Trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold inside us in the absence of an empathic witness — Gabor Mate, MD

Trauma is not a mental disorder. Trauma is a human experience. Trauma research, clinical experience and neuroscience all point to the many ways that traumatic experiences are stored in the body resulting in changes in the brain and cascading down to chemical/cellular levels. That is why “talk therapy” alone is not enough to heal trauma. The leading treatments for trauma integrate nervous-system awareness, body sensations, tracking nuanced changes throughout the session, working with the feelings and beliefs that accompany nonverbal memories in the context of a safe, warm and well-contained environment.

Trauma work must be done with a qualified trauma specialist who is comfortable with the many feelings and body expressions that emerge during the processing and reworking of traumatic experiences. A well-trained trauma therapist carefully and slowly monitors what is happening in the room allowing for the reworking of the trauma without overwhelming or re-traumatizing the person in order to move towards recovery and healing.

Not all traumatic experiences result in PTSD. Many traumatic events are organically processed without therapeutic intervention. Sometimes, trauma events get stuck in the nervous system and in how the memory is stored in the brain. People who have experienced past childhood traumas tend to be more susceptible to trauma and PTSD.

  • Helplessness
  • Guilt, shame or self-blame 
  • Feeling shut-down, flat or dissociated
  • Avoidance of people, places or situations
  • Quick to anger and extreme moodiness or irritability
  • Fearfulness
  • Nightmares/Reliving the trauma
  • Startle Response (quick to startle with loud noises or unexpected situations) 
  • Anxiety (hyper-arousal) and/or Depression 
  • Social/Relationship difficulties 
  • Difficulty with short-term memory (poor concentration and attention)
  • A lost sense of purpose and/or a bereaved sense of self
  • Somatization (medical problems with no clear medical origin or explanation)
  • Gastrointestinal Distress (IBS, reflux, queasy stomach, diarrhea)
  • Impulsive or Self-Destructive Behaviors (thoughts of suicide, self-injury)
  • High-Risk Addictive Behaviors (drug and alcohol use/abuse, sexual acting out.)
red tree in new york city

There are many different types of experiences that can lead to feeling traumatized or to existing in “survival mode.” It can feel as if past traumatic experiences are happening today.  In fact, your body informs you that you are not safe even though you know, on some level, that the danger has passed.  There are different kinds of trauma, and yet, all result in some form of contraction or narrowing of living a more engaged, expansive, and meaningful life:

  • Single Incident Trauma: Single incident trauma is the result of a one time experience such as a car accident, assault, rape, natural disaster, or medical procedure that leaves one feeling unmoored, anxious or depressed, struggling to regain your sense of self and trust, and unable to engage in activities that used to give you pleasure. Typically, trauma/anxiety leads you to avoid the places or people you associate with the trauma.   In general, single incident traumas (no history of past trauma) can be treated in short-term therapy with a trauma specialist.  The sooner you seek therapy the better, however, symptom reduction and successful processing through of the trauma can occur even years after the event. 
  • Complex PTSD: Complex Trauma is also known as attachment or relational trauma.  This particular type of trauma usually develops in childhood, oftentimes, but not always, at the hands of the very people who are supposed to be trustworthy and reliable.  This type of trauma is called “complex” because there can be multiple traumas that result in a variety of expressions/symptoms not typical of other traumas such as accidents or natural disasters. In addition to the common symptoms of PTSD, you may struggle with more diffuse or hard to tag symptoms such as a feeling of “not fitting in” or “belonging”, or maybe even feeling “broken” or “contaminated.”  You may have problems trusting others, difficulty with intimacy, problems maintaining relationships, moodiness, undefined anger and grief, negative beliefs about oneself, and feeling detached from yourself and others. Complex trauma requires multifaceted and sequenced treatment, which involves targeting the different body memories, emotions, negative self-beliefs and the resulting symptoms that arise on the road to recovery:
    • Childhood Abuse Recovery: Chronic or accumulative experiences of neglect, abandonment, loss, betrayal, rejection, physical or sexual abuses are often at the foundation of problems that can emerge years later, in adulthood.   You do not have to feel engulfed or defined by past experiences.  Recovery for Adults Abused as Children
    • Other Types of Complex Trauma can occur in a single moment (single incident) although complex trauma typically develops with an accumulation of traumatizing experiences.  The combination of extreme fear combined with perceived or actual immobility (feeling stuck or trapped) leads to developing symptoms of trauma.  This kind of trauma may be the result of: 
      • War/Combat (soldier or civilian) 
      • Emergency Response Work
      • Political repression, discrimination, systemic racism
      • Concealing part of one’s identity for fear of retribution 
      • Assault, Rape, and/or Abduction
      • Experiencing medical procedures/anesthesia/surgeries (past, present or future)
      • Psychological emergencies that are not properly treated by professionals 
      • Organizational system failures (medical, psychological, legal, governmental) that become a secondary layer of trauma.

Many therapists are not specifically educated and trained in the theories, research and therapeutic approaches to trauma.  Knowing the physiological changes that occur during childhood developmental traumas versus a single event trauma is vital to the creation of the therapeutic environment which must create safety, pacing, self-regulation, containment and resourcing prior to any processing of trauma. 

Although there are differences when trauma occurs in adulthood rather than in childhood (one has been able to develop resources, identity, social skills), the impact of complex trauma often results in feeling overwhelmed, angry, unsafe, withdrawn, anxious, and may affect your sense of purpose and/or identity.

How long have you lived with the aftershocks of trauma? How long have you considered seeking help only to dismiss this important consideration?  How many times has a parent, a partner or a child encouraged you or pleaded with you to seek help? Some people do not realize that the feelings and beliefs about themselves or the conflicts in their relationships stem from accumulated experiences that are not typically defined as “trauma.”  These are the small “t” traumas of relationship misattunement, criticisms, teasing, bullying, parental neglect or depression.

You do not have to suffer with the symptoms of trauma or PTSD.  Trauma does not have to rule your life. You can and deserve to reclaim your self, your interests, your relationships, your work, and the meaning within your life.  Seeking treatment is not a sign of weakness. Indeed, I have always found that those who seek therapy are the most courageous.  It takes strength to turn and face trauma, one’s inner fears, and to confront what is not working and to reach out and ask for help.  

I provide an integrative and collaborative approach in the context of a safe, professional, warm, caring and respectful environment.  I have over 35+ years of hospital, clinic and private practice experience combined.  I draw on object relations and attachment research, theory and practice, which emphasize the quality, context and history of our early relationships. The quality of these early bonds produces patterns of behavior or relationships that are unknowingly replayed in later years. How we feel about ourselves as adults is largely shaped by the relationships and situations we encounter in our development.  How we relate to trauma is determined by our growing up years.  

Additionally, I am trained in the neuroscience of trauma (how trauma changes the brain and body) with specific certification in Attachment Focused-Eye Movement, Desensitization and Reprocessing (AF-EMDR).  I am also an Approved-Consultant and facilitator of trainings. AF-EMDR safely, yet rapidly, moves us through the trauma and achieves symptom reduction and a re-integration of our body, mind, and soul. Additionally, I am a Certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner. These therapies are well-established, well-researched treatments for trauma recovery.

I am a trained trauma expert skilled in helping to navigate you through traumatic experiences.  You are not alone and seeking therapy takes courage and determination.