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Finding the Right Childhood Trauma Therapist for Your Healing Journey

Many of us may understand intellectually what childhood trauma means, but many have difficulty identifying it in our own lives. We think childhood trauma is what happens to other people, or that a traumatic event has to be enormous to "count". However, childhood trauma can encompass a wide range of situations and relationships.

What is childhood trauma?

Childhood trauma refers to any dangerous, violent, or frightening event that occurs before the age of 18. In the United States, these experiences are common, with more than two thirds of children reporting at least one traumatic even by the age of 16.

Symptoms of Childhood Trauma in Adults

A traumatic event in childhood can have long-reaching consequences and lead to physical and mental health problems in adulthood. Some common childhood trauma symptoms in both children and adults can include things like:

  • Anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders
  • PTSD symptoms such as hyper-awareness, bad dreams, and avoidance
  • Substance use issues
  • Uncontrolled anger
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, poor sleep, and stomach problems

Potentially Traumatic Events

Traumatic events can include many situations. The one that most people would recognize is childhood abuse or neglect, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, or emotional abuse. However, some don't recognize the presence of emotional abuse or even physical abuse in their own childhoods. It can be easy to justify the behavior of adults that you loved, and to downplay any effects. You can see this in the number of people who say things like, "my parents hit me and I turned out fine!"

Others may have experienced what they considered a normal childhood, but were not given the kind of attention and affection necessary for healthy development.

Finally, there is the issue of complex trauma, which can be a kind of trauma that occurs again and again, and can be complicated to address. This can be things experiencing things like poverty, systemic racism, witnessing domestic violence, community violence, displacement, slavery, and genocide.

Importance of Trauma Therapy

When left untreated, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex post traumatic stress disorder (c-PTSD) developed due to childhood trauma can have long-term mental and physical health consequences for teens and young adults. These individuals are at high risk to develop mental health disorders such as panic disorder, depression, anxiety, or substance use issues.

What happens if trauma is left untreated?

Unaddressed trauma can lead to serious effects on relationships, career, and daily functioning. People who have had trauma exposure may have difficulty keeping jobs, maintaining healthy relationships and other social connections, and suffer from mood disorders.

Trauma symptoms can include flashbacks or hyperreactivity that can interfere with daily life. People who have survived a traumatic event may avoid people, places, or experiences that remind them of that initial trauma.

Trauma symptoms may lessen on their own with time, but there is no guarantee that PTSD will resolve on its own.

Types of Trauma Therapy

Treating childhood trauma can be essential to lower risk for mental health issues, and to improve chances for a more fulfilling life. Mental health professionals can help with a number of evidence-based treatments.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

CPT is a type of psychotherapy that’s used to treat a wide range of mental health symptoms, conditions, and concerns. CPT was developed to teach people to challenge negative thoughts, manage distressing emotions, and improve self confidence.

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)

TF-CBT is a collaborative approach to care that involves the child or adolescent, their parent or guardian, and a mental health professional. Working together as a team in a family therapy setting, a TB-CBT professional uses a combination of therapeutic approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), family therapy, and attachment theory to support families working to address, understand, and overcome childhood trauma and its effects.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a type of therapy used for treating childhood trauma in teens and adults. EMDR uses eye movement techniques (for example, back and forth movement) to help people process their distressing memories, thoughts, and feelings related to trauma.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy offers teens and young adults a chance to gradually approach their fears in a safe and controlled environment. This therapy works by exposing individuals to their fears in a slow, controlled manner that allows them to gradually reduce the distress associated with traumatic memories and helps them learn to manage their emotions moving forward.

Finding a Qualified Trauma Therapist

When looking for someone to guide trauma focused therapy treatment for emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or any other type of childhood trauma, it's important to ask whether your therapist has experience working with childhood trauma and PTSD.

Be sure that they have training for trauma treatment using evidence based practices such as CPT, TF-CBT, EMDR, prolonged exposure therapy, narrative exposure therapy, or dialectical behavior therapy.

A strong therapeutic alliance is also key for trauma treatment using trauma focused therapy. To build trust and and rapport, trauma therapists must offer a comfortable and supportive therapeutic environment that can be considered a safe space for their client.

Some questions you may ask a potential trauma therapist include:

  • What experience do you have working with childhood trauma and PTSD?
  • What types of trauma therapy do you offer?
  • How will we work together to develop a treatment plan?

The Trauma Therapy Process

Prolonged exposure therapy and cognitive processing therapy for childhood trauma can take around 3 months, while trauma informed cognitive processing therapy may take between 8 and 25 sessions. Other trauma therapy options vary, but many patients report feeling better within the first few months of treatment.

What are some common difficulties people may experience during trauma therapy?

  • Feelings of discomfort, anxiety, and shame when discussing traumatic experiences
  • Difficulty managing emotions and coping with distressing memories
  • Fear of confronting traumatic experiences

Addressing Childhood Trauma in Brooklyn

It can be difficult to process childhood trauma and its effects on your life without the help of licensed trauma therapists. At Williamsburg Therapy Group our team of doctoral-level psychotherapists offer a number of evidence-based therapeutic approaches both in-person and online, so you can find the right approach for identifying triggers, managing symptoms, and living your best life.

Give us a call today and our patient coordinator will help you find the right trauma therapist to address the challenges you may be facing.

Childhood trauma in adults doesn’t necessarily mean they will be unable to live a fulfilling life. Many people believe that childhood trauma is insurmountable, or that its effects will always have a negative impact on an individual's life. The truth is that therapy can start a healing journey, and offer coping skills that help with symptoms and improve mental health.

Book a Therapy Session in Brooklyn Today

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