Trauma Informed Therapy, Trauma Counseling, + EMDR Therapy in Los Angeles

How To Know If Trauma Informed Therapy + Trauma Counseling Can Help

A traumatic event can be any event that surpasses a person’s ability to emotionally cope with what they are experiencing. It can overwhelm the nervous system and leave a person in a persistent state of fight, flight, freeze or fawn. Trauma counseling and trauma informed therapy are designed to help each person navigate their relationship to what happened and move through it so they can get back to living life.

Untreated trauma can leave a wake of implications in a person’s life. It can change how they see themselves, others, and the world. People who have histories of trauma may struggle with emotional regulation and coping skills, substance abuse and mental health, physical health, or experience difficulties in their relationships with friends, family, peers and romantic partners.
Survivors may also notice an impact on their sexuality, spirituality, capacity for work and achievement, parenting, hobbies, creativity, etc.

Trauma Informed Counseling Respects that Trauma is Subjective

What is considered traumatic is completely subjective. One person may not have a big reaction to a particular event, while another person may feel completely overwhelmed by similar circumstances.

A traumatic experience can be:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Sexual
  • Financial
  • Spiritual
  • Intellectual
  • Racial
  • Cultural
  • Environmental

The effects of trauma are vast. Trauma often leaves a person feeling dehumanized, small, unsafe, or helpless. It can happen in relationships, natural disasters, accidents, via betrayal, or systemically.

The only thing necessary for a traumatic event to be considered traumatic, is that it felt traumatic to the person who experienced it. Period.

Can Trauma Counseling Address Big "T" Trauma or Little "t” Trauma?

A big T trauma, is generally something that happens once, and is easily recognizable in a person’s life as having been traumatic.

In contrast, a little t trauma, may be more difficult to pinpoint. This term is used to describe the residual effect of less obvious, and often more chronic, trauma. A trauma informed therapist may describe little t traumas to include things like, chronic invalidation, enmeshment, growing up within a chaotic or emotionally disorganized home.

Feeling a lack of support, chronic rejection or relation rejection, etc. could all be considered more covert trauma forms of trauma. Both Big T and little t traumas, can result in symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, depression, insecure attachment styles, or other mental health and relationship concerns.

Covert, or little t, traumas may also involve:  

  • Exposure to pornography at a young age
  • Experiencing a parent’s chronic addiction
  • Untreated mental health concerns
  • Being parentified
  • Witnessing domestic violence
  • Chronic exclusion

Single Incident Trauma + Complex Trauma

Trauma is experienced in many forms and the signs and symptoms vary from person to person. A single incident trauma happens usually just once in a person’s life. These might include intense combat, rape, natural disasters, losing a loved one, or a near death experiences.

There are also prolonged forms of trauma such as experiencing abuse, death of a loved one, infidelity, and some unhealthy relationships or lengthy breakups. These are often called complex traumas.

Trauma therapy is geared toward helping you recognize the signs and reduce the symptoms of trauma. When assessing if you are experiencing aftereffects of trauma, there are several symptoms to look for:

  • Flashbacks of the event
  • Heightened startle response
  • nightmares about the event
  • Sleep issues
  • Avoiding certain people, places, and things that remind you of the traumatic event
  • Feeling depressed and hopeless, shame or guilt
  • Dissociation, sense of disconnection from your body or a sense of surreality

Trauma counseling can help you make sense of what you’re feeling, and take back a sense of empowerment and control in life.


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What are the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Feeling Triggered & Re-Experiencing The Event

You may have heard the term triggered before. It refers to someone experiencing some stimulus that reminds them of a traumatic event. Triggers can take the form of people, places, smells, environments, sights, sounds, memories or thoughts, or anything else associated with the trauma.

When this happens it causes the survivor to feel as if they are experiencing the traumatic event all over again. In other words, their brain reacts as if what happened in their past is happening in the present moment. This can be scary and even panic-inducing at times.

It may lead the survivor to have an automatic fight, flight, freeze or fawn response. During the triggered moment, or immediately after, a person might feel anxiety, depression, anger, shame, or an overwhelming sense of fear.

Coping with PTSD Through Avoiding & Numbing

Many trauma survivors struggle with avoidance and numbing. Due to the overwhelming terror of re-experiencing the trauma, they often avoid anything that might be triggering, consciously or unconsciously.

For example, if someone had a near death car accident, they may avoid driving past the intersection where it occurred, as it reminds them of the event. Someone with an alcoholic parent might avoid drinking beer.

This avoidance, while aimed at self-preservation, can lead to feelings of isolation. A survivor may be more susceptible to canceling plans with friends, calling family less, or avoiding social gatherings.

Being around the people, places or things that remind them of the trauma may feel too overwhelming at times. Trauma informed therapy can help survivors develop the ability scope with triggers more effectively, opening up their lives again.

Numbing out, or escaping, is another common symptom of trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A trauma survivor may feel so overwhelmed emotionally that they attempt to numb out, or escape, so as to minimize the highs and lows of intense emotion.

