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Trauma Therapy

Trauma therapy

What is Trauma?

Trauma can include a wide range of events. The old school thought on trauma only included extreme events like witnessing near-death experiences and extreme violence.

Misconceptions and Best Ways to Heal Trauma

What qualifies as trauma?

Today, we know that trauma is any event in which a person is presented with a level of distressing emotion that their brain and body find overwhelming. Their emotional state becomes dysregulated and the excess stress response chemicals get stored in the body. It may cause feelings of helplessness, and diminishes one’s sense of self and their ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences. Traumatic events can range from witnessing death to an entire spectrum of experiences. Some circumstances typically involve the loss of control, betrayal, abandonment, helplessness, pain, confusion, and/or loss.

When do you need trauma therapy?

When the symptoms linked to trauma start to impede your quality of life and prevent you from enjoying your day-to-day activities, it is time to look inward and ask yourself if it’s beneficial to continue trying to manage the symptoms alone. Below, is a list of the most common symptoms associated with unresolved trauma.

What are the symptoms of trauma? What does unresolved trauma or PTSD  look like?

Trauma shows up in a number of different ways and is different for each person:

  • Feeling zoned out (dissociation)
  • Panic (racing thoughts, rapid shallow breathing)
  • Flashbacks (reliving scenes of previous trauma in the mind)
  • Body Sensations (Re-experiencing the body sensations from a traumatic event when presented with stimuli that remind you of the event ie riding in cars, certain personalities that remind you of an abuser, smells, sounds)
  • Situational Trauma – ( Being triggered by the same season, time of year, or environment in which the traumatic event occurred)
  • Tightness in the chest 
  • Feeling Frozen 
  • Feeling like you need to run
  • Feeling like you need to people please in order to feel safe (fawning)
  • Feeling dysregulated by conflict ( this usually means you had a caregiver that didn’t have the tools to regulate their own nervous system and in turn did not teach you how to self-regulate through coregulation – more on this in our Instagram page)
  • Eating disorders 

How trauma is stored in the body? Does trauma change your brain?

When trauma is first experienced your brain and body pair certain stimuli surrounding the traumatic event with an association of danger. The post-traumatic event, when you are presented with certain stimuli (people, places, specific emotions or scenarios) your brain goes back into danger mode and produces stress chemicals putting you in a fight, flight or freeze state.

You may experience certain body sensations or feel numb as traumatic memories were stored in the body at the time of the initial traumatic event. These somatic sensations are the body’s attempt to protect you from perceived danger. Your body often will not be able to differentiate past traumatic experiences from less threatening present-day situations that remind the body of a past situation in which you experienced trauma.

What is somatic trauma therapy?

Somatic trauma therapy is a type of therapy aimed at helping people with trauma.  Trauma gets trapped in the body, and this type of therapy focuses on releasing it. Somatic therapy helps them connect more deeply with their internal process, physical sensations, and unresolved feelings around trauma. Somatic therapy uses the physical sensations in the body as a road map to accessing and releasing trauma stored in the body.

Okay, I have trauma now what? How can therapy take on a trauma-informed approach? What does a trauma counselor do?

Lots of people including me have spent years in therapy TALKING about trauma and haven’t gotten the results they were hoping for. Trauma is stored in the body on a physical level and many of the memories are stored in the body and subconscious mind which is difficult to access by talk therapy alone. 

What the research shows is that somatic therapies like: Brainspotting, Internal Family Systems, and AEDP ( Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy) allow the brain to enter a theta brainwave state where stored trauma can be removed and the brain can rewrite itself towards healthy connection.

Trauma-informed counselors use advanced somatic therapies and techniques to access the trauma stored in your body and release it. Research shows that somatic therapy has the power the allow your brian to rewire itself and break the cycles of trauma resurfacing when you are presented with situations that would normally evoke a trauma response.

How do you start trauma therapy?

If you are ready to start trauma therapy it is important to note that your therapist should be not only trauma-informed but ready to meet you where you are at. Some dive right into the process and some will need to lay the foundational groundwork, like getting comfortable in their body and developing a safe space in the therapeutic environment.

When you are ready to search for a trauma-informed therapist, make sure they are trained in somatic modalities such as brainspotting, AEDP, Emdr, IFS (internal family systems) or breathwork. Be clear about your goals and expectations for therapy and be honest about where you are at. I find therapy to be like dating. If you don’t feel like you click with your therapist in 1-2 sessions or you don’t feel emotionally safe for any reason try a new therapist.

Can therapy make the trauma worse?

The answer is it depends on if the treatment is being tailored to your readiness level and ability to be connected with your body. Some people who have difficulty staying connected to their body or frequently experience symptoms of dissociation (going numb or feeling zoned out) should be cautious and honest about these experiences with their therapist.

Diving into advanced somatic therapy techniques without first learning grounding techniques and ways to feel safe in their body can experience heightened dissociation. It is also possible for unwanted symptoms to increase at the start of a somatic intervention. Developing strategies with your therapist to make you feel safe and supported throughout the therapeutic process is key. In a safe space with the right trauma therapist and trust in yourself to stop anytime, you need to and go at your own pace can set you up for magnificent results in somatic therapy.

Is it important to know what your goal in therapy will be?

I have found that, being clear about your goals can be really helpful but it’s not required. Generally most patients enter therapy with a laundry list of unwanted symptoms and the goal is to identify and heal the subconscious links at the root of the symptoms. Some people think trauma informed therapy is meant to focus on your childhood and retelling your story.

In somatic therapy that is often not the case. Patient’s often enter the session and discuss recent events or situations in which they felt triggered or overwhelmed. These situations serve as access points for connecting with the body and the physical sensations that come up provide a guide to resolving where the related trauma in trapped and allows it to be released using a variety of techniques.

How do I know if trauma is affecting my relationships?

For individuals with a history of childhood trauma or who grew up in a dysfunctional family in which their emotional or physical need to feel safe was not met, it is common to enter friendships and dating relationships that mirror the instability experienced in childhood. Subconsciously we are drawn to partners who emulate the same characteristics of our early caregivers.

Often this results in finding ourselves in relationships in which trauma bonding occurs. Our subconscious is trying to heal old wounds from early childhood through current relationships and feels like it is at home inside these dynamics. The central nervous system of someone with childhood trauma feels at home in the chaos until it is healed.

What does trauma bonding look like in a relationship?

  • High Intense attraction at the beginning stages 
  • The relationship feels like an addiction 
  • When contemplating leaving the relationship you experience guilt feelings and worry about abandoning the other person
  • You walk on eggshells to avoid conflict 
  • The relationship has a lot of extreme highs and lows
  • You abandon your own needs to keep the relationship intact

Schedule a Session with a Trauma Therapist From Holistic Mental Health Counseling Services Staten Island NY

Contact Holistic Mental Health Counseling Services Staten Island today to schedule your session with our experienced trauma therapists.