My clinical experience has taught me that trauma has many faces – from sudden, unexpected episodes of violence (emotional and/or physical) to systemic, ongoing emotional or physical abuse and neglect (including bullying and emotional battering) – or the threat of imminent physical harm or death.
PTSD can feel as if it has hijacked your life, stealing your sense of identity and your sense of safety in the world. It can include a complex range of symptoms including depression, anxiety, social withdrawal and debilitating physical manifestations of the trauma.
In children, trauma and PTSD show up somatically – in their bodies – and in their neural pathways – setting off a negative chain reaction which impacts their ability to focus and to socialize. The trauma response can lead to behavioral problems that impede their education and leads to further isolation putting the child at even greater risk for depression, anxiety and withdrawal.
Trauma reactions are physiological, neural and emotional and require a multi-faceted approach in treatment. Breakthroughs in our understanding and treatment of trauma (from people like Judith Herman, Bessel van der Kolk, Bruce Perry and Peter Levine) have led to treatments that incorporate mind, body and spirit.
The foundation for treatment of PTSD is to create a safe, empathic environment to explore, not just the trauma itself, but your specific reactions to the traumas that are now negatively impacting your quality of life.
My approach is holistic: gently look at the traumatic event or events, and explore what is happening in the here and now. It is a collaborate therapy, sometimes working with other therapists, that incorporates the trauma into the larger narrative of your life, while working to restore a sense of safety and balance.