Trauma and PTSD
Trauma in its broadest sense is exposure to an extremely stressful life experience that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope. Psychological trauma includes, but is not limited to, combat, rape, natural disaster, domestic violence, child abuse, accidents and injuries, crime or motor vehicle accidents. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the response to the traumatic experience. Some people have heard that only combat veterans have PTSD. However, PTSD can develop when exposed to any trauma, not just combat.
After experiencing trauma, most people have more thoughts or dreams about their experience. They often feel more anxious, irritable or depressed. They may have trouble sleeping and trouble relating to others. They have difficulty relaxing and feel as if they always need to be on guard or that their safety is compromised. Much of their time is spent avoiding the things that trigger thoughts and feelings about the traumatic event. PTSD has been described as “a normal reaction to abnormal circumstances.”
If this sounds like you, it is important to know that 1) these are normal reactions to an abnormal event, 2) you can click here to learn more about PTSD symptoms and 3) there is help.
In the context of combat, it is not uncommon to have an experience in which you felt like you crossed a “moral line” you never thought you would. You may have had to make a decision between bad choices and worse choices. Then, either at the time of the incident, or after having some distance from it, profound feelings of shame creep in and begin to make life unmanageable.
Many of the people I work with struggle with guilt or shame related to trauma. They are concerned they will be perceived as “crazy” or “horrible” if they are honest about their experiences. They are often nervous their loved ones will stop loving them, other people with reject them, or they will be disconnection from others in some way if they honestly share what they have been through. Working with people in corrections, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers and Veterans Affairs hospitals, I can tell you, I have heard it all. After working with hundreds of people with trauma, substance use disorders and other mental health issues, I know how to instill hope and show my clients they are accepted for who they are despite the negative experiences they have had.
People who have experienced trauma are often anxious about seeking treatment because they think they will have to “re-experience” the traumatic event in therapy. Luckily, this is a common misconception about trauma-focused treatment. In fact, many therapeutic modalities used to treat PTSD you do not need to discuss the traumatic experience. Rather, you learn to identify the thoughts and feelings that have a negative impact on your life and learn ways to challenge and replace the beliefs that are preventing you from obtaining the quality of life they desire.
Working for the VA, my clinical practice focused on treating PTSD. I have specialized training and expertise in a number of evidenced based therapies used to treat PTSD including certification in Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD, Seeking Safety, Motivational Interviewing and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia. I have been using these treatments for close to a decade.
When you chose to engage in therapy, working together, we will collaborate to find the treatment that best suits your needs and moves at the pace you set. It is important you always feel in control while engaging in trauma focused work. The analogy I like to use is “You’re driving this car. I’m navigating. You’re in control of the gas pedal and the brakes.”
I currently offer both individual and group therapy for PTSD. Call (317) 678-7423 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment.