• What symptoms? I’m Doing Just Fine

    Individuals who have endured trauma often battle with many symptoms in their daily lives that make living hard to do, and they may have gotten quite good at it. These symptoms often become so embedded in a person’s day to day life that they may not even realize that they’re struggling with them. Perhaps the “symptoms” have been there for so long, because these folks have experienced stressful events for most of their lives, and they truly believe that what many would consider to be a struggle, or a negative symptom, is actually their normal

    When folks begin therapy, general assessment is typically included in the beginning stages of treatment. This may look different depending on the professional you see, but for folks who come to me or another trauma specialist, the assessment portion of treatment generally includes what’s called a trauma screening. This is sometimes self-administered, other times done in a formal interview, and at times merely conversational and will almost always include questions pertaining to trauma experiences and symptoms the client is experiencing in their daily life. 

    More often than not, when a client begins working with me, they’ve spent months, years, maybe even decades of their lives developing patterns of behavior to cope with these symptoms (i.e. the use of substances, engaging in conflicts with loved ones, people-pleasing, excessive productivity, control patterns, etc.) and while these things may be helping to distract the individual from their symptoms, the behaviors themselves may be creating problems in their lives, and may be merely masking the underlying issues. Often this is what leads people into therapy in the first place. 

    For example, a client might come to me with complaints that she has a difficult time setting boundaries in relationships, saying “no” when she wants to, or asserting her needs. In a deeper look into her symptoms, we might see that conflict is a trauma trigger for her, and any time she has a difficult conversation, asserts her wishes, or speaks of a need, she is riddled with intrusive symptoms, negative beliefs about herself, anxiety, fear, or shame. After working together for some time we may find that these patterns of behavior were developed over time to cope with underlying symptoms of trauma. Perhaps at one time these patterns of behavior were more beneficial than problematic for her, but now she’s realized that she continues to develop relationships in which she feels undervalued, disrespected, and a lack of intimacy, and she wants to make a change. She may decide that not only does she want to learn new patterns of behavior, but that she also wants to work through her trauma as well.

    In another example, a client might complain that he notices that he has been feeling very withdrawn in his relationship, and while he wants to connect with his partner more he is finding that more and more difficult with each day. With time we might begin to uncover symptoms that he experiences in his day to day life like irritability, hypervigilance, feelings of shame, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and negative beliefs about himself that he has learned to escape with video games and tinkering on his car. Through our work together we may begin to see that what once began as healthy coping mechanisms turned quickly into his only escape from the harsh symptoms of his trauma, and it’s beginning to affect his close relationships. He may decide at this time to process through his trauma in order to slowly take control back over his life, be able to enjoy his hobbies as hobbies rather than as escapes from reality, and have more meaningful relationships.

    There is no doubt that a person who has lived through trauma is capable of surviving. I have had the honor to know and witness some of the most incredible stories of resilience, strength, creativity, and hope as a trauma therapist. I have heard countless stories and tellings of how individuals have learned to cope with life after trauma, and the awe and inspiration of each and every story is never lost on me. When a client comes to me and asks for help, I consider it the greatest honor to be able to celebrate the strength and resilience that has helped them to survive and I am always humbled by their vulnerability when they let down their armor and allow me to help them see that there is more to life than surviving. 

    I know that you can survive life. There’s not a doubt in my mind. But now is the time to go from surviving, to thriving.

    If you are looking to:

    – Start enjoying life again

    – Achieve your goals

    – And live authentically

    …Then let’s chat!