Healing the Past Childhood Trauma with Therapy for Adults
I am a professional counselor in Centennial and Castle Rock, specializing in Healing Your Past, which includes adverse childhood experiences, such as abuse or neglect or one time incidents of assault. I am trained in EMDR therapy, a highly effective method of healing trauma at the core.
We Cannot Outrun Our Pasts
I specialize in childhood trauma therapy for adults. It can be emotionally scary and exhausting to consider facing the abuse you survived long ago. You may instead want to excuse your caretaker(s), insisting that what you endured was not as bad as what some other children endured. However, there is no order or ranking for this kind of pain. Your experience of pain or shame is valid. Regardless of what you went through, if you internalized the messages that damaged your sense self-worth, belonging, competence and worthiness-of-love, your trauma is no less significant than what other people endured.
For example, perhaps your parent(s) called you “stupid.” If this name-calling had an impact on your self-esteem, does it matter how often they did this? Sometimes the damage is done the first time, especially because, as child, you were particularly vulnerable to such messages. You might have brought home a less than perfect report card, and already felt low. If your parent(s) response seemed to confirm your worst fears about your intelligence, you may have taken that message to heart. Perhaps without realizing it, you may being going through the rest of your life fighting the thought that you are indeed “stupid.” Do you ever hear yourself repeat a very negative statement about your worth or worthiness and wonder where it came from?
However for many, this blow to self-esteem is magnified by ongoing negative assessments throughout your childhood. Even though your memory often blocks out the repetition of painful events, the more often you heard something or experienced something, the more it shapes your sense of identity. Now, it can be difficult to believe that you are capable, valuable and worthy of love if you only received messages telling you the opposite. This includes messages that come in the form of physical blows or sexual touch, as well as neglect to provide healthcare, clothing or adequate shelter when it was available. It takes 10 positive statements or actions to undo the effects from one negative comment or action. Sadly, often times that does not happen. Parents or older siblings are the primary offenders of these emotional or physical assaults.
Signs that you may be dealing with childhood trauma include:
Difficulty remembering your childhood.
Your body keeps the score so you may experience multiple physical ailments or fatigue.
A feeling of numbness as you go through your day,week, years.
The sense that you are not the author and creator of your life story.
An ever-present sense of sadness or depression that may not be debilitating, but seems to block your access to joy or happiness and healthy relationships.
The need to stay busy to avoid the self-criticisms running in the back of your head.
An addiction to sex, substances, shopping or work.
An overactive brain that does not shut off at night.
Inability to advocate for yourself or the opposite; an overly emotional reactivity to your environment.
Over attentiveness to everyone’s needs except your own needs.
Obsessive or compulsive behaviors.
Difficulty justifying taking time for yourself.
If you have experienced a less-than-nurturing home as a child, you may now be aware of these trauma symptoms, including the negative self-talk. However, although you can identify it, you may lack the skills to challenge it. Instead, you might believe that you deserve those harsh judgments—that, somehow, you deserve to feel bad about yourself. You may have flashes of hurtful moments you experienced from your childhood, but not fully understand or accept that they were life-changing events. You may just want peace with the only family you know. If you grew up in an abusive home, you may numb yourself out to your present life. It is a form of self-protection so that no further confusing or damaging things happen to you. Anger can also be a form of self-protection.
Add to that it is just plain scary to go back to the place you need to go to heal the past.
An addiction to substances can come with childhood abuse, especially if you are desperate to numb your emotions and escape from the past life that was so filled with abuse or chaos. But, it’s just as likely that you might steer clear of harmful addictive behavior in adulthood because you felt so “out-of-control” in your childhood.
How Can Childhood Trauma Therapy for Adults Help?
I recognize that it takes great courage to come in for therapy. Regardless of the particulars of your experience, healing is possible for you.
During sessions, I will help you:
Establish “go/no-go” signals for how far we go into the trauma during a session. You will be in control of that aspect of the sessions!
Create visual images that create a distance between you and your trauma, especially if you have intrusive flashbacks or memories.
This can look like placing the memory on a DVD that only plays when you want it to, because you have the TV controller.
Or placing the trauma memory in a vase on a high shelf that only you can access.
Realize and help you embed into your memory positive life images, positive life events and positive calming metaphors and similes that help create a sense of belonging, strength and safety.
This might look like creating a list of your strengths and then finding something that embodies those strengths as the real symbol of who you are. Some images clients have chosen in the past include falcons, Bengal tigers, mountains, flowers and bridges.
Believe that you have a right to have and maintain healthy boundaries. Healthy personal boundaries are a very difficult concept to grasp for those who have been abused. However, owning your own boundaries will help you activate a greater awareness of your body so you can identify when you are safe and what to do if you are not.
Develop mindfulness skills. I have found that mindfulness is essential to taking back your mind and body from the abuser’s control. Currently, you may not feel they have control over you and your life choices. If the messages of unworthiness or incompetence are playing in your head, then they still have some control over your happiness and decision-making. I begin by teaching a very simple breathing technique that allows you to start paying attention to your body in a very non-judgmental way. Ask me about neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to change and heal. I love to help others understand the significance of it in trauma recovery!
Powerful Healing With EMDR
Another therapy approach I use is EMDR therapy. This combines well with mindfulness and meditation to fully integrate the experience of your body and mind, allowing you to completely process your trauma to a healthy conclusion. EMDR also helps the brain stay in the present, in the room with me, while you explore your pain in your past.
This innovative, scientifically validated form of childhood trauma treatment employs a simple process of stimulating both sides of your brain with either two handheld buzzers or a headset that creates a buzzing sound alternating between one ear and the other. This allows us to unlock, while dialoguing with you, the painful parts of your past. We will discuss why they were so painful and move to integrate those parts into the whole of who you are. Then, the memories will remain memories, without so much power over your emotions and self-perception.
Remember, you are allowed to stop the process whenever it becomes too painful with a go/no-go signal.