Limantour Beach, West Marin, CA
Healing from Trauma
Traumatic experiences are diverse and can be a singular event like an accident, life-threatening illness, early death of a parent, death or loss of a significant other. It can be on-going, as in growing up in an addictive or dysfunctional family, or membership in a high demand group including an abusive group or relationship. Sometimes people don't initially recognize the trauma they've endured nor understand its consequences yet they find themselves in varying degrees of distress in their current lives. Traumatic experience can involve neglect, physical, sexual or emotional abuse and exploitation. It can involve coercive influence or abuse from a spouse, family, professional organization, cultural milieu, or high demand group. In such systems, members must comply to the demands of the authority figure or dominant partner, with loss of basic personal rights, healthy developmental goals and interests that are essential for one's happiness and growth.
Responses from a traumatic event can be identified in a symptom cluster of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). Part of recovery is recognition that people have "normal" responses to trauma and loss.
Healing from trauma can be experienced as less intense and less frequent painful feelings, thoughts, and associations from the traumatic event(s) that intrude into one's current life. It also involves learning how to self-regulate intense hyper-aroused emotions, learning "triggers", and knowing how to work with them.
As studies have shown for the past 40 years according to the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group, recovery can be supported through gaining insight; disconfirming deeply-held, inaccurate, self-limiting beliefs, some of which may be unconscious. Recovery also involves experiencing better outcomes than in the past or having "corrective emotional experiences", with partners, family, friends, and associates.
Janina Fisher, a leader in the trauma recovery field, helps us recognize how trauma affects the mind and body and how we can learn to identify and understand trauma triggers and our responses that sometimes seem to come "out of the blue". We can learn about our protective defense mechanisms were useful for us in the past but are not beneficial currently, and we can be compassionate toward ourselves and all the parts of ourselves.
In my private practice, I interactively and collaboratively help you with your individual needs and goals. This may involve individual therapy (in office, via phone, or secure Zoom), couple counseling, family therapy, participation in one of the groups or workshops I facilitate, or a combination of the above. It may be short or long term therapy or counseling. You may also choose to consult with me regarding a specific area or one in which I specialize. For our work together to be successful, I maintain a respectful, safe, therapeutic environment, maintaining ethical and legal professional standards.
As my approach to therapy and counseling is non-authoritarian and client-led, you take the lead on what you want to work on, at your own pace. In both my private and agency experience, I've received positive feedback from clients who seek help with various difficulties and challenges in living. Typically, they report that they feel respected, safe, heard, and understood; that the work we do together has led to successful outcomes. In my opinion, the psychotherapeutic relationship should consist of an equal power dynamic, and it must be compatible to each client so that effective work takes place in and outside of the office. You are the final authority on your life choices and goals, not the therapist or anyone else.
I believe that recovery and change are individual processes that can involve learning how to work with stressors and triggers, reevaluating relationships and finding solutions to challenging situations. It also often involves learning more effective communication skills; recognizing one's limits and setting boundaries; appreciating one's strengths and one's vulnerabilities; knowing one's personal rights; prioritizing self-care. These changes can occur within a trusted psychotherapeutic relationship (individual or in group) and in other life experiences.
Recovery is also a process of finding peace within and awareness of one's body, identifying and changing patterns of behavior that may have worked in the past, but are no longer effective. Recovery is also understood as a process of integrating traumatic experience and loss into a coherent narrative. Trauma is long-term and it can become less apparent in one's life so one can feel truly alive in the present.
People seek out professional help with me for various reasons, including:
- recovering from trauma and loss;
- gaining relief from painful feelings and responses;
- changing self-limiting or self-sabotaging patterns;
- strengthening a relationship;
- relating to family members more effectively;
- resolving psychological conflict;
- solving a challenging problem;
- learning more effective psychosocial skills;
- disconfirming inaccurate, self-limiting beliefs;
- attaining individual goals;
- managing stressors and transitions (divorce, separation, job change, move, illness, phase of life change, leaving a community, etc);
- deepening understanding of self and self-identity negotiation
- Increasing self-esteem;
- finding your “fit” in life;
- exploring meaning of life issues.
As studies have shown and I have observed, the quality of the relationship between therapist and client, including a client’s trust of and feeling understood by the therapist, are primary factors in healing and change. I endeavor to maintain a safe, trusting, and accurately attuned relationship with each individual, couple, family or group client. A good part of my work is educational and occasionally I may disclose personal experience when it seems helpful and relevant. I may also incorporate basic mindfulness awareness and neuroscience into my practice.