Surviving Childhood Trauma

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Sadly, child abuse occurs far too often. Some families seem to pass on the legacy of physical, sexual and psychological abuse because many times victims of childhood abuse grow up to abuse their own children. This pattern can be halted if victims of abuse seek and receive professional help to deal with their trauma.

Commonly, a survivor of abuse will “stuff” their emotions and the memories of the traumatic events when they arise. They may turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain or to make the memories of their abuse disappear. These strategies work in the moment, but the thoughts, feelings and memories will keep coming up unless they are processed therapeutically. Quite often, my clients have told me that they have tried on their own for many years to get rid of their traumatic memories, anxiety and negative thoughts before they seek counseling.

There are a variety of therapeutic models to deal with the trauma of childhood abuse.

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy– helps victims of abuse to reframe the irrational and negative thoughts/beliefs that are often formulated after surviving childhood abuse.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)-a very specialized form of trauma treatment developed to address the flashbacks, memories and negative thoughts common in those with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Dialectical Behavior Therapy-a collection of therapeutic interventions that focus on helping victims of abuse learn to manage their emotions, cope with stress in interpersonal relationships and tolerate emotional distress.

Play Therapy-a therapy for children that helps them express and process their emotions and memories of abuse in a safe environment. Play therapy uses dolls and toys to teach about healthy relationships and boundaries.

Pharmacologic Therapy-many times survivors of childhood abuse develop sleep problems, anxiety disorders (generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or phobias) or a mood disorder. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications to help manage symptoms which allow the survivor of abuse to work through trauma in counseling.

In my practice, I work with adult survivors of childhood abuse and utilize trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR and dialectical behavioral therapy and have found these modalities very successful. It takes a great deal of courage and trust to reach out and seek help. If you are a survivor of childhood abuse and are ready to start feeling better, ask you primary care physician for a referral to a mental health care professional in your area that specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder and interview a few therapists to make sure you feel comfortable talking with them

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