As a mental health provider, my primary focuses have been trauma and its recovery and healing. I started to develop an interest in working with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) when I was in graduate school. This interest led to my work with adult survivors of family violence and adult trauma survivors such as intimate partner violence survivors. Later, in my doctoral program, I extend my career from working with individual clients with a trauma history to couples with one or both partners with trauma history, including combat PTSD.
Adult trauma survivors often experience these mental health issues: Depression, Anxiety, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex PTSD, and possibly Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse recovery. My overarching goal when working with trauma survivors is not limited to reducing the symptoms and finding coping strategies, but to help the clients heal and transform from traumatic experiences.
“I think if I have one message, one thing before I die that most of the world would know, it would be that the event does not determine how to respond to the event. That is a purely personal matter. The way in which we respond will direct and influence the event more than the event itself.” ~ Virginia Satir
I am an Attachment-Focused Therapist, and Attachment Theory has been my foundation and guiding principles when working with adult trauma survivors. Childhood family trauma, witness violence, emotional/physical neglect, physical and sexual abuse all impact children’s attachment to the adult and the environment. How? Insecure attachment with the primary caregivers in childhood is a child’s survival mechanism because a child relies on an adult to survive.
There is a running joke in the mental health community. “Psychotherapy is very easy, that is, just blame on the mother.” This statement summarizes a lot of clients’ complaints: “I feel better after venting, but nothing changes.”
Understanding childhood experiences with the primary caregiver and family environment is only the first step towards healing. To see and understand one’s childhood survival mechanism, one can choose a different path in adulthood within the current relationships to change one’s life. The relationship with me, the therapist, serves as a repair function. In this therapeutic relationship, I will offer clients a safe environment where they feel safe, comfortable, and accepted to explore their trauma experiences with curiosity and compassion. My goal is that, through our collaboration, clients can heal their traumatic experiences while developing compassion and curiosity for themselves in their life.
“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be; it’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.” ~ Virginia Satir
Before the first intake session, I asked the client to fill out the intake paperwork and assess their depression, anxiety, bipolar, and PTSD. The intake paperwork is completed at least 24 hours before our first appointment. This process helps the client clarify their intention and goals for therapy while allowing us to get the process started.
In the initial assessment, I explore the details of their motivation to therapy, specifically, “why now?”: reasons and turning points prompting the client to take action. These reasons for seeking help are essential junctions for the client to remember as that is the first step to k away from the old pattern.
In the initial assessment, we will also explore the triggers, the experiences when the trigger happens, and the hopes when the triggers are no longer present. We will also investigate the childhood history and the connection with the triggers. We will develop the treatment goals by exploring the current difficulties, linking the present symptoms to the personal history, and understanding the future desired outcomes.
With Attachment Theory as my framework and foundation, my current treatment modality highly focused on two evidence-based treatment models: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP).
I trained extensively in Gestalt Therapy, Transactional Analysis Therapy, Object Relationship Therapy, and Psychodrama in my early career. I continued to incorporate the techniques from these therapeutic orientations in my EMDR and AEDP work.
EMDR’s Adaptive Information Processing serves me as the guidance in assessing the history and treatment goals. The bilateral stimulation serves as my primary treatment modality for trauma memory processing. AEDP is the treatment model based on the Attachment Theory, and the function of emotions serves as my guide in my attachment relationship with the clients.
I have learned that I work better with the adult population throughout the years, clients who are older than 20 years old. I also have known that I am much more skillful with the issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and Complex PTSD. In recent years, with the training of EMDR and AEDP, I have gained some success with clients who have Bipolar II Disorder diagnoses with medication compliance. I am also much more skillful when clients have been sober from substance abuse for at least two years and are ready to work on the trauma healing journey. I am not an expert in working with clients in early recovery and managing their sobriety issues.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)and Complex PTSD
Trauma and Adult Survivors of Family Trauma
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