Therapy for Trauma/PTSD

I have over a decade and a half of experience of working with individuals that have experienced trauma, including sexual abuse, physical assault, combat trauma, and racial/cultural/gender transgressions. 

Unfortunately, trauma is not uncommon.  About 5 out of every 10 women (50%) and 6 out of every 10 men (60%) experience at least one trauma across the lifespan.  About 7-8% will go on to develop PTSD.  Trauma hijacks the brain.  After a traumatic event it is common to have intrusive/upsetting memories, feel irritable, and experience sleep difficulties.  Normal activities can feel difficult, work/school are often disrupted, and relationships with others can become strained.  Most individuals naturally start to feel better after several weeks or months.  If it's been longer than a few months and you're still having symptoms, you may have PTSD. For some individuals, PTSD symptoms may start later on, or they may come and go over time. 

Symptoms of Trauma/PTSD:

  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Emotional distress after exposure to traumatic reminders
  • Physical reactivity after exposure to traumatic reminders
  • Inability to recall key features of the trauma
  • Overly negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world
  • Exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma
  • Negative affect
  • Decreased interest in activities
  • Feeling isolated
  • Difficulty experiencing positive affect
  • Irritability or aggression
  • Risky or destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Heightened startle reaction
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping

Treatments:

Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy can help an individual build resilience and prepare to engage in deeper trauma work.

Evidence-Based Psychotherapy: Results from numerous studies reveal that trauma-focused psychotherapies lead to greater improvement in PTSD symptoms than medications, and that these improvements last longer. In addition, the risks for negative side effects or negative reactions are generally greater with medication than with psychotherapy.

Trauma-focused psychotherapies with the strongest evidence from clinical trials are Prolonged Exposure (PE), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).  Of these 3 treatments, I am trained in Cognitive Processing therapy as it is one of the most well-researched cognitive approaches.  CPT's primary focus is on helping client's challenge and modify maladaptive beliefs related to their trauma/s.  I have found this treatment to be one of the least triggering exposures and have seen client's obtain quick relief from trauma/PTSD symptoms.

Mindfulness: Mindfulness-based approaches have been shown to be useful for problems commonly seen in trauma survivors such as anxiety and hyperarousal. 

Medications: Medications do not cure trauma/PTSD disorders but can help relieve symptoms.  Medications are especially helpful in conjunction with psychotherapy.