Trauma upends life long after it’s over. It consumes your mind during the day and haunts your sleep at night. But Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and other trauma disorders are highly treatable. In fact, I’ve devoted my career to helping hundreds of people take their lives back from PTSD!
Some common symptoms after a trauma include:
Unwanted thoughts and feelings about the event
Poor self esteem
Trying to avoid reminders of the trauma
After a life-threatening event, feeling on guard, anxious, irritable, and that fight/flight/freeze response is normal. And if you were to remain in that dangerous situation, these responses might help protect you from danger. But after the danger has passed, we no longer need to hold on to the same coping skills that helped us survive that extreme situation.
Kick PTSD to the curb!
Don’t waste one more minute trying to struggle through these things on your own. Trauma therapy can help!
PTSD counseling is different than other kinds of treatment and requires a specialized approach. It simply isn’t enough to talk to a therapist about how your week has been. If you want to get better, you want good evidence-based therapy which involves targeting specific symptoms and using time tested and mountains of evidence-backed research that have been rigorously vetted by professional therapists and researches over decades.
Therapy for PTSD
You and your therapist will discuss different online trauma therapy treatment options. Here are some possibilities:
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is an evidence-based therapy designed to help your brain heal after a trauma. Much like your body is designed to heal itself after an injury, your brain is trying to heal itself after a stressful event
Traumatic memories become stuck in the brain “without a time or date stamp” and so normal every day situations can often feel like the trauma is happening all over again. (Perhaps you know how this feels). In EMDR, you’ll focus on aspects of the past, the present, and the future to process what you’ve been through, recognize the safety in the present, and build toward a life that you love.
EMDR works by shifting focus from the left side of your brain to the right side over and over again. Much like how (when people lived in the wild) we might scan the horizon left and right for signs of danger, or how the eyes move left to right while in REM sleep. Deliberately shifting attention across the brain is called “Bilateral Stimulation,” or BLS for short and can be an important tool in helping our brain to “clear out” old negative experiences. You’ll work with your therapist in a particular way to help your brain do what it’s been trying to do all along…to heal.
The first part of therapy is spent learning more about you, your strengths, how you’ve managed to cope with your experiences (in ways that have been helpful or not so helpful). You and your therapist will also spend time developing additional tools, skills, and resources to help you manage stress. Later, you will identify specific targets that you feel are important for you to work on. Some people prefer EMDR over other trauma therapies because they prefer to not discuss details of what happened out loud. In EMDR, this is perfectly acceptable, as most of the work will be done silently, in your mind. Your therapist will guide you in reflecting on any emotions or sensations that arise during your therapy, which is one way that EMDR helps to “clear the blockage” in your brain. So a person who has experienced a sexual assault might move from feelings of terror, horror, and fear to a deep understanding of “I am a strong survivor. I am capable.”
More information can be found here: https://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): This treatment helps you identify unhelpful beliefs that you’ve subconsciously developed as a way to protect yourself. Beliefs that might be preventing you from the life you’d like to live. Maybe you’ve come to believe things like:
People can’t be trusted
I always need to be on guard so that something bad won’t happen again
If I let someone get close, they’ll hurt me
The best way to manage my feelings is to push them away
Nobody can understand me
If any of these beliefs sound familiar, I can help teach you specific tools to evaluate these thoughts (and the many others) that you may have developed over the years. I can teach you how to balance your anxiety and see the world in healthier ways, that will still keep you safe.
Prolonged Exposure (PE):
Trauma memories are like watching a horror movie (and not the fun kind). The memories are so upsetting that we never want to think about what happened or see those mental images again! Consequently, we work hard to push away any thought or feeling or image that might remind us of the trauma. And not only that, but we start to avoid places that make us feel anxious (places that used to be no problem for us in the past). It’s more difficult to be in crowded places, around loud noises, to have people standing behind us, or to go someplace new. It’s like our “danger radar” is dialed up to 11 and the only way that we have learned to manage that stress is to try to avoid it, push it down, or try to numb it out. Exhausting, right?!
But PE teaches us a few important things.
1) The more we process the trauma memory, the more control you take back from PTSD.
2) Not all anxiety = danger
3) Not everything that makes us feel anxious should be avoided
And if we’re being honest…if avoiding reminders of the trauma was effective at helping you recover, you wouldn’t need therapy. Think of avoidance as a kind of “fuel” that is inadvertently keeping that mental illness active. Our goal is to take away that fuel to help you take control of your life again. Instead of avoiding the anxiety, we look at it, process it, and take back your power.
Some people express apprehension at beginning trauma treatment. They’re afraid that things will get worse because the only way that they’ve learned to manage their emotions is by a complex dance of trying to push them away and to avoid trauma triggers. But consider this…if you were satisfied with your life, you likely wouldn’t be looking for therapy. You’d be happy! But my guess is that things aren’t going well. How long have you been carrying this stress? What would it be worth to you to finally have mastery over your symptoms? To be able to connect with your family and friends? To get out and enjoy life?
Written Exposure Therapy (WET)
WET is another type of exposure therapy designed to help you confront the memories that you’ve been avoiding. Exposure to the memories in a controlled setting and with the guidance of a trained therapist helps people to work through unresolved thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Sessions will begin with conversation about how your last week has gone, as well as some instruction from your therapist. You’ll then have the opportunity (as the name suggests) to write about your trauma account (this is the exposure) during session with your therapist. Afterwards, you’ll process any thoughts, feelings, or insights that you noticed during your writing.
You don’t have to decide alone!
Keystone Mental Health works with you to identify which specific expert solutions might work best for you, personally. You don’t have to struggle. Therapy can help. If you’re looking to work through old wounds and take your life back from PTSD, don’t wait another day. You have too much life to live, and let’s get you back on your feet. Call today!