Breathe’s founding Executive Clinical Director, Kathleen Murphy is one of the nation’s foremost trauma therapists, and our treatment of trauma survivors is in our DNA. The word trauma is overused and little understood by the world at large. What we know about complex trauma has grown incredibly in the past decade, even as the treatment of trauma survivors has been slow to catch up.
Under Kathleen Murphy’s leadership, Breathe’s complex trauma treatment creates safety and stability in the here and the now, allowing clients to remember the trauma within a window of tolerance rather than continuing to re-enact or relive traumatic and painful states of being.
No matter what measures an individual takes to protect him or herself, there is truly no way to prevent life’s adversities from occurring. Approximately 70% of Americans have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lives, such as a divorce, the sudden loss of a loved one, a natural disaster, or a violent altercation. These one-time events can be so troubling and disconcerting that they cause individuals to suffer from serious repercussions as a result, including posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. However, there is a separate subset of people who have experienced repeated traumatic events, leading to complex trauma, or complex PTSD.
An individual cannot develop complex trauma without having back-to-back traumatic experiences occur within his or her life. Some examples of situations that can cause complex trauma include the following:
- Repeated sexual, physical, or mental abuse
- Victims of kidnapping
- Being a prisoner of war
- Repeated combat exposure
- Victims of human trafficking
- Victims of chronic neglect/abandonment
Someone who is experiencing several instances of trauma on a regular basis is unable to heal in between the traumatic events. He or she is still struggling with the effects of the previous trauma while being traumatized again. As this pattern of trauma continues, it can impact one’s self-confidence, self-acceptance, ability to adapt to stressful situations, and so on. Complex trauma treatment can help give you the tools to deal with and overcome these instances.
Symptoms of Complex Trauma
Those who have complex trauma are likely to experience similar symptoms to those who have posttraumatic stress disorder, such as detachment from their surroundings, hypervigilance, and re-experiencing the traumas. However, there are some more in-depth symptoms that can develop when someone has complex trauma, including the following:
- Persistent sadness
- Suicidal thoughts
- Explosive anger
- Forgetting traumatic events
- Feeling helpless, shameful, or guilty
- Preoccupation with the perpetrator
- Preoccupation with revenge against the perpetrator
- Constant searching for a rescuer
These symptoms can be so powerful and overwhelming that an individual can begin to partake in behaviors that he or she never did before, such as abusing drugs and/or alcohol or developing an unhealthy relationship with food that leads to an eating disorder. These individuals are also more likely to partake in self-harming behaviors and avoid all topics related to their complex trauma in an effort to cope.
What to Expect in Complex Trauma Treatment in Los Angeles
Anyone can develop complex trauma given the appropriate environment, however, some people are more likely than others to struggle with this condition. Those who have a history of mental illness, a specific type of temperament, and a lack of support in their lives are at a heightened risk for suffering from complex trauma. Thankfully, this mental health condition can be treated effectively so that the individual does not need to suffer from the effects any longer. A number of modalities approved to treat posttraumatic stress disorder are also effective in treating complex trauma.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, is a trauma treatment that has proven to be effective for those with PTSD and complex trauma. At first glance, it might seem like a strange type of treatment, however, studies have shown just how powerful it can be in helping individuals overcome complex trauma.
In an EMDR session, the therapist will provide the client with a light or object to follow with his or her eyes. As the light or object moves, the client is asked to think about a specific event or moment related to their trauma. When the movement ends, the client will discuss what he or she thought of while the therapist will work to help bridge gaps and continue the process of treatment. The goal of EMDR is to help individuals talk about things that are highly distressing without causing a huge amount of emotional stress.
Neurofeedback works to monitor and train brainwaves in an effort to help regulate one’s brain function. This is done through the use of an electroencephalograph (EEG), which is a medical device that can read activity in the brain. It is an entirely non-invasive procedure where sensors are put on the scalp so that brain waves can be read. The goal of neurofeedback is to help individuals who are suffering from complex trauma learn how to retrain their brain based on the results of their neurofeedback tests. By doing so, the brain can begin to function to the best of its ability, allowing an individual to be more receptive to therapy that can help them cope with their complex trauma.
Medication and Psychotherapy
Traditional psychotherapy, as well as medication, can be helpful for those who have complex trauma but who are not in need of more intense treatment. Psychotherapy sessions can help provide an individual with a safe space to discuss his or her complex trauma with a trained professional who can offer effective therapeutic treatments. In addition, an individual can also work with a psychiatrist at the same time that he or she is engaging in psychotherapy to receive medications that might help balance out chemicals in the brain that are adding to the distress of their complex trauma. Two of the most commonly utilized medications used to treat complex trauma include Paxil and Zoloft, which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRI’s.
Additionally, through psychotherapy sessions, a three-phase approach is often applied to complex trauma treatment:
- Improving the individual’s safety, reducing symptoms, and skills training
- Processing and reappraising of the unresolved trauma memories
- Consolidating treatment gains
Recover With Complex Trauma Treatment at Breathe
Do you struggle with the effects of complex trauma? If so, you are one of the millions of people who are dealing with the aftermath of events that have changed their lives completely. Thankfully, you do not need to carry that burden of sadness, despair, anger, and hopelessness with you any longer.
If you are someone with complex trauma in Los Angeles, you can begin working with experienced professionals who can help you manage your traumas in ways that foster healing and positive growth in the right direction.
Do not wait any longer. Reach out to our complex trauma treatment team and get the help you deserve to live a healthy, trauma-free life.