Trauma Therapy Brooklyn

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Trauma Therapy

At first glance, “trauma therapy” might sound intimidating. And because we live in a world that asks us to repress our feelings of hurt, the term “trauma” itself has become traumatizing (go figure). But if you’re dealing with the struggles of being an adoptive parent, you’re also likely seeking out ways to help your child adjust to this newfound transition.

Many adopted children have experienced trauma in some form. Whether they have experienced mental, physical, or emotional abuse from their birth parents, those within the foster care system, or just have been traumatized from having their childhood feel displaced, it’s understandable that you as their adoptive parent would want to seek out the best forms of treatment to help them open up and begin their new life with you.

This is where trauma focused therapy can come in and provide a safe space for your child to talk through their history. 

As a specific therapeutic approach, trauma therapy is here to recognize and emphasize how traumatic experiences can shape and impact a child’s mental, behavioral, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. It makes for a confidential space in which all hurt that they have endured is acknowledged and validated.

But more importantly, this specific therapy is focused on providing your child with the tools to cope and process these traumatic experiences in a healthy way. 

This way, your child can respond to their traumas with a newfound understanding of how to protect themselves from becoming re-traumatized in the future.

See Related: Parenting an adopted child: twenty tips to help guide and ground you

How Trauma Affects the Brain

While trauma might be chalked up to one’s emotional responses to harm, it’s important to recognize that trauma actually physically changes the brain. Areas that might have once worked in a particular way have been rewired due to hyperarousal from trauma. So recognizing the effects of trauma in a tangible way is a great place to start in understanding how to approach the trauma altogether.

Prolonged Exposure to Trauma Can Have Long-term Effects

You’ve heard the phrase “flight or fight” below, right? Well that’s the physical and emotional response to a trigger. During these instances, the amygdala becomes over-activated from the traumatic experience, making one hypervigilant, overly alert, and constantly looking over their shoulder to make sure that they are no longer in harm’s way.

If you’ve noticed these behaviors in your child, just know that this is their body’s way of telling them that their trauma is real. It is their brain telling them that they are hurting from something that they need to seek out help.

therapist trained in emdr therapy trauma

Because therapy is so stigmatized in our society, it is important to understand these physical cues that our bodies give us. So often, it feels easier to belittle our struggles as a way of not having to deal with them or their consequences. And you might even see your child doing just that. But if you are genuinely worried about how your child may be processing past traumatic events, here are a few tell-tale signs of how their body and their brain are choosing to deal with the trauma.

A child who has experienced trauma might exhibit the following emotional and psychological responses:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Numbness
  • Guilt
  • Confusion
  • Shame
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Hopelessness

A child who has experienced trauma might also exhibit the following physical responses:

  • Headaches
  • Feeling jumpy
  • Racing heart
  • Sweating
  • Digestive issues
  • Fatigue
  • Hyperarousal or hyper-alterness

Sometimes, just having the tools to recognize that your child may be re-experiencing some form of trauma is enough to get you started in having a conversation with them. But if they’re not ready to open up immediately, don’t let that discourage you.

Bonus: 7 Must Reads for Adoptees and Their Parents

Trauma Related Treatment Can Greatly Improve The Life of a Loved One Struggling with PTSD

At the end of the day, their body and their brain are only doing what they know to protect themselves. And trauma therapy can help lighten the load of that burden and give them a better way of coping with these physical and emotional symptoms. If you’re still curious as to what exactly trauma therapy encompasses, below you can find the major benefits of trauma focused therapy and understand the background of the practice a little bit more.

The main benefits of trauma therapy can be broken down into the following: 

#1. Learning About Trauma

With trauma as the very focus of this therapeutic practice, children and their families will have the opportunity to learn about normal responses to trauma. Acquiring the knowledge necessary to first understand trauma is the best way to mitigate all anxiety for both you and your child.

Once your child can put a name to what they are feeling, they will feel far less alone. And they’ll be able to readily communicate with you more about how they may be feeling. 

Sometimes, with children, we tend to want to protect them at all costs. And such a desire is certainly not one that child trauma focused therapy is attempting to repress. Instead, what trauma therapy can provide your child is a space for them to understand why they are feeling, thinking, or behaving in a certain way.

One of the scariest parts about being a parent is letting your child explore the areas of the unknown. But with my help, I will guide your child through their trauma in a safe and understanding environment. And by the time we get to the other side, your child will be feeling far happier and freer from the things they now know not to fear.

#2. Re-Establishing Your Child’s Safety

Traumatic experiences can vary from circumstance to circumstance. But the main thing tying all trauma together is the violation of someone’s safety.

This might mean that your child’s physical, emotional, psychological, or relational safety has been violated. And depending on which area your child feels insecure, their behaviors and feelings may start to make a little more sense with context.

When It Comes to Mental Health, We Tend to Think of Adults But Not Necessarily Children

Through trauma focused therapy, your child will learn how to re-development that sense of safety. 

