What is Trauma?
As a Trauma therapist , I explain trauma to my clients as experiences or situations that are emotionally painful and distressing, and that devastate survivors’ ability to respond constructively, leaving them feeling helpless. Trauma is defined by the American Psychological Association (APA) as the emotional response someone has to an extremely negative event. The emotional effects of trauma can be debilitating to many, and might require expert help to restore normal functioning.
Examples of Trauma
In my experience as a Trauma psychotherapist, the most common causes of Trauma that my adult clients have expressed include:
Sexual abuse and/or rape
Physical and emotional neglect as children
Terrorist attacks or severe natural disasters
Abrupt separation from loved ones by death or other means
Witnessing an act of violence
Symptoms of Trauma
As a Trauma therapist, I have heard a wide range of symptoms associated with experiencing traumatic events. Some of the most common symptoms reported by clients in Trauma therapy are
Shock, denial, or disbelief
Anger, irritability, mood swings
Guilt, shame, self-blame
Feeling sad or hopeless
Confusion, difficulty concentrating
Anxiety and fear
Withdrawing from others
Feeling disconnected or numb
Insomnia or nightmares
Being startled easily
Aches and pains
Edginess and agitation
This list is in no way exhaustive. Different people experience different symptoms for Trauma that can range in severity and expression.
How Can Trauma Therapy help you?
Because Trauma is rooted in events out of the ordinary, my primary focus as a Trauma counselor is to work with my client on creating order and routine and a sense of familiarity in the Trauma counseling process. Things as simple as meeting at the same time of day, the same day of the week, and sitting in the same spot week in and week out may seem trivial, but can go a long way in allowing a sense of consistency to develop which helps my clients relax and explore their many feelings towards the trauma. Establishing an excellent relationship with my Trauma clients is key as well. I do not pretend to know how they feel or what the must be going through, because the truth is, I don’t. What I try to do is gently walk with them on their path to healing, and going at their pace. I don’t ask my clients to recount traumatic events to me, and if they want to at their own accord, I help them tread lightly and go at a pace that does not re traumatize them.
What to Expect in Trauma Therapy?
My Journey with Trauma clients is generally divided into two stages:
Stage 1 includes:
Exploring feelings and impressions associated with the traumatic event(s)
Understanding our body’s defense mechanisms, and recognizing when the client is engaging fight or flight responses.
Gaining new skills and awareness to self soothe and regulate emotions
Finding new ways, and revisiting old ways of connecting with and trusting other people
Stage 2 includes:
Discussing new “post trauma” goals and aspirations
Understanding and leveraging personal resilience
Regaining sense of agency over the client’s own life
Experimenting with relationships while in the safety of the therapeutic relationship