Identifying Trauma

Trauma or adverse life (or childhood) experiences can look like overt and/or covert methods – sometimes without the individual fully comprehending what has happened to them – but that they know something is ‘not quite right.’

Oftentimes individuals seeking help do not fully understand what has happened to them in their lives, why they are acting or behaving in certain manners, what is happening to their bodies (specifically their nervous systems). Frequently they may feel like there is no hope in them recovering. You or your loved one may ask yourselves regarding experiencing and/or witnessing a traumatic event any range of questions such as:

  • Did you feel horror or like you might die?
  • Do you have intrusive thoughts or images? Do you feel like you are reliving the event(s)?
  • Do you avoid thoughts and feelings surrounding the event(s)?
  • Do you have difficulty experiencing or showing emotions?
  • Do you have flashbacks or nightmares surrounding the event(s)?
  • Do you startle easily? Are you hypervigilant and assessing for a threat constantly?
  • Have these symptoms gone on for more than a month?
  • Do these symptoms interfere with normal routines such as work or school?

We then provide an additional assessment that assesses for adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). This 10-question assessment tool that was designed by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) asks questions focusing on concepts such as love, nurturement, abuse, abandonment, shame, and neglect from ages 0-18 years old. If someone answers with a resounding ‘yes, I have experienced what might be considered trauma, and I suffer from many of the symptoms outlined above,’ then you more than likely could benefit from our intensive trauma therapy track to find healing and recovery.

Trauma Recovery at Beachway

After an individual is assessed by our clinicians and deemed appropriate for beginning the trauma track, they are provided with the expectations of their treatment. Our trauma track patients meet for trauma group-specific therapy three times a week, attend other trauma-focused groups, and are provided with various assignments to complete each weekend. They will then present in the trauma groups. Individuals in the trauma track learn they are not alone and soon learn what true empathy feels like. Trauma track individuals are encouraged to remain eloquently termed ‘the black dot’ of pain and discomfort. It is this ‘black dot’ that their mental health and substance/alcohol abuse has previously provided them the ‘relief,’ albeit unhealthy and detrimental relief. Individuals will also complete these tailored assignments that help them find their voice that speaks to the traumas by telling ‘the real story’ of what happened to them, gaining psychoeducation on what is trauma and what are the effects of trauma, what does trauma look like, and what unhealthy coping mechanisms and maladaptive behaviors are no longer serving them. They are supported by the clinical, medical, and support staff; but find they are not alone through the trauma track solidarity of their peers. They learn that what happened to them is not their fault while also understanding they may have re-created and/or caused harm to themselves. Oftentimes trauma survivors have developed personality characteristics that are ‘natural’ to them (and were a way for them to survive horrific experiences). Still, these characteristics are no longer serving them in healthy manners. Accountability for this and learning how to shift and change them takes place through the work they do in the Trauma Track.

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.

What Beachway Therapy Center’s Trauma Track Program offers is unlike the majority 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 substance abuse persons also have unresolved trauma. We wish to treat both simultaneously to help individuals (re)discover their true selves. Helping individuals find trauma healing and resolution does not guarantee they will not relapse on a process 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.

Brandon Lutman, MS is a current Florida Atlantic University Graduate Student in the School of Social Work and is a Clinical Social Work Intern at Beachway Therapy Center. He holds a master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Virginia Commonwealth University and is a former adjunct professor in Criminology at Old Dominion University. Brandon works for multiple mental health agencies where he provides individual and group therapy. He is currently working towards completion of his Certified Addiction Professional (CAP) certification and is undertaking the Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP) and Certified Complex Trauma Professional (CCTP-II) trainings.