Whether emotional, psychological, or relational, they will learn that they have the power to reclaim what was theirs in the first place. If you notice that your child is exhibiting behaviors that actively seek safety outside of themselves, then trauma therapy is a great way to reign that desire in and help them develop that feeling of nurturing within themselves. Through different activities and discussions, trauma focused therapy is comprised of a myriad of practices that are meant to target these very domains to help your child feel safe again.

emdr is a type of therapy for trauma related symptoms

#3. Identifying Your Child’s Triggers

When delving into one’s psyche and having these discussions out in the open, your child will have the opportunity to identify, understand, and explore their triggers that lead them back to the traumatic event that occurred. All practices within trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy are geared towards allowing your child to express their memories and feelings that may be related to the trauma itself. And in doing so, a behavior or feeling that may once have seemed like it came out of nowhere will have a source that your child can readily identify.

Triggers are best understood as reminders of the psychological trauma that can cause a reaction, whether physical, mental, or emotional. 

But once your child is able to recognize what thoughts, sounds, smells, tastes, or images are their triggers, they can learn how to put down their symptoms of trauma and identify their needs in the moment.

Identifying triggers can take some time so don’t feel discouraged if you’re not able to help your child through the process. This is often the hardest part of being a parent who is caring for a child with a traumatic past. It takes time and patience, but with enough space, your child will learn how to develop the tools necessary to help them recognize their triggers and adapt their responses to those triggers over time.

#4. Developing Healthy Coping Skills

When trauma is left untreated, individuals may develop unhealthy coping skills that ultimately hurt them more in the long run. But through trauma therapy, and highly specialized forms such as trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy, your child will be able to develop healthier coping skills that will allow them to move past the trauma itself rather than get bogged down through harmful behaviors that keep drawing them back in. Some skills that are introduced through trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy can include anxiety management and relaxation strategies.

With your child’s personality, boundaries, and age taken into account, these strategies can be adjusted to meet the unique needs of your little one in youth-friendly ways. Then, when in situations where they are not in the office or around a trusted individual, your child will have the tools to cope with the situation at hand.

Over time, developing these coping mechanisms will help strengthen your child’s sense of resilience. 

Whether attempting to reclaim their personhood from a traumatic experience or simply trying to cope with a stressful situation unrelated to the trauma, these coping strategies will help your child develop into a stronger individual who can take on challenges without fearing them.

trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy for trauma

#5. Decreasing Traumatic Stress Symptoms

Just as I mentioned before, sometimes children and adults can develop traumatic stress symptoms or reactions to trauma from lack of effective treatment that are unhealthy for their overall well-being and mental health. In your child, this might manifest as a post traumatic stress disorder which can include depression, anxiety, dissociation, shame, guilt, or flashbacks and nightmares.

But the biggest things that all of these symptoms feed off of are isolation, loneliness, and fear. 

So trauma therapy including trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy is specifically designed to create a space for these issues to be talked about in the light. Rather than looming larger than life in the darkness, when confronted by your child with a trusted adult by their side, these symptoms can start to decrease over time as they develop healthier coping mechanisms and understand where these triggers come from.

These symptoms can be scary to face alone. And that’s why I will be there every step of the way to help your little one deal with these issues head-on and with a helping hand.

#6. Practicing Trauma Processing and Integration

One of the biggest goals that trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy has in mind is to help children regain the power and control over their past experiences. To do this, trauma therapy allows your child to sensitively re-narrate their story in an attempt to reclaim and redefine what that past hurt meant and will continue to mean to them, while nurturing their mental health.

As time goes on, your child will process and organize these unique understandings of their life into their everyday. They will make meaning out of these events in ways that will inform the way they encounter the world around them. And doing so will help them put down the trauma one bit at a time so they can continue to live a healthy and full life.

Trauma is a scary word because we’ve made it a scary word. But with trauma therapy, we are attempting to help you child eliminate that fear.

emdr therapy to help treat mental health disorders

Additional Types of Trauma Therapy

Another type of trauma therapy includes eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR Therapy). Therapist directed lateral eye movements are the most commonly used external stimulus to treat the trauma survivors in these types of therapy sessions.

Additionally, cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is also used to treat post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Cognitive processing therapy is a manualized therapy that includes elements of cognitive behavioral therapy to help process trauma.

When talking about issues we are actively trying to repress, we take away the power of that fear and have the opportunity to make connections in ways we may not have otherwise. That fear is something not to run away from either. In fact, that’s how most of these treatments and therapies begin.

But by slowly peeling back the layers of trauma and allowing your child to recognize that they have the power to control their own narrative, set their own boundaries, and reclaim their own body and space, your child will become a more empowered individual who is resilient in the face of challenges and willing to engage and help others who are similarly struggling.

Reach Out For Help

Being a parent is hard. And being a parent to an adopted child presents an entirely new set of challenges. But trauma therapy is here to help you and your little one cope with the past harms they may have experienced.

If you’ve read through this entire article, you’ve already demonstrated just how much you care about finding your child help and that in and of itself is commendable and important to recognize. If you have any further questions on trauma therapy, always feel free to reach out.

Keep Reading: Coping with High-Functioning Anxiety

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Becca Leitman's lens and therapeutic approach are rooted in Attachment Therapy. I believe there is great importance in developing healthy, emotionally-fulfilling connections with yourself and those closest to you. I am currently conducting all sessions online via Telehealth. I am able to work with clients from anywhere in New York, or across the country. Just know that treatment with me is a safe and confidential space, wherever it is. Let’s talk. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest , Psychology Today and LinkedIn for mental health guidance, stress and anxiety tips, therapy resources and more.

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