Have You Had a Frightening or Confusing Experience That You Can’t Seem to Forget?

  • Do you frequently feel tired, down or on-edge?
  • Have you been having nightmares, waking up with your heart pounding?
  • Do old memories rush back when you least expect them?
  • Are you having significant reactions to things that other people think are small?
  • Do you feel stuck and out of balance?
  • Do you wish you could move forward and find relief from the experiences in your past?

Women Trauma Therapy - Hilo, HI - Stephanie Dodge, PhD

The experience of a trauma can be isolating, overwhelming and exhausting. You may be struggling to understand exactly what is going on in your mind, body and emotions, especially if your trauma occurred years or even decades ago. Perhaps you wonder why these sensations are returning now or why they haven’t gone away after “all this time.” You might be struggling with feelings of self-blame or low self-worth. Maybe you can’t shake the thought that something is really wrong with you.

Trauma can make it difficult to feel safe and secure. You might also be overwhelmed by fear for the safety of your loved ones, especially your children. Maybe you feel very alone, and no one you talk to seems to understand what you are going through. You might try to numb or avoid your feelings through throwing yourself into work or using substances or drinking. Perhaps it feels as though nothing really gives you relief, and your hyper-vigilance and flashbacks are leaving you exhausted and unable to enjoy life in the present.

Many Women Are Survivors of Trauma

If you are struggling with the aftermath of a trauma, whether it was a recent experience or something in your past, you are not alone. 1 in 4 women will experience some sort of sexual assault trauma in their lifetimes, and 1 in 4 people in general will have their lives affected by domestic violence (even witnessing violence without being directly physically harmed can be traumatic). Other kinds of traumatic experiences include car accidents, natural disasters, physical illnesses and childhood neglect and abuse. The more traumatic experiences one has as a child, the greater the impact on mental, emotional and physical health. Regardless of the type(s) of trauma you have experienced in your life, you may be feeling as though the world and the people in it are dangerous and impossible to trust.

Very common symptoms include hyper-vigilance (always being on guard for danger), and intense emotions and flashbacks, especially when you encounter certain triggers, even if those triggers seem like perfectly normal, daily things. Many people who experience a trauma try to avoid these thoughts and sensations by staying away from people or places that provoke memories, working overtime, turning to substances, lashing out in anger or engaging in self-harm. Because every individual experiences trauma differently, this list could go on and on. If you are lucky enough to have a safe, supportive environment and loved ones you can trust, you may be able to access the body’s natural pathways to healing without extra help. However, many people do not have a safe place, and the natural path toward healing can get blocked, which means that the trauma can become stuck.

If you have been experiencing the symptoms of trauma for a longer than 3-6 months, it may be time to seek help. Or, if you have just begun experiencing symptoms, but know that you lack a supportive environment, it is also a wonderful idea to seek help now. Some many people go for years without noticing symptoms, only to have them re-emerge during a significant life event or periods of intense stress. Other people continue to rely on avoidance techniques that simply do not work over the long-term. Regardless of your experience, it is important to know that you don’t have to feel haunted for the rest of your life. There is hope for healing.

Trauma Therapy Can Help You Let Go of the Weight of the Past

Over the past 20 years, mental health professionals have been able to test and improve several different methods of trauma treatment. The evidence-based treatments that have proven to be especially effective for adults (so effective that they are used by the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs) are prolonged exposure (PE) therapy, cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR).

In sessions, I will draw on these methods and create an individualized trauma therapy that will best support your unique personality and needs. We will work at your pace, and I will create a safe, comfortable space for you to talk about your past, fears and hopes. While it can be frightening, talking about your traumatic memories can reduce your symptoms and allow you to live with a freedom you may not think possible. Before we begin working through your trauma, I will help you develop a deeper understanding of yourself and your experience, along with coping skills so you can handle triggers with greater comfort and confidence.

If you are still in a dangerous or traumatic situation, I can provide space for you to talk through what is happening and help you gain the strength you need to make positive changes in your life. And, I can be here for you when you are out of the dangerous situation and ready to work through the trauma that remains.

I have a great deal of experience working with survivors of trauma of all ages, and I understand the way trauma impacts people at every stage of development. I specialize in working with adults who have not yet processed a traumatic childhood. The very common overlap between trauma and substance abuse is also one of my primary areas of specialty. In addition, I have experience working with veterans, particularly those who faced sexual assault during their terms of service, and survivors of domestic violence.

Trauma therapy can help you begin to heal from the pain of the past. It is all too common to spend years or decades carrying the burden of trauma. While you will never completely forget your experience, you can turn it into a memory that has little power over your thoughts, emotions and body. With help and support, you can experience relief from overwhelming strong reactions, intense emotions and intrusive memories. You can function with greater ease, confidence and trust in the world. You can get your life back or begin to live in a way you never thought possible. On the other side, there is incredible freedom. 

You may believe that trauma therapy can help you find relief, but still have questions or concerns…

I’m just sad and don’t know what’s wrong. I don’t think it can be that old thing – I dealt with that already.

It can be difficult to imagine that something from years ago – perhaps back in your childhood or adolescence ­– could be impacting you today. But, trauma can have lasting effects, some of which stay buried until a life event or a period of intense emotions triggers the old trauma. Human beings have a strong tendency to push away trauma, and you may not have completely dealt with your experience after it occurred, especially if it continued over an extended period of time (as is the case with much child abuse, domestic violence or sexual assault).

Trauma therapy can help you put your life story in a new perspective. Your current feelings can begin to make sense in light of what you have experienced. If you are feeling a sudden surge of memory, you are not wrong or broken. But, it is important to realize that symptoms may not go away on their own, even if they have been primarily dormant. There is nothing wrong with seeking help. You do not have to let this experience impact the rest of your life.

Isn’t there any medication I can take to deal with this?

While research continues, there is not yet a medication that can treat trauma and PTSD. In general, the medications that might seem to make you feel better only work in the short term, become another form of avoidance and can lead to addiction. However, for some people, medication can provide temporary relief from symptoms, which may help you during the therapy process. If you are interested in medication to help you clear initial hurdles, I can help you discuss options with your doctor.

Trauma therapy will make me think and talk about what happened, and I don’t want that.

Avoidance is one of the primary symptoms of PTSD. The only way to work through your symptoms and achieve long-lasting relief is to acknowledge your trauma and talk about it. I offer a safe, compassionate space for you to work through your memories and sensations at your own pace. I will be there with you through the difficult times. Once you are able to climb that hill, you may be astonished by the immense relief, healing and freedom you find on the other side.

If you are ready to let go of the past and engage with the present, I invite you to call (808) 747 3445 for a free 15-20-minute phone consultation. I’m happy to answer questions you have about trauma therapy and my practice.

Other Information:

National Institute of Mental Health: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Domestic Violence Action Center

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

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