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Healing Trauma

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1. 1. a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.
▪ emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury, which may be associated with physical shock and sometimes, leads to long-term neurosis.

Lets face it, trauma is devastating enough when you're going through it, but what can be even worse is the insidious, long-term affects that can echo throughout one's entire life. I should know, with two of my family members being paranoid schizophrenics, I often felt like I was trying to dodge a bullet as a child. Needless to say, my life became a constant struggle until I made a decision to get some much-needed help.

After one of the largest scientific research of it's kind, the ACE Study (Adverse Childhood Experience) a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente we know a lot more about trauma than we ever did before.

Participants in the study were asked questions regarding10 types of identified childhood trauma:

1. Physical abuse
2. Sexual abuse
3. Emotional abuse
4. Physical neglect
5. Emotional neglect
6. Mother treated violently
7. Household substance abuse
8. Household mental illness
9. Parental separation or divorce
10. Incarcerated household member

The study, with more than 17,000 participants concluded that childhood exposure to trauma can cause a multitude of health and social problems such as addiction, cognitive impairments and chronic health problems later in adults.

For an individuals who experienced toxic stress as a child, the memories, thoughts and situations related to the event can trigger overwhelming anxiety. Even sounds, odors, images for some people can bring about such dread that its hard for them to function in their daily lives.

Somatic experiencing (SE) is a form of therapy aimed at relieving and resolving trauma. It is based on the understanding that the symptoms caused by toxic stress can lead to addiction, self-harm, eating disorders, violence, re-victimization, and even early death. SE is a gentle approach to support the individual who is stuck in self-destructive habits by using clinical tools to resolve the psychic wounds.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or (EMDR) is another modality used to help individuals heal from disturbing life experiences. This is where a clinician, after building sufficient trust, guides the client through a particular memory, having them hold the thoughts of the event while tracking the therapist's hand, or a device, that helps with bilateral stimulation as it moves back and forth across the clients vision. Harvard researchers believe as this happens the internal connection to trauma surfaces and the client begins to process and requalify the disturbing feelings in a different way. With successful EMDR therapy, the feelings of painful events can be neutralized on an emotional level and then the client can move on with their lives.

In speaking to Tara Sindler, a trauma specialist who works at Resolutions Therapeutic Services in Santa Monica she said,

"I use my intuition and extensive training when working with co-occurring disorders with an understanding that trauma effects the nervous system, which is a building block to how someone experiences themselves and their environment."

Tara integrates and applies mindfulness, Somatic Experiencing, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Attachment Focused EMDR as well as family systems work with her clients, depending on their needs.

"Each individual I work with will often feel like they are peeling away an onion," Tara explains. "While I guide them through their pain to greater self-regulation, there can be layers of issues and behaviors that reveal themselves during the healing process."

I think we can all agree there is an undeniable truth that our feelings are connected with our physiology. That's why it's important to take into consideration the trauma of early childhood, be it emotional or physical. I am thankful to have found a holistic, integrative approach. In order to heal my wounds I had to address the entire being.

Photo Credit: Rikki Mendias