“Don’t you think we all have trauma?” A sweet young woman inquired after we both shared about our professions as we waited on line. I answer , “Yes, most of us have gone through some sort of trauma, however, this does not mean that everyone needs therapy.” She seemed perplexed. A therapist who doesn’t push therapy? To help clarify I explained: “Well, the only reason you need treatment is if your mind and body are carrying symptoms that are affecting your day to day functioning”. She looked at me with relief. “Oh, I get it. So only the people who really need therapy are encouraged to go? Got it.”
You may be wondering how you’d know if you’d benefit from seeking out trauma therapy. I’ve provided a self questionnaire that will help you determine if you’re ready for trauma therapy.
Healing from any kind of trauma takes time and is dependent on your unique pace. However, if you’ve had some symptoms that you were hoping would go away and they just aren’t letting up, it may be time to reach out to an expert to help you heal.
If you answer yes to a number of the above questions, you may be ready to engage in therapy. Beginning to do the work to heal requires strength, courage and wisdom. Give yourself a pat on the back for taking the step towards your health as you seek out a trauma specialist. Since working through trauma can be painful, scary and potentially traumatizing, if not done properly, be sure to choose a seasoned trauma specialist. I encourage you take your time as you find the right therapist for you. Get to know the therapist and sense if you feel comfortable with him/her. You ned to feel comfortable, understood, respected and safe as good healing work can only happen in a safe environment.
So you’ve met a therapist and are deciding if you should continue working together. To be clear that this is a good fit for your ongoing work, ask yourself the following questions:
Did I feel understood by the therapist (did he/she “get” what I was saying?)
Did the therapist take my worries and concerns seriously or were they minimized or disregarded?
Did I feel comfortable discussing my current problems with ease and comfort?
Was I greeted with gentle compassion, respect and curiosity?
Can I see myself developing trust with this therapist over time?
When you begin trauma healing, your therapist may use a number of different therapy approaches. The healing provided is to help you resolve memories, difficult feelings and emotions regarding situations or beliefs that have been trapped in your body such as "I’m unsafe, I’m unworthy of love, I am in danger, I am invisible, I always mess up... "
Why does this matter? Because beliefs are the feeder for future thoughts and feelings and impact your behaviors and choices going forward. Trauma focused therapy provides core level healing which will help you not only heal your trauma, but also help improve your overall quality of life. Good treatment helps you release pent up “fight-or-flight” energy, where your body lets go of trapped energy it has stored in the past. You will practice skills to better regulate your emotions, learn to trust yourself (again) and improve your capacities for emotional intimacy and more meaningful connections with others.
Somatic experiencing or Sensorimotor psychotherapy are methods that tune into the body experience rather than just the mind’s thoughts about the event. Since we experience life on a mind and body level, by focusing inward and concentrating on what’s happening on the body, we offer a holistic route to release pent-up stress and trauma-related energy. This can be done through gentle movement, shaking, crying and somatic methods such as titration and pendulation.
Cognitive Behavioral therapy and Narrative therapy utilize talk therapy where we explore, evaluate and process thoughts, feelings and behaviors to strengthen choice points and implement change. Regarding trauma or shock, these methods are used to help you express and rescript a narrative that offers empowerment, clarity and healing.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a therapy that uses eye movements, or another form of rhythmic, left-right stimulation, with cognitive behavioral thoughts (beliefs) and somatic informed interventions (body scan) to “unfreeze” memories, sensations and trauma related beliefs that got stuck in your body.
"Parts Work" (borrowed from IFS and Ego State Work) Parts therapy refers to identifying parts of self that exist within one human being. We all have an adult self that helps us function in daily life, a worker self, a social self and nurturing self. We also may have parts of self that came into being due to a trauma or stress that may be impacting daily life. For example if you have a highly critical part of self that came to protect you against intense criticism, a cynical part or an angry part- they may have helped you survive hard times, but may be impacting your current identity or impact how you show up in relationships. Parts work helps work through inner conflicts so that you can live with more ease internally.
If you’ve been through a trauma and are seeking relief in the Five Towns, Nassau County or anywhere in Long Island, NY, Reach out today so we can help you find the right therapist for your healing.
Esther Goldstein LCSW is psychotherapist and trauma specialist with a private practice in Cedarhurst, NY. Esther specializes in treating professionals with anxiety, overwhelmed moms and individuals who want to have more meaningful relationships. Specialty areas include: EMDR therapy, somatic therapy, trauma treatment, complex ptsd and dissociative disorder treatment. As well, Esther provides trauma informed consultation to therapists committed to improving their trauma-informed practice and attachment focused EMDR consultation to therapist attaining hours towards EMDRIA certification. Esther's website is Integrativepsych.co