Understanding + Healing Trauma

Trauma refers to any experience that overwhelms our ability to cope. 

Trauma can include adverse childhood experiences such as the divorce of parents, abuse (sexual, physical, and emotional), neglect, or witnessing your parent struggle with mental illness or substance use. 

Trauma also includes horrific events like being the victim of a violent crime, surviving a natural disaster, living through the unexpected death of a loved one, or facing ongoing and systemic discrimination. 

Finally, ongoing circumstances like living in poverty or through the uncertainty in immigration or a medical diagnosis can be traumatic just as returning home from combat can be. 

Trauma can result in depression and anxiety, feeling alone and hopeless, disordered eating, substance use, self injurious behaviors like cutting, deviance, loss of interest, difficulty concentrating, feeling disconnected, insomnia, irritability, mistrust, difficulty in close relationships, nightmares, rage, and even physical health symptoms such as headaches, chronic pain, GI disturbances, and decreased immunity. 

The effects of trauma are the visible parts of a weed we see above ground. Individuals often feel frustrated when, after previous therapy, their symptoms return or remain relatively unchanged. Talk therapy for trauma is like only cutting the leaves off a weed. Talk therapy does not get to the roots. 

In the case of trauma, the roots are in the body, deep in our brains. Thus, I utilize Sensorimotor Psychotherapy in the treatment of trauma. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is a body-based approach. We work with sensations, impulses, and movements arising within the body to process traumatic content. Only after we work with what’s being stored in the sensory and motor systems can we then integrate emotions and cognitions. 

Coming to grips with your history of trauma can feel scary and even discouraging. Healing from trauma is possible, but only if we get to the roots. 

Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D. discussing adverse childhood experiences and how developmental stress and trauma confer lifelong risk. His books, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Born for Love, are incredibly helpful resources on developmental stress and trauma.

Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. is another expert on trauma in childhood. Here he explains how trauma in childhood can look very different than PTSD in adults.

An excellent TED Talk on childhood trauma delivered by Nadine Burke Harris, M.D.