Please note: At this time, if you have experienced trauma or loss and are functioning fairly well, please consider any of our providers. If you have experienced severe abuse, neglect, loss, or other and are struggling to cope, our trauma specialists are currently running a waitlist. If you would like to consider this option anyway, please contact us for more information.
Sometimes, trauma reminders come out of nowhere and stop you in your tracks.
It’s overwhelming to live under constant threat. You’re tired of pushing it all down. You’re ready to get your life back.
There are many different kinds of trauma. However, there are types of trauma that are typically diagnosed under the DSM-5. Intense reactions to a terrible or dangerous event that you experienced directly or witnessed. Trauma can also occur from being exposed to details of someone else’s trauma, this is called vicarious trauma. There are other types of trauma that can occur that don’t meet the standard definitions under the DSM-5. This includes developmental trauma disorder. Our skilled therapists at Momentum Psychology are here to help!
Physical abuse or neglect
Emotional abuse or neglect
Physical assault or bullying
Natural disasters like a tornado, hurricanes, earthquakes, or flood
Experienced threats of harm or death
Serious injury or accident
Neighborhood or school violence
Death of a loved one
Just like every person is unique, so is an individual’s reaction to trauma. Some people may experience unpleasant trauma symptoms. While others may meet the full DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. Under the DSM-5, the symptoms of PTSD are broken down into the following clusters: re-experiencing or intrusion, avoidance, negative changes in cognition and mood, and hyperarousal.
Negative thoughts about self, world, and/or others
Problems with sleeping, eating, anger, attention, and/or focus
Often “jumpy” or restless, hyperactive, or impulsive
Avoiding places, activities, or people related to trauma, grief, or loss
Being easily startled
Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or shame
Avoiding thinking or talking about trauma, grief, or loss
Always being on guard or on the lookout for danger
Engaging in inappropriate sexual or aggressive behaviors
Difficulty falling or staying asleep
Nightmares or bad dreams
Difficulty paying attention or concentrating
Loss of interest in activities
Daydreaming or mentally checking out
Although many people experience trauma, not all children go on to develop traumatic stress or PTSD. For most people, signs or symptoms of trauma will happen soon after the event, and the person will recover. Other people may develop new or more severe problems months or years later.
PTSD is more accurately conceptualized as a problem of recovery, specifically blocked recovery. The person is unable to access the protective factors that would facilitate recovery. These factors have been found to increase a person’s risk of developing PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event.
Having little or no support after the event
Not receiving trauma therapy
Experiencing more than one traumatic event
Surviving intense trauma
Being confined or restrained during trauma
Physical pain occurs during the trauma
If the traumatic event has occurred within the last 30 days and the appropriate symptom criteria are met, it may be more likely that this would fit the description of acute stress disorder.
In general, psychologists wait 30 days after an event to conduct a full trauma evaluation. Not surprisingly, the closer to the event, the less time the brain has had to recover. Most people would meet the criteria for PTSD within that timeframe. It is the persistence of the symptoms that becomes the problem with PTSD – not that they occur. In the wake of a traumatic event, those symptoms are more the rule than the exception.
According to the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, the number of adverse childhood experiences you have had is strongly associated with negative health outcomes. The study found that ACEs have a dose-response relationship with many health problems. So, the more ACEs or traumatic experiences you’ve had, the more likely you are to experience not only mental health but physical health issues. A trauma therapist can support you.
According to the ACE study, 61% of adults have had at least one ACE, and 16% had 4 or more types of ACEs.
The study indicated that the number of ACEs was very strongly associated with smoking, alcohol and drug use, and severe obesity.
If you’ve experienced more ACEs you are also more likely to have high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Compared to an ACE score of 0, having 4 ACEs was associated with a 700% increased risk of alcoholism. 200% increased risk of being diagnosed with cancer.
These experiences also can cause you to have negative beliefs about yourself, others, and the world. You might have trouble believing you are safe, in control, and have power over your life. Current neuroscience research indicates that trauma alters your brain.
