Trauma & PTSD

April 22, 2023


Trauma has become somewhat of a buzzword lately in social media and other platforms, however when I meet clients for the first time many may not see their own experiences, either from childhood or later in adulthood as ‘traumatic’. As you begin or consider counseling it helps to have an understanding of a variety of definitions related to trauma. It also helps to have a trauma-informed assessment to determine how these experiences have affected or currently affecting you. I also hope that you take the time to review the webinar Trauma & PTSD (linked here) with me & colleague, Dr. Erica Marshall-Lee. Much of the information below is also further discussed below.

Trauma definitions
*Trauma – emotional and/or physical response to a distressing event
*PTSD (Posttraumatic stress disorder)- The clinical diagnosis of experiencing a traumatic incident & the associated symptoms which include: intrusive, avoidance, arousal, negative thoughts & mood (depressive) symptoms.
*Acute stress disorder- often a diagnosis given within the short window of when someone experiences a single traumatic incident and the time frame most people recover.

“Big T” vs “little t” Trauma
*Complex PTSD – The effect of long term exposure to multiple traumatic events and is often interpersonal or relational in nature during significant developmental periods.
ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences Study) – one of the largest studies of childhood abuse and neglect and household dysfunction and later life which contributes to health and well-being: 1) abuse, 2) neglect & 3) household dysfunction
1. Physical abuse, Sexual abuse, Verbal abuse
2. Physical neglect, Emotional neglect
3. A parent/caregiver who is depressed or diagnosed with other mental illness
4. A parent/caregiver who is addicted to alcohol or another substance
5. A parent/caregiver who is in prison
6. Witnessing a mother domestic violence
7. Losing a parent/caregiver to separation, divorce or death

Other trauma experiences:
*Domestic/Intimate partner violence-victim, sexual assault; witness
*Intergenerational trauma
*Race based trauma -ex. 2020 social unrest
*Exposure to Violence – dangerous, violent environments
*Medical trauma-Post partum mood & anxiety disorders (PMADs) ,chronic pain, chronic illness
*Vicarious traumatization – healthcare workers, firefighters, police officers, etc.

Trauma informed care – Understanding of neurological, biological, psychological and social effects of trauma. When trauma occurred helps us tailor our responses, treatment and services. Trauma-informed assessments and interventions always acknowledges, respects, and integrates cultural values, beliefs, and practices.

Treatment for PTSD & trauma – trauma is relational in nature & healing occurs in relationship
* Trauma-Focused Cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT)
* Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
* Prolonged Exposure
* Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
* Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR)
* Somatic psychotherapy -mind-body interventions

Post traumatic growth
* Personal growth and resilience (connection, choice & control, growth & meaning).
* Compassion through forgiveness and gratitude.

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