What is trauma counseling and how can it help me? 

Psychological and emotional trauma arises after experiencing extremely stressful events which can destroy your sense of security, leaving you feeling helpless in an unsafe world. When suffering from trauma, you may find it difficult to manage upsetting emotions, troubling memories, and intense anxiety which will not go away. Trauma can also make you feel numb, disconnected, and reluctant to trust those around you. Most people don’t know they have PTSD.

Threats to your life or safety can cause trauma. But any situation that makes you feel isolated and overwhelmed can also result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the event itself that determines whether something is traumatic, but your personal emotional reaction to the event. The more scared and defenseless you feel, the more likely it is that you’ll be traumatized.

Trauma isn’t something you have to learn to live with. Seeking the professional guidance of a trauma counselor can help you come to terms with what happened and recover. Healing from trauma takes time and it’s important to be patient with yourself during recovery.

But if you’ve been experiencing your symptoms and suffering from trauma for months, it may be time to consider getting help from a trauma counselor.

What is trauma counseling?

Trauma counseling is a type of talking therapy that can help you manage the emotional responses you experience as a result of a traumatic event. There are several different types of trauma counseling, each of which is best suited to a specific class of trauma. These include:

  • Prolonged exposure (PE): Being exposed to the root of your fear, until you’re no longer scared of it.

  • Cognitive processing therapy (CPT): Challenging your ideas of why the traumatic event happened and your thoughts and beliefs that surround it. CPT can be done in a group or individually.

  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): Using rhythmic bilateral (left to right) stimulation to release emotions that have been blocked by the traumatic event.

  • Trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy (TF-CBT): A form of trauma therapy usually used for children and adolescents which addresses inaccurate beliefs and improves negative behavior patterns.

Prolonged exposure and cognitive processing therapy are the most common types of trauma counseling, as there’s a high volume of studies that prove their effectiveness. Both PE and CPT can oftentimes be completed in 3-4 months, in comparison to EMDR which often takes much longer to achieve desired results.

When given the choice, many people opt for cognitive processing therapy. This is because this type of counseling can be done without a description of the traumatic event, making it preferable if you can’t remember what happened or don’t want to talk about it too extensively.

This is how you know if you need trauma therapy >>

What does a trauma counselor do?

A trauma counselor’s job is to help you overcome your traumatic stress so you can live a better and more fulfilled life. This is done through numerous stages which develop throughout the treatment program:

  1. Help you understand: Your therapist will help you understand yourself and where your issues stem from.

  2. Diagnose your problem: They’ll analyze your symptoms to determine your issue and successfully diagnose it.

  3. Offer a solution: Your counselor will suggest a type of trauma therapy that will work best for your situation.

  4. Provide long-term solutions: They’ll work with you during additional therapy sessions to help you cope with future stressful situations.

Can you get PTSD from emotional abuse?

When thinking about PTSD, many people picture soldiers returning from war. But physical and emotional trauma isn’t the only way you can develop PTSD. Emotional abuse commonly leads to CPTSD, a complex type of PTSD that often arises following ongoing trauma.

Emotional abuse is used as a way of controlling someone. This is achieved by using their emotions to embarrass, criticize, blame, shame, and otherwise manipulate that person. Generally, a relationship is considered to be emotionally abusive when consistent abusive words and bullying behavior undermine someone’s mental health and destroy their self-esteem.

Although emotional abuse is most commonly seen in married and dating relationships, it can occur in any relationship. This includes friends, family members, and work colleagues.

Online PTSD and CPTSD (Complex PTSD) share many of the same symptoms and sometimes they can be treated using the same methods.

Read more about PTSD and emotional abuse >>

How to heal from childhood trauma

While anyone can be affected by a traumatic event, you’re much more likely to experience trauma if you’re already under a lot of pressure, have recently suffered a major loss or you’ve been traumatized before — especially if the previous traumatic event happened when you were a child.

Childhood trauma can be caused by anything which results in a child feeling unsafe, including:

  • Unstable environment

  • Intrusive medical procedures

  • Major illness

  • Separation from a parent

  • Neglect

  • Domestic violence

  • Verbal, physical, or sexual abuse

Suffering from trauma as a child can have serious and long-lasting effects. When childhood trauma isn’t resolved, the child carries a sense of helplessness and fear into their adulthood, laying the groundwork for further trauma.

Even if your trauma happened a long time ago, you can still regain control and get your life back. There are steps you can take to overcome your pain, start trusting others again and recover your sense of emotional balance.  The best way to heal from childhood trauma is via therapy with a licensed mental health professional who specializes in trauma counseling.

