What is Trauma?
Individuals can experience and define trauma differently. An experience which may be traumatic for one person may or may not be experienced similarly by another. Trauma can be thought of any experience that overwhelms one’s capacity to cope.
While everyone’s experience is unique, there are some common symptoms or experiences individuals may have after going through or witnessing something traumatic such as: intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks and intense or prolonged emotional or physiological distress, especially after coming into contact with reminders of the traumatic experience. Individuals may also actively try to avoid things or places that remind them of the experience or thoughts and feelings associated with it.
Past experiences often help to shape and form our present moment experiences. When one’s history has contained painful, terrifying, hurtful, unsafe, and/or threatening experiences, these memories can continue to impact your present experience in a variety of ways including difficulty in school, work, or relationships. It is also common for people who have experienced trauma to also have other mental health or medical concerns. Trauma-focused therapy works with one’s relationship to these experiences in order to reduce their impact on an individual’s present and future experience.
Getting Help Healing Trauma
At Mindful Psychology Associates, our therapists are committed to helping you understand how your experiences impact your functioning and day-to-day experiences. We will work together to build a supportive space where you can begin to validate your experience and explore how to support the impact your past experiences are having on the present. After you have worked to build a space in therapy where you feel seen and heard, your therapist will work with you to develop tools to help support the impact of these experiences and develop a plan to help move you towards your goals.
Some of our therapists have additional specialized training or certification in somatic-based approaches to healing from trauma:
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is one method of trauma-focused therapy. The World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric Association consider it to be a top-tier trauma intervention. During EMDR a client brings to mind painful memories and the therapist facilitates processing these memories through bilateral stimulation of the client’s brain. This is done through eye movements, alternating tones, and/or physical stimulation on alternating sides of the body. While it is not fully known as to why this process facilitates an adaptive change to painful past experience, studies have consistently demonstrated clinically significant reduction in distress among clients with trauma. (See “What is EMDR?,” 2020.)
Somatic Experiencing® (SE)®
Somatic Experiencing® (SE) is body-mind oriented approach to healing trauma and other stress disorders which focuses on increasing resiliency. It focuses on the underlying dysregulation in one’s nervous system that causes or maintains symptoms and offers this framework by assessing where a person might be “stuck” in the fight, flight, or freeze responses.
The therapist guides the individual gently through SE tools and exercises to resolve these physiological states toward completing self-protective motor responses and discharging bound-up energy in order to address the root cause of trauma symptoms. SE gently guides individuals to increase their tolerance for difficult body sensations and emotions with the aim of accessing the body memories, not necessarily the “story.” So, trauma-focused SE work means you do not have to verbally process your trauma story if you are not ready or wish not to. (See “What is Somatic Experiencing®?,” 2020.)