PTSD & Trauma Therapy



Hello from the See You Through It Counseling Team (SYTI Counseling) team! As trauma therapists, we believe that understanding trauma is the first step to healing, and it’s our mission to guide you through every part of that journey. Trauma isn’t just a buzzword—it’s a deep emotional wound that can shape our lives unexpectedly. Whether you’re seeking answers or just curious, we’re here to shed light on the healing process. As expert trauma therapists, we’ve cultivated a space where healing, learning, and growth converge. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the world of trauma, and the tailored therapies and approaches we may use that can offer you a path to recovery.

Understanding Trauma

Life often presents us with challenges, but sometimes, events are so distressing and overwhelming that they leave lasting marks on our minds and hearts. These events or situations, often called traumas, can stem from various sources: accidents, personal conflicts, abuse, natural disasters, or even societal issues.

Have you ever felt stuck in a past event, feeling the weight of emotions like fear, shame, or anger? Or perhaps noticed patterns in your behavior or reactions you couldn’t understand? These could be signs of unresolved trauma. And you’re not alone. Many individuals, at some point in their lives, experience symptoms and emotional pain related to past traumas. So, let’s take a closer look at what exactly is trauma.

What is Trauma?

Trauma is a word we often hear, but its impact on people’s minds and bodies is profound. At its core, trauma is how someone emotionally, mentally, and sometimes physically responds to very upsetting events. These could be single moments of extreme fear or pain or more extended periods of tough times. No matter the cause, trauma makes it hard for someone to deal with or understand these events. This can deeply affect how someone feels or thinks. Many who’ve experienced trauma talk about feeling lost, disconnected from everything, or like they’re floating without an anchor. Trauma isn’t just about a past event but can shape how someone feels and sees their world today, changing how they feel safe or see themselves.

What Are the Origins of Trauma

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After delving into what trauma is—a deep emotional wound triggered by distressing events—it’s natural to wonder where it comes from. Understanding the origins of trauma can give us better insights into why it has such a lasting impact. Just as physical injuries can happen in a myriad of ways, from falls to accidents, trauma also has diverse roots. Whether it’s a single harrowing event or a series of smaller incidents that pile up over time, the source can be as varied as the individuals who experience it. Let’s take a closer look at what contributes to the onset of trauma, revealing the complexities behind this emotional and psychological condition.

Individual Origins:

  • Physical Assaults: These include experiences like muggings, domestic violence, or other instances where an individual is physically harmed or threatened.
  • Sexual Violations: Trauma can result from acts ranging from molestation to rape, deeply affecting an individual’s sense of safety and self.
  • Accidents: Unexpected events like car accidents, significant falls, or other sudden mishaps can induce trauma due to both physical injury and the shock of the event.
  • Natural Disasters: Experiences like earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods leave emotional scars as individuals grapple with loss, displacement, or the overwhelming power of nature.
  • Medical Events: Facing severe illnesses, undergoing major surgeries, or experiencing intense medical procedures can profoundly damage the body and psyche.

Interpersonal Origins:

  • Emotional Abuse or Neglect: Continuous patterns of emotional harm, neglect, or rejection, particularly during vulnerable phases, can lead to lasting trauma.
  • Betrayal: When someone trusted—be it a partner, family member, or close friend—betrays that trust, the resulting emotional pain can be traumatic.
  • Bullying or Harassment: Repeated experiences of being belittled, threatened, or attacked, whether physically, verbally, or digitally, can seriously impact one’s mental well-being.

Systemic or Collective Origins:

  • Warfare: Involvement in or exposure to the horrors of war, either as a combatant or as an innocent civilian, can result in deep-seated trauma.
  • Mass Violence: Events like genocide or targeted violence against specific communities cause trauma that affects not only survivors but often subsequent generations.
  • Forced Displacement: Refugees or those displaced from their homes due to conflict or disaster often grapple with trauma from loss, harrowing journeys, and the challenges of resettling.

Developmental Origins:

  • Childhood Neglect or Abuse: Traumatic events during childhood can disrupt emotional and psychological development, leading to patterns that persist into adulthood.
  • Witnessing Violence: Children exposed to violence, whether in their homes or their wider community, can carry the scars of these events into their adult lives.

