Category: Kayla Burningham AMFT

Do you experience the effects of unresolved trauma? The answer could surprise you.

by Kayla Burningham, AMFT

People enter therapy for a number of reasons. Sometimes it’s because of a relationship and other times it has to do with feeling like they aren’t functioning as well as they would like. This can be the result of anxiety, depression, irritability, sleeplessness, etc. Therapists work with clients to treat these symptoms and hopefully help the client live a more fulfilling life. However, oftentimes finding the root cause and treating that can in turn alleviate pain caused from other symptoms. Imagine taking a painkiller to assuage the pain of a nail in the foot. The painkiller might provide some relief, but the pain might always be there, or at least return, unless the root cause is treated. In this case, the nail needs to be taken out! This is often the case with assessing for and treating trauma in therapy. Treating past trauma gets to the root cause of the pain and can provide relief.

The most common response I get to assessing for trauma in the first couple of sessions is, “But wait! I don’t have any trauma! I’ve had a good life!” Or, “My parents did the best they could. They would be devastated if they knew I thought they could have done better.” Or perhaps, “Sure, some terrible things happened but I’m pretty much over them now.” Sound familiar? The thing with trauma is that those statements can be true and yet you can still be affected by trauma. You might have a good life, but still be affected in some ways by trauma. Your parents might have done the very best they knew how, but it still could have been hurtful for you as a kid—and that might still impact you in adulthood. And yes, you might be largely over pain from the past, but that doesn’t mean you don’t experience any remaining symptoms. For example, here is a list of some symptoms associated with trauma: Anxiety, depression, irritability, insomnia, guilt, shame, withdrawing from others, feeling disconnected or numb, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, fatigue, being startled easily, muscle tension, aches and pains, edginess and agitation, etc. The list goes on and on. This is why I personally always assess for trauma. It doesn’t mean it’s there, it just helps create a more thorough and pertinent treatment plan.

In discussing trauma, there are two types: A traumatic event that fits the DSM-5 criteria for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and complex trauma, which refers to simultaneous, sequential, and chronic experiences often beginning in childhood. I think it’s important that some examples be given of each.

Some examples of PTSD as defined in the current DSM-5 (the manual for mental disorders that clinicians use when diagnosing and submitting claims to insurances) include extreme events that can be violent or accidental. These events may include feelings of helplessness, horror, fear for one’s own life or the lives of others. A few examples of this type of trauma include rape, war, natural disasters, etc.

However, most of the clients I see don’t fit the criteria for PTSD per say, but they are absolutely experiencing effects of complex trauma. Although Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has not yet been added to the DSM, there is plenty of literature backing its validity. Complex trauma can include emotional abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and even being involved or witnessing domestic violence. Complex trauma is what I see the most of in my practice. For example, an only child with two working parents who puts herself to bed each night and wakes herself up each morning may suffer as an adult from the pain of being neglected in childhood, even if her parents were doing all they could to put food on the table. Another example might be a young boy repeatedly molested by a family member as a child. Although he might be a grown adult now with those events long behind him, he might come to therapy presenting to be “terrible” in relationships. Only later would we discover that his fear of intimacy would stem from his childhood experiences of being abused. In both of those examples, assessing for and treating traumas that happened long ago can have a big impact on the effectiveness of therapy.

Do you think you still experience the impacts of a painful past event? Then trauma therapy might be beneficial for you. Clients benefit from a therapist that is empathetic, sensitive, patient, and knowledgeable to properly diagnose and treat it. The last criteria is a must—many therapists don’t receive extensive training on treating trauma. Don’t be afraid to “therapist shop” and ask about their training in dealing with trauma.

Working through trauma is a very personal, emotional journey. Although working through trauma can be painful, it can have a big payoff. It can be liberating and restore hope. It can restore confidence. Perhaps most importantly, it can help us be an advocate for others. Robert Bly once said, “Where a man’s wound is, that is where his genius will be.” Call or email to schedule an appointment today and finally work to put the past, well, in the past.

Sources:

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/emotional-and-psychological-trauma.htm

http://www.nctsnet.org/nctsn_assets/pdfs/edu_materials/ComplexTrauma_All.pdf

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.


Kayla is a therapist specializing in trauma. She is trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) and uses its practices in conjunction with emotionally focused and narrative therapy techniques to help clients resolve painful past memories and experiences.

 

EMDR: Therapy for Trauma

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a type of therapy that enables people to heal from the distress and ongoing symptoms that can result after experiencing trauma. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR clients can streamline the therapy process; EMDR therapy enables individuals to experience the benefits of years of psychotherapy in a much shorter amount of time.

One study*, focused on sexual assault victims, found that 90% of PTSD sufferers exhibited eliminated symptoms after only 3 sessions of EMDR.

The American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, the Department of Veteran Affairs, and the Department of Defense all recognize EMDR as one of the most effective treatment for trauma and other disturbing events.

Read more about EMDR Psychotherapy: What is EMDR?

Kayla Burningham, AMFT is an EMDR certified therapist, and specializes in helping clients overcome the trauma from their past.

