Counseling for Trauma
Most people will experience trauma in their lifetime whether it’s a car accident, abuse or neglect, the sudden death of a loved one, a violent criminal act, exposure to the violence of war, or a natural disaster.
While many people can recover from trauma over time with the love and support of family and friends and bounce back with resiliency, others may discover effects of lasting trauma, which can cause a person to live with deep emotional pain, fear, confusion, or posttraumatic stress far after the event has passed.
In these circumstances, the support, guidance, and assistance of a therapist is fundamental to healing from trauma.
According to the four types of symptoms listed in the DSM-5
- Avoiding specific locations, sights, situations, and sounds that serve as reminders of the event
- Anxiety, depression, numbness, or guilt
- Intrusive thoughts, nightmares or flashbacks
- Anger, irritability, and hypervigilance
- Aggressive, reckless behavior, including self-harm
- Sleep disturbances
Negative Mood and Cognition Symptoms
- Loss of interest in activities that were once considered enjoyable
- Difficulty remembering details of the distressing event
- Change in habits or behavior since the trauma
How Can Treatment Help?
There are a variety of treatments that can be used to treat trauma. However, there are three specific techniques that are consistently gaining research-based evidence of their effectiveness in successfully treating trauma.
Cognitive Processing Therapy – This modality focuses on how a person perceives a traumatic event and processes it. A therapist can help their client work through stuck points, which are certain thoughts related to the trauma that prevent the person from recovering.
Brainspotting – Brainspotting (BSP) was discovered by David Grand, Ph.D. in 2003. Since then, Brainspotting has developed into an in-depth therapeutic process that can be integrated with other healing modalities in either individual or couples therapy. Dr. Grand believes that “Brainspotting taps into the body’s natural self-scanning and self-healing abilities”. It can help decrease depression, anxiety, phobias and addictions.
Brainspotting is used with all areas of trauma, including survivors of war, natural disasters and abuse. It is also being utilized with medical conditions, such as traumatic brain injuries, strokes, fibromyalgia, headaches, and preparation and recovery from surgery. It is possible to release trauma from either a distressed or calm place in the body. The power of BSP is that one does not necessarily have to relive the traumatic event at the same level of intensity as the original trauma. Because of this, it is possible to resolve the trauma in a more contained manner. Trauma and stress can often overwhelm the nervous system.
With the support of the therapist, BSP helps the client discharge the trauma and calm the nervous system. Generally, the brainspot is located by finding an eye position where the emotion is most strongly felt. A brainspot can also be located from the calmest place in the body. Pinpointing the brainspot is done through noticing an increase in reflexive eye or body movements, such as blinking, swallowing, yawning, head or body twitches. Dr. Robert Scaer, Boulder, Colorado, neurologist, states that the location of the brainspot “is related to the area or region of the patient’s experience or perception of the traumatic event and represents procedural memory for that somatic experience”.
Brainspotting is accompanied by the use of bilateral sounds. Bilateral sounds can be music, tones or even nature sounds that move from ear to ear alternately in order to activate each hemisphere of the brain. Dr. Grand developed a series of biolateral CDs that can be used during a Brainspotting session. They were initially developed for use with EMDR. These sounds help to calm the sympathetic nervous system (which is the fight or flight response), and engage the calmer parasympathetic nervous system.
Brainspotting is unique from other therapeutic techniques in that it is being used not only in trauma and healing work, but also in the areas of peak performance and spiritual consciousness. Therapists are utilizing BSP with athletes of all abilities, actors, writers, musicians, as well as with public speaking and healing physical conditions. Meditation practices can also be enhanced through the use of Brainspotting.
Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) – CBT is a form of talk therapy that focuses on how thoughts, feelings and behaviors are related to one another. The goal of a CBT therapist is to help a client with PTSD return to a place of hope with a greater sense of being in control of their thoughts and behaviors.
Narrative Therapy – Narrative therapy is a method of therapy that separates a person from their problem. It encourages people to rely on their own skills to minimize problems that exist in their lives. Throughout life, personal experiences become personal stories. People give these stories meaning, and the stories help shape a person’s identity. Narrative therapy uses the power of these stories to help people discover their life purpose. This is often done by assigning that person the role of “narrator” in their own story. Crafting a trauma narrative is a psychological technique that helps people make sense of the experiences they suffered. A trauma narrative exposes the person to memories of the experience in a safe environment and helps them reframe the experience so the client can reclaim their power and autonomy.
Exposure Therapy – Exposure therapy is a type of behavioral therapy that is designed to help people manage problematic fears. Through the use of various systematic techniques, a person is gradually exposed to the situation that causes them distress. The goal of exposure therapy is to create a safe environment in which a person can reduce anxiety, decrease avoidance of dreaded situations, and improve one’s quality of life.
If you or a loved one have suffered trauma and would like to explore treatment options, please reach out to me. I have personally seen amazing transformation through therapy and want to offer the help you need to enjoy life again.