Through my lost thirty years of experience, I have come to believe that many people who come to therapy are dealing with some sort of trauma. This can be trauma that includes dramatic sorts of experiences such as witnessing a crime, being the victim of a crime, experiencing physical assault, or near death experiences. Or it can involved what many would consider traumas of a smaller nature, such as the loss of a loved one to a natural death, the separation and loss of one’s marriage, or the unanticipated firing from a job. By “smaller” we do not mean that the impact of the event is “smaller”. No matter what “size” we believe a dramatic event to register on the trauma seismic scale, the impact on our mental and physical health can be powerful.
The impact of trauma varies from person to person. We know that what is highly traumatic to some people, may be a much lesser event to others. In addition, some people experience multiple traumas across a life time, while others may identify less trauma in terms of discernible events. Regardless of “size” or “number” of trauma events, the result in how we feel and how we function can be very troubling. Trauma can impact our relationships, or jobs, or physical, emotional and spiritual functioning in ways that might surprise us. It can result in physical ailments, stress related illnesses, sleep problems, marital and relationship problems, poor job performance, as well as depression and anxiety.
A counter factor to trauma is that of resilience. Resilience is the human capacity to overcome, move beyond, rise above that which is difficult and painful. Often times, good therapy results in the rallying of our resilience in response to traumatic events and experiences. There are a number of sound research based therapies that help to alleviate the impact of trauma. These range from the basics of empathic listening, to Trauma Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, to EMDR, as well as others. It is important to remember that the impact of trauma can be treated, and that even after very painful events, we can go on to experience meaningful, life-giving and meaningful day to day living again. As human beings, we are very resourceful and resilient creatures!
Next time I will share some thoughts about trauma based care, or trauma informed care. This is something to look for in any care providers that you see care from!