As a therapist, I live in the world of feelings. Talking about feelings, thinking about feelings, and most importantly feeling feelings, helping others to do the same. In my work over the past 20 plus years as well as through observations within my personal experiences it is clear that knowing what to do with feelings is the exception not the norm. And we come by it honestly.
TRIGGER WARNING: This article and pages it links to contain information about sexual assault and related violence which may be triggering to survivors. You may consider creating a safe-enough space for yourself if/when you choose to engage with this material, perhaps reading it in smaller increments as needed.
Check out this article on grief by Jeremy Sycks, a NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioner, NLP Trainer, and a Certified Life Coach specializing in Grief Coaching:
In this article, Sycks walks us through how to manage and grow through the pain of our grief. He writes:
"Resourceful stages of grieving is a way to be present in your current situation while creating resourceful states, communications, and behaviors to manage yourself throughout your grief."
He shares three helpful tips for working through grief as well. Check it out!
Tips from a Highly Sensitive Person
There is SO much energy whirling around us right now, and a lot of it is negative. That doesn’t mean the positive isn’t out there, but given the state of things right now, it may be harder to find. You may find yourself feeling drained or exhausted from all of the bad news or upset energy. This may be new for you or if you are highly sensitive, it may be more intense than usual but perhaps feels like business as usual.
As a highly sensitive person living in a world that is not, I have picked up some skills over the years to protect my energy and be selective around what I let in. I am noticing so many more people struggling with this than usual, so here are things to try that help me.
You know that gut-punching, heart-sinking “unh” sensation you have been feeling? It may be
Ambiguous Loss. Pauline Boss coined the term for this loss without the promise of anything that looks like resolution, loss without certainty. After listening to a podcast interview of Dr. Boss by Krista Tippett, I knew that was the “unh” I had been feeling.
Military Sexual Trauma or “MST” is all together too common. About one in four women seen at the VA report some form of military sexual trauma. While this does not include all women who have experienced MST, women are more likely to report this type of trauma. On the other hand, many men do not report MST; only 1 in 100 men disclose that they have experienced MST. Men tend to report less often as they are more likely to see MST as “hazing”, bullying, or physical abuse (https://www.sexualassault.army.mil/whatweknow_militarymen.aspx). Additionally, It is common for men feel too much shame to report sexual trauma feeling that it somehow makes them less of a man. That said, while women are at higher risk for MST, 40% of MST reports are made by men. So what exactly is Military Sexual Trauma?
Having lived the life of a military significant other for ten years, I know it can be challenging even in the best of times. Often times, by choosing to be with our veteran partner we are uprooted from our communities, our families, and our friends. Frequently, our careers are interrupted in some way whether due to not being able to stay with a company or agency long enough to gain seniority and related benefits, having a lower income due to living in areas that don’t pay well, or perhaps not being able to get a job in our field. If we have children, they are raised away from family and go through many transitions in their little lifetimes. And for those active duty spouses, we may be moved often and have to reintegrate into a new community, a new way of life in some ways, every few years. That’s not to say there aren’t benefits to being with our military partner. It’s just to honor that there are unique challenges that we face in doing so.
In the past 21 years since I entered the field, a lot has changed in how we identify, understand, and help people heal trauma. Thankfully, research over the past thirty plus years has helped us shift our knowledge base and thus inspired newer body-based (somatic) therapies to fully address the way that trauma shows up in the body.
Whether or not you have read more recent books on trauma such as Bessel van der Kolk’s “The Body Keeps the Score”, Judith Herman’s “Trauma and Recovery”, Peter Levine’s “Waking the Tiger”, or Pat Oden’s “Trauma and the Body”, just considering the titles gives us the idea that perhaps the body is involved in trauma and how trauma impacts us. That idea is not only correct, but also what has shifted us to understand the need for trauma therapies that involve the body. Knowing this, we have come to understand that to heal trauma, the body must be involved. What follows is a peek into some of these treatment options. It is not meant to be an exhaustive list or prescriptive in any way, but just a way to share what may be available to you. I have also shared some adjunctive treatments to trauma therapy as they can greatly assist in the healing process.
What does it mean to have “trauma”?
Before we get into some of the integrative treatment options for healing trauma, let’s clarify what we mean by trauma. In the 5th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM5), what is used by many clinicians for diagnosis of psychological disorders, traumatic events are those we have experienced or witnessed in which we were exposed to actual or threatened death, serious injury, and/or sexual violence. Under certain circumstances, this can include learning about a traumatic event happening to a close family member or close fired or “experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event(s) (e.g., can happen with therapists, first responders, police officers, and others).
The tough part is, for some who grew up in unstable family situations a disappointing look filled with shame from a parent could be experienced as trauma; a child experiencing this could fear abandonment or being harmed in some way, or something else potentially life threatening. So in some ways, trauma is in the eye of the beholder. This doesn’t mean that everything that upsets us or that we don’t like is trauma. It is just important to understand that trauma doesn’t have to be being raped, beaten, blown up or shot at, or other experiences like those. In trauma therapy, we refer to those trauma experiences as “big T” traumas - essentially traumatic events that almost everyone and anyone would see as traumatic. “Little t” traumas are still traumatic. They just tend to be more individualized based on the circumstances, as in the case with the aforementioned disappointing and shaming look.
