Do you feel held back by the after-effects of different traumas you have been through?
Do you feel unable to shake off fears that surface regularly related to past trauma?
Are you discouraged that past attempts at therapy have not helped you that much?
Does it feel like no matter how hard you try you just can’t win — that you are always caught between a rock and a hard place?
Do you feel you are a prisoner of your own repetitive negative thinking?
Many clients I have worked with have tried several therapists in the past who only helped them deal with past trauma in limited ways. Others are trying therapy for the first time but feel vulnerable opening up to a stranger. Most people don’t want to “rehash” the terrible things they have been through in the past. They want to get on with their lives and be done with that past as quickly as possible. High anxiety related to trauma can make a person feel like something is wrong with him/her but attempts to get rid of the anxiety fail.
Childhood and adult trauma is increasingly common.
A comprehensive National Survey regarding children’s exposure to violence in 2009 reported: “In one year, 39% of children between the ages of 12 and 17 reported witnessing violence, 17% reported being a victim of physical assault and 8% reported being the victim of sexual assault.” The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported in September 2015 that between 15% and 25% of women have been sexually abused; and that depending on definitions, 9% to 44% of women experienced domestic violence.
The author of the article stated: “Trauma is a common experience for adults and children in American communities, and it is especially common in the lives of people with mental and substance use disorders.”
Common symptoms of trauma include high anxiety, depression, relationship problems, substance abuse, eating disorders, sex/porn addiction, feeling cut off from one’s emotions or feeling too many emotions, serious health problems, feeling disconnected, lack of motivation, bad dreams, bad memories that won’t go away, insomnia, and loss of meaning for one’s life. However, on the upside, more effective ways to treat trauma have been developed. Trauma does not have to compromise the rest of your life. It can be treated with success if you have a therapist well-trained in trauma counseling.
Trauma therapy can heal your wounds and make you stronger than you ever thought possible.
I begin trauma treatment by gathering a comprehensive detailed history of your whole life. I use numerous treatment approaches including mindfulness therapy; cognitive therapy; EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing); EFT (psychological tapping); education resources from my large collection of audio talks, podcasts, and YouTube videos; cell phone apps designed to calm the overactive brain; PSTEC (Percusssion Suggestion Techniques); and artwork. If one method does not work or is not to your liking, I try another method.
EMDR is my favorite method because in my experience, it works quicker than other methods. This technique eliminates emotional suffering, and helps the client self-soothe, feel their full range of emotions again, feel positive, and contribute to larger society. I have used EMDR since 2004. When I use EMDR with clients, they frequently are surprised how quickly they feel better. As one client said after a painful memory was cleared in less than 10 minutes, “you have no idea how much this means to me.” Most traumas are not cleared in 10 minutes, but sometimes aspects of them are.
I also like to help clients develop their natural creative skills, such as writing, art, and music. The client learns to use these abilities to heal from their trauma. Artwork can express what words could never express. I tell the client: Let your hand choose the color and what your hand wants to do.
The art work does not have to be fancy. It is better if the person does not attempt “fine art.” There is the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Art therapy reveals and expresses what words can not.
You may be still hesitant to take the leap to enter therapy for your trauma at this time.
You may feel: “But I have so much going on in my life, what if I can’t handle all those feelings that could come up when I address the traumas in my life?”
This is a good question. Sometimes a person will have too much going on in his life to be able to delve deeply into past trauma. I will help you assess whether you need to first work on issues in your present life and save the trauma work for later. I can also help you address the trauma in smaller steps so it is less overwhelming. I can teach you tools to soothe yourself when you feel distressed. I will be careful to prevent you from being re-traumatized when you tell your story.
You also need to keep in mind the tremendous cost of not dealing with your trauma. This is usually chronic depression, anxiety, obsessions, and/or addictions.
If you have children, this emotional pain will be passed down to them. If you are a professional helper, you will be less emotionally available to those you help. If the trauma is not processed, your body will continue to carry the pain of the trauma, causing increasing chronic health problems and physical pain.
There is a local oil change place that has a sign that says “It is easier to change your oil than your engine.”
Along the same logic, it is easier to process your feelings for past trauma in therapy than the accumulated cost of not processing your feelings, such as break downs in the body caused by repressed emotional pain or failed relationships.
“What if I let myself feel all the feelings I have stopped over the years and it causes me to have a nervous breakdown?”
Sometimes a client does have more painful feelings on a temporary basis. I can teach ways to help with these feelings. A wise person told me: “You have to feel to heal.” As uncomfortable as these feelings can be, you will learn who you really are and what you really feel. Feeling these feelings brings relief and relaxation. It usually also increases creativity and enjoyment of life.
You are more likely to have a nervous breakdown from keeping your feelings inside you for years and pretending to be someone you are not. In the 1980s, there was a book about grief work titled When Falling Apart Holds You Together. Melissa Dinwiddie, an artist, wrote an article on the blog Tiny Buddha titled, “When things fall apart: Breakdowns can create breakthroughs.” This is so true.
I believe it is easier to process trauma using PTSD therapy than having serious emotional problems the rest of your life that contribute towards chronic conditions like overeating, addictions, fibromyalgia, heart problems, and cancer.
“How long does it take to heal from trauma?”
I wish I could say that with good trauma treatment I could guarantee the trauma will be resolved in 2 years or less. But it all depends on the complexity and the severity of the trauma. The younger the client is, the closer the client is to the person who may have abused him/her, the more frequent the trauma, the more dissociated the client is — the longer the healing process. The techniques I use can quicken the process, but it can still be a long process for some people. In many cases that involve complex, chronic, childhood trauma, it can be a lifelong journey. I want to be realistic so you are not disappointed if you are not cured in a few months. Often people get significant relief in a few months and comfort in knowing they are not alone with their pain from PTSD counseling. It also helps to know that one is making progress rather than spinning one’s wheels with the same negative thoughts, actions and habits.
“What experience, skills, and knowledge do you have to be successful as a trauma treatment therapist?”
- In 2004, I took Level 1 EMDR workshop. I am scheduled to take more comprehensive EMDR training later this year.
- In 2004, I became certified as a Trauma and Loss Specialist with the National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children.
- For 15 years, I participated in a monthly study group of therapists who did case presentations of clients with dissociation and complex trauma.
- For 29 years, I worked as a therapist for community mental-health clients, most of whom had serious mental illnesses that were related to past trauma.
Presently I listen to many podcasts regarding trauma, including AboveAndBeyondTrauma.com, EMDRconsulting.com, and GiftFromWithin.org, as well as interviews on YouTube with authors Patrick Carnes (sex addiction expert), Francine Shapiro (originator and developer of EMDR), Bryon Katie (who developed technique called The Work), Marsha Linehan, (who developed DBT, and educates on how to treat borderline personality disorder), and Melody Beattie (who addresses co-dependence recovery).
The following is a testimony from a colleague/clinical therapist, Kathy Koniak, whom I have known for over 20 years, and whom I worked with for over two years in a community mental health agency: “I can recommend not one of my former colleagues more highly in the areas of compassion and high ethical standards… I have high regard for Ms. Johnson’s assessment skills, therapeutic expertise and wide breadth of treatment experience with children and adults suffering from mental problems.”
If you think you might like to work with me, please call me for a free phone or in person consultation. My phone number is 586-799-2399. Or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I would like to hear from you. The healing of your trauma is important. You deserve to have a brighter future.