How PCH Treats Psychological Trauma
Almost every client who enters one of the PCH Treatment Center programs has experienced significant psychological or emotional trauma during their lives. PCH specializes in addressing psychological trauma using trauma-based and trauma-informed treatment modalities. It is often difficult to identify a client’s specific trauma history, which may be repressed or subconscious. However, the manifestations of childhood or adult trauma and complex trauma are often pronounced, presenting as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anxiety Disorders, personality issues (“Borderline Personality Disorder”), Depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and other more severe manifestations (Dissociative Conditions, Identity Disorders).
Our first goal at PCH is to perform a thorough psychological and psychiatric evaluation. If necessary, psychological testing can supplement our clinician’s evaluations. Our goal is to make a diagnosis and integrate that diagnosis with the client’s history of trauma.
Psychodynamic psychotherapy is the foundation of treatment at PCH. We believe that trauma-related conflict is more toxic and less available for integration when it remains unconscious. Our individual therapists are highly trained, highly experienced clinicians who have worked with clients with moderate to severe trauma for many years. We also offer Somatic Experiencing, Sensorimotor Therapy and Eye Movement Sensitization and Reprogramming (EMDR), which are therapies specifically designated to treat trauma. In addition to daily individual therapy, we also utilize evidence-based treatments and offer group therapies specifically focused on healing psychological trauma, such as trauma timeline group, process groups, anger and shame group, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), emotional regulation group, male and female specific groups, trauma-informed yoga, art therapies and classes.
Treatment Modalities for Trauma
- Psychodynamic Psychotherapy
- Somatic Experiencing
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming (EMDR)
- Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
- Trauma Timeline Groups
- Trauma Groups (six different groups)
- Mentalization Therapy
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Skills Group
- Trauma-informed Yoga
- Art Therapies
- Family Therapy
- Trauma, Tension/Stress Release Exercise
If a person has experienced emotional trauma in childhood or as an adult, there is hope for healing and attainment of a healthy psychological outlook. PCH Treatment Center is not a drug and alcohol treatment clinic. We are a psychological treatment model and we focus on healing trauma through multi-modal evidence-based therapies. Our work with clients with psychological trauma starts with the assignment of a treatment team sensitive to issues related to trauma, taking into consideration family dynamics, gender, and co-existing psychological, psychiatric and medical issues. At the time of admission, we design a treatment plan centering around these trauma-based therapies, combined with our experiential arts program and exercise activities. We also integrate the family into treatment (when appropriate) through our family weekend program and family therapy sessions.
Our goal at PCH is to carefully move each client through their trauma to healing, to improve their sense of well-being and allow them to reach their full potential in life.
What is psychological or emotional trauma?
The word “trauma” comes from the greek word troma meaning “wound.” Psychological trauma refers to damage to the psyche from stressful or traumatic life events or experiences. Psychological trauma, also referred to as emotional trauma, lies at the root of many psychological diagnoses including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is one diagnosis that is predicated directly on an underlying history of trauma.
For individuals taking part in PCH Treatment Center trauma recovery programs, healing is usually a centerpiece of our therapeutic work. The experience of psychological trauma is a subjective one. How someone responds to trauma depends largely on the individual’s emotional background, developmental history, identity, current state of psychological well-being, and how they consciously and unconsciously process threatening information. When many people experience the same catastrophic occurrence not all of them are psychologically traumatized. Additionally, mental preparation can prevent or lessen the experience of trauma, such as for an impending catastrophic event. The difference between stress and trauma is how an individual processes threatening information and incorporates it (or not) into their psyche. The effects of trauma can be more pronounced when it is recurrent or unpredictable. For example, repeated physical, emotional or sexual abuse can be severely traumatic, especially in a relationship where the victim is dependent on the abuser for survival needs (such as a parent-child relationship).
