Have you been experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder because you have had trauma in your life? Are you unsure of what type of trauma treatment is available for someone who is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder? To help understand what type of impact trauma may have on someone and what type of trauma treatment is available for someone who is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, I have interviewed psychotherapist Catherine Lockwood.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a psychotherapist and couples counselor in Brentwood Village on the Westside of Los Angeles, and I have expertise in trauma treatment. One of the things I find most exciting about being a therapist today is that research is constantly yielding exciting new findings that enable therapists like myself to provide people with more effective and targeted help for incapacitating conditions ‘” such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD.”
What type of impact can Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder have on someone’s life?
“PTSD can have a debilitating impact on every aspect of one’s life. And it can be not only debilitating, but life threatening too. Why? Here are a few examples:
PTSD sufferers are 6 times more likely to attempt suicide. The best immediate course of action if someone is feeling imminently suicidal ‘” or having impulses to hurt others or damage property ‘” is to call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. While you’re waiting for help, talk to the 911 operator or call a supportive friend or family member.
Some symptoms of PTSD can lead to dangerous behaviors. For example, nightmares and sleep problems at night can result in decreased ability to function safely during the day ‘” and an increased propensity for accidents in the home, on the job or on the road.
Having PTSD can put a person at a greater risk for serious physical health problems, such as heart, vascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal and dermatological problems, obesity, eating disorders, diabetes, immune system and autoimmune problems, increased pain, somatic symptoms such as headaches and gastrointestinal distress, less energy, diminished physical functioning and activity, and sexual dysfunction.
PTSD can also be associated with other mental health problems. In fact, there is increasing evidence that more serious mental health problems often accompany chronic trauma, meaning trauma that is repeated or goes on for a long time, especially if the trauma started early in childhood and was severe and interpersonal. Depression, anxiety, substance abuse or dependence, eating disorders, anger problems, borderline personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder, bipolar disorder and behavioral problems often exist side-by-side with PTSD.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs National Center for PTSD, 7-8% of Americans will have PTSD at some point in their lives. You may be thinking, ‘˜I experienced a life-threatening catastrophe, and I don’t have post-traumatic stress disorder.’ Or perhaps you know someone who lived through Hurricane Katrina, a major earthquake, a violent crime, or even 9/11 ‘” and they are just fine today. How can that be?
Thankfully, people recover naturally from trauma all the time ‘” if their sense of security and safety is regained within a reasonable amount of time and if they are able to utilize effective coping mechanisms.
For example, if a child falls into a hole at a construction site, but is able to yell loudly enough to attract attention to his plight, is swiftly pulled out, and rapidly returned to a parent’s comforting arms without undue scolding or reproach, he can regain his sense of security fairly quickly. If those around him allow him to express himself about the experience in words, emotions and play, and patiently teach him coping strategies to avoid such dangers in the future, he stands a very good chance of full recovery. And if not, sessions with a psychotherapist with trauma-treatment expertise can help restore his confident, curious former self.”
What type of trauma treatment is available for someone who is experiencing PTSD?
“The good news is that, in recent decades, researchers, neuroscientists and psychotherapists have become more and more aware of the devastating effects of trauma. And they have formulated increasingly effective evidence-based ways to treat and heal trauma.
The main PTSD treatment I use is the groundbreaking Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for Trauma Treatment, developed by Dr. Pat Ogden and based on her decades of clinical experience and research. She discovered that the popular recommendation to deal with trauma by, ‘˜Telling your story over and over,’ can actually result in re-traumatizing the PTSD victim ‘” over and over!
Instead, with Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for Trauma Treatment, patients are first trained how to stay within a ‘˜window of tolerance,’ so that they do not become over- stressed, zoned out or re-traumatized during the treatment sessions. Then the therapist guides the person very slowly and carefully, one frame at a time, toward and through their traumatic memories and experiences. Gentle yet powerful techniques, such as mindfulness and body tracking, help the person unlock, express and integrate the impulses, movements, sensations, feelings and thoughts that became repressed, split off, isolated and trapped, often away from conscious awareness, during and after the traumatic event.
Sensorimotor trauma treatment makes sense because, as Dr. Ogden points out in her book, Trauma and the Body, ‘˜traumatic experience results in sensorimotor reactions such as intrusive images, sounds, smells, body sensations, physical pain, constriction, numbing ‘” and the need for a holistic, mind-body approach for effective treatment.’ Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for Trauma Treatment can be highly effective at releasing sufferers from the oppression of trauma and PTSD.
Other evidence-based treatment modalities that have proved effective in treating PTSD include: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Somatic Experiencing, Trauma-focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Brief Psychodynamic Psychotherapy for PTSD, Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy, Accelerated Experiential-Dynamic Psychotherapy, Interpersonal Psychotherapy, Group Therapy and PTSD Support Groups, Exposure Therapy, and Stress Inoculation Training.
Drug therapy can also be helpful in combination with psychotherapy. A physician or psychiatrist may prescribe medications that can decrease symptoms. Sometimes this is needed to make it possible for people to participate in psychotherapy at all.
In addition, relaxation, mindfulness, and exercise practices, such as meditation and yoga, can help relieve symptoms and restore serenity.
These treatments can help trauma sufferers recover and thrive after months, years, or even decades of symptoms ‘” and allow them to once again experience their own full self, socialize, love, improve performance and productivity, play, create and enjoy the normal pleasures of being alive.
The following links are resources to help you start to get the help you need.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for Trauma Treatment https://www.sensorimotorpsychotherapy.org/referral.html
SE Trauma Institute:
International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
Thank you Catherine for doing the interview on trauma treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. For more information on Catherine Lockwood or her work you can check out her website at: www.CatherineLockwoodMFT.com.
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