PTSD and Complex Trauma Therapy
A neuroscience informed program using EMDR and embodied practices to recovery safety and control of your mind, body and your relationship with yourself.
Hopeful + Empowered + Active + Living
Heal your wounds.
Fulfill your potential.
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 single incident trauma. With complex trauma, aka attachment trauma, you may have learned to rely on dissociative defenses- the freeze state- require EMDR to be integrated with other somatic approaches. To that end, I created a multi pronged program with specialty tracks to transform the toughest defensive patterns so that you can heal complex I specialize in the applications of trauma treatment for complex, or attachment related trauma, and dissociation.
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.
The word “addiction” typically brings to mind substances but there are plenty of process addictions sweeping society: shopping, working, gambling, codependency, sex, internet, tv/media, and other patterns of escapism (so much so that binge watching is considered normal, as is marathon video gaming). 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, in the context of important relationships, or that accompanies someone over many years of their lives, like domestic violence), 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 me to continue to grow and to synthesize from different strands and methods in therapy.
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,
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:
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.
An Integrative Approach
For most of the end of the 20th Century, the mind was reduced to the brain. Thankfully, the 21st Century changed all of that, with the advent of superior technology that allowed us to understand how we function on a deeper level. Effective trauma work MUST consider the whole person, beginning with the body, the most immediate way you encounter yourself and your experiences. Your emotions are also crucial to recovery. At the most basic level, they are how your body communicates with you. Your spirit is what enables you to transmit yourself, including your sense of meaning and value, to the rest of the world, as well as to take in what’s being shared with you. 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. Your beliefs, your attitudes, your internal dialogue, and your communication with others is deeply intertwined with how your body took in a particular experience, how your responded to the feelings you encountered there, and mediate how you turn around and face the world, through your spirit. You experience yourself and your life through these different modes of experience: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. They are all strands running through you. You are literally one with all of that. Separating them like that and treating them individually is a convention- a practice born out of our limited knowledge and resources in the past, then it became “the wya it is”. It is not a reflection of how things are.
The ACES research study clearly identified how trauma impacts sickness, health, longevity. It isn’t a poetic methaphor anymore.
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, along with other somatic approaches, 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).
Polyvagal Theory & SSP
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 now offer The "Safe and Sound Protocol", which you can see more here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kqhqedPoXc
More about my SSP package here:
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.
Ego State Therapy, including Internal Family Systems (IFS), which seeks to heal the parts of you you cannot accept, many of which are unconscious and emerge as symptoms or problems in the body. They also can be the reason why you can’t seem to “get past” an event in your life. .
Where do you see clients for EMDR?
I see clients in Rapid City and Custer. Contact me for availability.
What is EMDR exactly?
Most people think of "EMDR" as the eye movement part. That is one phase of EMDR. The other phases are
1) History and Treatment Planning
4) Desensitization (Eye Movements or Tactile Parts)
6) Body Scan
How many sessions are required?
EMDR has a well deserved reputation for “quick recovery”, resolving symptoms in anywhere from 4 to 6 sessions. I've had success with even less.
However…as always, “It Depends!”
EMDR research usually is restricted to adult onset, single incident trauma. In fact, the “standard protocol”- the 8 phases and what they consist of- is based on single incident PTSD. These consist of: car accidents, a dog bite, witnessing a violent or gruesome situation, etc. Combat trauma typically falls into this category, although many veterans I’ve worked with also experienced complex trauma, well before they ever got into combat situations. So…..
My specialty is in what most of my clients experienced “Complex Trauma”. That requires EMDR PLUS. Most persons can understand that it is a different situation if you experience an isolated traumatic experience when you are more mature. Most people also understand that experiences that occur over time- we call this ‘chronic’- tend to have far more pervasive and enduring effects. Most people can also understand that traumatic experiences that occur in very important, i.e., “special” relationships, such as by your caregivers, are far more corrosive than when they occur say, in random strangers or less intimate contexts.
My experience is in both types of trauma, EMDR is especially good at alleviating hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD more rapidly than without EMDR. These symptoms are those associated with the fight, flight response. The other side is the dissociative spectrum, such as freezing, numbness, detachment, avoidance. It requires more time to access the material if you are “shut down”, than when you are in “overdrive”. You may start in overdrive and find your way to shutdown. These are poles on a continuum of PTSD. So, my bottom line is: I do not like to look at it healing on a time limited basis. it is counterproductive. Haste makes waste in this too.