Historical and Cultural Origins:

  • Colonialism or Slavery: The legacy of colonization, enslavement, or systemic oppression leaves a lasting impact, often felt by multiple generations.
  • Cultural Disruption: The enforced loss or dilution of cultural practices, languages, or heritage can result in collective trauma for communities.

To summarize, trauma can stem from various sources—some deeply personal and others rooted in larger societal or historical contexts. Identifying the underlying causes of trauma during trauma therapy work is essential. By identifying the trauma, the client and the trauma therapist can work together to develop the best approach for the client.

How Trauma Impacts the Mind and Body

After exploring the diverse origins of trauma, from sudden life-altering events to prolonged periods of stress or abuse, it’s important to shift our focus to how trauma affects us—specifically, its impact on the mind and body. We often think of trauma as an emotional or psychological issue, but its effects can be far more encompassing. Just as a stone thrown into a pond creates ripples that extend far and wide, trauma too sends its ripples through both our mental and physical well-being. So, how exactly does trauma make its presence felt in our thoughts, emotions, and even our physical health? Let’s delve into this crucial aspect of understanding trauma.

Impact on the Mind:

  • Memory Disruptions: Trauma can affect memory processing. Some individuals may have difficulty recalling the traumatic event, while others might relive it through intrusive memories or flashbacks.
  • Altered Perception of Threat: Trauma can recalibrate the brain’s threat detection system. An individual might become hyper-vigilant, constantly looking for danger, even in safe situations.
  • Emotional Dysregulation: This involves difficulty in managing and expressing emotions. A person might experience intense emotional reactions or feel numb or detached.
  • Difficulty in Concentration: Traumatized individuals might struggle to focus, make decisions, or think clearly.
  • Changes in Self-Perception: Feelings of guilt, shame, or worthlessness can emerge. One might feel entirely different from others or perceive themselves as damaged.
  • Disrupted Relationships: Trauma can affect trust, leading to challenges in forming or maintaining relationships. There may be increased conflict, withdrawal, or feelings of disconnection.
  • Avoidance Behavior: Individuals might avoid places, people, or situations that remind them of the traumatic event, further narrowing their world.

Impact on the Body:

  • Fight, Flight, or Freeze: The body’s immediate response to a perceived threat can become a default state, leading to heightened stress reactions even in non-threatening situations.
  • Physical Symptoms: Chronic pain, stomach issues, or unexplained aches can emerge after traumatic events. This is sometimes termed somatization, where emotional pain manifests physically.
  • Sleep Disruptions: Insomnia, nightmares, or sleeping too much can result from trauma, as the brain struggles to find rest.
  • Altered Neurobiology: Prolonged stress can impact areas of the brain associated with memory, emotion, and regulation, like the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex.
  • Immune System Suppression: Chronic stress from trauma can weaken the immune system, making one more susceptible to illnesses.
  • Increased Risk of Disease: Long-term stress can lead to higher risks of cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, and other health issues.
  • Substance Use: Some might turn to drugs, alcohol, or medications as coping mechanisms, leading to substance abuse or dependence.

Holistic Impacts:

  • Sense of Meaning: Trauma can challenge or alter one’s sense of purpose, spirituality, or worldview, prompting existential crises.
  • Behavioral Changes: These might include self-harming behaviors, risk-taking, or withdrawal from previous activities.

Trauma can impact both our mind and body in many ways. So, it’s crucial to use trauma therapy methods that look at the whole person. These methods don’t just help with the direct issues but also help in more profound healing. By understanding and dealing with these effects, people can heal and feel more in control and complete.

