The trouble with defining trauma


When you think of the word “trauma” what do you think of?

Is it a really terrible experience that changes someone’s perception of reality?

Is it an event that exceeds a person’s ability to cope?

Perhaps it is a life-threatening or ego-threatening event

Or, is it not being able to move through a bad incident from the past?

All of the above are certainly pieces to what is a trauma. The one thing to keep in mind is that the word trauma is a noun…it is a thing… and in the original Greek, the word trauma means wound.

Emotional traumas come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

Some wounds are not very deep and do not require a long healing process.  Maybe you had a pretty good home life growing up, but you struggle with minor life challenges.

For others, maybe they did not have such a great home life. Emotional or verbal abuse at the time may not seem like much to some people, but when you experience it every day for your entire childhood… it is a traumatic wounding that does not go away quickly, or on its own. If the wound is continuously poked with insensitive or hurtful comments, the wounds will worsen.

The problem with some chronic family conditions is that someone may not know until much later that their family conditions were not the norm and in the mean time, other symptoms will appear. For example, a child who grows up hearing that he or she is lazy over and over may develop issues with substance abuse.

A child who is constantly referred to as stupid just may develop anger management problems…and the family just has no idea why…

Later in life a client will seek help to work through their anger problems or their drinking problems…and realize that their anger or drinking (for example) aren’t the real problem. I mean, yes, an inability to control drinking or anger IS a problem, but it is only a symptom of a deeper emotional trauma.

These upsetting life events which are difficult to handle for many are sometimes referred to as “small-t trauma”. Small-t traumas include verbal abuse, excessive teasing, divorce, bullying, humiliation, a medical crisis, losing a pet, always being picked last, and many other examples.

There are many therapeutic approaches to process trauma.

Let me help you find one that works for you. I am knowledgable in

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

  • Exposure Therapy

  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy

  • Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy

I offer sessions 7 days a week, and sometimes even same-day appointments may be scheduled.