PTSD and Complex Trauma Therapy
 

 A neuroscience informed program using EMDR, somatic exercises, to recover safety and control of your mind, body and your relationship with yourself. 

 

Heal deeply:

Hopeful + Empowered + Active + Living

Heal your wounds.
Fulfill your potential.
Transform. Evolve.
I specialize in Trauma Treatment

I am a credentialed psychotherapist in private practice and a qualified mental health professional trained in the most effective methods of our time. I adopted EMDR early on, as it provides a way to accelerate the healing of trauma, including complex trauma. EMDR  is an evidence based treatment. While the research pertains to trauma, EMDR has since been proven to be effective for other therapeutic goals, as well.  

TRAUMA TREATMENT AND EMDR

 

TRAUMA Therapy: PTSD  & COMPLEX Post traumatic stress

Over the past two decades, I developed a specialty in addictions and trauma.  These two terms are quite broad and include a core experience of suffering and challenges that often stump traditional treatment pathways.  

Addiction typically brings to mind substances but there are plenty of process addictions sweeping society: shopping, working, gambling, codependency, sex, internet, tv/media  (so much so that binge watching is considered normal as is marathon video gaming), in addition to other patterns of escapism,   The Addict archetype has gotten his wings!  The fundamental condition in addiction is 'loss of control', an obsessive, compulsive quality, and a corresponding loss of freedom.  

Trauma, especially complex trauma (trauma that occurs in childhood, or accompanies someone over many years of their lives), frequently underlies addiction.  As our society is increasingly addictive, it also exhibits many signs and symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Trauma work if very fulfilling to me and it is my professional passion. On a professional level it pushed you to continue to grow and to synthesize from different strands and methods in therapy.  Effective trauma work has to put front and center the body, the emotions, and the spirit (the inner world of meaning and value, as trauma disrupts a person's entire worldview and belief system). The mind is, of course, always present, and I like to leave it last so as not to overemphasize it, since that overemphasis is the source of our collective imbalance.

Trauma draws all of a person's resources  (physical and psychological) to protect you from the overwhelming threat. The switch is flicked so thoroughly that, even after it passes, you remain "on", assessing and anticipating more threats and injuries. Traumatic memory is not really a memory, it remains alive and activated within the body and it affects every moment. You are locked in this perpetual struggle with danger,  leading to  1) a controlled existence to ward off danger and 2) a dependence on inorganic sources of pleasure, since the trauma survivor are numb to the natural reward circuit in the brain (the pleasure center).

The effects of trauma can mimic many common diagnoses, leading to many ineffective treatment experiences and the perpetuation of suffering for trauma survivors. I believe many "treatment resistant" conditions are misdiagnosed and approached erroneously.

Sub-clinically, meaning not an "official" diagnosis, many people experience intense pain in their lives as a result of ineffective, if not detrimental, patterns of living that have their roots in trauma. Codependency or ACOA dynamics are good examples of these patterns.  From being in one toxic relationship after another, to remaining in unrewarding work environments; tolerating adverse situations;  avoidance patterns and self sabotage; living with the pain of an unstable self image and mood; the corrosive force of chronic depression; impulsive or compulsive behaviors that either directly or indirectly lead to self injury, up to and including suicidal, or homicidal, thoughts. All of these, and more, can be manifestations of trauma.

The traumatized person is "stuck" in a particular mode, from the physical level of brain and body, to the psychological experiences and behavioral patterns. The trauma dialectic, its polarity, points to a treatment that is also dialectical. We must include the body and the "mind", (and all the rest of you),  is indicated by the very essence of the traumatic experience. A quote from Bessel van der Kolk, the godfather of trauma treatment,

Trauma victims cannot recover until they become familiar with and befriend the sensations in their bodies. Being frightened means that you live in a body that is always on guard. Angry people live in angry bodies. The bodies of child-abuse victims are tense and defensive until they find a way to relax and feel safe. In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past.
— Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. "The Body Keeps the Score. Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma."

Both the process of becoming aware and the "inside" where we experience what's going on, is a somatic experience.

Being present with yourself, without defenses, is true intimacy. Without the capacity for intimacy, you can't be fully present. Without presence,  you cannot experience the quality you cherish most:: Wholeness. You may call it by many names: fullness; completion; fulfillment; gratification; sexual (or other) satisfaction, etc.  The lack of wholeness is painful, which then leads to suffering, as you try to fill the void with externals. That strategy never works. It only leads to addiction, compulsion and dependency, all taking you farther away from your rightful state of self love, empowerment and self mastery.

