Has A Traumatic Experience Affected Your Ability To Feel Safe And In Control?
Do you find yourself constantly replaying trauma from the past? Are you dealing with flashbacks and intrusive thoughts that affect your ability to focus? Have past relationships caused you to distrust others and live in fear of betrayal?
If you’re dealing with trauma, you may suffer from a constant feeling of hyperarousal—every little thing reminds you of what you went through, keeping you on high alert even when you’re safe. Or perhaps you dissociate, blocking traumatic memories and disconnecting from your feelings altogether. You may find yourself in a state of emotional “shutdown”—out of touch with reality and unable to feel present in the moment. While this may temporarily stave off your pain, it ultimately prevents you from being able to process and resolve your trauma.
What’s more, you may resort to minimization and denial. Perhaps you tell yourself that your traumatic experience really wasn’t that bad and that other people have it worse. But deep down, this only serves to cover up the deep emotional pain you feel.
Trauma diminishes your sense of control, safety, intimacy, and ability to trust others. Thankfully, with my compassionate, research-driven approach to therapy, I believe I can help you reclaim your inner power and break the hold that trauma has on your life.
Many Of Us Face Both Personal And Systemic Trauma In Today’s World
There are three categories of trauma: acute, developmental, and complex. Acute traumas, such being in a warzone or surviving a natural disaster, are generally the most readily recognized causes of PTSD. Developmental traumas (child neglect, household dysfunction, or growing up with verbally or emotionally abusive parents, etc.), meanwhile, are more prevalent and cause problems in a person’s development, such as insecure attachments and an unhealthy sense of self. Lastly, there is complex trauma, which usually results from multiple acute traumas and/or developmental traumas. Complex traumas often cause extreme emotional dysregulation and can even lead to changes in one’s personality.
In addition to individual trauma, trauma can also be collective. Those of us in the African-American community are exposed to both personal and systemic racism on a regular basis. Between race-based police violence and microaggressions in the workplace and the school system, discrimination only adds to the traumatic stress we already face.
As much as you may be tempted to deal with trauma on your own, finding positive ways to cope with your symptoms is harder than it sounds. No matter how intelligent or self-aware you are, recognizing traumatic themes in your life isn’t always possible alone. There are always negative thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations related to the worst part of traumatic memories, and being able to sort through them is half the challenge. With my help and support, I am confident that you can not only learn to make sense of your symptoms, but also find emotional relief and experience post-traumatic growth.
Therapy Can Help You Eliminate The Emotional Impact Of Trauma
Before coming to therapy, you may ask: will talking about my trauma make it worse? Thankfully, the main approach I use—Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy—does not require you to discuss your trauma in detail. You can talk about it as much or as little as you wish. There will be a controlled amount of exposure to traumatic memories—just enough to take the emotional impact out of them but not enough to re-traumatize you.
In the beginning, you will fill out several small questionnaires to determine whether or not you suffer from depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issues as a result of your trauma. As we continue to work together, I will provide psycho-education regarding trauma, its symptoms, and the areas in your life that it can impact.
Once we have established a baseline of safety and trust, you and I will begin EMDR therapy. At its core, EMDR seeks to eliminate the emotional overwhelm caused by traumatic memories. This is done by using gentle sensory stimulation techniques that help your brain form new associations when you recall your traumatic experience. The goal is to convert your trauma from a painful memory to a negative fact—something which is still acknowledged but not actively causing harm. In simpler terms, you will move the memory from the emotional side of your brain to the reasoning side.
I also draw from an approach called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). While EMDR seeks to remove the pain of trauma, DBT can help you cope with the pain when it arises. Through learning to regulate your emotions and practicing mindfulness exercises for staying grounded, this approach can help you increase your ability to tolerate distress and remain clearheaded when traumatic memories resurface.
No matter how hopeless you feel, trauma does not have to cast a shadow over your life any longer. With my help, I believe that you can transform intrusive thoughts, feelings, and sensations and experience post-traumatic growth in the process. You may not be able to erase the past, but you can keep the past from controlling your future.
You may have some questions and concerns about trauma and PTSD therapy…
How is EMDR different from other approaches to trauma treatment?
Unlike talk therapy, EMDR does not require that you talk about what happened to you. It operates on a more intuitive, subconscious level, helping your brain process trauma the same way it processes memories when you sleep. Not only does EMDR help you identify unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, but it also helps you identify the image of trauma in your brain, the part of your memory that needs to be processed and healed.
Will therapy re-traumatize me?
EMDR requires limited exposure to traumatic memories, so there is very little chance of re-traumatization. In the event that you begin to feel distressed, I will slow things down and work to reestablish a foundation of safety for you. After all, you’re in charge of the pace of therapy. I am here to support you and help you find answers within yourself, but I am only going to do what you feel comfortable with.
I don’t think my traumatic experience was really that bad.
Because we are social creatures, our brains are hardwired to compare ourselves to those around us. Naturally, then, many of us believe that our traumatic experience “wasn’t that bad” because someone else had it worse. But no form of trauma is really “worse” than another. The severity of trauma is defined more by how you internalize it than by what actually happened. After all, if an experience feels insignificant but is still negatively impacting your life, isn’t it better to seek trauma treatment than ignore what your body is trying to tell you?
Trauma Doesn’t Have To Cast A Shadow Over Your Life
Trauma is messy, confusing, and overwhelming, and no one should have to sort through it alone. With my help, I am confident that you can process and resolve the painful memories that are holding you back in life. To get started, you can email me, fill out the contact form, or call 216-714-3278.
Right now, because of COVID-19, all my trauma counseling sessions are held via telehealth. I plan to be back in the office eventually, but all sessions that take place after 4 PM will still be held by phone or online.