Numbing out can take the form of substance abuse, compulsive shopping, compulsive sex or masturbation, excessive sleeping, binge watching TV, emotional eating or restricting, etc. Any compulsive or unconscious behavior that helps a survivor escape uncomfortable emotions, can be the result of untreated trauma.

Finding Healthy Management Strategies With Trauma Counseling

When people experience trauma, what started as a natural coping strategy may evolve into a strategy that no longer serves them. This can look like engaging in toxic relationship patterns, ineffective boundaries, self-sabotage, compulsive behaviors or substance abuse.

EMDR Therapy: Treating The Root Cause Of Trauma

In trauma counseling, trauma survivors and those struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can benefit from Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR therapy aims to alleviate distress from trauma via bilateral stimulation (visual, audio, or tactile). It helps trauma survivors reprocess and reduce high intensity emotions often experienced with certain traumatic memories.

Clinical Psychologists, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists or Licensed Clinical Social Workers use EMDR therapy in private practice and treatment centers. It helps people who experience panic attacks, certain phobias, dissociation, recurring memories and dreams, maladaptive coping mechanisms, body dysmorphia, etc. With EMDR, people have the potential to overcome symptoms and feel more present. Following EMDR therapy, survivors tend to feel more emotionally and physiologically regulated during memories of trauma.

How Does EMDR Therapy Work?

An innovative type of psychotherapy, EMDR was developed by Francine Shapiro. She noted that certain eye movements helped to relieve psychological stress. During the therapy session, you focus on disturbing memories for short periods. Your therapist will provide instruction on eye movements. This helps your body process the experience.

EMDR Therapy Utilizes Bilateral Stimulation

Stimuli that occurs in a left-right pattern to a specific rhythm is known as bilateral stimulation. Bilateral stimulation can include visual, audio or tactile prompts that encourage the right and left hemispheres of the brain to respond, which is helpful in integrating memories in a manner that is less emotionally charged.

In other words,  bilateral stimulation provides a distancing effect, separating you from the problem. It also decreases your state of psychological arousal, helping you relax. It also helps you redirect your attention from areas where you may fixate. Finally, it provides relief from worry.

Is EMDR Therapy Effective?

Evidence-based research has backed up the effectiveness of EMDR therapy for a variety of conditions. They include trauma, PTSD, acute stress disorder, and anxiety disorders.

EMDR has been studied in all age groups. It is proven as effective as other treatments, such as cognitive behavior therapy.

What To Expect with EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy requires multiple sessions to provide relief from symptoms. There are several steps in the process.

You will discuss your history with your therapist. You will identify specific traumatic memories to work on during your sessions.

Your therapist will provide you with some tools to deal with the stress you experience. Once you have the tools in place, your therapist will work with you on a specific traumatic memory. Now, the real work of EMDR begins. You will focus on specific memories. While doing so, your therapist instructs you on eye movements to trigger bilateral stimulation.

You will then clear your mind and notice what thoughts pop to the surface. After identifying these thoughts, you may repeat the process or move on to a different traumatic memory. If the thought of bringing up painful memories sounds unpleasant, know that your therapist is there every step of the way. They will guide you back to the present and reinforce the tools, such as deep breathing, you can use to ease stressful feelings.

Over time, by opening yourself up to these traumatic memories while using bilateral stimulation, the memories’ distress diminishes.

Is EMDR Therapy Right for Me?

Trauma counseling can help you identify the root of these strategies. Our clinicians work with you to build and recognize healthier coping mechanisms to improve your quality of life and assist in your healing. We’re here to help you on your healing journey, no matter what you’re going through.

We understand the ways trauma can significantly impact everyday life, relationships, career, and identity. Whether you want to try EMDR therapy or work via other trauma informed therapy, we’re here for you when you’re ready.


Other Trauma Informed Therapy Models at Modern Intimacy

NeuroAffective Touch

Dr. Aline LaPierre developed this Polyvagal-informed model of therapy, to help integrate talk therapy and body work, in the healing of relational and developmental trauma. Safe, consensual and healthy touch are a cornerstone of healthy relational development.

While touch is not appropriate for every kind of therapy, for those who could benefit, it can be an effective trauma informed therapy. NeuroAffective Touch practitioners help survivors work toward effective mind and body integration, as they heal.

Post Induction Therapy

Pia Mellody, created the Post Induction Therapy model to address the developmental immaturities born out of big T and little t childhood trauma. She defines developmental trauma as “anything less than nurturing.”

This style of trauma informed therapy helps survivors address intimacy disorders and addiction. It can also help improve boundaries and reduce tendencies toward anti-dependence or codependence.

Trauma Sensitive Yoga

Developed by Jenn Turner and David Emerson, Trauma Sensitive Yoga is unique style of yoga, empirically validated for the treatment of trauma. This is not the typical kind of yoga, in that it is invitational and encourages each survivor to listen to their bodies.

Trauma Sensitive Yoga reconnects the survivor with their body, in a way that fosters mind-body awareness, autonomy, empowerment and effective regulation.

Our Revive & Thrive: An Integrative + Embodied Program to Heal From Trauma course employs this style of yoga to help survivors strengthen an embodied sense of self.