Counseling and Therapy For Trauma, PTSD, Abuse, and Transitions

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of
daily life.”– William Morris

“The Ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not
only others but ourselves as well..” – Elizabeth Kubler-Ross


 

Coronavirus Notice: Prajna Healing Arts is open for counseling and taking new clients as normal. Sessions are available over video chat or phone. Outdoor sessions are also available in a welcoming and relaxing open area that is comfortable for social distancing. Call Carol at (720) 244-2299 for a free evaluation.

What Is Trauma?

Trauma refers to the emotional response to a perceived life-threatening event, such as a physical attack, a rape, abuse, accident, or war-time experience. Regardless of the situation, the circumstances and conditions are not what causes trauma. The emotional experience of the event is the determining factor. Because responses to events are as unique as each person, the range of responses to the same event can vary from noting it as an interesting experience to feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Experiences of intense anxiety and fear are factors that cause a person to be traumatized. 

Each person is affected differently by trauma. Short or long term effects can include emotional instability, flashbacks, relationship issues, and physical symptoms like headaches and nausea. Other reactions to trauma may include repeated flashbacks, and/or reliving the event(s) which can lead a person to get stuck in an emotional state. The effect of trauma can be entrapment in that a traumatized person often carries the event with them because they find it difficult to leave the occurrence in the past.  

Some individuals are deeply impacted by events while others are more resilient. Research is unclear about how to attribute these differences. It is part of why I engage in dialogue with each client. Only by learning the specific responses to the trauma in daily life and in dreams am I able to understand the trauma experienced by my clients. What is exciting is that as debilitating as trauma can be, it does not need to define us. It is possible to reprogram our emotional as well as mental reactions. We can make conscious choices about where we want to place our attention. 

An amazing example of letting go of past trauma was demonstrated by a young man who had served in the war in Afghanistan. Upon his return to the United States, he took a job at one of the major hardware retail stores in 2010. During a major holiday sale, the store he was working at had an unexpectedly high turnout. The Manager of the store became concerned as he noticed lines forming and customers getting irritated at not getting questions answered quickly. By the afternoon, the Manager started checking with employees and even began handling some of the difficult customers. When he asked the young veteran how he was holding up the response he got was a smile and “I’m fine.” Almost incredulous, the Manager asked, “Really?” The young man grinned and said, “Yes, I heard a loud bang on aisle 10 and when I got there, it was not a bomb. Instead, it was some boxes that had fallen down from the top rack and no one was hurt. I’ve been yelled at by customers for us not having what they wanted. But you know what? All-day today, no one, not one person has pointed a gun at me. I’m doing great!”

Fear, anxiety and even being emotionally upset can be helpful when used as indicators for issues that need to be addressed. If a large growling bear breaks into my home and comes at me with raised claws and I am not frightened, something is wrong. However, if months, after the experience I am still afraid to enter my home or enter a building because I think I will see a bear, then I have a problem. My emotional response to the situation was it got me out of the house to safety.  However, the appropriate response of running for safety that I used months or years ago, has become a habitual response that is often inappropriate. Relearning how to respond is part of trauma and transition therapies.

PTSD

For others who have endured abuse, torture, or any experience that created trauma for them, items or places can be triggers for re-experiencing the event along with intense feelings. 

Responding with intense feelings of being overwhelmed, helpless, unable to respond, not eating or other self-limiting or harming behaviors is part of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.) 

Post-traumatic stress disorder is the clinging to the feelings of fear, anxiety, and emotional upsets resulting from dangerous or scary events.  People can relive the traumatic event for months or years. An item or place might trigger them to re-experience the event and intense feelings. This is (PTSD.) Research indicates that women are twice as likely to develop PTSD in their lifetimes.

Trauma Therapy?

Trauma therapy helps individuals heal from past experiences of a perceived threat to life or safety.

There are different types of therapy that can help heal past wounds from debilitating emotions,

memories, or anxieties that will not go away. Effective therapies help individuals walk free from being trapped by the bonds of traumatic events. Some therapies allow clients to ‘re-story’ their experience and tap strengths they used to survive the event or events. Effective therapy guides the client to align with their inner integrity and live life fully without fear.