Changes in limbic system functioning, the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight response”), and other areas of the brain are common. Without treatment, these changes can cause many issues and impact your ability to function in your day-to-day life.
Scientists now know that due to neuroplasticity, you can rewire your brain with behavioral change through trauma therapy.
It is much easier to learn from fear or trauma than to unlearn it. However, neuroscience suggests that by harnessing the power of the prefrontal cortex and leveraging both bottom-up and top-down processing, you can heal trauma.
Trauma treatment will teach you many different skills to cope with the symptoms of trauma and PTSD, these include:
Distress tolerance: you will be able to learn techniques to calm your emotional and physical reactions to trauma triggers.
Learning to observe difficult thoughts and feelings without getting “hooked” by them
Activities to help you find meaning in the traumatic event so you experience post-traumatic growth.
Tools to help you stay present in the current moment, so you can move through trauma memories/flashbacks without getting “stuck”
Skills to have better relationships with the people you love and care about.
Encouragement to participate in activities you enjoy but have been avoiding due to trauma
No. Even if a person doesn’t meet the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis, they may meet the criteria for another related disorder such as unspecified trauma-related disorder, acute stress disorder, or adjustment disorder. For example, If an individual is experiencing a negative day-to-day impact on their quality of life and well-being. Trauma treatment may still be the best course of action.
Some people have all the symptoms of PTSD. The traumatic event doesn’t fall within the parameters of the DSM-5 Criterion A requirements. For instance, the experience of a bitter separation or divorce doesn’t meet those criteria. Yet many people who have experienced this would likely describe it as “traumatic.”
Other events, like a child or teen being separated from parents. Emotional neglect or abuse throughout development may meet the criteria for developmental trauma disorder. This was proposed for adoption in the DSM-5 but ultimately not included. (Recently, in my practice, there was a notable increase in adults seeking treatment. This was related to being sent to a residential treatment program or boarding school.)
Often therapists will call trauma that doesn’t meet the criteria “little T trauma.” I absolutely hate that term. It is meant typically to describe trauma-related problems that don’t qualify for PTSD. Yet it sounds like it is minimizing the impact of trauma. That’s not what is intended.
Clinically, the PTSD diagnosis or an unspecified trauma disorder with functional impairment shifts into strong recommendations for the currently recognized evidence-based treatments for PTSD, which are, arguably, limited to a handful of options.
On the other hand, if a person doesn’t meet the criteria for PTSD, there may be those and more options. Some components would be present in the treatment of both PTSD and other trauma-related problems such as psychoeducation on trauma and the neuroscience of trauma and skills relating to emotion regulation and self-compassion. Others such as different types of exposure (in vivo, imaginal, interoceptive, etc.) might not always be necessary.
For years, the powerful models of prolonged exposure (PE) therapy and acceptance and commitment (ACT) therapy have been integrated to treat trauma-related disorders. Researchers have begun to develop and test these integrated models with solid effects in populations with PTSD and those with comorbid PTSD and substance use disorder (Batten & Hayes, 2005; Meyer et al., 2018; Ramirez et al., 2021)
This is a powerful, evidence-based trauma treatment model. It uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies with commitment and behavior change strategies to increase psychological and behavioral flexibility. Psychological flexibility is the ability to be present and open to new experiences. It also helps you determine if your thoughts and behaviors will help you achieve your personal goals. Behavioral flexibility involves using leveraging this to engage in more flexible and values-based behaviors. Dr. Newman has received training in ACT from Dr. Russ Harris, Dr. Jason Luoma, and Dr. Steven Hayes, the developer of ACT.
When working with clients with trauma, therapists often integrate these two therapies. Dr. Newman, in particular, has had systematic training in that integration. Dr. Newman has received training from Dr. Russ Harris in the use of ACT in trauma. She has also received training in the integration of ACT and PE through a Department of Veterans Affairs Center of Excellence program for PTSD.
Several of our other therapists have received training in PE through the VA.
