When the past affects life in the present
- Are some of your relationships falling apart and you don't know why?
- Do you find that distressing memories pop into your mind when you least expect them?
- Do you notice yourself avoiding certain people, places or situations because it feels overwhelming?
- Do you sometimes feel anxious or numb for no apparent reason?
Traumatic events dramatically change the way we see ourselves, our relationships and the world around us. Whether the trauma happened 20 years ago or 6 months ago, it has a lasting effect on us. Maybe the distressing event was related to an accident, a natural disaster, a relationship betrayal, abuse or financial loss, and you find yourself unable to cope with basic tasks in your life since the event occurred. Trauma counseling will transform your view of the traumatic event, alleviate distressing symptoms and free you to live the life you desire.
Trauma interrupts the ability to successfully function in daily life. Some examples include:
Sleep disruption due to an excessively busy mind that won’t shut off or nightmares
Early morning waking with the inability to get back to sleep
Chronic physical tension, headaches, stomach upset or muscle aches and pains
Irritability, a “short fuse” or over reacting to situations
Problems concentrating, poor memory and easily distracted
A general sense of fatigue and exhaustion mentally and/or physically
Low self-esteem and “being your own worst enemy”
Strong feelings of guilt, loneliness and self-contempt
Reluctance to trust friends and loved ones and a lingering fear that they (might) hurt or reject you
- Feelings of despair, hopelessness and wondering if you are “going crazy”
Trauma can also cause chronic and unexplainable anxiety, panic attacks or avoidance of people, places or tasks previously enjoyed. Frequently, in an attempt to calm the mind and body in order to function, trauma survivors find themselves using substances (prescription medications, alcohol, street drugs or even food) in an excessive or problematic way. Essentially untreated trauma overshadows our ability to live a happy and productive life that includes secure relationships and healthy self-esteem.
Trauma is more Common Than You Might Think
According to a 2013 study published in the National Journal of Traumatic Stress measuring the prevalence of PTSD, 89.7% of the adult participants reported exposure to a traumatic event, as defined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic & Statistical Manual-5 (DSM-5), in their lifetime. (2) The DSM-5 definition of a traumatic event includes:
Exposure to an actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence. This could mean that we personally experience the threat, we witness others experiencing violence or we hear that someone close to us died, was seriously injured or was a victim of violence.
Individuals can have an acute stress response to such events and not necessarily develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A diagnosis of PTSD is given when the following symptoms persist for more than one month after the incident. Following is a partial list of PTSD symptoms you might recognize:
The individual re-experiences the trauma through nightmares or intrusive thoughts or flashbacks
The individual persistently avoids thoughts, feelings or things in their environment that remind them of the traumatic event
The individual is highly reactive and emotionally charged after the event. This includes uncharacteristic angry outbursts, being on high alert all the time, being startled easily, or disturbance in sleep patterns.
- The individual experiences negativity in their thinking patterns and moods. For example, the person becomes anxious and depressed and cannot experience positive emotions, has exaggerated negative beliefs about themselves (“I’m a bad person”) or about the world (“There is no way to be safe in this world”).
In the U.S., it is estimated that 7-8 out of every 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their lives. During a given year, about 8 million adults will have PTSD, which is only a small percentage of individuals who have experienced a traumatic event. Women are twice as likely to develop PTSD. (1)
The great news is that highly successful and effective treatments for anxiety related trauma and PTSD exist like never before in the treatment community. With the advancement of brain and neurological research, the medical and holistic care communities have access to many excellent, research-based treatment options to help people recover and heal from trauma.
What is Trauma Counseling and What Can I Expect?
There are several evidence-based trauma counseling therapies, including Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). In addition, alternative and complimentary therapies such as Mindfulness, Splankna, Equine-Assisted Therapy and pharmaceutical therapy have been effective for many individuals. (3)
Each member of our therapy team at Hope for the Journey Counseling has specialty training in the area of trauma recovery. We understand that providing a safe, accepting and gentle environment where you can tell your story and begin the healing process is the first step toward peace and freedom from your pain and distress. During our first few sessions, we will want to get to know you personally: your struggles, your goals, your strengths, your skills and your resources, through an interview process that is sensitive to your readiness to disclose. We understand that trust is often difficult and that talking about certain parts of your experience will take courage and time. Taking your lead and attuning to your desired pace is an important aspect of effective healing in trauma counseling.
We will collaborate with you to prioritize your goals and offer you therapeutic options to meet those goals. In effective trauma counseling, it is very important for clients to recognize and understand the effects of trauma on the mind, body and spirit. We provide in-session education and additional resources for you in between appointments.
We will teach mindfulness, relaxation skills, grounding skills and offer ways to be present in your body when anxiety becomes heightened. Clients often comment that learning these skills gives them a sense of self control and confidence to move through the healing process. We will also help you identify and transform the problematic thoughts and beliefs connected with your traumatic experiences.
How do I know if I need Trauma Counseling?
If you are experiencing several of the symptoms of PTSD listed above, you will benefit from trauma counseling. Even if those symptoms come and go, counseling helps reduce the vulnerability to trauma "triggers" and provides skills to cope with anxiety symptoms. Unfortunately, we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to taking care of ourselves. Don't let shame, embarrassment, minimization by yourself or others keep you from getting help. It is natural to want to avoid negative or upsetting feelings and yet it's often necessary to move through these feelings so you can heal and move forward in life.
Some clients tell us they were reluctant to seek counseling for several reasons. One, is because they convinced themselves that other people have suffered much worse things and that they can’t do anything about the past, so it’s just best to “get over it.” Another reason is that it feels too scary, overwhelming or embarrassing to talk about what happened. These common responses highlight the tendency that trauma survivors experience to avoid negative and upsetting feelings and experiences. They continue to minimize their struggles and feel shame about telling their stories. If these statements sound like you, they are likely to be serious indicators that you may have unprocessed trauma and could benefit from trauma counseling. Scheduling an appointment with a therapist to discuss your concerns and experiences is the best way to find out if you or someone you love would benefit from trauma counseling.
How long will I be in Trauma Counseling?
The length of counseling depends directly on how the long the problem has existed and how much it is interfering with your life. It is also influenced by the amount of support you have and the quality of the coping skills you already possesses. Your therapist will help you identify your strengths, build on your resources and prioritize goals.
Isn't it better to forget the past and move forward in life?
Absolutely. We all do this in many ways with great success! Unfortunately, there are times when we try hard to let go of the past, but it won't let go of us. Trauma profoundly impacts our brain, body and emotions to such an extent, that it is not possible to just "get over it." If you could have forgotten, let go or adapted, you would have already done so. Something is stuck that needs unsticking to be at peace with your past. Many clients we have worked with comment that doing the work of recovery from trauma was worth it because their relationships with themselves and others reached a new level of wholeness and peace.
What makes Hope for the Journey Counselors different?
We will address how trauma injuries not only affect our minds and bodies, but our souls. Traumatic experiences can shatter our hope, safety, and belief in God. Each of our therapists have experience and competency in helping clients bravely and candidly ask the hard questions about faith, purpose and healing that trauma generates.
To set up an appointment, please call (970) 541-9066 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer a free phone consultation to ask questions and see if the therapist you speak with is a good fit for you.
(1) SAMHA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices: Literature Review on Postraumatic Stress Disorder, 2015
(2) U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: PTSD National Center for PTSD