Therapy for Trauma & Dissociation
Trauma and the body are inseparable. For many people there aren't clear and distinct memories of traumatic events, but rather lingering symptoms let us know that trauma happened: shame and worthlessness, emotional overwhelm, nightmares, chronic pain or digestive issues, flashbacks, panic attacks, self-destructive behavior, loss of identity, hypervigilance, difficulty with memory...
I work with folks who have been experiencing symptoms like these since childhood and are struggling to feel a sense of cohesion and safety in the present.
A little about my approach...
In the US, diagnoses for mental health come from the DSM-5... and tl;dr- it's history and present are chock full of flaws.
At the same time, diagnoses can be validating and liberating because they are an experience of being seen and believed. In trauma treatment, I strive to use diagnoses when/if they are supportive to clients.
Everyone dissociates (daydreaming, highway hypnosis, etc), and not everyone who dissociates has experienced Trauma (like how not all rectangles are squares). Depending on your experience of Trauma, the age you were at the time of your Trauma, and how your system figured out survival, you may experience different levels of structural dissociation.
I don't believe in "bad coping" and "good coping". You survived. I have a lot of respect for all survival coping strategies, including dissociation. And, I don't think you need to stop all your survival coping strategies. Rather, my approach involves exploring your existing strategies, adding in some new creative ones, and working towards a place of being able to choose what you need and when you need it.
Grounding is an amazing creative coping strategy that involves coming back to the present moment, recognizing where you are in both time and space. There are a TON of options when it comes to grounding strategies. Not every grounding exercise is going to resonate with each person and that's okay. I work with you to notice which ones work for you.
Hypervigilance involves a constant scanning for safety, which is reasonable when you've survived Trauma. In my work with clients, we talk a lot about the idea of "safe enough" rather than "safety" as an absolute. For many people, coming to experience a sense of "safe enough" involves first working to stay in the present moment.
Parts work is integral to my approach to trauma treatment. I believe that everyone has different parts of themselves and could benefit from exploring compassion for those parts (yes, even the challenging ones). But it's not a one size fits all situation. Depending on the way trauma responses are showing up for you, I will shift the ways in which I use parts work.
Y'all! It is so hard to be concise with these because they are each so complex and layered. I welcome and encourage follow up questions of confusion, clarification, and curiosity.
Dissociative Identity Disorder
It breaks my heart and fills me with rage that this needs to be said, but I want to be explicit in letting you know that I believe in DID.
If you know you have DID or some part of you is curious about DID- reach out for a consultation, I'd love to chat.
If you're "theory curious", sensorimotor is my jam
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (SP) is a therapeutic modality for trauma and attachment issues. SP welcomes the body as an integral source of information which can guide resourcing and the accessing and processing of challenging, traumatic, and developmental experience. SP is a holistic approach that includes somatic, emotional, and cognitive processing and integration.
SP enables clients to discover and change habitual physical and psychological patterns that impede optimal functioning and well-being. SP is helpful in working with dysregulated activation and other effects of trauma, as well as the limiting belief systems of developmental issues.
Language borrowed from the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute website here.
The other theories that I draw heavily on are Internal Family Systems, ACT, and Feminist Therapy. This means I’m curious about your values and what makes life meaningful for you. We acknowledge the power in the ways you have found to survive. We explore how systems of power and oppression may be impacting you, including those that are part of the world of psychotherapy. We spend time exploring the parts of yourself you struggle with, with the same compassion as the parts you appreciate. We move slowly, ensuring that we’re building trust, and that our pace feels safe enough for your whole system.