Cognitive Processing Therapy is a specific type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. It can help you learn how to modify and challenge unhelpful beliefs related to trauma. Treatment begins with teaching you why your body reacts the way it does to trauma. And why you may have PTSD, thoughts, and emotions. CPT focuses on the cognitive aspects of trauma. These are the beliefs about safety, control, intimacy, power, esteem, and trust relating to self, world, and others. Out-of-session homework is included.
CPT is recommended for the treatment of PTSD by the American Psychological Association and the VA. Dr. Newman and Dr. Norwood have been trained in CPT through the VA. Dr. Newman, specifically, received training in CPT from Dr. Patricia Resick, the developer of CPT, and faculty at a VA Center of Excellence for PTSD.
Many of our trauma therapists are trained in TF-CBT. Dr. Newman is a certified therapist in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is the “gold standard” for the treatment of trauma in children and teens. We typically use this treatment for individuals that are under 18 years of age.
A 2016 study from Penn State found that structured TF-CBT was related to a reduction in PTSD symptoms after treatment whereas unstructured, play therapy was related to an increase in symptoms. Further research is needed and there are many other important factors (e.g., therapist training, etc.) but there is evidence that such techniques offer potentially better outcomes.
Dr. Newman is a nationally certified provider and supervisor for TF-CBT and received her training at the Center of Child Abuse and Neglect and through the developers of TF-CBT in the national Train-the-Supervisor program. If you are a therapist interested in working with us and providing TF-CBT, Dr. Newman can discuss the certification process with you.
Dr. Norwood is also a nationally-certified provider in TF-CBT.
Past trauma, if left unaddressed, can change the landscape of your present life and your ability to function. If you are living with the constant specter of trauma haunting your life, take the first steps to regain control by reaching out for help. At Momentum Psychology our skilled team of therapists understands this vicious cycle trauma creates and is here to help you work towards reaching your full potential professionally and personally. We utilize evidence-based treatment methods that include ACT, DBT, CBT, and Trauma-Informed Practices.
If you are ready to take control of your life and build Momentum moving forward to a bright future, follow the steps below to get started.
Get to know more about our skilled team of therapists here.
Fill out our convenient online contact form.
Begin the journey to regaining control of your life
As well as having extensive training and experience in the treatment of burnout and stress-related issues, our team of therapists also offers a wide variety of online therapy services in North Carolina and all Psypact States. We work with lawyers, entrepreneurs, students, parents, and teens who are dealing with ADHD, trauma and loss, anxiety and panic, depression, and life transitions. We also offer SPACE, Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions. Our goal is to help you find success both professionally and personally so you can gain Momentum to excel in a bright future.
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“Dr. Newman has been a valued colleague for many years. I often consult with her about trauma recovery or working with families. I deeply respect her caring, honest, and informed approach to therapy. She has exceptional training and strives to provide the highest quality of work with her clients. I have heard her speak about collaboration and meeting clients where they are so as to take a individualized and intentional approach for each unique client. I have the deepest of respect for her and have every confidence in recommending working with her.”
— LEIA CHARNIN, PHD, LICENSED PSYCHOLOGIST, CHARLOTTE, NC
“Dr. Jan Newman is one of the most skillful therapists I have ever worked with in my career. She has handled cases whose complexity had its own complexity and has helped those families out of that forest of suffering.
I cannot commend her therapy skills highly enough. As a therapist with over 20 years experience in the field of child trauma, she is who I would trust with my own child, without hesitation. ”
— MICHAEL GOMEZ, PHD | LICENSED PSYCHOLOGIST, PROFESSOR, & TF-CBT | PCIT MASTER TRAINER, BROWN UNIVERSITY
Momentum’s resources are for informational purposes only and are not intended to assess, diagnose, or treat any medical and/or mental health disease or condition. Our resources do not imply nor establish any type of therapist-client relationship. The information should not be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health or medical provider who could best evaluate and advise based on a careful evaluation.