What is Trauma?
Trauma comes from the Greek word for wound – and trauma victims/survivors are wounded persons deserving of healing. Trauma in our clinical opinion is an event or complex set of events that ruptures the soul, impacts the psyche, and dysregulates the nervous system to the degree that the individual is unable to cope. The event(s) are stored in the body, mind, fascia, bones, and DNA. Trauma is visceral, somatic, and cognitive. As a result of less than nurturing experiences, the individuals’ mind, body, and spirit are wounded – oftentimes staying stuck in that moment in time, in overt and covert ways.
According to the American Psychological Association, trauma is defined as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea” (American Psychological Association, 2021). While this definition is widely accepted within the arenas of medical, mental, and behavioral health; some clinicians and researchers are providing a narrower – or laymen – conceptualization of trauma. We at BW and the Trauma Program Team appreciate and see the validity of the definition of trauma as ‘less than nurturing’ experiences.
Trauma (a singular event or long-term) can rupture the emotional psyche, will create neural pathways within the brain that alert the brain and body to think a ‘threat’ is on the horizon or there is immediate danger. Trauma dysregulates and disrupts the central and autonomic nervous systems which in turn create challenges to regulate ones’ emotions and feelings. Long-term adverse experiences create an even more dysregulated nervous system. One example is the hi-jacking of the amygdala which controls the mammalian response of fight, flight, and freeze; long-term expulsion of cortisol (a stress reducing hormone); and lays down what are called implicit memories as well as procedural learning pathways. All of this can create trauma responses, maladaptive behaviors, process addictions, substance abuse and alcohol abuse, dissociation or dreamlike/out of body coping mechanisms, attachment issues, ailing physical health issues, and a variety of mental health concerns. Some mental health diagnoses such as depression and anxiety, personality disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and exacerbated negative core belief systems along with toxic shame. These events, that tend to last long term, especially in childhood traumas, fall within the umbrella concept of ‘complex trauma’ (a term coined by Bessel van der Kolk, who is considered a leading trauma professional all around the world). Van der Kolk (2005) defines complex trauma as “the experience of multiple, chronic and prolonged, developmentally adverse traumatic events, most often of an interpersonal nature (e.g., sexual or physical abuse, war, community violence) and early-life onset. These exposures often occur within the child’s caregiving system and include physical, emotional, and educational neglect and child maltreatment beginning in early childhood” (p.2).
Traumas might include emotional neglect, emotional abandonment, shame, abuses of all kinds, molestation, rape, general life circumstances, natural disasters, moral injuries, and more.
This is not an indictment to your world and current state of being…. healing is available…Be curious as to what may – or may not have – happened to/for you, as this may hold the key(s) to your wounded heart. Courage shows up in moments of fear…including asking for help. You matter.
How Beachway Treats Trauma
Beachway’s Trauma Resolution Program treats the symptoms left behind from the legacy of trauma. These symptoms that are left over from adverse less than nurturing experiences hinder ones’ ability to connect with themselves – and others – in meaningful, safe, and kind ways. They interfere with ones’ day-to-day living, creating challenges and struggles with sometimes what seems to be the simplest tasks. When completing the Trauma Resolution Program at Beachway, individuals will learn to identify trauma responses and triggers through psychoeducational and experiential methods to help each person understand their unique symptomology. With a greater understanding of how trauma impacts the neurobiological system, individuals can learn to self soothe with the goal of living in the “here and now” – and for their nervous systems to know that “that was then, this is now.”
Our trauma groups meet (3) times per week, for a total of at least (10) hours of trauma group therapy per week – which does not include time with an individual primary therapist nor other trauma-centered groups. Trauma participants remain in trauma for 4-6 weeks; and most admitting participants require a stabilization period of 1-2 weeks prior to admitting. Our primary concern is the safety and well-being of the individual entering the program – and those already in the trauma groups. We clinically believe that trauma does not heal in solitary, and that the power of the group can assist with compassion, empathy, and connection.
Beachway’s Trauma Team utilizes trauma resolution-based assignments, psychodrama, experiential techniques, psychoeducation, challenging ones’ behaviors that are no longer serving them, somatic healing, and other diverse evidenced-based trauma therapy modalities. We assist and guide individuals towards finding a path of healing, integration, and whole-hearted connection with oneself and others. Beachway believes that every person’s trauma experience is unique, so too will their treatment experience. Whether trauma process occurs in a group setting and/or through individual therapeutic practices, each individual journey is guided by an experienced team of trauma trained professionals.
Research has shown that individuals who do not work through their experienced traumas through both a body and mind treatment models will continue to struggle with not fully understanding what happened and what is still perpetuating the lack of feeling connected to self and others. Something we consider and observe in our trauma clients is “as the trauma unfolds, the behaviors will make sense.” We help individuals gain an understanding that substance abuse, sex, and love addiction, the emotional void or emotion-seeking partnerships, lack of romantic desires, feelings of being unloved and not good enough, dysregulated nervous systems, negative core beliefs, extreme bouts of anxiety, and depressive-like symptoms, and other process addictions and behaviors that hinder them feeling whole-hearted and connected are quite literally ‘killing’ them from the inside.
More on Trauma Treatment and PTSD here
Beachway’s Commitment to Trauma Healing
What Beachway Therapy Center’s Trauma Resolution Program – and its emphasis on the experiential component – offers is unlike many of the treatment centers found within the United States, especially in South Florida. Our clinicians’ goals are to help individuals find understanding, resolution, and clarity. Research has consistently shown that a large majority of those addicted to substances, people, alcohol, etc. also have unresolved trauma. We wish to treat simultaneously the ‘addictions’ to help individuals (re)discover their true selves. Helping individuals find trauma healing and resolution does not guarantee they will not relapse on an addiction; however, it provides a greater chance of them finding healthier coping mechanisms and believing in themselves. It can help individuals lead fulfilled lives that have stable relationships with others, intrapersonal beliefs that are whole-hearted and positive, the ability to trust others again and connect with not only others but their true selves. It can be the jump start towards continued healing with instilled hope and clarity for the future. Our hope for those completing the trauma resolution program is that their ‘no wonder becomes their wonder’.