A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH TO HEALING TRAUMA
If you have experienced trauma in your life either through an accident, combat, violence, or abuse, or the developmental trauma of growing up in an unstable environment, my comprehensive approach can relieve you of the complex symptoms that you may be experiencing. These symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may include psychomotor agitation (movement of hands, arms, legs, feet), hyper-arousal (jumpiness, difficulty relaxing or anxiety), hypervigilance (hyper-attentiveness, scanning for danger, quick and easy startle response, difficulty concentrating), sleep difficulties, nightmares, or avoidant behaviors. PTSD may also cause mood disorders, relational or sexual issues, physical illness, self-harm or addictions. In treating PTSD, it is important to understand and address the effects of trauma on the brain, body, emotions, beliefs and behavior. It is also important to work with the co-occurring issues that may result from trauma such as depression, anxiety, relational and sexual issues.
Understanding & Resolving the Physical Symptoms of PTSD
When we experience an event that we perceive as a threat, our brains search for the most effective of our 3 survival mechanisms: Fight, Flight or Freeze. When a trauma occurs, our bodies naturally go into a sympathetic nervous system response (fight or flight). This response floods our body with adrenaline in order to give us the tremendous energy we need to fight or flee. When one cannot fight or flee during a traumatic event, or when to do so would jeopardize survival, our bodies go into the freeze response. This freeze response is another physical adaptation developed to promote our survival and often it does just that. However, if this tremendous fight or flight energy is not released through physical exertion, it can leave one’s nervous system in a habitually hypo-aroused or hyper-aroused state, causing the symptoms of PTSD.
Healing a Habitually Hypo-Aroused Nervous System:
Dissociation grows out of the freeze response to trauma. It is helpful coping mechanism that our nervous system developed to deal with overwhelming stress or threat. It allows us to mentally separate ourselves from the experience of extreme stress or terror. Dissociation may be experienced as a dream-like or altered state. It can be like watching one’s self from a distance. At an extreme level, there may be memory loss related to an event leaving a person with gaps in time. When one relies on this coping mechanism over and over due to complex trauma, especially early in life, it can become an automatic response to stressful situations or trauma reminders later in life. It can affect one’s ability to be present in activities of daily life and significantly fracture one’s sense of time, continuity, and sense of self. It can also affect learning, classroom or work behavior, social interactions and significant relationships. One may be detached and unresponsive when a response is appropriate. If these are issues you struggle with, I can help you to become aware of the early cues of dissociation. Though mindfulness, body awareness and grounding techniques, you will learn how to stay present or come back from dissociation. I also teach healthy stress management and emotional regulation skills so that you can deal with current stressors effectively without becoming overwhelmed.
Healing a habitually Hyper-Aroused Nervous System:
One may experience hyper-arousal through anxiety, jumpiness, hypervigilance, fidgeting and difficulty with impulse control, relaxing or sleeping. It is as though the brain and body are on overdrive, or high alert, to prevent future harm. This is the result of the limbic, or “emotional”, brain being stuck in a habitual feedback loop with the lower reactive, or “reptilian”, brain. The purpose of the reptilian brain is survival in the moment and it is in charge of the fight, flight or freeze responses. The longer this connection occurs, the stronger the neural networks of that feedback loop become. When this occurs, the higher, thinking brain, or the neocortex, has been hijacked by this lower, survival, brain. So, it feels impossible to over-ride these habitual nervous system/physical responses with the higher brain regions of the cortex in charge of rationality and planning. In other words, you can’t think your way out of PTSD symptoms.
Therefore, I work with trauma though the body and nervous system first. Through mindfulness practices and Sensory Motor Trauma Therapy, I help you to safely and slowly release the fight or flight energy that was not expressed at the time of a trauma. As you release this energy from your body and learn new relaxation and emotional regulation tools, your emotional brain calms down, PSTD symptoms decrease, and you become more and more comfortable with an experience of life which involves relaxation, security and well-being. At this point your emotional brain is able to connect to the higher, more rational, “thinking” brain of the cortex. When this happens, you can process the trauma, as well as new events, differently. You will gain new insights, awareness, and perspective and begin to resolve the emotional/cognitive and behavioral effects of the trauma.
Understanding and Resolving the Emotional/Cognitive & Behavioral Effects of Trauma
Connecting to a Healthy Sense of Self:
Trauma can affect one’s self concept and self-esteem. In addition to the uncomfortable physical symptoms of PTSD, trauma often disconnects people from their own internal resources, leaving them feeling empty, depressed, anxious or like “damaged goods”. Healing trauma of any sort begins with developing the resources of inner security and safety. This is accomplished through experiential exercises designed to provide you with this felt sense of connection and safety both emotional and physically. Once you have experienced an inner sense of well-being, it is much easier to access it again in your daily life. Therefore, I might use a boundary exercise to reestablish boundaries that may have been compromised. We might also use guided visualization to do inner child work and help you develop an “sanctuary” within. You will also learn practical and easy to use body awareness, relaxation, mindfulness, and emotional regulation tools to for current daily life stressors. All of these provide the inner resources, supportive relationship to Self, and experience of inner security you need to walk through life feeling safe, secure and fulfilled.
