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September 27, 2009

Holistic Psychotherapy and Trauma Treatment

By Judith Acosta

What happens in trauma? Why do memories persist the way they do? What options do people have for successful recovery? This article offers a brief overview.


The Critical Response

A trauma is any situation that threatens your physical or psychological well-being and causes you to experience uncommonly powerful emotions. There are three options when we feel we are in danger: we can fight, flee, or freeze.

How we respond is determined by our characters as much as by our environments, but there are general signs and symptoms of a stress reaction: anxiety, grief, poor concentration, forgetfulness, headaches, fatigue, loss of appetite, numbing, anger, restlessness, irritability, fear, nightmares, hyper-vigilance.. When symptoms persist or become too intense, it is time to seek help from a professional with experience in trauma treatment.

The Negative Trance

Some people experience traumas so overwhelming that they get stuck, similar in ways to a needle skipping on a record. The frightening event is long gone, but the body persists in responding as though it were happening all over again. When the mind and body froze, it unwittingly locked itself into a negative trance, a negative feedback loop. For that reason, an essential part of working with trauma is "de-trancing," so that the event can be put in the past, where it belongs.

Body Memory

Most of the exciting and wonderfully successful work being done in cases of traumatic stress is in the area of mind/body medicine and energy healing. Treatment options include: hypnotherapy, Reiki or Therapeutic Touch, Somatic Experiencing, Classical Homeopathy, EMDR, and Thought-Field Therapy. They are all based on the notion that the mind and body are one organism and that thoughts and words have real, physical impacts. This is the basis of Verbal First Aid, which seeks to mitigate the traumatic impact of an event as early as possible through the strategic use of words and mental images.

Case History: The Disappearing Tic

"A" came in for terrible twitching and fear. She was so hyper-vigilant that she wouldn't even close the office door. We started by focusing on environmental triggers to rule them out. We charted sleep, meals, and stress triggers, carefully managing them. Twitching episodes seem to be more disruptive and frequent when she was tired, disturbed, or hungry. Symptoms were diminished but not gone. There was obviously more at work within her. What purpose did the twitch serve? What was its mechanism? When did it start? When we explored further with hypnosis, we amazingly discovered that she had had a traumatic injury to the area in which the twitch originated. With a combination of EMDR, body work, and hypnosis, she has happily eliminated it altogether. She is married, successful in her career and unimpeded by old fears and pain.

Authors Bio:
Judith Acosta, LISW, CHT is a licensed psychotherapist and clinical homeopath in private practice in Placitas and Albuquerque. Her areas of specialization include the treatment of anxiety, depression, and trauma. She has appeared on both television and radio and is a regular lecturer throughout the U.S. She is the author of The Next Osama and co-author of the books, Verbal First Aid and The Worst Is Over, which has been dubbed the "bible of crisis communication."