Emotional trauma or abuse is often devastating to a person’s psychological health, because it can harm an individual’s sense of self and self-esteem. Trauma also has the power to disrupt close current or future interpersonal relationships. The intrusive re-experiencing of trauma can negatively impact a person throughout their life. Research tells us that trauma can manifest itself in physical symptoms as well, such as headaches, pain, insomnia, nausea, weakness, rapid heart rate, or muscular tension. Self-injurious behaviors (including substance use and cutting), hostility, verbal and emotional outbursts, oppositional behavior, shame and suicidal thoughts or attempts can derive from psychological trauma.
What causes emotional trauma?
Psychological or emotional trauma results from a wide array of personal or public events. There are a few common aspects to events producing a traumatic response. First, trauma often involves a violation of a person’s familiar ideas about the world. This sense of betrayal then places the person in a state of extreme confusion, anxiety and insecurity. Traumatizing events may be one-time occurrences, or take place over the course of many months or years. Experiences that frequently result in emotional trauma include sexual abuse, rape, incest, child abuse, domestic violence, battering, combat experience, exposure to natural disasters or accidents, bullying, torture, entrapment, criminal violence, and profound personal loss.
Emotional or verbal abuse, or witnessing of abuse of another person, can also produce psychological trauma. Among those affected by psychological trauma, commonly recognized symptoms can be physical or emotional, or a combination of both. These include:
Emotional Symptoms of Trauma
- Anxiety and Panic attacks
- Guilt or shame
- Feeling “out of control”
- Anger and rage
- Re-experiencing of trauma
- Intrusive thoughts
- Flashbacks or nightmares
- Emotional numbing or avoidance
- Social withdrawal
- Self-destructive behavior
- Obsessions with injury or death
- Dissociation (“splitting off” parts of the self)
Physical Symptoms of Trauma
- Eating disturbances or disorders
- Sleep disturbances
- Sexual dysfunction
- Jumpiness or “nervous energy”
- Low energy
- Chronic, unexplained pain
- Substance abuse
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory lapse or amnesia
- Digestive disorders
- Rapid heart rate or arrhythmias
What are typical responses to emotional trauma?
The experience of a traumatic event can completely overwhelm an individual’s ability to cope or integrate the ideas and emotions involved with that experience. People may feel a sense of disbelief that this traumatic event has even happened. In the immediate aftermath of a first incidence of abuse, for example, this is common. Dissociation may occur, where the person subconsciously separates themselves from traumatic events and has no memory of them. Trauma can be so overwhelming that it takes a person weeks, years or even decades, to recall or understand the traumatic event. Through therapy and healing, a person who has experienced psychological trauma can learn to express their true emotions and develop coping strategies to deal with the emotional and psychological reactions they have developed. However, until a person is ready to address the trauma, affected individuals often have difficulty maintaining balance and a sense of well-being in everyday life.
What are the effects of childhood psychological trauma?
A person who has experienced traumatic events as a child may be struggling with depression and anxiety, feelings of shame or rage, frightening memories, recurring nightmares, or a sense of constant danger. Alternately, they may feel numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. Adults with unresolved childhood trauma issues may turn to alcohol and drugs to self-medicate. They may develop unhealthy sexual behaviors, self-injurious acts (cutting), eating disorders as maladaptive coping behaviors.
Children with unresolved trauma issues are more prone to psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, or physiological and behavioral problems. Physiological issues include bedwetting, gastrointestinal problems, difficulty sleeping, or headaches. Psychological “acting-out” includes oppositional behaviors, poor grades, emotional dysregulation, social withdrawal, or cutting. Children are usually unable to explain or understand why they are demonstrating these behaviors.
Extreme childhood trauma, such as recurrent child abuse, may lead children to dissociate during abuse episodes as a coping mechanism. When childhood emotional trauma is not resolved, feelings of fear, helplessness and distrustfulness typically carry over into adulthood, especially affecting interpersonal relationships. Childhood trauma causes disruptions of a child’s ability to self-soothe, trust others, feel safety, and make appropriate decisions or choices.