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Vancouver WA & Portland OR

Our mission is to provide integrative, creative care from a prism of honor, reverence, and optimism.

Tag: trauma

When Something Scary Happens – Part 1: How to Know When to Seek Therapy For Your Child

It is likely that most people will experience at least one scary situation in their lifetime. For some, these events roll off their back and they continue on with their life with few to no effects. For others, they will have a hard time moving past it – for those in this category such events are no longer scary but traumatic. They often experience a variety of unsettling symptoms that can pop up immediately after or months/years later.

Children can experience trauma like adults, but children do not often have the words to tell adults about it or the skills that adults have to cope with it. Child therapy is a safe and effective way for children to work through their trauma and move on with their lives.
As parents/caregivers, it is helpful to be aware of the signs and symptoms that a child may exhibit after a traumatic event. If these symptoms go untreated by a child therapist they can become exacerbated. The following is a list of common symptoms, but is by no means exhaustive or exclusive to trauma symptoms:

• a change in how your child handles everyday life (i.e. Things no longer roll off their back, every change/stressor is difficult to navigate and may cause crying outbursts or angry outbursts)
• easily frightened, when previously showed fearlessness
• difficulty falling asleep, refusal to sleep by themselves, and waking up in the night
•wetting/soiling themselves though they were previously and successfully potty-trained (NOTE: parents should always seek medical help for children if this start occurring before seeking counseling for their child)
• increased frequency of nightmares
• more angry, aggressive, whiny, argumentative, or increased lying behavior

It is important to note that some children cannot remember their trauma event, even though the parent is aware that it happened, but still experience these and other symptoms.

If your child has experienced a scary event and you are concerned about new behaviors or symptoms, therapy can help relieve those symptoms and get your child back on track.

Therapists with experience working with children and have a trauma-informed practice can provide the best care for your child.
If you are unsure whether you should seek out therapy for your child, consider having a conversation with a pediatrician.

Live in the Vancouver/Portland area and want to discuss your child’s needs? Please contact me at kristin.ray.lmhc@gmail.com, and we can set up a free 30-minute phone consultation.

Finding purpose in our pain: What keeps us moving?

I am offering a four part blog series on finding purpose in pain and invite you to use as it prompts to journal or chat about during the week. It’s great food for thought about what makes up keep moving through pain, how do we think of pain, process and indicators of healing, and can provide you some insight on internal strengths and capabilities you may have overlooked.

 

Therapy is often hard work and to some degree painful. The healing process often challenges us to a depth that requires us to focus on internal reserves and supports to sustain the discomfort in the beginning phases. While we can identify safe ways to explore sensitive areas of life, feelings that emerge may incite us to hesitate or question the process at one time or another. In my practice, we open this dialogue to be careful not to internalize doubt as a reflection of self or competence, but frame it as a normal response when challenged.

 

When we reflect about our life, we can likely identify numerous times wherein skepticism about our capacity felt like a giant rock blocking the entry to somewhere we wanted to be. Thoughts such as, “can I really do this” may have entered your mind when faced with a job opportunity, a leadership role, a performance sport, or physical rehabilitation. The act of challenging self often runs parallel to feelings of angst and uncertainty.

 

In terms of emotional healing, we may contemplate our abilities somewhat longer as we are engaging in work that challenges us to move inward toward emotional discomfort rather than out of it. Like a physical injury that requires a degree of pain to foster healing, in therapy we are asking ourselves to move toward what has hurt us. Naturally, that is uneasy to sit with and contradictory to our automatic responses to avoid pain as well as certain cultural messages of “fast fixes.” It is in those moments when we may begin to question, though with any process, we know that feelings of uncertainty does not determine outcome, they just mean you’re human.

 

So, if we go back and remember a time when doubt crept in, we may also remember when we continued to move to get beyond where we were standing. Carefully, and maybe with the help of other trusted hands you moved beyond your edge. Maybe you moved because you had hope, determination, bravery, resilience, or maybe another purpose, but you moved despite discomfort. The human condition though bent for caution is also very much discernable with the ability to do hard things.

 

In entering the recovery process I encourage you not to minimize feelings of apprehension, but rather normalize and expect them with the work. But, may you also be mindful of the values and beliefs that can sustain your capacity to heal. When we can identify these, or even one, we can utilize them to keep moving in the moments of pause and contemplation. In this interaction we not only extend ourselves from what we thought we could do, but also enter the experience healing from our pain.

 

Things to think (or chat) about:

-Take a personal peek at how you perceive pain; is it bad, can I sit with it, when I feel it what do I do?

– Think of that last time you healed from an injury; were there stages, was there a process, did getting better involve moving toward the injury, how may that be related to emotional healing?

– What helped you keep moving when you last faced a challenge; what values and beliefs helped me keep going; what was the self-talk attached to my vales and beliefs, do I have more examples of this; are there other things that helped me?