Here's another quote by Dr. van der Kolk that restates my message in his language:

Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going on inside ourselves.
— Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.

Your body, or rather, your Soma (your entire physiology, complete with its own native intelligence) is far more than the luggage you use to haul around the more important "stuff" (e.g., the mind). Nor is it a passive witness, a victim or survivor of your life, depending on your perspective.  Your soma, aside from being fundamentally 'you',  possesses powerful resources we are only now beginning to discover.  I embrace those technologies wholeheartedly.


HEALING TRAUMA

Human beings, and all living beings really, are fascinating. We are composed of specialized, complex systems that cooperate with each other, to do more than just keep you alive, but to assist you to grow. Life is all about growth.

Your experiences impact these systems in many ways. The natural process of health is movement. Experiences moves through you, and you move on to the next. Wounds, scars, and symptoms, demonstrate a point of being "stuck". Trauma is an extreme block in that energy that was created in the past, through the traumatic experience, continues to express itself in the moment. You are in both the past and present, with one foot in each. You are divided. It feels like a war is being waged within you. 

That place where you straddle the line between the past and the now. is the produce of dissociation. In plain lanuage, dissociation is the state of being separated from your center. A simple test: where do you breathe from? Your chest or your diaphragm (belly)? You are built to breathe from your center, i.e. the center of your body. Is that your chest? When you breathe from your chest, it sends a message to the brain that you are in danger. Your brain then releases neurochemicals to mobilize against the threat (ordinary stress and tension is mild activation of "fight/flight/freeze" activation).  The disconnect from your core is not exclusive to trauma survivors, but trauma locks you out of your center, on a physiological level.  You are stuck in a traumatic loop: activated by the trauma, reacting and trying to control it,  resorting to avoidance, until you encounter numbing and a fealing of emptiness inside.  

EMDR

EMDR is the cornerstone of my work. I am utilize advanced technology to assist bilateral processing but never replacing the relational heart of therapy with an over-reliance on "technique".

 

My unique approach is grounded in:

1) Evidence based practices proven to heal
2) Relational approach: safety is crucial. I help you regulate yourself until you can do it alone.
3) Neuroscience: the way to balance the body by including the body. Somatic approaches are essential for trauma healing (e.g. Mindfulness, Somatic Experiencing, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Hakomi). 

I am pleased to participate in the Kinsey Institute Traumatic Stress Research Consortium this year, chaired by Dr. Stephen Porges, originator of the Poly Vagal Theory, which revolutionized trauma treatment.

I wil soon be making available his "Safe and Sound Protocol", which you can see more here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kqhqedPoXc

 

SPECIALIZING IN

Alongside my relational work, which is the essence of therapy, I integrate EMDR alongside a strong somatosensory  approach very compatible with Pat Ogden's work in "Sensorimotor Psychotherapy). This includes many exercises designed to create a positive relationship between you and your body, which begins with somatic awareness, and Mindfulness and related skills building.

Over the years, I distilled my successful work with clients into a unique system I can teach and disseminate more widely, which I plan to do via online programming. The organizing principle is essentially the process of establishing a genuine and authentic relationship with yourself. 

 

EMDR FAQs

Where do you see clients for EMDR?

I see clients in Rapid City and Custer. Contact me for availability.

Do you take insurance?

While I do participate in certain insurance networks, EMDR sessions are recommended to be 90 minutes in length, which insurance will not reimburse. I use EMDR in shorter sessions, though it may not be sufficient.

How many sessions are required?

EMDR has a reputation for almost miraculous results, resolving symptoms in anywhere from 4 to 6 sessions. I've had success in less. However, it entirely depends on whether your trauma is an isolated incident, such as a car accident, a dog bite, witnessing a violent or gruesome situation, etc. If your trauma unfolded over decades, as is the case with complex trauma, then while your symptoms of PTSD may abate in a short time, this doesn't mean all your wounds are healed. Most people think of "EMDR" as the eye movement part. That is one phase of EMDR. It may be necessary to spend longer periods on the foundational stages, such as building safety, which will affect the duration of treatment. I can only give you a working estimate after the initial assessment.