma is and how it is living within them, we then begin to work through various techniques to help establish a sense of safety and then going back to process the stuck feelings, memories, behaviors, etc. I do my best to provide a consistent and safe container for clients to begin this difficult work.
As a therapist I specialize in EMDR and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, both of which are somatically based treatments of trauma. I have worked with clients who have experienced a wide spectrum of trauma’s:
- physical and emotional abuse
- sexual abuse
If you feel that you may be experiencing some of the lasting symptoms of trauma and would like to explore healing some of these old wounds, please reach out.