-How did you feel when you moved beyond through feelings of hesitation; stronger, empowered, capable, braver, curious, hopeful etc. Remember to celebrate every small victory so even if you felt “a little relieved” or “safer than I was” it still counts!

-Moving is hard work. How are you engaging in daily self-care to make sure you’re providing yourself a recharge and don’t forget to be creative; exercise, taking a drive, watching the river, adequate sleep, art, being mindful of eating habits, giving yourself a compliment, reading, music, a 10 minute stretch session at work, eating with loved ones, swinging with your kiddos, taking your full lunch break at work, hugs, hikes, practicing deep breathing, getting a massage, saying “yes” to me, silence and meditation, sitting in sunshine, or being around a good friend….. I digress.

 

Next monday I will continue to discuss the subject of finding purpose in pain using creative modalities and build upon this weeks topic, we will chat then:)

Facebook, Friends, Family, and Trauma; Navigating Social Media as a Survivor

Social media has become so interwoven into the details of our lives, turning our private (and occasionally mundane) thoughts into public domain.  In order to remain connected not only socially, but professionally, Facebook and other forms of social media are less optional than subtly compulsory.  Not surprisingly, Facebook is a topic of conversation in therapy for many clients.  Navigating the cultural expectations for continuous connection and unbridled access to each other is a challenge for everyone; trauma survivors are confronted with another layer of consequences for communication (or a lack of communication) on social media.

Posts from “friends” can at times be insensitive, passive-aggressive, attention-seeking, or offensive. They can also pull a community together, offer inspirational quotes or commentary on what’s important in life. Politics and religion are handled far less delicately than in the past (perhaps because the discussion isn’t between people but rather Facebook can be a platform for expression).  Handling polarized world views in a public forum gracefully is a skill that is currently under construction; we are building the foundation for this form of connection from the ground up.

Challenges that arise in therapy (or outside of it for that matter) include how to ignore or decline a friend request from someone, what the consequences may be in accepting it (i.e. bosses, colleagues, friends of enemies, family members, former romantic partners).  Posting something on Facebook or Twitter has occasionally landed people in hot water with friends, family or partners; sometimes with intention and other times inadvertent.  Navigating social media does require some degree of thought and attention for all of us; at least those of us concerned with minimizing strife.

Survivors of trauma are confronted with nuanced challenges under the social media umbrella.  Filial relationships (particularly if the family of origin had members who were the source of trauma or failed to protect) are challenging outside of the Facebook context as well as within it.  Questions surrounding which relationships to maintain, which to let go of, how to let go, and how to remain connected to some family members but not others is a topic of regular conversation (something to be discussed in Integrative Trauma Treatment Center’s “Surviving Survival; Picking up the Pieces after Trauma” support group!).  For those whose perpetrator was not a family member but was someone they new (this is more common than random crimes),  should one “unfriend” all of those who surround the perpetrator? Does this empower the perpetrator and disempower the survivor? One of the quandaries here is that every time a friend “likes” or “comments” on a post of the perpetrator, this can be visible to the survivor.  Facebook can be a source of trauma triggers while simultaneously being a source of social support and connection; a classic PTSD Catch 22.  How does one remain connected and protected simultaneously?

A lot of the work we do in the recovery process surrounds boundaries.  Sometimes I tell my clients that if this part of the work is done well, a sense of safety increases to the extent that symptoms decrease.  The problem with social media is that it, almost by definition, makes it extremely difficult to have any boundaries. There is a sense that in setting limits or choosing not to engage social media, requires an explanation is and yet trauma is often so private.  So….what to do?  There obviously is not a clear answer.  However, the skill of being less permeable without apology or explanation could be a potential focus.  It is okay to say no to “friend” requests, to “unfriend” those who are not healthy connections, to “block” those who are not safe in the inner circle.

It could be argued that while social media is a connective tissue that threads through the fabric of our culture, some of it’s concepts are great for setting limits around who has permission to be in our lives. Imagine if “unfriending” someone was as easy as clicking a button? Or, if someone wanted to connect with us who wasn’t safe, that we “ignore” or “hide the request” from our awareness? What if we could just “block” those who have caused us harm or are connected to those who have caused us harm?  These are actually fairly solid strategies for maintaining boundaries.  Our vision can get clouded by people. If we can listen to our gut, be clear on who is safe and who isn’t, who has something to contribute to our lives and who should have permission to witness the details of our days, social media could potentially offer a bit of clarity around boundaries.  “Unfriending,” “blocking,” and “hiding requests” for friendship are strategies we could perhaps apply to relationships in “real life.”  If someone who wants access to us or has access that is not safe, has broken our trust, caused damage or is a conduit for others who cause harm, Facebook boundaries may be a viable protective strategy; the challenge is giving ourselves permission to say “no” and to say “good-bye.”