You deserve love and harmony no matter your scars from trauma

Trauma survivor love

CDC research shows more than 60 percent of American adults have as children experienced at least one ACE (adverse childhood experience), and almost a quarter of adults have experienced 3 or more ACEs — and this is likely an underestimate. [Source: CDC]

Because emotional trauma is so prevalent, you are likely a trauma survivor; you are in a relationship with a trauma survivor — or both.

You deserve love and harmony no matter your scars from trauma Read More »

Heartfelt wishes for healing, compassion and safety in the new year

New year new hope Robyn Brickel

You and I have endured yet another year experiencing the impact of a global trauma. We all need healing, hope and compassion more than ever! In everything we do at Brickel and Associates, our goal is to allow for and aid in healing for our clients. We strive to empower more people to live life using a trauma-informed lens. And we continue to invite you to join us in decreasing the stigma toward mental illness and those in therapy for mental health.

Heartfelt wishes for healing, compassion and safety in the new year Read More »

This Missing Love Language Is the One Trauma Survivors Need Most — Safety

the love language of safety

So many relationship experts have embraced the idea of love languages. They became popular with Gary Chapman’s 1992 book, The 5 Love Languages, for the ways partners show love and care: acts of service, physical touch, words, gifts, quality time. Yet none of these can exist in a meaningful, enriching way without one basic element — safety.

Safety is the foundation for all of the love languages.

Safety is the prerequisite for everything else in a healthy relationship.

This Missing Love Language Is the One Trauma Survivors Need Most — Safety Read More »

Calming the Nervous System: Another Talk on the Therapy Chat Podcast

calming the nervous system: therapy chat podcast

It was an honor to join Laura Reagan LCSW-C for another talk on her Therapy Chat podcast

In this conversation, Laura and Robyn described what the terms “top-down” and “bottom-up” mean in reference to trauma therapy and how to help survivors heal.

“Bottom-up” therapy always begins with finding and exploring safety and stability for our clients. 

Once there is an established safer foundation, including calmer nervous system, clients can begin to notice what happens for them on the inside or in their body as they are present in current day safety while they process the past.   

Noticing both what you’re thinking and feeling — with support, in small steps — can help trauma survivors manage the sensations without becoming overwhelmed. Check out the podcast episode here.

More Resources

Why a Bottom-Up Approach to Trauma Therapy is So Powerful

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5 tips for making decisions when everything feels risky

tips for making decisions

What if nothing feels “right”?

When it comes to making choices, sometimes there’s a clear winner. The decision is easy. But it seems like these days especially, every choice is harder. There are so many shades of grey. Confusion and uncertainty persist. Information is constantly changing, and we don’t know what’s accurate or what’s going to happen next.

With access to COVID vaccines, it seemed like we were coming to a light at the end of the tunnel. Now as the delta variant continues to spread, the uncertainty that we felt for so long is again looming heavily in the air.

And as we try to regain some sense of “normal” living, the choices we have to make may feel particularly difficult. Should I wear a mask? Should I go there? Is interacting with family safe? Should I send the kids back to their activities?

Decision-making for trauma survivors

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Understanding that trauma includes emotional injury will help more people get the care they deserve

An inclusive definition of Trauma

The word trauma is so important to help those who suffer from emotional injury.  Yet people so often think of trauma as only including physical or sexual injury.   Many overlook its role in their overall health and quality of life. They don’t know they are struggling with a changed nervous system that leads to a wide range of physical and emotional symptoms. Confusion about the emotional injury we call trauma is a barrier to care.

That’s why it’s important to help more people understand the emotional side of trauma. By being clear that we use a definition of trauma to include the impact of mental and emotional issues, we can help more people better understand and talk about their mental health care.

Promoting an inclusive definition of trauma

When I talk about trauma survivors, I am speaking about anyone who has survived any type of physical, emotional or sexual trauma. Working with a trauma survivor means working with anyone who seeks to heal from the resulting personal impact on their lives. It doesn’t matter whether the impact looks like PTSD, CPTSD, coping mechanisms, dissociation, difficulty in relationships, addiction, eating disordered behavior, a myriad of other “symptoms,” or any of all of the above.

