Are You Ready To Stop Suffering And Feel Safe, Understood And At Ease? DBT Therapy Can Help!
Have you, your teen and/or another loved one suffered trauma through a single incident, such as an accident, assault or invasive medical procedure, or developmental trauma through abuse or neglect in childhood or a long-term relationship? Are you a first responder, a medical professional, or another person with first hand witnessing of the consequences of COVID 19? Are you often consumed with fear, constantly on high alert and worry that something scary will happen again? Maybe you have a hard time with relationships, intimacy and trust. Or perhaps every day and everything feels like a struggle, and you wonder why completing tasks and connecting with others seems harder for you than everyone else. It might be that trauma is manifesting physically, impacting eating and sleeping patterns and causing an exaggerated startle response, panic, fatigue and/or problems with digestion. You might feel confused and struggle to be present with what and who is around you, especially if you’re experiencing intrusive thoughts and ongoing memories about the traumatic incident(s). Do you vacillate between feeling hypervigilant and easily triggered one moment and numb and despondent the next? Maybe you have started trying to self-medicate through food, alcohol or drugs to feel something different, check out of your experience or to feel anything at all. Do you want to understand what’s going on for you and/or your loved one, feel safe and supported, and experience real and reliable relief?
You Are Not Alone
If you or a loved one is struggling with trauma, you are far from alone. Trauma is pervasive in our country, and it’s estimated that 70 percent of American adults have or will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetimes. Of these, roughly 20 percent develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it’s estimated that 5 percent of Americans—more than 13 million people—struggle with PTSD at any given time. Clearly not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD, and the primary difference between the two isn’t necessarily the severity of the event, but rather the severity of and longevity of the symptoms.
Just following a traumatic event, almost everyone experiences distress, fears and intrusive thoughts. For some people, these subside naturally. However, for others—especially those who have experienced trauma in the past—symptoms do not subside and can even worsen. And, although PTSD is often associated with people who have directly experienced war, terrorism, physical and sexual assaults, natural disaster, childhood abuse and neglect, etc., not everyone with PTSD has been through a highly dangerous, life threatening event. It is possible to develop PTSD from suddenly losing a loved one or witnessing a traumatic event. Essentially, anything that threatens a person’s sense of safety can dysregulate the nervous system and trigger both trauma and PTSD.
It’s also important to note that there is trauma with a big T: TRAUMA – and trauma with a little t. Even smaller, seemingly insignificant traumatic memories and occurrences can collectively add up to dis regulation due to the way our brains organize and store memories. For many people, traumatic memories can be “mis filed” by our efficient brain. In fact, the theory of mis categorized, or mis filed memories is one of the under pinnings of therapeutic methods like EMDR, DBT and ACT therapeutic orientations.
Understanding Trauma And PTSD
Trauma affects thoughts and memories, which is problematic given that even on our best and most balanced days, thoughts are dynamic, temperamental and often unreliable. Trauma also causes dysregulation to the nervous system, making the brain and body believe that the world is still unsafe even after the threat has passed. With the nervous system in a perpetual state of fight, flight or freeze, trauma survivors experience intrusive, distressing thoughts, nightmares and recollections of the event(s); emotional numbness; social isolation and avoidance of people, places or activities that trigger reminders of the trauma; and hyperarousal, including difficulty with sleep and concentration, a heightened startle response and increased irritability and anger.
We also live within a culture that perpetuates trauma, as well as engage in processes and practices that are overly activating. We do things harder, faster and longer. We’re overworked, overwhelmed and mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted. We imagine that we can control things that are out of are control and then struggle with self-blame, guilt, shame and fear. Always on the go and in a state of fight or flight, we perpetually reactivate trauma, unknowingly keeping our nervous system in a state of dysregulation while wondering why we feel so awful.
Being in trauma is much like a car trying to function with both the gas pedal and brake being pushed to the metal. Overstimulated and confused, many people with trauma hit this point and shut down. The nervous system freezes up, making trauma survivors feel and act foggy and despondent.
The good news is that regardless of if you’re experiencing fight, flight, freeze or vacillating between all three, you can learn how to foster balance between your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. As a highly skilled and experienced psychotherapist who has been holistically and effectively treating trauma for more than a decade, I can help you tap into the inherent wisdom within your body, mindfully shift patterns of thought, build resiliency and live with more clarity, confidence and ease.
DBT Therapy Provides You With Safety, Support And Ongoing Relief
First and foremost, trauma therapy with me is safe, supportive and tailored to what you need in any given moment. Because trauma threatens our sense of safety, effective healing occurs within the context of a trusting, secure relationship. I’ll honor the whole of your experience, and we’ll move at a pace that is tolerable for you and supportive of your needs. Together, we’ll identify, explore and address what you need to resolve trauma and live as your lightest and brightest self.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a cognitive behavioral treatment that was originally developed to treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and it is now recognized as the gold standard psychological treatment for this population. In addition, research has shown that it is effective in treating a wide range of other disorders such as substance dependence, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders. As such, DBT is a transdiagnostic, modular treatment.
The term “dialectical” means a synthesis or integration of opposites. The primary dialectic within DBT is between the seemingly opposite strategies of acceptance and change. For example, as a DBT therapist, I accept clients as they are while also acknowledging that they need to change to reach their goals. In addition, the skills and strategies taught by me using DBT are balanced in terms of acceptance and change. Clients learn four skills modules which include two sets of acceptance-oriented skills (mindfulness and distress tolerance) and two sets of change-oriented skills (emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness).
