Human beings are complex. We feel many things, often all at once. Internal Family Systems (IFS) is an approach to understanding our complexities in a way that feels natural and attainable. Have you ever felt an internal conflict? Maybe part of you felt excited to go to your cousin’s wedding, while part of you was dreading to see extended family? IFS uses “parts” language to explore how we may interact within ourselves and with the world. Getting to know the “parts” of us that are protective, hurt, or scared can help to identify options, release burdens, meet needs, and find internal peace. IFS is often used in trauma therapy, especially in situations that have layers, are complex, and feel stuck. Through this approach, folks can get to know who they are underneath their pain and trauma, and they can learn to access internal resources and build an identity that feels real, true, and authentic.
The most common association paired with mindfulness is meditation. While meditation can be a method of mindfulness, mindfulness is simply the practice of staying in the present moment. If you’ve ever felt like you’re living in your past – like all of who you are is stuck in a world that existed five years ago – or if you feel like you are constantly living in your future, trying to plan out your life, mindful practices can help you to balance where your brain is living so that you can appreciate where you are now. When we experience trauma, our brains often polarize towards the past or the future. It’s very easy to lose touch with who we are now, what options and resources we have, and even to recognize the safety that we have from past trauma. Mindfulness helps our brains to recognize the truth of the present: “I am not there anymore, I have power now, I am around people who believe my pain.” After all, the present moment is where we have the most access to choice; the present moment is what reminds us that we have power and agency; the present moment is what contains tangible beauty.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a well-researched, reliable treatment method for trauma. The goal of EMDR is to process information that has been stored in the brain in a way that is no longer adaptive. Often times when folks are going through trauma, the nervous system takes a “screenshot” of the experience as a reference point for future protection. The traumatic “screenshot” gets stored in the body, along with all of the thoughts, images, feelings, sensations, and beliefs that came with it. EMDR can help the traumatic charge behind these things to lessen. Just like our bodies look for healing when we have injuries, our brains also look for healing when we experience trauma. Through guidance of the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model and the use of Bilateral Stimulation (BLS), EMDR creates a foundation for our brains to pursue the healing and adaptation that they are already searching for! For more information about EMDR, please visit the EMDRIA website.
Many people who have experienced trauma are not even aware that they are living with it. Trauma is not defined by the event or thing that happened; it is defined by how one’s nervous system holds information about safety, autonomy, and personal responsibility. Trauma is often experienced as a result of things that have happened that shouldn’t have, or things that didn’t happen that should have. What may be traumatizing for one person may not be traumatizing to another. Trauma is incredibly subjective, and we don’t get to decide what is and isn’t traumatic; each person’s brain and nervous system decides that uniquely. Therapy can help to resource practical ways of working through trauma, including building tools to cope and releasing the traumatic charge in the nervous system. It may be hard to believe right now, but it really is possible to feel even just 2% safer, more peaceful, and secure.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a collection of outcomes as a result of trauma. These outcomes include intrusive symptoms, avoidance, a hopeless outlook on oneself or the world, and body experiences, all of which relate to one’s trauma. If you are experiencing nightmares, visual, emotional, or somatic flashbacks, unwanted memories, disconnection from yourself, your experiences, or the world around you, low self esteem or self hatred, hopelessness, or constantly feeling unsafe or on guard, you may benefit from talking to a trauma therapist. Trauma therapy can help to reduce symptoms of PTSD, to process through what contributed to PTSD, and to get to a space where your past is no longer haunting your every waking moment.
Death comes in many forms. It can be anticipated with dread for long periods of time, it can be completely unexpected and instant, or it can take any form in between the extremes. Death is one of the most powerless experiences that human beings can go through, which is challenging because it’s also one of the most common. Whether drawn out or sudden, death can have a lasting impact on your sense of safety and power, and it can continue to shape how you feel about yourself, others, and the world around you. It is natural for grief to take time, to show up randomly again, and to look different as it is processed through; however, when grief does not shift, when it continuously impacts one’s sense of self, and when it shapes one’s sense of safety in the world, it may be having a traumatic impact on the nervous system. Grief therapy, particularly with the sensitivity of trauma-informed care, can be helpful to tolerate loss, to begin to shift its experience, and to integrate it in a way that feels honorable. If you are struggling with grief or loss, grief therapy can be a first step in honoring your pain in a way that keeps the good memories while lessening the traumatic “stuckness.”
While faith and religion may be a meaningful resource to many folks, it can also be a detriment to others. Unfortunately, spiritual and religious abuse is quite common in contributing to post-traumatic stress. This can result in chronic feelings of shame, worthlessness, lack of safety, guilt, fear of punishment, secrecy, and scarcity, among others. Wounds related to faith, spirituality, and religion often reach into identity, and much of the therapeutic work involves recognizing a sense of self and grieving the losses that came from these experiences. Whether you are in the process of reevaluating, relearning, leaving, or breaking down the pieces of your faith, therapy can be a reliable, private container for you to process through the thoughts, emotions, and experiences that have brought you here. Your therapist will not tell you what to think or what to believe; instead, you will be empowered to make choices that align with your values, and you get to decide how you do or do not want to participate in faith or religion. Whether your goal is to find new ways of relating to your faith, transitioning to a new one, or leaving association with religion altogether, therapy can provide clinical support with a competency in spiritual matters to aid in what can be a frightening, tumultuous, and confusing time.
Medical procedures, surgeries, illnesses, and treatment experiences can have a traumatic impact on the brain and body. Dealing with physical pain, uncertainty, emergencies, or no end point to the medical challenge can feel very helpless, powerless, stuck, and unsafe. This can result in a variety of additional challenges, including somatic flashbacks, disconnection from the body, and a whole lot of discomfort. Therapy surrounding medical trauma can focus on building safety, in addition to shifting the “stuckness” of the medical experiences. If you have been adversely impacted by a medical diagnosis, hospital stay, pain, or illness, or if you have been traumatically impacted as a caregiver, trauma therapy can help you find some closure, peace, and relief surrounding the traumatic imprint of these challenges.