Recently I tried to bring clarity and dive a little deeper into the exact terminologies and what they look like. I’ve addressed complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), PTSD,  and how CPTSD is different from PTSD. These specific terms have their place in describing deeper aspects of trauma. However, we also need a way

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How is CPTSD Different from PTSD?

complex PTSD CPTSD

Trauma can take many forms. You may have heard of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Most people have at least heard of PTSD, as it relates to veterans. Did you know it impacts many others as well? Have you heard of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD or CPTSD)? People often ask how CPTSD and PTSD are similar and different. I want to help more people have a deeper understanding of what they are experiencing and ultimately get the help they deserve.

My goal, as a trauma-informed therapist, is to raise awareness and treat trauma of all kinds. When I use the word “trauma,” I am incorporating all aspects of trauma, all kinds of trauma that impact the nervous system. Trauma describes the adverse effect of any experiences that felt unsafe, physically, sexually or emotionally, or were perceived as a threat to life or survival. This includes profound emotional neglect and attachment trauma.

People can experience different kinds of symptoms depending on their experience. Trauma can come from a single incident, or from recurring incidents of emotional, physical or sexual trauma. Trauma that develops within an important early relationship, as with a parent or caregiver, can lead to attachment trauma that is complex, developmental and relational and anything in between. Relational, attachment and complex trauma are some of the traumatic variations we see most often at Brickel & Associates.

You may be asking what complex PTSD feels like or wondering if you’re facing PTSD or CPTSD. My goal is to help you see how the two are similar and different,

How is CPTSD Different from PTSD? Read More »

How to Help Yourself if you’re On a Waiting List for Therapy

waiting list for therapy

One of the positive outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has increased mental health awareness. Limiting our activities and contact with others has led to so much talk about fear, loneliness, disconnection and mental health. These experiences have made people notice their needs and feel more comfortable seeking help.

More people now seek therapy

For some, actually getting help has been easier because they could reach out from their living rooms and receive virtual therapy. Yet for others, it has been harder because they didn’t have the privacy to address the issues they are facing.

Now we are transitioning to a new phase with COVID. As more people are getting dressed in work clothes again, going back to the office, and returning to activities and busier schedules — we are seeing even more people reach out for help.

We notice people having to manage new and increased anxiety and depression. We see more awareness around mental health, including the much-needed reduced stigma. And we see a greater number of people with an increased need for support because of COVID!

People need resources while on a waiting list for therapy

So many people are connecting after COVID — which is a beautiful thing! The tough part? Right now, there are not enough mental health providers for all those who want support. Across the country and around the world, many prospective clients are currently finding themselves on a waiting list for therapy and the care they deserve.

So, what can you do during this “wait” time? Even

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Injured, not broken: Why it’s so hard to know you have CPTSD

CPTSD symptoms

When a child experiences neglect, anxiety, or danger repeatedly in a close relationship, that child often grows up with a sense that they are not okay. Psychology has a name for the long-term, consistent type of trauma that leaves a person feeling insecure, overwhelmed and unsafe in the world: complex post-traumatic stress disorder, or CPTSD.

In our practice as trauma-informed therapists, we recognize that many of those seeking our care have a history of trauma throughout their childhood. It is likely they have complex trauma that has resulted in CPTSD. It’s hard for trauma survivors themselves to recognize this.

Because living in a triggered state of alarm is so familiar, many don’t realize trauma is the source of their feeling “not okay.” That’s why I want to address CPTSD here and to encourage those who feel overwhelmed or hopeless to realize they are not broken. They are injured, and these injuries are treatable.

What is complex trauma or CPTSD?

Complex PTSD or complex trauma is trauma that starts or happens in childhood. It’s relational (occurring in relationships, usually some of the most important ones) and developmental (happening during the formative years of childhood).

Complex trauma is usually recurring (happens more than once) and is inflicted by a caregiver, parent, guardian, or person who has close, repeated contact — like a clergy person, neighbor or family member. Complex trauma can consist of emotional, physical and/or sexual violence.

Every time I use the term “trauma survivor,” I use it to encompass all types of trauma: complex trauma, single-incident trauma, the

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