Trauma Treatments Summary
A summary of psychotherapy services for trauma & PTSD
Psychotherapy Services for Healing Trauma and PTSD
I treat adult clients who bear the life-long consequences of childhood trauma stemming from emotional, physical or sexual maltreatment by parents or caregivers. These days childhood trauma is often referred to as developmental trauma or complex PTSD. This kind of trauma shows up in a variety of ways in adults that include emotional and behavioral rigidity, ceaseless repetition of self-defeating relationship patterns, self-hatred, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. The good news is that trauma is not forever and these problems can be eliminated through trauma therapy.
I also treat adults experiencing significant distress and difficulty functioning from adult-onset trauma through recent exposure to death, serious injury or sexual violence. Adult-onset PTSD is associated with events like war, natural disasters, car crashes, muggings, rape, and hate crimes. It is also associated with being a first responder to disasters or being a health care provider who breaks down under the weight of too much death. For example, even the best surgeons keep losing patients with severe cancer, advanced heart disease, septic infection, and the like. And, even the best veterinarians have no choice but to euthanize scores or even hundreds of extremely sick, incurable dogs and cats. All of this takes its toll.
For nearly a century after Sigmund Freud invented psychology, therapy for trauma was done through a “talking cure” that involved conversations between therapist and client geared toward increasing the client’s self-awareness of repressed trauma and unconscious defenses against it. This was a purely cognitive approach. In the 1980s biological psychiatry took center stage and offered psychopharmaceuticals to manage the symptoms of conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, and anxiety disorders. Beginning in the 1990s a host of new cutting-edge therapies emerged based on psychosensory interventions that required knowledge of neuroscience and especially the physiology of the central nervous system. These are the interventions I use.
They utilize breath work, touch, movement, and imagination/visualization to spur the rewiring of the client’s brain. Unlike the talking cure, which ignored the body, psychosensory therapies re-unite mind and body so they can put the past behind and help the client make her present life significantly better. They go beyond increasing self-awareness. They help clients develop a more accurate, more positive, up-dated image of themselves as the capable adults they have become, adults who no longer need to please their parents to survive, adults who no longer assess their value based on what mother or father said. These therapies weaken and ultimately resolve the old, distorted self-image of the client as being weak, helpless, different, unworthy or unlovable. They also teach the client how to gain mastery in regulating her own nervous system so she can remain fully present and socially engaged with others, instead of dissociating, panicking or self-harming.
Many of these psychosensory therapies involve the notion that just as our brains have separate modules for performing different functions (like learning, memory, speaking or moving) our psyche is not a single unified whole but has many “parts.” These parts resemble sub-personalities in that they exhibit different roles, objectives, and behaviors, and they can work together or fall into conflicts so strong they tear the individual apart. One of the best-known parts is the “inner critic” that seeks to protect individuals from the pain of failure/rejection/shame by forcefully criticizing them so they will stay small, keep a low profile, and avoid risks. Parts work can be very healing if done with patience, curiosity, and a big measure of self-compassion. Depending on client preference I can use a variety of methods of parts work.
My approach with new clients is to use conversation for the development of a bond of trust and safety that will facilitate teamwork and constructive collaboration. It is of crucial importance for me to know how you see your problems, what you want to change about yourself or your life, and what you are and are not motivated to try in therapy. I offer psychosensory techniques to enable you to do the work of self-healing. These techniques put you in the driver’s seat. You will be invited to do things like try new breath patterns, touch your own skin in soothing strokes, and imagine yourself succeeding and thriving. I teach methods of meditation and relaxation that pave the way for a psychosensory immersion into your inner world. There you will come into contact with sensations, feelings, and parts that have valuable information to give you and stories to tell that will expose how early experiences formed your way of being. You are then in position to form a healing relationship with your parts that can dissolve decades-long inner conflicts and the negativity they bred.