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TRAUMA AND PTSD
When people use the word trauma, they often mean different things. For some, this means that they have gone through a very difficult experience, such as a divorce, loss of a job, or a family crisis. Others may use the word trauma to refer to having been subjected to emotional, physical or sexual abuse, or neglectful caretaking as a child. For yet others, trauma may refer to living through life-threatening events such as a natural disaster, terrorist attack, serving in the armed forces during a time of conflict, car accidents, or being a victim of crime or violence. All of these definitions of trauma are legitimate, as are each person’s labeling of an experience as traumatic.
Experiencing trauma does not mean that one will develop PTSD. However, those who experience traumatic events may have impairments in their life such as work problems, physical complaints, lower quality of life, problems with intimacy, and even suicidal thoughts. Early intervention is key. Medication may also be useful.
For those who have experienced some form of abuse as a child or teen, the episode(s) can become interwoven in the fabric of daily life. Often, people have trouble forming trusting, stable relationships, or conversely, may be too vulnerable with others. They may have difficulty with emotional regulation and problems with depression, anxiety, and anger. Sometimes drugs, alcohol, food, sex or self-injury may be used as a means of trying to ameliorate distress and regulate moods. They may have trouble identifying unhealthy relationships that they are in, and have real difficulty with self-advocacy. Doubting their own instincts, they may ignore unsafe situations, and signs of potential danger.
TREATMENT FOR TRAUMA
In the first session I work to help the client to work on establishing a sense of safety - a sense that they will not be judged, that their information will be kept private, and that I can help them manage the feelings that come up in session. I provide therapy that utilizes evidenced-based approaches, and teach calming and distraction techniques, such as relaxation breathing, visual imagery, and mindfulness to help with the emotional overload that often accompanies trauma. However, recovering from trauma is more than learning self-regulation techniques. I help the client explore their negative self-image and sense of self-blame often associated with traumatic experiences, and begin to develop a new, healthier narrative of who they are and where they've been. We explore dysfunctional patterns of behavior in the present and find their roots in past traumatic experiences. I help the client learn to set limits and boundaries, and to better gauge their needs. We work on learning better ways of protecting oneself and responding to feeling unsafe. I help the client identify their strengths, and begin to see themselves as a strong and resilient person. Finally, I help the client construct a sense of meaning and purpose that emerges from their trauma, which helps foster growth. I blend this multi-pronged approach, and tailor it to suit each individual.
RELEVANT PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE
I received trauma training at Columbia University Medical Center, and hands-on training in several hospital-based jobs. I have worked with survivors and first responders after 9/11, and provided treatment, outreach, workshops, and trainings through a Red Cross grant-funded program.
Through a joint program between the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, The Children's Health Fund, and the Louisiana Department of Health School-Based Health Center, I provided trainings in recognizing and treating trauma in children for educators and clinicians in the Gulf Coast following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
I have presented and conducted workshops at Yale Child Study Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital on vicarious trauma experienced by health care professionals who work with trauma victims.
My work on self-care after disasters has been published in the journal Pediatrics.
I also work with individuals who have experienced different types of trauma, such as childhood abuse and neglect, sexual assault, and domestic violence. Additionally, I run a women's support group focusing on trauma.
SERIOUS MENTAL ILLNESS
Another passion of mine is my work with individuals with serious mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I help people recognize symptoms of their illness and develop coping skills. Importantly, I also help people recognize what are NOT symptoms of their illness but rather normal fluctuations in mood, thinking, and functioning. I firmly believe that you are not your illness or diagnosis. My empathic and caring work has been cited in"Transforming Madness, New Lives for People Living with Mental Illness" by Jay Neugeboren.
I also work with families who have a member affected by serious mental illness, helping them understand the illness, support the family member, and reduce stress in their lives.