The past affects the present even without our being aware of it.
― Francine Shapiro
Trauma can have a profound effect on our lives.
It doesn’t have to be combat trauma, the loss of a loved one, or crime victimization, though those are definitely forms of “big T” trauma.
Sometimes, trauma is a little less obvious, like the ending of a relationship, difficulties at work, public humiliation of some kind (like sports failures or a failed sales pitch to a client), bullying and harassment, an arrest or time in prison, or any other manner of challenges life throws at us.
Trauma can leave us feeling like we’re at the bottom of a deep, dark hole out of which we doubt we can ever climb. It is isolating, causing us to feel that no one understands what we’ve been through, or why we feel the way we do now. It undermines our trust in the world, in other people, and in ourselves.
Trauma etches itself on our brain and body, in ways that are often beyond our conscious awareness.
This can take the form of vivid nightmares, irritability, panic, and distressing flashbacks, as well as feelings of numbness and disconnection. It can feel like something is trapped within you, that at your core there is pain that needs to be released but is somehow outside of your reach.
Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, one of the foremost experts on trauma, says in his book, The Body Keeps the Score, that our brains get stuck, in a way, in trauma mode, wherein we don’t just remember our traumatic experiences. Rather, we re-experience the physical sensations of our trauma, often accompanied by overwhelming emotions, and sometimes even flashbacks or nightmares in our everyday lives after the trauma has occurred.
Our challenge in therapy, then, is to get our minds “unstuck,” so to speak, out of survival mode and back into thrive mode.
We can help.
At Petrichor Counseling, LLC, we have several therapists who specialize in trauma using the empirically prove, brain-based methods of Brainspotting and EMDR to heal a wide range of traumatic experiences. Our most important priority is your safety, so we will go at the pace you need and fully support you along your path to healing.
Please contact us at (470) 736-9595 for an in depth, confidential assessment.
Therapists specializing in trauma:
Madison Longchamp, MS, APC
Tanya Thomas, APC
Below is a little more information about how our therapists will help you using these efficient and effective methods.
Brainspotting is an empirically proven brain-based method of working through trauma, anxiety, depression, weight loss, addiction, chronic pain, performance anxiety (whether sexual, sports, artistic, or workplace) and other conditions.
It’s specifically designed to address the bodily connection between our trauma and our current experience, to reprogram or rewire, if you will, those traumatic experiences so that we remember them the way we remember other memories, like driving to work. Albeit, they are not happy memories, but after engaging in Brainspotting to resolve our traumas, we experience the memory as we experience other memories, with some emotion, but free of the intense, paralyzing emotions and physiological responses.
Just talking about trauma doesn’t resolve the trauma.
These types of experiences are stored in a very different part of our brains from the rest of our memories, called the neocortex, which is why experience them so differently. We simply are not able to successfully resolve these issues through the traditional methods, like regular talk therapy or CBT.
While those methods are greatly beneficial, they rely solely on the part of our brain that produces rational, cognitive thought. The relief gained from these cognitive methods usually only helps to manage symptoms and stays on the surface.
The area of the brain that drives trauma is deeper. Literally.
The memories are stored in our sub-cortex, in the most primal part of our brain. This area reacts like an emergency squad. It reacts with instinctive, panic induced “fight, flight, or freeze,” responses. However, sometimes this reaction occurs because of a perceived threat that isn’t actually there. As noted above, our brains get stuck, in essence, in this survival mode. When this happens it makes life so difficult. So painful and out of control.
In order to free ourselves, we have to access where the memories/experiences are stored.
This is why Brainspotting is referred to as a “brain-based” method: it focuses on the brain’s functioning, organically using it’s own power to heal on itself. Brainspotting, simply put, recognizes that the eyes are the doors through which we enter! Where we look effects how we feel. Brainspotting utilizes eye position to know when your body is being activated by stored trauma, memories or distress, and then resolve it.
We at Petrichor Counseling, LLC frequently use Brainspotting during sessions with clients, no matter what the reason they seek therapy, as it is the most organic of the brain-based methods. It is effective in rooting out unseen issues. Rather than focusing on one particular trauma memory (though we will frequently use one memory as a jumping off point), Brainspotting offers the freedom to heal many traumas at one time by following the natural cues the body gives us, and in the process, reconnecting mind and body in a healthy way.
Brainspotting is painless. It takes a little getting used to because it is a bit different from regular talk therapy, but once accustomed to it, our clients find that they experience it as an efficient, effective process that brings much healing both through the method and the connection with their therapist that they naturally experience as part of the process.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
Have you ever watched someone (or even your cat or dog) sleep, and noticed their eyes darting back and forth under their closed eyelids? This is called Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, the part of the sleep cycle when we are dreaming. Sleep scientists tell us that REM sleep is important for memory consolidation and helping us process events that we experienced during the day.
EMDR uses this knowledge to help people process trauma by using eye movements.
The difference is that during EMDR, we do the eye movements while we are awake and conscious instead of during sleep. This technique is commonly referred to as bilateral stimulation. Sometimes, instead of eye movements, other forms of bilateral stimulation are used, such as tapping gently on one’s knees with the hands, using the feet to tap on the floor, or even listening to a recording that moves back and forth from the left to right ear.
Research has shown that these kinds of bilateral stimulation help integrate communication between our left and right brain, thereby allowing us to process traumatic experiences by resolving the emotional charge from the experience while updating the brain with adaptive information. For instance, after being assaulted or abused, people tend to have the belief that they are damaged, unlovable, or worthless.
EMDR can help the brain find a more adaptive belief, such as: “I am OK just as I am”, or “I can accept myself”.
By using a strength-based approach that updates old negative beliefs with more adaptive beliefs, a person is able to move forward through a traumatic experience and not feel stuck in the past.
EMDR can also be used to manage anxiety and depression, overcome addictions, work through grief and loss, enhance performance, build self-esteem, etc. To learn more about EMDR,watch the video below.
Therapists who practice EMDR:
Kathryn Vaughn, LCSW