The importance of a child’s relationship with a caregiver cannot be overstated. Our ability to develop healthy, supportive relationships with friends and significant others later in life depends on our having first developed those kinds of relationships in our families. Through our relationships with parents and caretakers, we develop “core” beliefs about the world as safe or unsafe, whether we are valuable, and what constitutes love. When the relationship with primary caregivers is unstable, unpredictable or un-nurturing, we learn that we cannot rely on others. If we are exploited and abused, then we may develop a belief that we are bad, the world is not safe and people are untrustworthy. We might also come to believe that love involves abuse, neglect, distance, enmeshment or rejection. If you are an adult with a history of complex trauma, you may find you have problems in romantic relationships, in friendships, or with authority figures based on the beliefs you formed as a child.
Creating Positive Beliefs and Perceptions:
In therapy for trauma, it is important to address and change the negative core beliefs that were developed in response to one’s early environment or repeated abuse later in life. These beliefs are often unconscious but lead to an interpretation of Self and current life events that contribute to PTSD, anxiety, depression and avoidant behaviors. I teach Emotional and Cognitive skills to challenge and change these negative and limiting beliefs. I also provide Journey sessions for deep healing of the early wounds associated with core beliefs. The Journey is typically a two hour session that combines hypnotherapy, guided visualization and NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) techniques. A journey process allows you to change your relationship to past events so that the beliefs you formed around them, can be changed at the deepest level of awareness.
Emotional Regulation and Behavior:
When one grows up under constant stress or has experienced trauma later in life, their brain may be trained to experience a fight or flight response when ordinary life stressors happen. So, they may react to stress more intensely than others do, or have difficulty calming themselves down. This difficulty with emotional regulation may be accompanied by frequent experiences of anger, anxiety, or fear. There may also be difficulties with impulse control and therefore a tendency to engage in high risk behaviors (such as unsafe sexual practices, addiction, excessive risk taking, over-spending, self-harm, illegal activities…) in an effort to actually regulate themselves and feel better. If you are having difficulty with emotional regulation, then calming the nervous system down through Sensory Motor Therapy will lessen these habitual responses to every day stress. I also teach mindfulness, relaxation and extremely effective emotional regulation skills to help you return to a state of calm and rationality. Practicing these skills retrains your brain by creating new neural networks. The more you practice these skills, the stronger your new neural networks of emotional regulation will become and your response to stress will become more effective. Lastly, I find that reinforcing relaxation and emotional regulation skills with hypnotherapy can help anchor them so that they become the automatic response to anxiety-provoking circumstances.
As you release the stored traumatic energy from your body and learn new relaxation and emotional regulation tools, your brain retrains itself, PTSD symptoms decrease, and you become more and more comfortable with an experience of life which involves relaxation, security and well-being.
Healing the Relational Effects of Trauma
Trauma can affect relationships in many ways. After developing a safe and secure experience within yourself, I can help you develop safe and secure relationships. A safe, secure relationship is one that is close but not enmeshed and separate but not distant. This type of “close but separate” relationship is the key to emotional intimacy and even an intimate and passionate sex life.
If dissociation from your feelings or body has been a way to cope with the discomfort of trauma or PTSD symptoms, using mindfulness to become aware of and track the internal cues of your feeling life is an important first step. Emotional regulation skills will help you put words to feelings and needs while communication skills will help you to express them. Instead of basing your needs on others (being externally referenced), you can reference how you feel, identify what you need and know how to communicate those needs in a healthy and respectful way.
Healing the Grief of Trauma:
Those who have experienced trauma have often experienced significant losses as a result of the trauma. These may include the loss of innocence, safety, well-being, a loved one, and a lifestyle, among other things. It may be important to acknowledge and express this grief in order to move through it and let it go. If so, it is important to give yourself time to grieve these losses. When you are ready, a personal ritual can also be helpful in achieving finality from an event. I also offer Journey sessions which combine hypnotherapy, Gestalt work and NLP for emotional completion and freedom from traumatic events.
Group Support in Healing Trauma:
For those who would like to move through a specific trauma in an accelerated way, I offer a Trauma Intensive, From Surviving to Thriving. I have found Trauma Groups to be particularly effective in helping people grow past their limiting PTSD symptoms. A group allows you to see that you are not alone in your experience of trauma. There is also a powerful healing force that happens as you witness, and are witnessed, in the healing of trauma.
This group takes a comprehensive approach to resolving trauma on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. Based on my 18 years of experience resolving severe trauma, I have combined the most powerful modalities for healing using Integrative Body Psychotherapy, Somatic Experiencing, Sensory Motor Trauma Therapy, Gestalt work, Healing Interpersonal Trauma (HIT) Lists and Journey Work. In this group, you will learn skills that build or restore critical inner resources. You will also participate in individual trauma and grief work at group level. Then, you will receive a powerful journey process in an individual session to integrate the work you have done and receive closure with the traumatic event from your past.
Through individual and group trauma therapy, I have helped many people move past their trauma. Once free of PTSD symptoms, you will have the ability to focus on building the happy and healthy life that you deserve.
Call Today to Set an Appointment and Begin the Healing Process! 720-732-4050