- Mindfulness: the practice of being fully aware and present in this one moment
- Distress Tolerance: how to tolerate pain in difficult situations, not change it
- Interpersonal Effectiveness: how to ask for what you want and say no while maintaining self-respect and relationships with others
- Emotion Regulation: how to decrease vulnerability to painful emotions and change emotions that you want to change
There is increasing evidence that DBT skills training alone is a promising intervention for a wide variety of both clinical and nonclinical populations and across settings.
Healing Mind And Heart
In initial trauma counseling sessions, I’ll take a biopsychosocial assessment, as well as ask you questions about what’s happening for you right now, your goals, what you’ve tried in the past and how you want to feel as we get to know each other. Everyone experiences and heals from trauma differently, which is why we’ll work mindfully in the present moment with curiosity rather than judgement as we explore the nature of your mind, figure out what resonates with you and explore healing practices that align with your needs and personal interests. DBT therapy may be right for you; another modality might be better. It is important to remember that a skilled therapist will assess you and come up with a treatment plan that you will agree with. Following the assessment, I’ll present the treatment plan to you, and together we will agree on an approach that best meets your needs.
Healing Through The Body
In DBT treatment sessions, another primary goal is to help you get out of your head and into your body, which is where trauma resides. As a Somatic Experiencing™ (SE) practitioner and highly skilled trauma informed therapist, I have the experience, training and skills needed to help you or your loved one enter safely into the body, discharge trauma from the nervous system and engage in a holistic healing process that can calm, regulate and strengthen mind, body and spirit.
For me, the trauma story is secondary to what is being stored in the body, and there is limited need to revisit what happened in order to heal. Rather, drawing from scientifically-proven, body-based approaches to treating trauma, we’ll carefully work backward from today, gradually regulating your nervous system through controlled discharges of trauma. Through this process, you can expand your capacity and tolerance to feel; learn how to move in ways that promote relaxation and feelings of safety; and increase body awareness, manage triggers and improve self-compassion and self-confidence.
Healing Mind, Body And Spirit
Throughout our DBT treatment work together, I can also provide you with mindfulness and meditation exercises to help increase awareness and calm your mind, simple breathing practices designed to relax the nervous system, and effective stress management skills tailored specifically for you.
Regardless of how discouraged you feel right now, it is possible to experience relief psychologically, somatically and spiritually and let go of the fears that are weighing you down. The end of suffering is real, and you can heal while still acknowledging and honoring what you went through. Your experience will remain a part of you, but it doesn’t have to define and control you. Through cultivating mindfulness and compassionate, positive self-regard, you can breathe, move and live with more ease. It is possible to expand your world and your place in it—trusting others and yourself again—and feel connected, confident and calm as you move forward into the next chapter of your life.
You still might wonder if working with a DBT therapist is right for you…
I’m worried that talking about what happened in therapy will cause me to relive it and that I’ll feel even worse than I do right now.
Although it might sound counterintuitive to “therapy,” talking about what happened to you is not necessary in order to feel better. Rather than retelling your story, which can make some people feel worse, I work within the present moment and we start with where you are today. Our work together is slow, safe, individualized and dependent on your experience and needs. I’ll support you with compassion and care, keeping you safe and protected, as you embark on your path of healing.
I’ve tried everything—including trauma counseling—and nothing has helped. How could working with you be different?
I am a compassionate, caring, highly trained trauma specialist who knows from years of education, training and experience how to work with trauma in effective, supportive ways. My holistic, integrated approach considers the whole of you—mind, body and spirit—and rather than work within the confines of a one-size-fits all approach to trauma treatment, we’ll work together to figure out what is just right for you. With a lot of tools, but no set-in-stone strategy, we’ll work together fluidly. I’ll stay aware of your signals, cues and responses, guiding you to the place and space for personal discovery, growth and healing that works specifically for you.
I’m tired of suffering and will do whatever it takes to experience relief. With trauma treatment, how long will it take until I feel better?
Given my practical, tailored, evidence-based and integrated approach and years of experience treating trauma, most clients begin to feel relief and hopeful about healing after just one session. That said, everyone is different, experiences trauma differently and comes into therapy with different needs and goals. The length of time spent in trauma treatment varies person-to-person, however, you will leave each session with things you can take with you. And, each session will build upon the last as you continue to come into the present moment, experience increased feelings of safety and trust and engage yourself with curiosity, positive self-regard, compassion and love.
Find Relief, Expand Your World And Live With Bigger Breath And Breadth
If you’re in Scottsdale, AZ or the surrounding area and are interested in trauma treatment for yourself, your teen or another loved one, I can help. I invite you to contact me through the website or at 480-675-4568 to schedule a no-obligation call or meeting to discuss your needs and goals and determine if we’re a good fit. Due to the mind-heart-body-spirit quality of this work, I’m not the right fit for everyone; however, I truly love working with clients who seek practical, holistic healing and are ready to increase self-awareness, cultivate self-compassion and make the changes needed to enjoy long-term relief.
Lisa Schmidt is a licensed associate counselor operating her own behavioral health counseling business under the clinical supervision of Steven Wales, LPC, AZ 1549. You can contact Mr. Wales at (602) 677-0306 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.