By accepting the childhood or even young adult traumas that shaped our personalities by drawing us to safety and away from things perceived as painful, we begin to identify some strengths. The next step is to assess whether those behaviors are a strength or a hindrance when dealing with challenges as an adult. With therapy, clients become selective about behaviors to use as a protection mechanism instead of relying on behaviors used to deal with past traumatic events. Such exploration is important because oftentimes automatic trauma responses are typically fight-or-flight instead of the more refined responses required to function well in modern society. Trauma therapy gives us a clear awareness of behavioral responses and the tools we want to use to deal with difficult situations. We discover how to change maladaptive responses into ones that let us live in alignment with our inner integrity and strength, regardless of the surrounding. We can walk free from trauma and live with peace of mind, regardless of the circumstances.

Carol O'Dowd
Carol O’Dowd, MPA, MDiv, MI, CAS

Fees and Insurance

Fees: My individual counseling fees are $100 per hour. A sliding scale is available.

Insurance: I am an out-of-network provider. 

Trauma Treatments

Each person is unique and depending upon our life’s conditions and circumstances experience trauma differently. Therefore, trauma treatment must be tailored to each individual situation. Being trained in a variety of Eastern and Western techniques, I help clients find a path to freedom from the anxiety, stress, and depression that may have been generated by untreated trauma and PTSD. I help clients discover the strengths they may have used when experiencing the role of a victim. By taking small steps, my clients being the process of applying compassionate care to self as well as to others. It is a pleasure to watch my clients live with joy again. Some of the methods I use to treat trauma and PTSD include:

  • Applied Existential Psychotherapy (AEP) – AEP is used to help clients process many difficulties that limit the individual’s potential for true happiness. Often these difficulties take the form of family-of-origin issues, romantic relationship difficulties, work problems, low self-esteem, and depression/anxiety.
  • Methods of Japanese Psychology: 
    • Morita Therapy – Morita Therapy is an ecological, purpose-centered, response-oriented therapy. Feelings are natural responses to our life circumstances and we need not try to “fix” or “change” them. Arugamama (acceptance of reality as it is) involves accepting our feelings and thoughts without trying to change them or “work through” them.
    • Naikan Therapy – Naikan is a Japanese word which means “inside looking” or “introspection”. A more poetic translation is “seeing oneself with the mind’s eye”. It is a structured method of self-reflection that helps us to understand ourselves, our relationships, and the fundamental nature of human existence.
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) – MBCT is designed to help people who suffer repeated bouts of depression and chronic unhappiness. It combines the ideas of cognitive therapy with meditative practices and attitudes based on the cultivation of mindfulness.
  • Psychospiritual Therapy: Having studied Jung and completed Clinical Pastoral Education training as a hospital chaplain, I learned about psychology as it is defined by the Greek – a study of the soul. After assisting with training counselors addressing sex-trafficking in Thailand as well as providing mindfulness training and mental health counseling to prisoners in the United States and Indonesia, I came face-to-face with how strong we can be living who we are, regardless of where we are. I have met men living with life sentences in prison who live more freely than people living on the outside trapped by expectations and fears. Psychospiritual therapy addresses each person holistically. By treating issues at the level of body, mind, and spirit, clients are able to make major changes. As science has admitted, although the mind cannot be measured inside the human brain, how we function physiologically and psychologically impacts our emotions which touches the lives of all we know. We do not exist separate from the world. The psychospiritual approach involves becoming aware of our interconnectedness and of ways to transform destructive patterns of behavior into healthy ones.

  • Mindfulness-Based CBT – CBT is a form of psychotherapy that treats problems and boosts happiness by modifying dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. Because of my training, I use a mindfulness-based CBT that focuses on creating healthy solutions to relationships and living. Using mindfulness consciously with specific behaviors, my clients become aware of when they are being pulled by their own emotions or engaged in dialogue with their own distorted cognitions. With such awareness, they are able to drop destructive patterns of behavior and live with peace of mind.
  • Coaching – Psychological coaching focuses on the positive aspects of the human condition, much like positive counseling; it does not focus on the negative, irrational, and pathological aspects of life. Coaching is specific and goal-oriented.