A trauma is a significant, unexpected, and negative life event that can overwhelm a person’s ability to cope. When events happen that are dangerous, disturbing, or frightening, they stress your body and mind.
Trauma impacts every individual differently. When your sense of safety has been threatened it can seem impossible to stop reliving your most painful experiences.
In the aftermath of traumatic events, your body and brain may signal that you are in danger all the time. You may feel you cannot trust the people around you. Or, you may be disconnected and generally checked out. Trauma symptoms may impact your daily life and negatively affect your most important relationships.
It takes courage to reach out and share your story with a stranger. Clinicians at J&L Psychology have the training and experience to help you examine what has happened, how you got here, and work with you to put the pieces of your life’s narrative back together.
How we approach trauma treatment
We offer a multi-faceted strategy to address how past trauma is affecting you today. Evidence-based treatments can help you put the past where it belongs so you can live more fully in the present. We draw from our collective expertise and experience in cognitive-behavioral approaches to the treatment of complex trauma and PTSD.
Our treatment approach is informed by combining: a) our understanding of scientific research on trauma and the effectiveness of particular interventions; b) our clinical expertise in the field; and c) your life experiences, current symptoms, and goals for recovery or change. We believe that tailoring the plan to you offers the best hope for relief in the short term and positive effects in the long term.
Some of the well-researched protocols we include in our evidence-based procedures for treating trauma are described in greater detail to the right (below on mobile).
Treatments used in trauma therapy
Prolonged exposure therapy (PE)
This well-researched treatment for PTSD serves to gradually and safely introduce a person to trauma-related thoughts, memories, and experiences that have been avoided because of fear. In PE, patients talk about their trauma and do things they have been avoiding repeatedly to allow for “habituation,” or the process of getting used to something so it no longer feels threatening or scary.
The brain makes associations. The more it can register that a place, memory, or thing is no longer dangerous, it signals the body not to react as if the person is in danger (e.g. sweating, heart palpitations, freezing). The rewiring allows the person to then re-engage in aspects of life previously avoided.
PE usually consists of the use of in-vivo (exercises designed to engage with previously avoided places, people, situations) and imaginal exposure (engaging with traumatic memories by retelling the story containing avoided, painful memories).
All these exercises are completed with the therapist's guidance and in a planned, methodical, transparent way.
cognitive processing therapy (CPT)
This approach to treating the effects of trauma identifies “stuck points,” or thoughts and beliefs that keep a person from putting a traumatic event in the past.
In CPT, patients learn to take a critical look at distressing thoughts and work with their therapist to change thoughts that are unrealistic and unhelpful. For example, it is common for those who have lived through trauma to believe they are to blame or that no one can be trusted.
CPT teaches skills to examine thoughts while helping a person work through stuck points and identify life themes of safety, trust, power and control, intimacy, and esteem that are keeping them from moving forward.
Skills Training in Affect and Interpersonal Regulation--Narrative Therapy
Skills Training in Affect and Interpersonal Regulation--Narrative Therapy (STAIR-NT) was originally developed through research with women adult survivors of sexual abuse and has been adapted for diverse populations with traumatic experiences (such as military veterans). The goal of this evidence-based treatment is to improve your ability to identify and manage difficult emotions and improve your relationships.
STAIR treatment begins with learning skills that address your emotions and relationships. These exercises provide a foundation and prepare you for the second phase of treatment. The narrative portion of the program targets problematic trauma memories through repeated storytelling in therapy sessions. These are followed by listening to the recordings outside of sessions. The goal is to help you reintegrate their memories so they are filed in the past. This gives them less power over your emotions so that they no longer intrude on your present, allowing you to move forward.
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)
TF-CBT is a specialized trauma treatment for children or teens. Similar to adult treatments, this approach will help your child process the trauma experience in a safe and tailored way while learning skills to discuss feelings, and manage emotions and behaviors. In TF-CBT parents are asked to participate in the treatment at various stages. Parents often have their own reactions when their child has experienced trauma. This often includes anger, guilt, sadness, or shame. Parents are supported by the therapist to help them work through the impact of the trauma as they focus on supporting their child.
TRAUMA-INFORMED GROUP THERAPY
At J&L Psychology Group, we know that effective healing can happen in the context of a supportive and understanding social community. We are planning to offer group trauma-focused psychotherapy services in the future. Group therapy can provide a safe environment in which to learn and practice evidence-based strategies and skills to use in daily life, and teach you new ways of approaching challenging emotions, life events, and relationships. If you are interested in joining any of our groups in the future, please reach out to express your interest via our contact form.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an approach to therapy that involves recalling distressing thoughts, images, feelings and/or body sensations while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus. Often the external stimuli are a series of side-to-side eye movements or hand-tapping.
This approach assists with processing memories by allowing patients to focus both on the associations related to these recollections and the bilateral stimulation, commonly in the form of repeated eye movements. EMDR therapy does not require talking about distressing details to process traumatic events.
EMDR has evidence for use in treatment of trauma, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions and can be used in adults and children.