“We are not what happened to us, we are what we wish to become.”
You survived. It’s over. But the past still haunts you. It’s exhausting living in a constant state of worry, tension and feeling sick to your stomach. Therapy for trauma is one of our areas of expertise. We utilize evidence-based therapies (e.g., CPT) that have strong scientific evidence to alleviate symptoms. Imagine feeling stronger, happier, and more satisfied in life. We want to share real-life tools and strategies that can help.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a condition a person may develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event. It is normal to experience symptoms of PTSD following a traumatic event, however if these symptoms do not improve over time, it may indicate a mental health condition.
According to the National Center for PTSD, about 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. It’s important to note that not everyone who experiences symptoms of PTSD was subject to a life-threatening event. For example, a sudden and unexpected loss can trigger a PTSD reaction.
PTSD can happen to anyone, it is not a sign of weakness.
Symptoms of PTSD
- Feeling detached or numb
- Difficulty remembering details of traumatic event(s)
- Nightmares, flashbacks, or intrusive memories of the trauma
- Negative changes in your thoughts or beliefs (e.g., no one can be trusted)
- Physical reactions to reminders of trauma (e.g., racing heart, sweating, nausea, re-experiencing physical sensations of the trauma)
- Dissociation/Loss of time – inability to recall events or details for hours or days at a time
- Easily startled or hypervigilant
- Easily startled or hypervigilant
- Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli (e.g., thoughts, memories, feelings, people, places, situations, etc.)
We provide thorough trauma-informed psychological testing for clarification of diagnosis and tailored recommendations for treatment. These are some of the validated measures that we use:
- Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 (CAPS-5)- the gold standard in PTSD assessment
- PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5)
- Life Events Checklist for DSM-5 (LEC-5)
- Dissociative Subtype of PTSD Scale (DSPS)
- Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES)
Trauma focused psychotherapies are the highest recommended treatment for PTSD.
According to the National Center for PTSD’s online Treatment Decision Aid tool, 53 out of every 100 individuals with PTSD who receive a trauma-focused psychotherapy (such as CPT, PE, and EMDR), will no longer have PTSD after about 3 months. In comparison, in individuals who only take medication, only 42 of 100 will achieve remission.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
Have you ever felt that you're "stuck" in your thoughts about a past trauma? Are you ready to get "un-stuck" and move forward? Cognitive Processing Therapy may be right for you.
CPT is an approach to treating the psychological impact of trauma- the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that, for many, last long after the traumatic event(s) have ended. This is a short-term, time-limited, evidence-based treatment (which means that it’s proven to be effective) for PTSD and related conditions.
CPT has 4 major components:
- Education about CPT, trauma, and PTSD
- Processing the trauma
- Learning to challenge thoughts related to the trauma
- Common trauma themes (safety, trust, power and control, esteem, and intimacy)
People with PTSD often experience changes in their thoughts related to themselves, others, and the world. During CPT sessions we look at the way the traumatic event(s) shifted thinking patterns and identify the thoughts or beliefs that are keeping you “stuck.” This includes both new beliefs that began after the traumatic event, and how previous beliefs may have changed after the event. In CPT, these unhelpful thoughts are called “stuck points” given that they get in the way of recovery.
The standard CPT protocol consists of 12 sessions, most commonly delivered over 6-24, individual therapy sessions. Research on CPT has shown that resolution of PTSD and trauma response symptoms can be achieved in as few as 8 sessions. Each CPT session has specific interventions and goals that allow movement forward in the treatment. For some, additional time is needed in specific areas and the pace of treatment can be individualized based on the client’s unique needs.
Prolonged Exposure (PE)
Do you feel like you’re in danger or unsafe all the time? Do you catch yourself constantly avoiding people, places or situations that remind you of a traumatic experience? Prolonged exposure may be right for you.
PE is a short-term, time-limited, evidenced-based treatment for PTSD. According to the National Center for PTSD, PE “teaches people how to confront memories, feelings, and situations they have avoided since the trauma.” Although avoiding trauma reminders makes you feel better in the moment, this does not help in the long run. Avoidance of thoughts, emotions, and situations actually keeps you from recovering from trauma and PTSD.
PE utilizes a gradual approach in confronting these reminders. In other words, this treatment works by helping you face your fears in a systematic manner. During PE sessions you will talk through painful memories (i.e. retell the trauma memory) in a safe space and also engage in activities that you have avoided because they are somehow related to the traumatic event(s).
Through retelling the account of the traumatic experience repeatedly, you will begin processing your memory of the event and decreasing the emotional pain associated with it. By also engaging in frequently avoided situations, you will learn that trauma-related memories and cues are not dangerous.
PE has 4 major components:
- Education about PE, common reactions to trauma, and breathing retraining
- In-vivo exposure
- Imaginal exposure
- Emotional processing
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) is an evidence-based treatment for trauma developed in 1989 by Dr. Francine Shapiro.
This therapy is designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories by using a bilateral stimulation approach (eye movements) that facilitate the accessing and processing of traumatic material stored in our brain with the goal of resolution.
Many people report that they feel a significant reduction or complete elimination of distress and traumatic symptoms. Also, clients report a difference in how they think and feel about their past traumas.
EMDR is an 8-phase treatment that is provided only by those who have received extensive training.
