Going through a traumatic or abusive experience can be extremely painful, confusing, and difficult. Because trauma can cause you to feel powerless, helpless, and unsafe, it often has a negative impact on all aspects of your life, including your work and relationships, as well as your physical and mental health.
The term "trauma" refers to deeply disturbing experiences that you've endured in your past, which continue to cause discomfort in your life. Because traumatic experiences are overwhelming, the negative feelings, memories, and uncomfortable body sensations that occurred during the trauma tend to get "stuck" in your nervous system, and thus remain unprocessed. This is what accounts for the ongoing after-effects or symptoms of trauma that occur in your life, such as:
Traumatic experiences can occur in a broad range of contexts and circumstances. In fact, a traumatic reaction is a completely subjective experience - different people interpret and react to the same types of situations very differently. It's not the incident that determines whether something is traumatic or not, but rather your personal experience of it.
If you have a shy or sensitive temperament, you may react more strongly to traumatic experiences (some people are genetically more resilient to trauma than others). If you experienced trauma at a young age, when you were more vulnerable and less able to understand disturbing events, you may have been impacted by subtle traumas more severely than you would later in life.
When people think of trauma, they often think of situations that have a physical impact, like a car accident or violent attack. But, very often, trauma occurs on a purely emotional level, where there is no physical impact. This is known as "emotional trauma." Examples include:
The phrase "emotional trauma" also describes the emotional impact of experiences that affected you in a physical way. For example:
Something that makes trauma and abuse so difficult is that once a traumatic event is over, the impact of that trauma can continue to affect you. Trauma not only creates painful feelings, but it also reinforces negative thinking. For example, if you felt rejected by one of your parents when you were a child, you may have developed the belief, "I'm not valuable" or "I'm unlovable." If you were abused in some way, you may have developed the belief, "I'm not safe" or "I can't protect myself."
After going through a traumatic experience, it's natural that you would shift toward behaviors that help you to cope with the pain of your trauma and protect you from future trauma. For example, to numb your pain you might start drinking or engaging in compulsive behaviors. Out of fear of rejection, you may become "clingy" or "needy" in your relationship. Or, you may stay away from social situations to avoid the possibility of feeling embarrassed. Trauma often leads to a wide range of self-defeating behaviors, including:
I use a variety of counseling techniques in my work with trauma and abuse. The goal is to help you resolve the emotionally painful traumas, as well as the negative thinking and behaviors that block you from feeling confident, empowered and fulfilled in your life.
One therapy approach that stands out as highly effective with counseling for trauma and abuse is EMDR. EMDR, which is short for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is an effective therapy approach used to overcome the emotionally painful effects of trauma and abuse, as well as a wide range of other emotional conditions.
"(EMDR is) ideal for
those who have been unable to forget past traumatic life events, as
it allows for a rapid processing of even deeply rooted memories, giving
individuals back control of their lives and their emotions."
- Dusty Bowencamp, RN CTR
Disaster Mental Health, American Red Cross
EMDR is not only helpful with processing trauma and negative beliefs, but it's also useful for strengthening the positive resources - confidence, calmness, empowerment - that are so useful for overcoming trauma and abuse.
Imagine how much better you could feel if you released the old traumas that have been getting in the way of your life. Counseling for trauma and abuse can help you to:
Enduring any type of trauma clearly has its downside; yet, counseling for trauma and abuse has the potential to open you up to deep transformation and personal growth. As your trauma heals, you may begin to notice a deeper level of confidence, strength, and resiliency, which prepares you to successfully handle other challenges in your life. After you face and overcome your trauma, you may find that you appreciate yourself more and understand yourself better. It's not uncommon to experience a deeper sense of compassion, empathy, and intimacy in your relationships with others. You may also experience a greater sense of wisdom, acceptance, and appreciation for life.
Office located in NW Portland, Oregon. Serving the Portland metro area, including Beaverton, Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Tigard, West Linn, Milwaukie, Oregon City, Tualatin, Gresham, and Vancouver, WA.