So you experienced a trauma (or several)...
You push it aside, telling yourself that you can deal with it on your own. You keep busy, you put on a front, and maybe you turn to drugs and alcohol to keep the painful memory at bay. You believe that if you let the memory and painful emotions out, you will lose control or others will think you are weak.
Suppressing the trauma(s) is taking a toll...
The memory keeps popping up when you least expect it. You are always on edge and have difficulty going to the grocery store, restaurants, or any place where there might be a crowd. If you do work up the courage to go out, you are constantly looking over your shoulder, scanning for threats, and identifying the exits. You believe the world is dangerous and that others cannot be trusted. You feel scared, anxious, overwhelmed, and drained. You are having nightmares and difficulty sleeping, which is contributing to your fatigue, lousy mood, and inability to focus. You are having more and more trouble numbing the memory and your feelings, and you become more frustrated, irritable, and angry.
And now it is negatively impacting your life...
You are having difficulty being present and connected with others. Others say you are no longer yourself and that being around you is like walking on eggshells. You are having more conflicts with your spouse, children, and family. You are having difficulty at work or school, and even just completing everyday tasks. You spend more and more time alone. You feel alienated from everyone you care about.
You are beginning to lose hope...
You are on the brink of falling apart, or you are falling apart. You feel broken and that something is seriously wrong with you. You believe that you will never get over it. You believe that no one can understand. You believe it was your fault, and that you deserve this prison of your own making.
But something inside you knows it's time to ask for help...
You know you can no longer go on living this way and that this trauma is manifesting something terrible in you. You are scared to death to ask for help, and you are not sure if therapy will even help. Maybe you have even tried talk-therapy for years without much benefit. But you know it is time to face the trauma and gain back your life.
And there is help!
I'm Dr. Emily and I am an expert in trauma-focused treatment. Through the integration of mindfulness, mind-body, and trauma-informed approaches, I help you listen to and trust your own intuition, learn new skills, and release your trauma, so you can move forward with your life within 3-4 months or less.
What can you expect?
Having worked with many clients suffering the effects of trauma and having faced my own traumas, I have heard and experienced the worst. Even when you are upset, freaking out, desperate, and scared, you will feel safe, understood, and valued. Through this connection, I teach you to be with the difficult memory and peel back the layers of what happened to you in a compassionate and direct way. I gently guide you through the process of breaking the memory down, challenging your perceptions and avoidant behaviors, and re-integrating your mind, body, and spirit.
You will feel better...
By going through this process, not only will you feel a sense of relief that you are NOT crazy after all, you will gain a sense of empowerment that you can face your trauma so that it no longer controls you and your life. Though your symptoms may get worse at first, by the end of treatment, you will notice an incredible change. You will feel the anger, fear, and sadness lightening. You will be able to go to the grocery store and restaurants, attend social gatherings and events, and engage in the things you enjoy. You will notice other people wanting to be around you because you are at peace and enjoying life. You won’t have to put up a front. You will realize that you are not to blame for the trauma, and that you deserve good things. You will be happy with you.
And you will know what to do in the future...
You will be more equipped to manage flare-ups. You will recognize that the trauma is just a memory and cannot hurt you. You will have confidence in your ability to be with difficult emotions. You will be able to confront problems by pausing, assessing, and responding, rather than avoiding or blowing up. And if at any point it still seems overwhelming, you can always schedule some booster sessions to get through the rough patches and back on track.
Begin the journey of healing your traumatic wounds today
1. Learn more about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and treatments by clicking here.
2. Start building a mindfulness practice and your therapy toolkit by clicking here.
3. Book your free 15-minute clarity call today if you are ready to unburden your trauma(s) and regain your life.
What is a trauma anyways?
A traumatic event is a situation where an individual experiences, witnesses, or repeatedly hears details of serious injuries and/or threats of death. Some examples of traumas include sexual assault, physical assault, motor vehicle accident, natural disaster like an earthquake or fire, combat, and childhood abuse/neglect. It is estimated that 70% of individuals in the U.S. experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime.
What is PTSD?
While many people who experience a trauma are able to naturally recover, some people get stuck. Those who are at risk for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have something keeping them blocked from this natural recovery process. Symptoms include:
Intrusions: nightmares, unwanted memories, flashbacks
Avoidance of potential triggers and of unwanted memories, thoughts, and emotions, including use of substances as a form of avoidance
Negative mood: fear, shame, guilt, sadness, anxiety, anger
Negative beliefs about self, others, and the world
Hyperarousal: hypervigilance, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating
Fortunately, there are evidence-based treatments that have been shown to be effective in returning the individual to the natural path of recovery.
Cognitive Processing Therapy
One of the symptoms that block people from the natural recovery process following a traumatic event are the development of negative beliefs about self, others, and the world. Some examples of these beliefs may include “I am a terrible person,” “No one can be trusted,” and “The world is completely dangerous.” These beliefs then limit an individual from functioning fully in their everyday lives and can cause problems in relationships, work/education, and household tasks. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that targets these negative beliefs, or “stuck points.” It teaches you to challenge and reframe your stuck points to be more balanced and realistic, so you can get back to your life.
Click here to listen to This American Life podcast about one individual’s experience going through CPT
Note: Listen with caution as details of a trauma are described
Another symptom that block people from the natural recovery process following a traumatic event is avoidance. Internal avoidance is when people attempt to suppress the memories of the traumatic event and associated negative thoughts and feelings. However, the very act of avoiding the memories makes them more powerful and prevalent (try NOT to think about
a pink elephant for 1 minute and see how you do). Suppressing negative emotions can numb individuals from all emotions, including positive ones, and can become exhausting, like holding down a floating ball in the ocean that keeps trying to pop-up to the surface. External avoidance is when people attempt to evade people, places, objects, and situations that have the potential to trigger the traumatic memory. This approach may relieve some anxiety in the short-term, but actually can have negative long-term effects on your functioning in multiple areas of your life.
Prolonged Exposure (PE) is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that targets avoidance. It teaches you to approach the memory of the traumatic event through verbal re-tellings called “imaginals,” so you can process and release the associated negative emotions and re-encode the memory without such strong emotions attached to it. PE also teaches you to approach the external situations you may be avoiding in a gradual and systematic way, called “in vivos,” so you learn that these situations are not dangerous and gain confidence in your ability to handle them.
Click here for a Dateline segment of one individual's experience going through PE
Note: Watch with caution as details of a trauma are described
COncurrent Treatment of substance use disorder and PTSD using PE
One common way individuals avoid their trauma memories and associated thoughts and feelings is through the abuse of substances, such as alcohol, marijuana, and illegal drugs. In fact, estimates suggest that nearly 50% of individuals with a lifetime prevalence of PTSD also have a substance use disorder (SUD). Not only can you become addicted to these substances, you then feel worse as your body metabolizes them out of your body…and the trauma memories, thoughts, and feelings are still there. Substance use in conjunction with PTSD can have detrimental effects on your life socially, occupationally, financially, and even legally.
SUD and PTSD are typically treated separately, which leaves an individual with these co-occurring conditions more vulnerable to relapse and the treatment being less effective. COPE is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that tackles both problems simultaneously using the strategies of PE outlined above for PTSD and a harm reduction approach for SUD, providing you with techniques to help manage cravings and thoughts about using substances and coping skills to help prevent relapse.