A Blog Series on All Things Trauma – Part 1
What is Trauma?
*Trigger warning discussion about trauma and types of trauma
I started specializing in trauma therapy when the COVID-19 pandemic began. At the time, I was teaching and supervising graduate students in Clinical Mental Health programs and felt a strong calling back to the field of counseling. I opened my private practice and began to see clients part-time. In a world of unprecedented uncertainty, loss, and grief I wanted to create a safe space for clients to work through their pain and suffering and help them find a sense of peace and healing.
I began to notice that in addition to the unpredictable and ever-changing landscape we were all facing, the pandemic exacerbated mental health conditions. It felt like the pandemic was a faucet of water that couldn’t be turned off. Sometimes the water ran rapidly and other times in drips filling up the bath, inevitably spilling water over the sides. Ever flowing.
It wasn’t surprising that with the constant pressures from the pandemic, unresolved distressing events from the past started to come to the surface too. In other words, the trauma of the present stirred up unresolved traumas from the past.
Many people associate trauma with a tragic event like a car accident or an assault. If an individual has not experienced that type of event, they may feel that their experiences do not fit into the definition. While trauma is often thought of as a catastrophic event, it is defined as an emotional response to a distressing event. Grief, loss and separation, domestic violence, bullying and cyberbullying, poverty, racism, discrimination, harrassment, verbal, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, and abandonment are also examples of trauma.
No two reactions to a traumatic event are the same. Two people can experience the same event and only one of them goes on to develop trauma symptoms such as denial, exhaustion, sadness, anxiety, panic attacks, numbness, confusion, dissociation, flashbacks, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, difficulties with relationships, hypervigilance, unpredictable emotions, difficulty concentrating, difficulty with memories, intense feelings of guilt or shame, withdrawal, avoidance, and physical symptoms such as chronic pain, dizziness, headaches, or stomach aches.
An individual can experience trauma symptoms even if they were not the person who directly experienced the traumatic event. Witnessing, learning the event occurred to a close family member or friend, or repeated exposure to aversive details of the event such as for police officers or first responders, can also elicit a trauma response or symptoms.
As a clinician, I saw how prevalent trauma was and I needed more tools to help clients heal. I read books, attended trainings, and worked under consultation to increase my competency and skill set to best support my clients. Once I began learning more about trauma, I never looked back. I sought out specialized training in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to treat trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and began using EMDR in my practice. It has been remarkable to see how effective this treatment has been and how quickly clients made progress toward their goals.
As they moved towards healing, I noticed clients starting to reconnect with their authentic selves. With this connection, their sense of empowerment and confidence increased. They were working towards the best versions of themselves and were tapping into their greatest potential. It was incredible to see this growth and was the inspiration for the name of my practice Infinite Potential Counseling & Consultation and website infinitepotentialawaits.com I believe that clients have the innate ability to work towards their greatest potential. My role as a counselor is to help clients find solutions that align with their goals and to reconnect and build trust and confidence with their authentic selves.
While trauma and its symptoms can be difficult and overwhelming, the good news is that it can be treated. If you have experienced trauma or recognize some of the symptoms, you are not alone. Reach out for a free 20 minute consultation to see if we would be a good fit working together: https://infinitepotentialawaits.com/contact/
If you or a loved one are having a medical emergency or are in immediate danger- call 911. If it is important to let the 911 operator know if it is a mental health emergency and ask for police officers trained in crisis intervention or trained to assist people experiencing a psychiatric emergency.
Resources are available, free, and 24/7 to support you:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Crisis Text Line: Text MHA to 741741 to connect with a trained Crisis Counselor, text-based support, free, 24/7
The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386 or text START to 678678. A national 24-hour, toll free confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth.
Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860 for US and 877-330-6366 for Canada. Trans Lifeline’s Hotline is a peer support service run by trans people, for trans and questioning callers.
National Domestic Violence Hotline:
For any victims and survivors who need support, call 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-799-7233 for TTY, or if you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto https://buff.ly/2HdC5J1 or text LOVEIS to 22522.
StrongHearts Native Helpline:
Call 1-844-762-8483. The StrongHearts Native Helpline is a confidential and anonymous culturally-appropriate domestic violence and dating violence helpline for Native Americans, available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT.
The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline:
Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.