When someone experiences or witnesses actual or threatened physical/sexual harm, the event can get lodged in the brain so that the past remains present.
People with a history of trauma typically attempt to keep it hidden whether because of shame or fear of remembering it. However, the trauma still finds a way to interfere with one’s daily life through creating symptoms such as flashbacks, depression, hypervigilance or disguising itself in addictions, excessive control behaviors, and even chronic health problems. Within the safety of counseling, clients can take the courageous steps to process the trauma so that it no longer defines their life.
Understanding the Effects of Trauma
It is not uncommon for someone with a trauma history to be high functioning for many years post-trauma until something triggers the traumatic event. When this occurs, the person often begins re-experiencing the vulnerability, powerlessness, sense of abandonment or shame just as acutely as they felt it at the time of the trauma. This produces a fight, flight, or freeze response that typically mimics the way the person coped during the original trauma. The person might be confused and ashamed by their strong reaction because it seems so uncharacteristic of them. Unfortunately, instead of seeking help, they may double down on their efforts to suppress their emotions and control their environment to avoid these triggers.
However, trying harder and criticizing yourself for not having better control over your response to the trauma tends to only make it harder to function and becomes a barrier to accepting help through counseling. With the help of a counselor trained in trauma work, it is possible to develop healthy coping strategies for managing triggers, build on your resources and resiliency, and resolve the source of the traumatic distress.
Seeking Support in Trauma Healing
If you have considered addressing trauma in your life, you may be afraid of being asked to talk about the memories in counseling. This is understandable, and in fact, it is not necessary for you to give any more details of the memories than you are comfortable with. The counselor must respect your boundary for when/whether you are ready to disclose this material. In fact, because trauma memories are composed mostly of emotions, physical sensations, and images, it is more important to work with these details rather than recounting everything that happened. The first and most important element of trauma counseling is developing a safe, predictable environment and trusting relationship with the counselor. This includes creating safety to experience your emotions and notice your internal world without becoming overwhelmed by it. This is best done with a counselor present to help you manage your triggers.
When you and your counselor agree that you are ready to begin reprocessing the traumatic material, the counselor will ensure that you maintain a sense of safety and awareness of being present with the counselor so that you are not re-traumatized and can return to functioning throughout the week. This could be some of the most rewarding work you pursue to reduce the power that the trauma has on your daily life.
Hope for Healing
If you have repeatedly become frustrated with yourself for having strong emotional reactions that seem out of place, there is a good chance you are still living out of painful memories that are frozen in time. When these memories can be processed, it opens you up to recognize resources and gain new perspectives. The shame, fear, or powerlessness can be dissipated, and for once, you may feel equipped to develop healthier relationships.
Related Therapist Profiles
The following therapists specialize in Trauma Recovery
Clark Barshinger, Ph.D.
Practicing clinical psychology for over 50 years, Dr. Clark Barshinger has broad and deep experience counseling patients. His graduate education includes a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Northwestern University and a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from DePaul University, and Master’s Degree of Divinity from McCormick Theological Seminary. He works mostly with adults, teens and couples.
Leslie Scofield, MSW, LCSW, CADC
Leslie Scofield, MSW, LCSW, CADC is a Licensed Social Worker who has worked in the field of substance abuse for over 15 years. Her practice ranges from children to adults, and focuses on trauma, grief and loss, family issues, and addictions. She is passionate about working with groups. Leslie is also retired from military service, which informs her clinical perspective.
Michelle Schaefer, MA, LCPC, PMH-C
Michelle Schaefer, LCPC, has experience working with adults, couples, teens, and families. Michelle has an advanced certification in Perinatal Mental Health and specialized training in Emotionally Focused Therapy for individuals, couples, and families. Michelle strives to create a secure client-therapist alliance in order to support people as they navigate life challenges and heal relationships.
Maria Catanzaro, MA, LPC
Maria has a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Wheaton College. She believes that it is important to consider each person holistically including the mind, body, and soul. She uses creative methods to help clients articulate their feelings and solve problems. Maria enjoys working with a variety of clients including caregivers, parents, children, teens, young adults, and adults.
Patrick Kelly, MA, LPC, CCATP
Patrick’s mission as a Licensed Professional Counselor is to utilize his diverse life experience and graduate-level education to make a positive difference in the lives of struggling and hurting people. His passion is working with troubled marriages along with helping individuals cope with and rise above anxiety and depression brought about by life’s challenges and difficulties.
