Trauma Work

In recent years the practice of psychotherapy has increasingly recognized the influence of emotional and physical trauma on the psyche of the individual. In 1992 Dr C returned to academia to complete a doctoral degree. The focus of her studies and her dissertation was to understand and evaluate treatment options for individuals impacted by traumas. Trauma may include near death experiences, traumatic losses (e.g. sudden death of a loved one, devastation of one’s home or surroundings as in 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina), childhood physical, sexual or emotional abuse. A trauma is defined as an event which suddenly disrupts one’s sense of safety, predictability and stability. Traumatic events so disrupt the individual’s coping mechanisms that they may cause lifelong emotional problems such as anxiety or depression.

Traditional therapeutic tools are seldom effective when mood disorders have a trauma base. Emotional difficulties of traumatic origin require treatment based on resolving trauma residue. Trauma residue refers to the unprocessed, unresolved emotional remnants of a traumatic event. When one experiences a trauma typically the self is overwhelmed and coping mechanisms fail. The individual moves into survival mode (fight, flight or freeze), doing whatever is needed to survive the assault of one’s sensibilities. Immediately after trauma most individuals attempt to resume normal functioning as soon as possible. It is as if we have to prove that life can still go on and, therefore, put the traumatic event behind us as quickly as possible. In doing so, we often fail to process the emotions attached to the trauma; those emotions become suppressed and stay within the psychological structure often contaminating our responses to day-to-day life. For example, someone who has been mugged at gunpoint in broad daylight, might return to work but experience anxiety, paranoia and panic whenever s/he is in an open, unprotected space. The fear and anxiety that was experienced when the attack occurred is replayed and often creates additional concerns and symptoms if left untreated.

Because traumatic material is stored in a non-linear, non-rational manner traditional psychotherapeutic techniques are usually ineffective in treating posttraumatic stress disorders. Dr. Coughlin uses techniques particular to trauma to uncover and resolve traumatic residue. She is committed to assisting her clients achieve emotional comfort and will frequently schedule extended sessions to assure that traumatic material is fully resolved prior to ending a session. If trauma work is scheduled, you will not be re-traumatized by beginning to “tell the story and be abruptly interrupted by the end of the 50 minute hour. Using the proper techniques trauma related emotional disorders and PTSD can be healed.