Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are tough and challenging experiences that some of us go through while growing up. These experiences can happen at home, school, or in the community, and they can have a big impact on how a person feels and behaves later in life.
ACEs can include things like:
- Physical abuse: This happens when a child is physically hurt by someone, like being hit, slapped, or kicked
- Emotional abuse: This is when a child is constantly criticized, yelled at, or made to feel worthless by someone who should be caring for them
- Neglect: This occurs when a child's basic needs, like food, clothing, and love, are not met by their caregivers.
- Household dysfunction: This includes living with someone who has a drug or alcohol problem, mental health issues, or a history of being in jail. This can also include a caregiver that has severe chronic illness
- Loss or separation: Losing a parent or someone close to you, or going through a divorce or separation
- Witnessing violence: Seeing violence in the home or community, like domestic violence or neighborhood fights
- Discrimination: Facing unfair treatment or prejudice because of your race, ethnicity, religion, or other factors
"Trauma therapy has the power to unlock the chains of the past, heal the wounds of the present, and create a brighter future."
Trauma therapists play a vital role in helping individuals who have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and other traumatic events. We have specialized training and expertise in working with trauma and its effects on mental and emotional well-being.
How Do I Know If I Need Trauma Therapy?
If you live in Colorado and have experienced difficult or challenging events during your childhood, you may want to consider trauma therapy. In Colorado, almost 40% of children and about two-thirds of adults have been through at least one tough experience during their early years.
So, how do you know if trauma therapy is right for you? Here are some things to think about:
- Lingering emotional struggles: If you often feel upset, anxious, or sad, and these feelings don't go away, trauma therapy can help you better understand and manage your emotions.
- Problems in daily life: If your past experiences are causing difficulties in your daily life, like trouble sleeping, problems at work or school, or challenges in your relationships with family and friends, trauma therapy can provide support and guidance.
- Triggers and intense reactions: If certain things, like specific places, people, or situations, remind you of your past experiences and make you feel overwhelmed, trauma therapy can teach you strategies to cope with these triggers and reactions, and over time, make them less intense
- Struggling with relationships: If you find it hard to trust others, have trouble getting close to people, or frequently have conflicts in your relationships, trauma therapy can help you understand how your past experiences affect your interactions and provide tools to improve your connections with others
- Engaging in harmful behaviors: If you use unhealthy coping mechanisms, like turning to drugs or alcohol, self-harming, or taking unnecessary risks, trauma therapy can support you in finding healthier ways to cope and take care of yourself
- Feeling alone and confused: If you often feel isolated, like nobody understands what you've been through, and struggle to make sense of your own emotions, trauma therapy can provide a safe space for you to share and process your experiences and understand you had a normal response to an abnormal situation
How Do You Heal From Trauma?
My practice, Michelle Kostic Therapy, is located in the neighborhood of Greenwood Village in Denver, Colorado, as well as remotely all over Colorado, and I use a combination of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy with other modalities.
I like to explain Sensorimotor Psychotherapy as a mix of regression therapy using mindfulness in the present moment.
Mindfulness is a valuable tool that can help us as we revisit past memories in order to gain insight, touch on unresolved issues, and promote healing. Through mindfulness practices, we can approach our past memories without becoming overwhelmed or engaging in self-criticism. Instead, we observe our experiences with curiosity and acceptance, fostering a compassionate and open mindset.
Through this experience, we have an opportunity to rewire the way these memories are remembered in the brain. When we originally developed the trauma or challenging experiences, we may not have had the necessary support or resources available to process them fully. However, by engaging in regression therapy with the added element of mindfulness, we can create a supportive environment that was lacking in the past. This newfound support allows us to approach those memories with a different perspective and provide ourselves with the care and understanding we may have needed at that time. It can be very powerful.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy can be combined with other therapeutic modalities which is why I offer an integrative approach combining different therapeutic modalities, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Prolonged Exposure therapy, to maximize the benefits of our work together.
CBT is a widely used therapeutic approach that focuses on the connection between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Through CBT, we identify and challenge unhelpful thought patterns and develop healthier ways of thinking and responding to challenging situations.
DBT is specifically designed to help individuals who struggle with intense emotions and difficulties in relationships. It combines elements of CBT with mindfulness practices and skills for emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.
And lastly, Prolonged Exposure therapy is a treatment specifically developed for individuals who have experienced PTSD. It aims to reduce the distressing symptoms associated with trauma by gradually and safely facing the memories, situations, or places that trigger the traumatic reactions. Through systematic and controlled exposure, you can gain mastery over the traumatic experiences and reduce the power they hold over your life. Studies have generally found that Prolonged Exposure therapy produces symptom improvement in 80% to 90% of people who undergo it.
How Do You Treat Complex Trauma in Adults?
It is never too late to begin the healing process from complex trauma, even if the traumatic experiences occurred a long time ago and you did not have access to play therapy as a child. While play therapy can be beneficial for children, there are various therapeutic approaches available for adults to address complex trauma effectively.
Healing from complex trauma involves understanding that the impact of past experiences can still be addressed and transformed. Therapists who specialize in trauma work with adults using evidence-based approaches specifically designed for adult clients. These approaches focus on creating a safe therapeutic space, fostering trust, and promoting healing.
Therapy for complex trauma in adults often includes talk therapy, where you can engage in conversations with your therapist to explore your thoughts, emotions, and memories associated with the traumatic experiences. We help you develop a deeper understanding of how the trauma has influenced your life and support you in developing coping strategies, emotional regulation skills, and new perspectives.
While play therapy is more commonly used with children, adults can also benefit from creative therapies, such as art therapy, music therapy, or dance/movement therapy. These modalities provide alternative avenues for expression and exploration of emotions and experiences.
Is Trauma Therapy for PTSD?
Yes, trauma therapy is commonly used to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related conditions. It is designed to address the specific symptoms and challenges associated with PTSD and help individuals heal from the effects of trauma.
Here are some things I recommend my clients do in preparation for trauma therapy:
- Interview different trauma specialized therapists and find one that you feel confident in
- Prioritize self-care activities such as exercise, relaxation techniques, mindfulness, healthy eating, and adequate sleep
- Explore local resources for coping activities you enjoy, such as photography in the Rocky Mountains, hiking in Boulder, attending a Denver yoga class, or participating in art therapy workshops at the Colorado Art Therapy Association
- Identify specific areas you would like to work on and set realistic expectations for yourself