How to heal from childhood trauma >>

See a trauma counselor

Sometimes you can’t overcome significant trauma on your own. You need the help of a qualified professional. If you’ve tried various healing techniques and you’re still suffering from your symptoms months after they began, it’s time to see a trauma counselor.

An experienced trauma counselor has worked with many patients suffering in the same way you are. They can help you uncover the root of your problem and work with you to overcome it. You don’t even have to attend a counseling session in person if you don’t want to. There are plenty of online options available today which might be more comfortable for you and online therapy can be done from the comfort of your own home, any time of day or night.  Studies show that people feel more comfortable and relaxed when doing therapy in a setting that they have chosen rather than in a sterile office.

Other tools you can use to help you feel better include:

Exercise every day

Trauma shifts your body’s natural equilibrium, leaving you frozen in a state of fear. Exercising can help you release endorphins and adrenaline, as well as naturally repair your nervous system.

Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes most days. A rhythmic exercise, such as dancing, running, or swimming is most effective. Take advantage of this time to be mindful. Instead of letting intrusive thoughts enter your mind, focus on how your body feels as you move.

Connect with others face-to-face
It’s normal to want to withdraw from social situations following major trauma, but this only makes things worse. Being with other people will help you heal faster, so make an effort to maintain your current relationships.

Stay grounded

No matter how helpless or anxious you feel, it’s important to try and self-regulate your nervous system and to calm yourself down. When you feel confused or upset, take 50 deep breaths. Focus all your attention on your breathing and count each breath as they go.

When you feel out of control, do your best to remain present. Feel the weight of your body and your feet on the floor. Look around you and notice five things you can see, four you can touch, three you can hear, two you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

Look after yourself

Having a healthy body is one of the first steps toward having a healthy mind. Trauma can greatly affect your sleep patterns, so do everything you can to get the right amount of sleep that your body requires.

Avoid alcohol and drugs as they can make your trauma symptoms worse. Instead, eat a well-balanced diet with all the nutrition your body needs to stay healthy. If your stress levels are high, try yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises to feel calmer. Don’t underestimate the power of simple hobbies to make you feel happy and relaxed.

Finding trauma counseling near me

If the symptoms you developed as a result of a traumatic experience are affecting your everyday life, it’s time to seek help. The first step on the road to recovery is finding local trauma counseling near you.

The internet makes it easier than ever to find the right trauma counselor. There are several trusted online search engines that contain a huge number of qualified trauma therapists.

Here are the best places to get help:

Cyti Psychological

At Cyti Psychological, we have a team of professional therapists trained to treat trauma. All therapy sessions are done online, so you can attend wherever and whenever you want. Get started now by scheduling your first appointment.

American Psychological Association’s Psychologist Locator

The APA’s Psychologist Locator is another helpful place to begin. All you have to do is type in your zip code or city and state. The locator will then provide you with a list of the contact information for psychologists available close to your location.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s Find a Therapist Service

ADAA’s Find a Therapist Directory allows you to search for therapists and filter by the disorders they treat and their treatment options. This makes it particularly helpful if you have a lesser-common form of trauma or you want a certain type of treatment.

International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation

ISSTD’s Find a Therapist Directory is another place to look. After typing in your zip code or city and state, the website will list local counselors who specialize in treating trauma and dissociation.

Association for Contextual Behavioral Science

If you’re suffering from PTSD, ACBS’ Find an ACT Therapist Directory will help you find a local mental health professional who uses ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) to treat your disorder.

Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies

CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) has been proven to be a successful way of treating PTSD. ABCT’s Find a CBT Therapist Directory can help you locate PTSD therapists near you who treat patients using CBT.

Finding a complex PTSD therapist near me

While PTSD generally occurs following a single traumatic event, CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) is associated with repeated trauma. Kidnapping, ongoing domestic violence, or experiencing abuse as a child can all lead to CPTSD in adults.

If you’ve been diagnosed with CPTSD, trauma counselors may recommend the same therapies used to treat PTSD, such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. However, if you’re suffering from complex PTSD, it’s likely you find it difficult to trust others.

In this scenario, it’s crucial for your healing that you find a complex PTSD therapist near you that you can connect and speak openly with. Many people find it easier to trust their therapist by having more sessions than usual, giving them enough time to build a trusting relationship, and laying the foundation for managing their symptoms.

If you’re not comfortable meeting your therapist in person, you might prefer to find an online complex PTSD therapist. Research shows that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy at treating many mental disorders.

By attending your sessions online, you don’t have to worry about finding the time or money to travel and back and forth from your counselor’s office. Instead, you can attend your appointments whenever it suits you from somewhere you feel safe and secure

Find a complex PTSD therapist >>

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. If you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger,  these resources can provide you with immediate help:
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988
24 Hour Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.8255
Crisis Text Line Text TALK to 741741