Note that while we may have a history of trauma, we may or may not meet criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). That doesn’t mean your trauma doesn’t impact you and that you don’t need treatment. It just means that at the time of being assessed, your symptoms do not align with what we now consider to be PTSD.
Now that we have an idea of what trauma is, let’s take a look at some integrative therapies.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR Therapy)
EMDR Therapy is a well researched and effective treatment for trauma that can also be used for some other presenting issues such as anxiety, stress, anger, shame, and many others. It assists your brain's natural ability to process information and heal from trauma, particularly when your natural healing process has been interrupted or turned off. Developed in 1987 by Francine Shapiro, EMDR Therapy has been well researched since that time. It has been accepted as a treatment for PTSD by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association as well as the Department of Defense and the Department of Veteran's Affairs. It is important to note that EMDR Therapy is a client driven therapy. That is, if we decide EMDR Therapy is appropriate for you we will work together to honor your pace and therapeutic needs.
We begin EMDR Therapy by working on stabilization skills and resourcing to prepare for the trauma reprocessing phase of treatment, a phase of treatment that can be quite intense. Once you and your EMDR therapist agree that your system has stabilized enough to tolerate the trauma reprocessing phase, you will work methodically through your trauma memories as related to your current symptom picture.
For more information about EMDR Therapy click here or go to https://www.emdria.org.
Internal Family Systems (IFS)
Internal Family Systems (IFS), sometimes referred to as "parts work", honors the fullness of who we are recognizing that at our core, our Self-energy helps us navigate the world with compassion, curiosity, clarity, confidence, courage, creativity, connection, and from a place of calm. However, sometimes extreme events such as trauma can interfere with our ability to connect with our inner wholeness. IFS helps us heal so we can reconnect with our ability to live and lead from a grounded, connected place.
For more information on IFS click here or go to https://ifs-institute.com.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy ®
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is a method developed by Pat Ogden for processing traumatic memory from a body-based orientation. It integrates sensorimotor processing with cognitive and emotional processing to holistically address all parts of the system impacted by trauma. It joins somatic therapy and psychotherapy into a comprehensive method for healing the disconnection between body and mind that often occurs with trauma. Ogden identifies as particularly helpful with dissociation, emotional reactivity or flat affect (i.e., numbed out), frozen states or hyperarousal and other PTSD symptoms.
For more information about Sensorimotor Processing Therapy click here or go to https://www.sensorimotorpsychotherapy.org.
Somatic Experiencing® (SE)
Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a body-oriented approach to healing trauma and other stress related disorders. SE was developed by Peter LeVine over the course of his career studying stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics. He reports 45 years of successful clinical application with this approach. SE’s approach is one of freeing the nervous system from being stuck in the fight, flight, or freeze responses through movement.
For more information about Somatic Experiencing click here or go to https://traumahealing.org/about-us/.
ADJUNCTIVE TREATMENTS TO TRAUMA THERAPY
Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY)
Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY) is a SAMHSA Approved, evidence-based protocol for treating PTSD and complex trauma developed by leading researchers in the field of trauma and psychology. TCTSY is based on clinical trials performed at the Trauma Center at JRI in Brookline, Massachusetts by psychiatrist and leading trauma researcher Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and yoga teacher David Emerson.
TCTSY is a somatic (body-based) modality that has been proven as an effective adjunctive treatment for psychological trauma. The intent of it is to engage the neural networks in the brain impacted by trauma. TCTSY is an opportunity for you to be in complete control of your body in the present moment. You are welcome to make choices and notice feelings in your body in a way that feels useful to you. Through the process of interoception, feeling and moving the body, we can reconnect the damaged neural networks. Interoception is a learn-able skill we can practice together!
Additional potential benefits include:
The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP)
The Safe and Sound Protocol is a five-day auditory intervention that has been shown to address anxiety and trauma related stressors as well as inattention, stressors impacting social engagement, social emotional difficulties, and auditory sensitivities.
The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) was developed by Stephen Porges as a way to calm one's physiological and emotional states. In doing so we can reduce stress and enhance social engagement and resilience through increasing vagal tone. In turn, this can improve communication and lead to more successful therapy.
The SSP is best used as an adjunctive to psychotherapy, as it helps enhance the process of psychotherapy and related treatments. It can be useful to engage in this protocol prior to trauma work to help enhance trauma therapies.
For more information about the SSP, click here.
If you are experiencing challenges in your life from trauma, I encourage you to connect with a trauma therapist who offers one or more of the above treatments. You don't have to suffer in pain; there is help.
This blog is for information only. Reading this blog or interacting with it is not medical advice and does not constitute a therapeutic relationship. This blog is not a substitute for mental health care. Please be sure to seek out mental health care as needed.