Finding A Starting Point For Trauma Therapy

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When you're struggling with unresolved trauma, the last thing you may want to do is talk about what happened to you. Many people who've experienced a trauma-who've been sexually or physically abused or assaulted-try to avoid even thinking about what happened, much less talking about it. So it's understandable that asking for help or signing up for trauma therapy is not an easy thing to do.

It's hard to stop replaying the events in your mind, over and over again. Nightmares make it seem impossible to get a good night's sleep. Your body reacts to reminders of the trauma, causing you to feel out of control. Even reading or watching a movie feels risky, because it just doesn't take much to bring back a disturbing memory, to feel like the trauma is happening all over again.

Where To Start

Symptoms of PTSD and trauma can throw you off balance. The smallest thing can set off a chain reaction in your mind and body, overwhelm your ability to function in the most basic ways, and cause strain in relationships. If you have trouble at work, or find it difficult to take care of yourself and your family, the first step is to build on ways to improve your daily life. Before delving into painful or frightening memories it's important to have developed ways to calm and care for yourself when you're in distress. Having the tools and resources to manage your emotions and distressing thoughts connected to trauma will allow you to think more clearly and make decisions more easily--- so that you can heal what's hurting.

Finding What Works For You

In order to heal from trauma, you will need to discover what is best for you. Learning to listen to your own emotional and physical signals, and setting your own pace in your trauma recovery are important skills to learn. Babette Rothschild writes “Trauma recovery involves much more than remembering and processing traumatizing incidents. For some of you, focusing on the past will not be necessary, or desirable. Trauma must, first and foremost, improve your quality of life. Anything that furthers that goal is good for you; anything which compromises that goal is not” (8 Keys To Safe Trauma Recovery, 2010). Very often in therapy, what can help to move you in the right direction in healing trauma and PTSD is to understand how you've been impacted by your experiences, not only what happened to you. It's up to you to decide when to talk about your trauma and in how much detail.

Breaking Your Silence

Trauma and PTSD interfere with your life and change how you feel about yourself and others; and the effects of trauma can show up years after the event is over. Bessel Van Der Kolk writes “As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself. Hiding your core feelings takes an enormous amount of energy, it saps your motivation to pursue worthwhile goals, and it leaves you feeling bored and shut down....Only after you identify the source of these responses can you start using your feelings as signals of problems that require your urgent attention” (The Body Keeps The Score, 2014).


If you've been physically or sexually abused or assaulted, reaching out for help is difficult. But remaining silent or trying to keep up the appearance that everything is okay usually just prolongs the problem. The sooner you get help, the more quickly you'll find relief and get back to feeling more like yourself. If you'd like to learn more about how trauma therapy and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) can help, please contact me for a free phone consultation at (626) 808-5463 or hollyaevansmft@gmail.com

The Pain of Family Estrangement

A strained, distant or broken relationship with a family member is one of the most painful things a person can experience. When your childhood was complicated by abuse, neglect or trauma, the relationships you have with your family in adulthood can continue to be painful, confusing and sometimes difficult to endure. Often, the hurtful or dysfunctional behaviors continue, even after you've left home and established your own life.

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From the outside, it can be so hard to understand how family members can become estranged from each other. But the heartbreak of distancing or cutting off contact with a parent or sibling can stem from traumatic events, such as emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect, growing up in a household with mental illness or addiction. According to Kylie Agllias, author of Family Estrangement: A Matter of Perspective, these particular issues strain family relationships in ways that make families vulnerable to estrangement.

Estrangement takes many forms—efforts to establish emotional distance while maintaining contact, a breakdown of support, or a complete cut off of communication and contact. Trying to figure out what kind of relationship you can have with someone who's hurt, neglected or abused you is a painful process. Many questions arise during the process of trying to determine how to approach such damaged relationships. How much time can you spend talking with or visiting them? How much will you let them know about your life? Do you need to take a break from the relationship for awhile to give yourself time work through and heal from trauma? Or is contact with this person just too painful, damaging?

Many of the people I see in my therapy practice are struggling with this painful issue-either after becoming estranged from family members or as they're trying to find a way to stay connected. When there has been abuse or a failure on the part of a parent to acknowledge or protect against abuse, the adult parent child relationship is often deeply effected. If estrangement has grown out of a history of abuse between parent and child, the decision to cut off contact or find a way to maintain some sort of connection is naturally fraught with having to make decisions that will promote your own well-being and healing.

In her book Family Estrangement: A Matter of Perspective, Kylie Agllias writes that: “estrangement from a perpetrator of abuse is a legitimate and often essential way to promote health and healing for survivors. There are times when reconciliation is not appropriate. There are other instances where survivors of abuse find some form of reconciliation or forgiveness important to their health and healing. The very personal decision to estrange or attempt some form of reconciliation is one that should always be respected.”

A broken family relationship is often difficult to talk about openly. Trying to explain why you're estranged or distant from your family can add to the distress of your experience- and add to the guilt, anxiety and shame that can become overwhelming at times. It's common for those who are estranged from their family to try to conceal this part of their lives, for fear of being judged, criticized or to avoid stigma. Add to this the fact that abuse is often kept secret, hidden away from others in the family and the community, making it that much more difficult to find the understanding and support you need.

Therapy can be a safe place to thoughtfully explore what you need for your own healing and how to best approach your family relationships-whether you're ready to work toward a reconciliation, to grieve the loss of the relationship that you can no longer be a part of, or to find somewhere in between.

To read more on this topic, check out this recent article from the New York Times:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/20/well/family/debunking-myths-about-estrangement.html

If you're concerned about how the past is impacting you now, help is available.  To learn more about how therapy can help, please give me a call at (626) 808-5463 or email me at hollyaevansmft@gmail.com.  I look forward to talking to you- Holly