What is Trauma?

Trauma is a part of life and comes in many forms. While most of us are used to thinking in terms of "capital T" traumas -- single events like car wrecks or assaults -- it is also important that we acknowledge and make sense of the variety of "lowercase t" traumas that we also experience. These "smaller" traumas, left unaddressed, can have a cumulative effect. They include persistent childhood wounding, repeated exposure to stressful situations, accumulated losses, or chronically dysfunctional relationship patterns.

One way to understand trauma is as an event or collection of events that overwhelms the nervous system, impairing our ability to make sense of what is happening to us. The result is a lack of integration across several domains of experience, including memory, autobiographical narratives, left and right brain hemispheres, and the connection between brain and body. Trauma also significantly impacts our self-concept, self-esteem, and capacity for relationship.

Effects of Trauma

Trauma can have effects across many areas of our lives, including our mental, emotional, physical, social, and relational functioning. Some effects of trauma are obvious while others are not. Common effects of trauma include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Intrusive memories
  • Anxiety or hypervigilance
  • Impulsiveness
  • Guarded musculature
  • Racing or disjointed thoughts
  • Low or over-inflated self-esteem
  • Guilty thoughts
  • Paranoia
  • Feelings of heaviness or disconnection
  • Emotional flooding
  • Difficulty in relationships
  • Chronic pain
  • Certain autoimmune disorders

Common Reasons to Seek Trauma Counseling

I work with trauma in all of its manifestations. The following is a list of some common reasons people seek trauma counseling. If you find that you are dealing with something that is not listed, please feel free to reach me using my secure contact form to discuss your needs.

  • Accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • Combat and warfare
  • Political oppression
  • Emigration
  • Surgery
  • Complicated births
  • Abuse
  • Assualt
  • Sexual harassment, assault, and rape
  • Witnessing a violent incident
  • Separation from parent
  • Chronic occupational stress (first-responders, caregivers, helping professionals)

How Trauma Counseling Can Help

Trauma symptoms reflect disconnection in our lives -- from ourselves, our bodies, and others. I view trauma counseling as a process of reconnection, and supporting your capacity for connection and aliveness is central to my approach. As we work together, our aims will include

  • the gentle expansion of the range of emotions available to guide you
  • increasing your ability to feel safe and secure in your own body
  • dis-identifying from shame-based identifications and pride-based counteridentifications
  • supporting your increasing tolerance for expansive experiences
  • promoting authentic self-expression
  • reconnection with previously unmet needs
  • diminishing self-hatred, self-judgment, and self-rejection

Often, people struggling with traumatic aftermath avoid getting help due to a fear that they will be forced to relive their experiences. Although it does occur, the discharge of shock energy is never the focus of my therapy. Instead, emotional and physiological release occurs in the context of a healing cycle that promotes increased contact with the body and the authentic self. You can expect that we will move at a pace that will be uncomfortable enough to promote change but without overwhelming you.

If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to contact me


Specific Approaches

Neuroaffective Relational Model (NARM)

Developed by Laurence Heller, NARM is a powerful model for treating a broad spectrum of developmental and shock traumas. This resource-oriented approached is non-pathologizing, and focuses on promoting self-regulation, healthy self-image, and increased capacity for relationship. An emphasis on repairing early ruptures in attachment distinguishes NARM from other body-inclusive therapies.

Somatic Experiencing

Based on the work of Peter Levine, Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a gentle approach to restoring the body's innate ability to heal itself following trauma. Through mindful awareness, the self-regulatory capacities of the autonomic nervous system are brought back online and traumatic symptoms are reduced. Many clients avoid therapy, fearing that they will have to relive their overwhelming or frightening experiences. The SE therapist is trained to carefully "dose" interventions in order to keep clients within a window of tolerance. As therapy proceeds, the window of tolerance becomes larger, allowing for wider experiences and more complete healing.

Internal Family Systems

Pioneered by Richard Schwartz over twenty years ago, Internal Family Systems (IFS) is based on the understanding that our brains are parallel processors that can activate multiple neural networks simultaneously. Conflict or impaired communication among these different "parts" can create an enormous amount of emotional distress within us.  In therapy, we spend a lot of time getting to know these parts, what their purpose is, and what they've been through. We also spend time examining how they interact with one another. As we develop deep appreciation and compassion for all parts of us, we find that we can alter their dynamics to create profoundly different ways of relating to ourselves and the world around us.

Resources for Trauma

  • The NeuroAffective Relational Model, by Laurence Heller and Aline LaPierre
  • I Don't Want to Talk About It, by Terry Real
  • Waking the Tiger, by Peter Levine
  • The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel van der Kolk
  • Neurobiology of We, by Dan Siegel
  • Trauma and the Body, by Pat Ogden
  • Body Sense, by Alan Fogel