What qualifies as “trauma”? Can my child or I be suffering from the effects of trauma even if we’ve never physically been hurt? Why does it matter? And how do you recover from traumatic events?
All of these are good questions that I am asked on a regular basis. Any adverse (negative) event that an individual has experienced, either firsthand or secondhand, can be traumatic and cause difficulties in our day to day lives. Often times, people tend to think of trauma only as something that happens to our bodies, like a car crash or physical abuse, but trauma can be much more than that. Sometimes called “little t trauma”, there are some things that may not seem like a big deal to others but can affect our self-esteem, feelings of safety, and way we view the world just as a “Big T Trauma” could. Examples of this could be a nonabusive but emotionally neglectful parent, frequent moves growing up, or problems at school. Research has clearly shown that exposure to ongoing traumatic events actually changes our brain structure and functioning so it is crucial to address trauma in order to reach our full potential.
It’s important to recognize that trauma looks different for everybody. What one person feels as traumatic may be easily brushed off by another. So just because you were bullied in school and “came out just fine” doesn’t mean that your child will also be fine if they are experiencing the same.
The good news is that humans are incredibly resilient. Our brains are designed to be flexible and adaptable (neuroplasticity) meaning that we are not doomed to a life of suffering because of things that have happened to us. There are several different and effective therapeutic methods for resolving trauma; I utilize EMDR, TF-CBT, and CPT in my practice. Just as experiences of trauma are different from person to person, the best method of resolving it will be unique to each person. Together we will create a plan based on your strengths and comfort level to address and resolve trauma.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)= Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy was initially developed in 1987 for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR treatment considers symptoms of PTSD and other disorders (unless physically or chemically based) to result from past disturbing experiences that continue to cause distress because the memory was not adequately processed. Unlike other treatments that focus on directly altering the emotions, thoughts and responses resulting from traumatic experiences, EMDR therapy focuses directly on the memory, and is intended to change the way that the memory is stored in the brain, thus reducing and eliminating the problematic symptoms. While clients briefly focus on the trauma memory and simultaneously experience bilateral stimulation (BLS), the vividness and emotion of the memory are reduced.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)= one evidence-based type of trauma-focused psychotherapy for adults, CPT teaches you how to evaluate and change the upsetting thoughts you have had since your traumatic event/s. By changing your thoughts, you can change how you feel, which changes how you act and react!
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)= another evidence-based treatment approach shown to help children, adolescents, and their parents (or other caregivers) overcome trauma-related difficulties, including child maltreatment. TF-CBT helps children address distorted or upsetting beliefs and attributions and learn skills to help them cope with ordinary life stressors. It also helps parents who were not abusive to cope effectively with their own emotional distress and develop skills that support their children.
“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”