Treatment of PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) and other trauma-related issues:
Are you troubled by memories you can’t escape – terrible or distressing thoughts that intrude on your enjoyment day after day?
Do you often feel jumpy, feel like you always have to watch your back, or like you just can’t trust other people because of things that have happened to you that have made you this way?
Do you walk through life feeling anxious, edgy, or afraid and know it’s your past that’s haunting you?
Have you lived through traumatic experiences and realize that they continue to distract you and destroy your happiness?
Intrusion of the past into daily life
Trauma-related symptoms are the intrusion into our present lives of extremely distressing, frightening, or horrible experiences that occurred in our past, where they negatively impact our emotional and behavioral functioning. With trauma the “what happened,” while vitally important, is not the real worry now. The problem is how that past shows up for us now and robs us of the lives we’d like to live. Our struggle lies in the fact that the past won’t stay in the past.
Sometimes that past occurred years and years ago. It may be childhood experiences of abuse or neglect, often at the hands of those who were supposed to care for and look out for us. Or it can be experiences in past adult relationships that were frightening, controlling, or abusive. For some it’s other experiences where we feared our lives were in danger, we were exposed to horrifying or highly intrusive things happening to ourselves or those around us, or situations where we had to be on guard and hyper-alert over and over again. These may be things that occurred fairly recently in our past or more remotely.
Habits of avoidance
With lingering trauma we often develop strategies for pushing it away or avoiding things that remind us of those harsh experiences. Of course we do! What a natural and human thing to do. Who wants to keeping feeling those feelings and thinking about unpleasant things?!? However, the nature of living with the impact of traumatic experiences is that those thoughts keep coming and those reminders can be hard to escape. They relentlessly pursue us. It’s common to see people using drugs or alcohol to numb emotions and distance themselves from their trauma – a somewhat effective strategy that’s not a good long-term solution. Or people may withdraw from relationships or find ways to make their world feel smaller as a buffer from living out their trauma.
When considering treatment for past traumatic experience, clients may ask “Do I have to retell my whole story when that’s so difficult?” No, that’s not necessary for moving past trauma-related symptoms. Some individuals find it helpful to recount what has happened to them in detail because having someone else bear witness to their very personal experience feels like an important part of their healing process. However, rehashing your experience in minute detail is not required in order to find relief. Whether we delve into details or use a therapy strategy that is thorough but more focused on extracting the essential elements that help people heal from trauma, you and I would be taking the time to address these experiences in a purposeful way that helps you ultimately take back your power.
We should acknowledge that the idea of facing your trauma may feel scary or uncomfortable. Then again, perhaps you wouldn’t be here reading this if you weren’t fed up with the way it keeps getting in the way of your here and now. Clients often do feel some increase in anxiety and discomfort as they enter a therapy process to bring about healing. After all, they’re making the choice to look directly at the source of their trauma and do something about it. The fact that a person is thinking about entering therapy with the goal of conquering trauma says to me they’re thinking hard about making this tradeoff: “I’m willing to face that which is painful and brace myself for some discomfort because I’m no longer willing to let it control me – and I’m betting on finding relief in the long run.”
The therapy pathway
Given what I’ve just described, what would we do to navigate the increase in discomfort that you might experience? I work with clients to make sure they have some essential tools for soothing anxiety and tolerating distress when it arises as we advance into the journey of healing. You will be supported in managing discomfort and identifying effective and healthy coping skills. I find that people always come to therapy with strengths and skills that have helped them in the past. My job is to help identify these, encourage their continued use, and help you add new coping skills that fit for you.
Each person is unique and your situation may not reflect the same therapy pathway as someone else’s. Remember where I said on my home page that you and I would carefully track your progress and make adjustments in our treatment plan as needed? I have several skills and approaches that can contribute to healing from trauma, including having been trained in forward-facing trauma therapy [Eric Gentry method], EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy), exposure and response therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Never heard of these or don’t know what they mean? That’s okay. I’d describe what they entail and allow you choice in how we proceed. I’m not an adherent of one specific treatment methodology. I look at whether what we’re doing is working for you or not.
The trauma-depression-anxiety link
One final thought on the effects of traumatic experiences – living through traumatizing experiences, especially during childhood and more so when we’ve experienced repeated abuse, threat, neglect, or lack of our needs being met over an extended period of childhood, may set one up for later struggles with depression. It may also lay the groundwork for chronic anxiety that a person does not recognize as being the result of past trauma. A thorough assessment for depression and/or chronic anxiety should include gathering history of one’s adverse or disturbing childhood experiences. This relates to a concept known as trauma informed treatment. For more on that, click here.
To discuss the possibility of working with me to overcome past trauma please call 505-431-5058 or email me at email@example.com to request your free 15-minute initial consultation.