Principles of Trauma Therapy

At SYTI Counseling, our trauma therapists believe in the holistic approach to trauma therapy that prioritizes your safety, respects your unique pace, and acknowledges the inseparable connection between mind and body. Understanding trauma requires more than just a cursory examination of painful memories. It demands a compassionate, safe space where trust is the foundation, a deliberate and thoughtful pace that ensures individuals are not overwhelmed, and a comprehensive approach that recognizes the profound impacts of trauma on both the psyche and the physiological self. Below are the three main principles we and other trauma therapists follow:

  1.  Safety First: One of the primary principles of trauma therapy is establishing a sense of security. Before diving into traumatic memories, therapists ensure clients feel secure in their environment and the therapeutic relationship. The foundation of trust is crucial.
  2. Pacing: Trauma therapy isn’t about diving headfirst into the most painful memories. Therapists work at a pace the individual is comfortable with, ensuring they’re not re-traumatized by the therapeutic process.
  3. Body-Mind Connection: Traumatic events don’t just affect our minds; they also leave an imprint on our bodies. Recognizing this, trauma therapists incorporate techniques that address trauma’s psychological and physiological effects.

Now that we know the three guiding principles for trauma therapy let’s look at a rough outline of what your healing journey will look like. 

Stages of Trauma Therapy:

Trauma therapy is a journey that takes individuals through distinct phases, each crucial for holistic healing and recovery. Just as one wouldn’t construct a building without a solid foundation, the therapeutic process is structured to ensure lasting resilience and healing. Let’s delve into the critical stages of trauma therapy, from establishing a safe environment to constructively integrating the trauma experience, allowing individuals to move forward with strength and purpose.

  1. Stabilization and Safety: The initial phase focuses on establishing safety and teaching coping skills to manage trauma symptoms, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety.
  2. Trauma Processing: Once safety is established, the therapist and client collaboratively process the traumatic event. This might involve narrating the event, challenging negative beliefs about the trauma, or using specific techniques to reduce the emotional charge of the memory.
  3. Reintegration: In the final phase, individuals learn to integrate their experiences into their lives. The trauma becomes a part of their story but not the defining part. The focus is on rebuilding and looking toward the future.

Now, to be clear, every person is unique, and every person’s trauma is distinct; thus, everyone’s healing journey will be different. Some will quickly get through the stabilization and safety stage but take a long time through the processing stage. Others may promptly work their way through all three stages. Let’s now take a look the various approaches and techniques that will help get you through these stages.

Trauma Therapy Approaches and Techniques

Navigating the path to healing from trauma can take various routes, each tailored to the unique needs and experiences of the individual. Trauma therapists at SYTI Counseling utilize a range of specialized approaches and techniques, each designed to target specific aspects of trauma and promote recovery. From understanding and reframing thoughts with CBT to physically grounding oneself through somatic therapies, let’s explore some of the diverse therapeutic methods available to assist individuals on their healing journey. Note, that these are just a small sample of the techniques available for trauma therapy. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Mindfulness and Emotional Regulation Approaches

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT):  DBT focuses on skill-building in areas like emotional regulation, mindfulness, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Cognitive-based Approaches

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This approach helps individuals identify negative thought patterns stemming from trauma. They then learn to challenge and replace these with more positive, realistic beliefs.
  • Narrative Therapy: This approach helps individuals rewrite their trauma story, emphasizing resilience, growth, and personal agency.
  • Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT): A specific type of CBT designed for children and adolescents impacted by trauma. It involves psychoeducation, relaxation, affective modulation, cognitive processing, and trauma narration.

Mind-Body Connection Therapies

  • Somatic Therapies: These focus on bodily sensations and physical reactions from trauma. Techniques include grounding exercises or guided body scans.
  • Neurofeedback/Biofeedback: These are techniques where individuals are given information about their physiological functioning in real-time, allowing them to learn how to self-regulate their brain activity or other physiological processes, which can benefit those with trauma.

Systems-based Approaches

Internal Family Systems (IFS): IFS views the mind as composed of multiple “parts.” Trauma can cause these parts to become extreme or burdened. Therapy involves accessing the “Self” (a core, undamaged essence) to heal and unburden these parts.

Memory Processing Therapies

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): This involves recalling traumatic events while making specific eye movements, which can help the brain process traumatic memories more effectively.

Psychodynamic Approaches

  • Psychodynamic Therapy: Based on psychoanalytic theory, this approach believes that trauma affects the unconscious mind and can result in various defense mechanisms. Therapists work with clients to uncover and understand these unconscious processes and how they affect current behavior.

