Trauma Therapy in Fort Lauderdale, FL

Can psychotherapy help me heal from past trauma?

Yes! Many of the clinicians at Seasons Psychotherapy Associates are specifically trained in helping people who have lived through traumatic experiences. 

Trauma has long been thought of as something that happens after a life or death scare, or after witnessing something that is extraordinarily frightening either to ourselves or a loved one. Trauma is an emotional response to a distressing event or situation that creates a sense of insecurity. Our brains go into either the “fight or flight” mode or the “shut down/freeze” mode when we are confronted with something we perceive as alarming. We are learning that trauma responses happen not just for life threatening situations; but also for any situation that engenders a sense of fear, isolation, or panic.

What’s a trauma response?

There’s no right way to respond to trauma. What psychotherapists are looking for is how we can help you feel less distress while dealing with your own trauma responses. Some common trauma responses include:

  • Feeling numb
  • Dissociation 
  • Heightened Anxiety
  • Heightened Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to Concentrate
  • Avoidance of Similar Situations
  • Depression
  • Flashbacks
  • Sleep Issues
  • Intense / Intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event

You may have experienced some or all of these trauma responses. Please seek help if you’ve been suffering with symptoms stemming from trauma in your life. 

What can a therapist do to help me?

No one can make what happened to you disappear, but working with a psychotherapist can help you deal with the imprints of the trauma on your mind and body. We can help you understand why you’ve been feeling and behaving the way you do. Why feeling out of control is so distressing to you that you’re always on alert or always shutting down. We can help you break down your walls to others and open your heart to love. We can lead you off the road of self-loathing, nightmares, avoidance, and/or feeling overwhelmed. 

The first step is awareness. 

Secondly, we’ll work with you to regain control over yourself and find ways to cope with feeling overwhelmed by the sensations and emotions associated with your past. Finally, we’ll work with you to develop treatment goals that lead you to freedom from your unique distressing trauma responses. 

Each clinician at Seasons Psychotherapy Associates is well versed in trauma informed care; this means that we have been trained to look at all aspects of a person’s story and shift the focus from “what’s wrong with you” to “what happened to you?” This is a very different way of looking at what is causing a person’s problems and distress.

Some of the evidenced based interventions our clinicians work with clients to help heal trauma include:

  • EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing was created in the 1980’s.  We don’t exactly know why EMDR works for many people suffering with trauma responses that cause mental health disorders such as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, or phobias. What we do know is that EMDR has been proven in study after study to reduce or eliminate trauma responses for the majority of people who go through the treatment. Please check out our blog post about EMDR to learn more about this intervention and to see if it is something you might be willing to try.
  • Mindfulness: Usually people who’ve experienced trauma live with overwhelming sensations in their bodies everyday. By avoiding these sensations you’re inadvertently increasing your vulnerability to being overwhelmed by them. Learning and practicing mindfulness helps you get in touch with your inner world, you begin to shift your perspective on things when you notice them. 
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): Treatment begins with psychoeducation regarding trauma, thoughts, and emotions. You learn to become more aware of the relationship between your thoughts and emotions and begin to identify “automatic thoughts” that may be maintaining your trauma/PTSD symptoms. 
    • Your therapist will direct you to write an impact statement that details your current understanding of why the traumatic event occurred and the impact it has had on your beliefs about yourself, others, and the world. 
    • Next, you’ll begin more formal processing of your trauma(s). You’ll write a detailed account of your worst traumatic experience, which you’ll read in the next session to try and break the pattern of avoiding thoughts and feelings associated with the trauma.
    • Your therapist will use Socratic questioning and other strategies to help you question your unhelpful thoughts about the trauma (e.g., self-blaming thoughts) in order to modify any maladaptive thinking. 
    • Finally, you’ll develop skills to identify and address unhelpful thinking, you’ll use those skills to continue evaluating and modifying beliefs related to traumatic events. 
    • At this point, your therapist will help you develop the ability to use these adaptive strategies outside of treatment to improve overall functioning and quality of life. Your therapist will particularly focus on safety, trust, power, control, esteem and intimacy as these are all areas that are affected by traumatic experiences.
  • Yoga: Trauma just doesn’t affect the mind, it can be stored in your body. Yoga joins your mind and your body together. It’s really hard for people who have PTSD to regulate their physiological survival response. You may rationally know you’re not in any real danger, but your body is unconsciously reacting as if there was danger all around. You may have a poor sense of body awareness because your survival instinct has been to shut down and avoid your feelings just to get through life. Avoidance can create major obstacles for you in developing and maintaining healthy relationships. Yoga helps you gain body awareness, you learn to tolerate feeling dysregulated. A major challenge in recovering from trauma is being able to achieve total relaxation. Yoga helps you focus your attention on your breathing and your sensations from moment to moment.
  • Art, Music, and Dance: Nonverbal artistic expression combined with writing is one form of therapy that has been proven to help those who have suffered from trauma. It can be extremely therapeutic to express yourself through art forms.
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE): PE is a highly effective therapy for PTSD that helps you gradually address your symptoms and get your life back. PE works by having you approach and address traumatic memories, feelings, and situations that you may be avoiding because of the traumatic event(s) you experienced. By talking about these difficult moments, you can begin to overcome these challenges and decrease your negative symptoms of PTSD.

Having experienced something traumatic that is negatively affecting your life is nothing to be ashamed of. Often we hear people say things like, ‘I should just be able to handle it.’ Or, ‘it was my fault that it happened.’ It’s common to start to internalize that the thoughts and feelings you’re having are normal and that life can’t and won’t get better. 

This is when the anger usually starts to ooze out when you don’t want it to. You may find yourself feeling snappy and on edge all the time. The people you love the most may be feeling the brunt of your negative emotions. A vicious cycle of blowing up at others and then feeling self-loathing may start. To cope with hating yourself you may turn to negative coping mechanisms like gambling, drinking, or using drugs to feel better for just a moment, but obviously these negative mechanisms lead to worse problems in the long run.

Seeking help takes a lot of courage. The clinicians at Seasons Psychotherapy Associates understand that finding a therapist that you feel comfortable with is paramount to the therapeutic process and positive change. We encourage you to ask questions about your treatment and choose treatment modalities with you that you’re comfortable with. 

Trauma is something that can be treated, if you’re feeling pain then it’s time for treatment. You deserve to have a better quality of life.

Additional resources:

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Resources on Trauma for Caregivers and Families

EMDR International Association

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

ACE – Adverse Childhood Experiences