NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Working Through Emotional Trauma in Psychotherapy: Learning to Separate "Then" From "Now"

One of the most challenging aspects for people considering through emotional trauma in therapy is their fear that they'll be as emotionally overwhelmed in therapy as they were originally when they experienced the trauma.  Many clients have this fear even when the trauma occurred a long time ago.  So, when a therapist does trauma work, it's important to help the client to distinguish between what happened "then" from what's happening "now."

Working Through Trauma in Psychotherapy: Learning to Separate "Then" From "Now"

The Dual Experience in Trauma Work
To help clients work through trauma, as a trauma therapist, I help clients to keep "one foot" (so to speak) in the here-and-now of the therapy room with me and "one foot" in the memory of the trauma.

Having this dual experience is crucial for the client to feel safe enough emotionally to do the trauma work and not fearful that s/he will be emotionally overwhelmed.

Clients Need to Have the Emotional Capacity to Do the Trauma Work
As a trauma therapist, I assess if the client has the emotional capacity to do the work.  If I assess that the client lacks the capacity at the beginning of therapy, I help the client to develop this emotional capacity before the actual work on the trauma begins.

Creating a Therapeutic "Holding Environment" for Doing Trauma Work
A therapeutic "holding environment" is important in any kind of therapy work, but especially when the client comes to do work on trauma.

It's not enough for the client and therapist to have a rapport.  The client must feel emotionally "contained" in order to feel safe enough to do the work.

See my article:  The Creation of the "Holding Environment" in Psychotherapy for more details about this.

Somatic Experiencing and Trauma Work
I have found that Somatic Experiencing is a gentle and effective form of therapy that helps clients work through trauma.

Somatic Experiencing also helps clients to differentiate "then" from "now" so they are less likely to feel emotionally overwhelmed.

When clients come to see me and they're considering Somatic Experiencing, I usually recommend that they read Peter Levine's book, Waking the Tiger, which explains Somatic Experiencing.  I also recommend his more recent book, In an Unspoken Voice.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you have emotional trauma that has not been worked through, you owe it to yourself to get help from a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in trauma work so you can lead a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my web site:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.