What is trauma?

Trauma has historically been identified as resulting from major incidents (sexual assault, physical abuse, witnessing violence, etc.), but now we know that trauma is much more broad. Trauma is a process that happens in the brain instead of a certain type of event. This means trauma can be almost anything that leaves a lasting impact on the neural framework of the brain.

We typically categorize trauma into three types:

  • Simple trauma - while it's never actually simple, "simple trauma" refers to a traumatic event (or events) that causes a classic trauma response in the brain. Most often, clients in this category are diagnosed with PTSD and have classic symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, high anxiety, intrusive thoughts/images, stimuli avoidance (avoiding certain places, noises, people, etc.), difficulty sleeping, and difficulty focusing.

  • Developmental/attachment trauma - this is the type of trauma that occurs when there is an insecure attachment to primary caregivers (most often parents) when children are young. Insecure attachments often result from parents who struggle with their own mental health issues, parents who are absent from the home, parents who display conditional acceptance (a child who is only shown affection when they behave well or get all A's, for example), parents who struggle with substance abuse, and parents who are neglectful. Often times people in this category have no "major trauma" and do not identify themselves as having a trauma history. Common symptoms of attachment trauma include; negative beliefs about oneself (I'm not good enough, I don't matter, I'm only worth something if I'm perfect, etc.), low self esteem/feeling insecure, difficulty in relationships, excessive focus on achievements (work, sports, etc.), strained relationship with family of origin, difficulty managing emotions, feeling excessive guilt or shame (especially when angry or when setting boundaries).

  • Complex trauma - complex trauma is essentially the combination of attachment trauma and simple trauma, often stemming from a long duration of traumatic experiences (childhood abuse/neglect, domestic violence, etc). Symptoms of both simple trauma and attachment trauma are present and are often severe and extremely limiting. Dissociation often occurs in this category as well, which is identified by symptoms such as feeling spacey when triggered, losing chunks of time, having little or no memory of childhood/traumatic experiences, losing control of oneself (especially when big emotions occur), and feeling as though ones personality has very distinct "parts".

How do I know if I have trauma?

You may identify obvious traumatic experiences, obvious symptoms of trauma (identified above), or have been told you have a history of trauma if you have a hard time remembering. Most often, though, our clients come to us because they've been stuck in therapy before and feel something in their past is holding them back. For most of our clients, within the first few sessions we are able to identify past experiences or patterns that have created difficulty in the present. If you feel stuck in recurrent patterns that you don't understand or can't shift out of, or have been stuck in therapy before, it is likely there is something in your past that is causing difficulty.

Therapy hasn't helped before - why will this be different?

Often times our clients come to us and identify previous therapy as not helping them change the patterns that are ultimately causing the most difficulty. We believe that appropriately identifying the root of the problem (instead of the symptoms) is the key to making any kind of lasting change. Many therapists will approach a client by focusing on the symptoms, which may provide temporary relief and is helpful in coping, but doesn't provide lasting change. Using a trauma approach allows us to really "dig in" and make change at the place where the problem is coming from. We have found time and again that by approaching our clients in this way that change is able to happen and people report meaningful and significant change in their lives.

How long does emdr take?

This is a common question, and a really hard one to answer. We know you need relief, most of our clients come to us after suffering for too long. However, EMDR and any trauma work can be a long process - especially in the case of attachment and complex trauma. Typically speaking, the more complex the trauma, the longer the treatment. We have some clients who come to us following a single traumatic event (car accidents, injuries, etc.) for whom EMDR treatment can be successful in a short amount of time. Most of our clients, however, find that because of the complexity of the trauma, EMDR needs to be used over a longer period of time to fully eliminate symptoms.

will i ever feel better?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that sometimes we have to redefine what "better" looks like. For some of our clients better means a return to how they felt and functioned before the traumatic event occurred. For a lot of our clients with histories of childhood trauma, they have never experienced feeling "good", so it's a process of reducing the symptoms causing the suffering and identifying what kinds of things would contribute to a meaningful and fulfilling life. Often times our clients report feeling better in progressive steps - where the first step might be a lowering of anxiety, the next step is elimination of nightmares, followed by an increase in self esteem and ability to engage in healthy relationships. When we meet clients we often spend a lot of time talking about the potential for recovery and what that might be expected to look like given their individual history.

Do you take insurance?

We are currently accepting clients with the following insurance providers; Anthem/BCBS, Maine Community Health Options, Cigna, Optum, Mainecare and Medicare. For out of network plans, our services are often reimbursable and we will provide information regarding that process.

Medication or therapy?

If symptoms are caused by trauma, there is no medication that will treat the problem. Medications often help our clients manage their symptoms (sleep, anxiety, depression, etc), but therapy is always indicated for trauma.

How do I choose a therapist?

The single most important factor in good therapy is a strong relationship with therapist and client. This relationship provides the foundation for safety and trust that is necessary to begin healing the wounds of trauma. Clients need to feel comfortable and confident with their therapist, and to feel that there's enough trust to explore the most painful places of the past.