Skills Training in Affective and Interpersonal Regulation (STAIR)
“The core experiences of psychological trauma are disempowerment and disconnection from others. Recovery, therefore, is based upon the empowerment of the survivor and the creation of new connections”Judith Herman
STAIR is a short-term, evidence-based cognitive-behavioral therapy for individuals suffering from PTSD (chronic and complicated forms) or PTSD and comorbid disorders. It has strong scientific evidence that it helps clients overcome many difficulties associated with trauma. Research also shows that it’s effective in treating PTSD, depression, emotion regulation, and interpersonal problems.
STAIR has 2 major components:
- Emotion regulation
- Interpersonal functioning
This treatment has a skills-focused approach set to improve overall functioning. STAIR can be implemented as a treatment in and on itself, or as a as a pre-treatment for more trauma-focused work.
As an individual treatment, STAIR usually consists of 8-12, 45 to 60-minute sessions, once a week. Treatment is tailored according to the client’s individual needs (number of sessions will vary accordingly).
Other Modalities and Interventions
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for Trauma
“ACT is a unique empirically based intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies, together with behavior change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility.” Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACBS)
Regarding ACT’s use for the treatment of PTSD and other trauma-related disorders, Walser and & Westrup (2007) reported that it “offers a promising, empirically validated approach.” In working with trauma, one of ACT’s goals is to develop more accepting, mindful attitudes towards negative situations, as well as distressing memories and emotions (instead of avoiding them).
ACT is an action-oriented approach that typically includes the use of metaphors, paradoxes, experiential exercises, and role-plays in sessions. Through these interventions, clients address six core processes: acceptance, cognitive defusion, present moment awareness, self as context, values, and committed action.
The number of sessions is individualized according to client’s needs and goals.
Mindfulness Based Interventions
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
Integrating mindfulness or other skills with empirically supported PTSD treatments can strengthen emotion regulation and improve outcomes in preparation, engagement and treatment compliance; as well as decrease rumination (Vujanovic, Niles, Pietrefesa, Potter, & Schmertz, 2011). Through the practice of mindfulness, clients can become aware of their thoughts, emotions, and sensations in the present moment. Furthermore, they begin to practice willingness in experiencing feelings, thoughts and sensations without judgment.
According to the mentioned authors, cited on the National Center for PTSD,
“Mindfulness-based approaches have been shown to be useful for problems commonly seen in trauma survivors such as anxiety and hyperarousal. Mindfulness practice has potential to be of benefit to individuals with PTSD, either as a tertiary or a stand-alone treatment.”
Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TSY)
“It’s about becoming safe to feel what you feel. When you’re traumatized, you’re afraid of what you’re feeling, because your feeling is always terror, or fear or helplessness. I think these body-based techniques help you to feel what’s happening in your body, and to breathe into it and not run away from it. So, you learn to befriend your experience.” Bessel Van Der Kolk, Childhood Trauma Leads to Brains Wired for Fear
According to David Emerson (E-RYT), who coined the term trauma-sensitive yoga, TSY is an adjunct treatment that is utilized within a clinical context. In TSY interventions the clients are always invited to make choices regarding if they want to engage in the suggested postures. They are also urged to listen to their bodies and adjust their movements accordingly. The rationale behind using yoga is that it is helpful to reduce sympathetic activation (e.g. like hyperarousal and hypervigilance in the context of trauma) and muscle tension, as well as increase overall awareness of the body and emotional experience.
Trauma takes a toll in the mind, brain, and body. People who have gone through traumatic experiences may constantly experience fear, hyper-arousal, overwhelming sensations, and numbness in response to trauma cues. By introducing trauma-sensitive yoga interventions in treatment we can address cognitive, emotional, and physiological symptoms of PTSD in an inclusive manner.
Couples Trauma Therapy
Have you or your spouse been affected by a recent traumatic incident? Have you endured a traumatic incident together as a couple? Has your partner suffered from chronic trauma? We can help.
We offer couples therapy for couples affected by trauma. We love working with all types of couples including LGBTQ+, interracial and interfaith couples.
How We Help PTSD & Trauma
The therapists at The Psychology Group can help. Trauma therapy is one of our areas of expertise along with treating co-occurring symptoms such as sleep disturbance, panic attacks, social anxiety, etc. In addition to the treatments outlined above, we use very effective therapies (e.g., Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy) that have strong scientific evidence to reduce symptoms.
Call The Psychology Group Fort Lauderdale at (954) 488-2933 for a free phone consultation today.
What to Expect From Trauma Therapy
- The first step is to give us a call: (954) 488-2933
- Our practice offers complimentary 15-minute phone consultations. During this consultation we will learn more about your needs and goals. You'll be matched with one of our expert therapists
- Next, you'll meet with your therapist for an initial session. There, your trauma specialist will get a very thorough understanding of your unique background, history and what you'd like to accomplish. She'll share her ideas for an action plan and collaboratively, you'll both decide next steps
- Trauma therapy is typically very “hands on.” Examples of what therapy sessions will focus on include: learning how to relax the body and decrease physiological arousal, improving positive self-talk, identifying and understanding your triggers, learning skills & strategies to manage uncomfortable symptoms. Some sessions may also involve thinking, talking or visualizing a traumatic memory
- It is fairly common to feel that symptoms are worse before you get better, but you will undoubtably have the support of your therapist throughout treatment. The distress and emotional discomfort are temporary. Most client’s report that the benefits outweigh the discomfort that they initially experience during the process
- Treatment for trauma & PTSD typically includes other team members as appropriate. You might be recommended to visit a general physician, psychiatrist and/or dietician as part of your treatment team to address both mind and body