Community-based Therapy

  • Group Therapy: While a broad category, trauma-focused group therapy provides a space for individuals to share their experiences and find support among peers who’ve had similar experiences.

Before we jump into all the good stuff about how trauma therapy can help you, let’s get one thing straight: therapy isn’t one-size-fits-all. There are tons of different ways to go about it. The cool thing about trauma therapy is that it can be tailored just for you. Think of it as a personalized roadmap to help you heal and grow in ways that make sense for your life. So, whatever you’re going through, there’s a good chance therapy can help guide you toward some real and lasting change.

The Benefits of Trauma Therapy

At SYTI Counseling, our trauma therapists have witnessed trauma’s profound impact on one’s life, from daily routines to personal relationships. Yet, we’ve also seen the transformative power of trauma therapy and its ability to lead individuals to a path of healing and renewed strength. Let’s delve into some of how trauma therapy can help survivors not just survive but thrive: 

Restoring Emotional and Psychological Well-Being

  • Safety and Stability: One of the primary effects of trauma is feeling unsafe or unsettled. Trauma therapy works to re-establish a sense of security and stability in an individual’s life, helping them feel more grounded and secure in their daily activities.
  • Emotional Regulation: Trauma can lead to intense and sometimes overwhelming emotions. Therapy provides tools and techniques to help individuals manage these emotions, reducing instances of outbursts, shutdowns, or emotional numbness.
  • Reduction of Symptoms: Symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and depression can arise from trauma. Trauma therapy can significantly reduce, if not eliminate, these symptoms, allowing individuals to lead a more normal life.

Strengthening Personal Connections

  • Improved Relationships: Trauma can strain personal relationships due to trust issues, irritability, or withdrawal from social situations. Therapy helps heal these strains, enabling individuals to build stronger, more fulfilling relationships.
  • Enhanced Self-Esteem: Trauma often results in feelings of guilt, shame, or self-blame. Therapy aids in challenging and changing these negative beliefs, fostering a healthier self-image and greater self-worth.

Addressing and Processing the Past

  • Processing Traumatic Memories: Instead of continually avoiding traumatic memories, therapy provides a safe space to confront and process these memories, diminishing their emotional charge and influence over daily life.

Physical Health Benefits

  • Improved Physical Health: The stress from trauma can manifest physically, leading to issues like headaches, fatigue, or chronic pain. As therapy helps in processing trauma, many individuals experience an improvement in their physical well-being.

Fostering Growth and Future Resilience

  • Growth and Resilience: Trauma therapy isn’t just about addressing the past; it’s also about building a brighter future. Therapy promotes post-traumatic growth, helping individuals develop resilience and find new meaning or purpose post-trauma.
  • Empowerment: One of the devastating effects of trauma is the feeling of powerlessness. Through therapy, individuals regain control over their lives, making choices that align with their healing and overall well-being.

Preventative Measures

  • Prevention of Further Issues: Without intervention, trauma can lead to more severe mental health issues, substance abuse, or even self-harming behaviors. Therapy is a preventive measure that addresses the root causes and reduces the risk of further complications.

While the journey can be challenging, the benefits of trauma therapy can be life-changing, providing survivors with the tools and understanding they need to move forward confidently.

Start Your Healing Journey Today

In navigating the complex landscape of trauma, it’s essential to remember that you don’t have to walk this path alone. Healing, understanding, and growth are within reach, and trauma therapy can be the bridge to your renewed self. At SYTI Counseling, our team of trauma therapists are dedicated to being by your side every step, offering expertise, empathy, and a safe space for transformation. If you or a loved one is seeking support, we invite you to take that pivotal step towards healing. Please book an appointment with us today at our Laurel Springs, NJ location or via telehealth, and together, let’s embark on a journey towards a brighter, more resilient future.

Scheduling and More Information

If you are searching for support for post-traumatic stress disorder, OR if you have been through a traumatic or abusive experience and are seeking help, please click here to book a therapy appointment with a See You Through It Counseling therapist.

To learn more about the treatment services See You Through It Counseling provides, check out our treatment specialties.

For more information on trauma and PTSD, check out the resource below:

PTSD & Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (