NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, September 3, 2023

Riding the Waves From Trauma to Transformation in Experiential Therapy

Making a decision to get help for unresolved trauma in trauma therapy isn't easy. So, most people who begin trauma therapy hope they can eventually free themselves of their traumatic history to live a more fulfilling life (see my article: Are You Reacting to Your Present Circumstances Based on Your Traumatic Past?).

From Trauma to Transformation in Experiential Therapy

I see many clients in my New York City private practice who have tried in vain to overcome trauma in regular talk therapy. Many of them have spent years in talk therapy trying to resolve their trauma. 

In many cases, they came away with new insights into their problems, but they don't feel any different (see my article: Developing Insight in Therapy Isn't Enough to Change).

In other words, they might understand why they get triggered in certain situations, but their insight doesn't prevent them from getting triggered again.

Experiential Therapy to Overcome Trauma
There are specific therapy modalities, known as Experiential Therapy, that were developed to help clients overcome trauma. 

Experiential Therapy is different from regular talk therapy, which I'll explain in the section below on Memory Reconsolidation.  

Experiential Therapy includes:
  • EMDR Therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
  • AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy)
And other types of Experiential therapy

Memory Reconsolidation in Experiential Trauma Therapy
As Bruce Ecker, LMFT, explains in his book, Unlocking the Emotional Brain, all Experiential Therapy provides an opportunity for memory reconsolidation, which is essential for resolving trauma. 

From Trauma to Transformation in Experiential Therapy

Memory reconsolidation is a neurobiological process whereby traumatic memories are recalled and made accessible to be reprocessed in Experiential Therapy (see my article: The Unconscious Mind and Experiential Therapy: The "Symptom" Contains the Solution for a more indepth explanation of the memory reconsolidation process).

Memory reconsolidation is one of the reasons why Experiential Therapy is more effective than regular talk therapy (see my article: Why Experiential Therapy is More Effective Than Regular Talk Therapy to Overcome Trauma).

Riding the Waves From Trauma to Transformation in Experiential Therapy
Many people who suffer with unresolved trauma try to avoid dealing with their trauma symptoms (see my article: How is Emotional Avoidance Related to Unresolved Trauma?).

While it's understandable that no one wants to experience emotional pain, unfortunately, when you resist these symptoms, they tend to come back even stronger.

When I work with clients who have unresolved trauma, I prepare them before processing the trauma by helping them to develop the internal resources to ride the waves when traumatic symptoms come up (see my article: Developing Internal Resources and Coping Skills).

While it's not pleasant to deal with these symptoms, as previously mentioned, resisting them only makes them worse.  In fact, many clients discover that once they have developed internal resources for coping with these symptoms, they're able to cope with the symptoms and it's not as bad as they anticipated.  

Many of them also realize that it took so much more energy to resist dealing with these symptoms than just learning to ride the waves of these symptoms when they come up until the trauma is resolved.

Working on Shock Trauma vs Developmental (Childhood) Trauma With Experiential Therapy
There is a difference between shock trauma and developmental trauma (see my article: What is the Difference Between Shock Trauma and Developmental Trauma?).

One-time traumatic events, like getting robbed or going through a natural disaster are called shock trauma. These are single events, and when there's no other underlying traumatic experiences, shock trauma tends to be easier to resolve in relatively fewer sessions.

Developmental trauma, which is also known as childhood trauma, is more complex.  This type of trauma usually occurs many times over time.  This includes childhood abuse and childhood emotional neglect.

Due to the complex nature of developmental trauma, processing this type of trauma tends to take longer (see my article: What is Complex Trauma?).

How much longer? Unfortunately, there's no way to know in advance.  Everyone processes trauma differently.  It might take months or it might take years depending upon the particular client, their traumatic history and how their particular response to processing trauma.  However, it's usually more effective and faster than regular talk therapy.

Working on Transgenerational Trauma
There is also transgenerational trauma (also known as intergenerational trauma) which is trauma that is passed down from one generation to the next.  

This type is trauma is experienced directly by your parents, grandparents or even great grandparents and it's unconsciously and unintentionally transmitted to you (see my article: Transgenerational Trauma).

Common examples of transgenerational trauma is when a parent or grandparent is a Holocaust survivor or experienced war trauma. Even if the trauma might never be discussed, it can still be transmitted to you and future generations (see my article: Your Unresolved Trauma Can Affect Your Children).

Taking the First Step to Overcome Trauma
The first step, which is making a decision to get help in trauma therapy, is often the hardest.

From Trauma to Transformation in Experiential Therapy

Many people are afraid trauma therapy will be too unpleasant. However, a skilled trauma therapist will work with a client to prepare them for the trauma processing and process the trauma in a way that is usually tolerable (see my article: Expanding Your Window of Tolerance in Experiential Therapy).

Getting Help in Trauma Therapy
If you feel stuck due to unresolved trauma, seek help from a skilled trauma therapist.

Rather than continuing to struggle on your own, you can get the help you need to lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

One of my specialities, as a trauma therapist, is helping clients to overcome trauma (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?)

I work with individual adults and couples.

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

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