Category: General Articles

The Bachelorette says that going to therapy was the best decision she made that entire year

Open discussions about mental health do not usually happen on television, let alone reality television. A few weeks ago, during week 2 of the Bachelorette, Rachel and Peter made history by discussing their own experiences with relationship therapy. (Click here to watch clip.)

On their first date, Rachel asks Peter a question she says that she gets a lot: “You’re so great, how are you still single?” Peter explains that after his last relationship ended, he saw a relationship therapist. He adds, “[Therapy] has helped me a lot. It has helped me now be more calm in my thoughts.”

Rachel seemed to be quite excited by this concept! She added her own experience with therapy after her last long relationship ended. Rachel explained that she felt that there was something that she wasn’t getting with herself. “So I went to a therapist. It was the best decision that I made that entire year, and again, it prepared me to realize what I want from myself, and what wasn’t working for me,” she says.

While reality television dating isn’t on the horizon for most, it is common for young adults to not know what they are looking for in a relationship! A therapist can assist that person to discover tools for better communication, thoughtful preparations for challenges, setting realistic expectations, and so much more.

The stigma surrounding mental health seems to have gotten better over the last few years, however it is important to note that not all who go to therapy have a mental illness. In a recent blog post, Kyle M. Reid, LMFT wrote, “People who go to counseling are those with the courage and capacity to seek and consider input in helping them function more happily and effectively in their every day lives. Getting help is not a weakness.”

Rachel and Peter are two people that are educated, attractive, and well-spoken; the idea that they would frequently be asked the annoying “why are you still single” question makes sense. Too often the true answer is “there are things that I need to work on with myself.” We applaud both of these individuals for the courage they showed to discuss this topic on national television.

If you are questioning if you should see a therapist, most offer a free consultation. Here at Connections Counseling Services, our therapists are happy to talk to you to discuss any questions you may have. Click here to read our blog on choosing the right therapist for you.

The 12 Steps and Trauma

The 12 Steps are utilized by SA, AA, and other groups as guiding principles outlining how to recover from compulsive and addictive behaviors and restore manageability to one’s life.

By Joseph Houck

“Uncover. Discard. Discover. Heal”. This is a pattern we learn in 12 step work.   It sounds simple, right? After all, shouldn’t the 12 Steps help me do this? And shouldn’t it be as simple as described in this formula? But what is soon found when working the steps (and being involved in other healing activities), is that more problems and pain seem to arise. Most people seem perplexed that sobriety can suffer or even get worse when they first start the work of healing and recovery.

What most people forget is that the process of healing and recovery is a MAJOR undertaking because this is an addiction. Recovery requires a great deal of consistency over time.

Addiction is caused when a person stuffs their pain and trauma deep within themselves. Deep hurts that are stuffed and not dealt with directly, (usually because of age or inexperience), callous over and walls are built around the pain and hurt so that the person doesn’t have to regularly deal with the pain.

Trauma wants release and healing, but many soothe stuffed trauma with addictive behavior. Not dealing with the pain deepens the addiction.   Dealing with the pain leads to healing.

It is while working the 12 Steps that people start to see what’s truly going on deep within. We start to uncover the wounds and start to see them for what they are. But when these pains are uncovered they are overwhelming! And triggering! And traumatizing! It’s almost as if the pain is even more powerful when it is dug up then when it was put there.

This can lead to relapse after relapse for months or years because someone who is addicted hasn’t yet learned how to deal with these strong emotions or pain. After all, we’ve thought we can do it on our own for so long! The 12 Steps allow a person to deal with these strong emotions in healthy ways. With the help of others and especially our Higher Power, we learn that we can trust – that we can successfully work through difficult emotions in the safety of being loved and valued.

This initial phase of healing is painful and it does hurt—but it does end. I have dealt with many people, including myself, who have done the difficult work of trauma healing. What I’ve found is that when the pain comes up it arises like a volcanic eruption – as anger, rage, resentment and frustration. If these feelings are dealt with healthily over a large period of time by consistently using healing tools (especially the 12 Steps) these feelings give way to serenity, peace, and joy.

Yes, the road to recovery and healing does hurt initially but the hurt and pain subsides and what replaces it is serenity, peace, and JOY.

Now that’s something that is well worth any effort.


The author Joseph Houck loves helping people heal and is progressing in his education to become a therapist. Having dealt with trauma healing for several years he has an intrinsic and deeply personal view of the serenity, peace, and joy that comes with healing. He can be reached by email at Joe.Houck@gmail.com

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.