Lydia, Klassen, MA, LPC, CCTP
Lydia Klassen received her Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Trinity International University. She has experience working with interpersonal issues, emotional regulation, grief, and trauma. Lydia strives to develop safety in the client-counselor relationship as she journeys with clients toward greater freedom in their lives. She has a particular interest in couples, families, and third-culture kids.
Maria Statkus Ritchey, MA, LCPC, CCATP-CA
Maria is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. Maria is enthusiastic about working with different populations, including children, adolescents, young adults, and families. Maria has experience utilizing non-directive play therapy and her approach is client-centered based, while integrating client strengths within the process.
Liz Lattof, MA, LPC
As a Licensed Professional Counselor at Cherry Hill Liz works with a wide variety of clients, children, adolescents, families, and adults. She has additional training in play therapy and groups. She enjoys helping people with anxiety, depression, grief, relationship issues, and other challenges and transitions.
Taylor Sheahen, MA, LCPC
Taylor is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. She has experience working with adults with substance use disorder, trauma, mood and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, emotional regulation, and relationship and family conflict. Taylor’s goal is to help clients develop a healthy level of functioning, leading to renewed hope and happiness.
John Dichtl, MA, M.Div., LCPC
John Dichtl has worked as a counselor since 2012 in both agency work and private practice. He has focused experience providing couples counseling, and treating mood disorders and addictions. With graduate level training in both therapy and theology, John is uniquely equipped to help clients integrate their psychological and spiritual concerns.
Christina Vargas, MSW, LSW
Christina is a trilingual therapist (English, Spanish, and Thai) with a Master’s degree in Social Work from University of Michigan. She specializes in working with children, adolescents, young adults, and families. Christina emphasizes and acknowledges clients’ strengths as she guides them through their personal struggles in hopes that every client she works with will achieve their full potential.
Wayne Corapi, MS, LMFT
Wayne is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist whose passion is helping couples in relationship distress find healing and connection. Married for 40+ years and trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy, he is dedicated to using his experience and training to help couples find a deeper level of satisfaction and emotional intimacy in their relationship.
Risa Becker, MA, LPC
Risa is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has a passion for seeing people come into the fullness of what their life could be. Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn, and having someone alongside can make a difference. Other times we need to make a change and need support to make that happen. Either way, I am here for you.
Haley Kramer, MS, LPC
Haley has a master’s degree from Marquette University. She has experience working with young children and their families to address various issues such as trauma, behavioral problems, and emotion regulation. Haley has a passion for working with children ages 6 and younger. Haley believes in emphasizing a client’s strengths and advocating for their needs.
Arielle Miree, MA, LPC
Arielle received her M.A. in Mental Health Counseling from Trinity International University. She has a passion for helping people heal and grow in order to live a meaningful life. She values authentic relationships and creating a safe space for clients. She has experience working with those struggling with addictions and co-occurring disorders. Arielle enjoys working with a variety of clients including athletes and artists.
Alison Yu, MA, M.Div., LPC
Alison Yu, M.Div, MA, LPC, is a bilingual (English and Mandarin Chinese) counselor who is experienced working with individuals, couples and families. She has a special heart for immigrant families. Trained in both psychology and theology, she is passionate about helping people to integrate the Christian faith in their healing process.
Kent Wohlrabe, MA, LCPC, CADC
Kent is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with many years of experience working with clients in a variety of clinical settings. Kent works primarily with adults and specializes in helping clients struggling with substance use and it's impact on daily life and relationships.
Justin Feinberg, MA, M.Div.
Justin’s Graduate education includes both a Master’s degree in Mental Health counseling as well as a Master’s of Divinity from Trinity International University. He works with individuals, couples, and families and has a heart to see relationships flourish and people become who they were meant to be. He has training in Emotionally Focused Therapy and utilizes this toward helping marriages, families, and individuals thrive.
Raul Bravo, MA, LPC
Raul Bravo is a Licensed Professional Counselor, with an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He is bilingual (English and Spanish) and has experience working with adolescents and adults. He has worked with families struggling with trauma-related issues by helping them identify meaning and strength. His therapeutic approach includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Person-Centered Therapy.