Contact our office to speak with Kayla and learn more.


 

*Rothbaum, B. (1997). A controlled study of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disordered sexual assault victims. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 61, 317-334.

Premarital Couples Counseling – Is that really a thing???

by Kayla Burningham, AMFT

Premarital Couples Counseling — Is that really a thing???

Marriage is the biggest decision a person will make in life. We all enter  marriage with high hopes that the relationship will be fulfilling, rewarding, and long lasting. Additionally, we hope the marriage will be of benefit to future children—protecting them from mental, physical, emotional, educational, and social problems. However, despite the best intentions, according to the American Psychological Association a whopping 40-50% of marriages end in divorce, severely impacting all parties involved, especially children. What if there was a way to help prevent becoming included in this grim statistic?

Premarital couples counseling is quickly becoming a popular new trend—and according to research it is proving to be effective. One particular study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that premarital education decreased the odds of divorce by 31%!!! Additionally, couples in the study reported higher marital satisfaction, less destructive conflicts, and more commitment to their partner. Another study published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, the most renown journal in the field of marital and family therapy, found that premarital couples counseling helped increased confidence in their ability to discuss important topics and helped clients better understand their partner. Who wouldn’t want those dynamics in their marriage? Premarital couples counseling is a great tool to prevent divorce and increase a stable foundation in the relationship.

Premarital couples counseling can be brief, comprising of approximately 10 sessions or less. First, the therapist will work with the clients to conduct a relationship assessment—identifying strengths and weaknesses in the relationship. Following the assessment the therapist will then work with the couple to set goals to help overcome challenges. Then the therapist will teach the clients skills that will help them establish a solid foundation in their relationship. These skills can include:

  • Learning to communicate more effectively.
  • Avoiding toxic resentments.
  • Setting realistic expectations.
  • Conflict resolution techniques.

Premarital couples counseling is one of the best investments a couple can make for their marriage. At Connections Counseling Services, our licensed therapists are skilled in helping couples prepare for challenges in their relationship, thereby decreasing the likelihood of divorce and increasing marital satisfaction. Enter your marriage prepared and confident by giving your relationship the gift of premarital couples counseling.

References:

American Psychological Association

Larson, J. H., Vatter, R. S., Galbraith, R. C., Holman, T. B., & Stahmann, R. F. (2007). The RELATionship Evaluation (RELATE) With Therapist-Assisted Interpretation: Short-Term Effects on Premarital Relationships. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33(3), 364–374.

The Mayo Clinic

Naylor, S. (2014). Everything you need to know about premarital counseling. The Huffington Post.

Stanley, S. M., Amato, P. R., Johnson, C. A., & Markman, H. J. (2006). Premarital education, marital quality, and marital stability: Findings from a large, random household survey. Journal of Family Psychology, 20(1), 117–126.

What is Mindfulness?

By Kayla Burningham, AMFT

Mindfulness has become a popular term lately. It is also a very common intervention used in therapy for a variety of presenting problems. In 2010 an analysis of all previous studies of the effects mindfulness on anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders was conducted. The results? Mindfulness significantly decreased symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. While that is great news, what clients really want is an intervention that will help them in the long run–that will help create lasting change and lead to healing. With that in mind, what else did this analysis find? At follow-up appointments clients still reported significant decreases in symptoms! Mindfulness can be a powerful intervention in the treatment of mood disorders. Here are some other great benefits studies have attributed to mindfulness:

  • Improve well-being
  • Strengthen relationships
  • Increase focus and attention
  • Boost immune systems

Wow! Three cheers for mindfulness!

So, what is mindfulness? Psychology Today defines mindfulness as:

“A state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

In therapy, your therapist will guide you in becoming aware of your thoughts and encourage you to stay in the present moment. When thoughts drift, the therapist will gently pull you back to the present to an observable state. For example, focusing on your thoughts as if they are clouds slowly moving by in the sky. Eventually mindfulness allows a client to observe their thoughts without reacting to them or judging themselves. This ability to be aware of what we are thinking without reacting puts us back in the driver seat in our own lives and allows us to make more educated decisions about what actions to take, what behaviors to change, and, perhaps most importantly, what to let go.

Mindfulness can be incorporated in couple or family therapy as well. I have oftentimes used it in my own practice to help family members take a deep breath, reach a state of calm, observe their thoughts, and mindfully practice what they want to say. This helps clients to then communicate with their loved ones more effectively.

All this goes to say that mindfulness has broad applications. A skilled therapist can utilize mindfulness in a variety of ways to assist clients in understanding their thoughts, emotions, and the physical sensations associated with those emotions. When mindfulness is regularly used and practiced, it has the potential to create lasting change, boost the healing process, and help a client lead a proactive life.

Sources:

Hofman, S.G., Sawyer, A.T., Witt, A.A., & Oh, D.The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. 2010. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 78(2).

http://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/mindfulness-based-interventions#Techniques

https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/mindfulness


IMG_7162

Kayla is a Licensed Therapist 
working with individuals,
families, couples, as well as groups.