How Trauma Impacts Relationships & Intimacy: The Broken Door Concept

The Broken Door Concept

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When we experience trauma, our bodies store it, along with our memories, our psyche and our soul. When we experience sexual trauma, our second chakra (the energetic center around the sacral area of the sex organs) can be thrown out of balance.  

A balanced second chakra is able to emit a sort of radar outward towards others that says “I am healthy and I only welcome healthy others’ into my space. I am discerning.  The doorway into my intimate space is strong and stays shut until I know I can trust and decide to welcome you in.”  

When our second chakra is out of balance, it operates like a broken door.  The level of broken-ness of our doors depends on our history.  If our attachment to our primary care providers was safe and consistent, our door is more likely to function properly, keeping people out when we want to and allowing others’ in when we invite them. If there was a sense of distrust, instability, neglect or harm with our primary care providers, the door may operate with less consistency and functionality.   If we’ve endured trauma, the door is effected even more.  

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If the door was previously broken due to poor attachment, and then further injured by trauma, we might find that the door is missing a screen or the hinges may not hold it in place or the glass may be busted in.  When people walk around with broken doors in this way, they emit an energy, much like a radar, that seeks out and attracts others’ with similarly broken doors.  In result, two people who have experienced trauma and/or insecure attachment may experience a magnetic force pulling them together.

This magnetic force that is experienced towards others’ who have broken doors is the psyche’s way of trying to replay and repair the trauma that broke the door in the first place.  The goal here is to engage in the relationship in a way that heals the past hurt and broken trust, but unfortunately, two broken doors within a relationship do tend to hurt each other more than heal. Oftentimes, this sort of instinctual match making can re-create trauma similar to their historical trauma, leading to re-traumatization and further damage to the door. That is, however, unless the individuals are able to engage in appropriate trauma resolution.  This is where therapy can be very helpful. 

When the traumatized individual decides they want to repair their broken door and heal the wounds that broke their door in the first place, finding a trauma specialist is an effective way to begin that journey.  When I engage in trauma work with my clients, I focus first to help them build trust in me and in the process.  I ask them about their goals and their history, and we come to an agreement for how they’d like their healing journey to proceed.  Once we establish our goals and direction for achieving them, we then start to discuss how they can protect themselves from further damage to their door.  

It is here that I may provide psycho-education on relationships and intimacy so that my clients can make informed decisions about how they want to protect themselves from further damage to the door while engaged in sexual trauma work. 

I have created this diagram showing different levels of intimacy with love and commitment, the most intimate, at the center and less intimate experiences, like interacting with strangers, in the outer ring.  Take a look and see if this is accurate for how you consider intimacy levels.  It may not be and that’s okay, but it is important to have a clear picture of your personal levels of intimacy so that you can make informed choices about who you’d like to allow into more inner levels and who you’d like to keep further out.  

Levels of Intimacy

Levels of Intimacy

During sexual trauma work, it can be very helpful to pause any movement inwards in order to protect yourself from further harm or confusion. Oftentimes, when we lead with or rush into physical intimacy and sexuality before we establish trust or emotional intimacy, we run the risk of re-traumatizing. This can make management of life and relationships particularly difficult and slow down the reparation process of the door. Seeking a therapist who will help you set up protected space within yourself and your relationships is key to successful trauma resolution.  

For more information, to schedule an appointment in our Bryn Mawr or West Chester Offices near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or for any questions, feel free to contact me here or at SpilovePsychotherapy@gmail.com

Learn more about our services on the Main Line of Philadelphia in Bryn Mawr at www.tiffanyspilove.com. Check out our helpful Instagram Account @spilovepsychotherapy

Bryn Mawr Trauma Therapy: 3 Things to Consider When Searching for a Trauma Specialist

  1. Do you want to learn skills or go deep?

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Before searching for a trauma specialist in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, you may want to consider what, exactly you are looking for.  Do you want to learn skills to help you tolerate the trauma memories?  Or would you prefer to engage in deeper therapeutic work to get underneath the trauma so that it can heal at the core?  

Skills such as DBT Skills are extremely helpful for daily life.  

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DBT has 4 tenants: distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation and mindfulness.  These skills are essential when doing trauma work for PTSD and for many other difficulties such as anxiety, depression, anger management, eating disorders, self-harm and addiction.  

If you’d prefer to get underneath the trauma, you will need a therapist who can help you with skills to stabilize and one who is able to help you heal at the root of the problem. 

These skills are the building blocks that will allow you to be able to function and tolerate uncomfortable memories and emotions as you dive deeper into the healing work.  

2. Which Therapeutic Models Do you Prefer?

When looking for a trauma specialist in Bryn Mawr, you’ll also want to take the time to find out the model or theory that the therapist uses to help navigate your therapy.  If you’re looking for a safe space to process and talk things out make sure you find a counselor who is great at talk therapy. If you are looking for evidence based interventions to help you DO something with the traumatic material, you may want to investigate something like EMDR.  If you want to work more from the body or a creative place, you may want to look for an art therapist, a yoga therapist or an experiential or psycho-dramatic therapist.  Ideally, you’ll find a therapist who is able to choose a therapeutic tool from a large tool belt with many choices.  

3. What is your commitment level to healing?

Successful therapy is mostly about your commitment to healing.  Your counselor may ask you to consider abstaining from addictive substances, behaviors or eating disordered behaviors, especially while you’re engaged in trauma work. If you’re doing drugs, engaging in self harm or throwing up your food while you’re trying to heal from PTSD, it can side-track the process. Instead of taking the time in between sessions to allow your psyche to continue to process and digest the trauma, engaging in behaviors can numb the emotions and make it less likely that you will process and be ready for your next session.  When you commit to your own healing process, it means you are willing to look at all aspects of your life and work towards shifting the things that no longer serve you.  

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Commitment to healing also means consistency.  

If you engage in therapy every week, it creates synergistic momentum as opposed to dropping in only when you’re experiencing anxiety or depressive symptoms. Committing to consistent therapy will help you heal faster and more completely.  What is your level of commitment to healing from a traumatic past?

If you’re looking for a trauma specialist near Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and need some helping finding the right person for you, please feel free to give us a call at 484-784-6244 for a free 15 minute initial consultation.  We are happy to help you find the right trauma therapist for you.

5 Things You need to know before you start counseling

So, you’ve decided to start counseling and you’re ready to go.  Perhaps you’ve never done therapy before or maybe you’re looking to take a new approach.  Here are some things you need to know before you start counseling.

1.  Finding a therapist that you feel safe with is most important. 

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You can line up a bunch of great therapists, but if they’re not the best fit for you, you’re not going to do the intense, deep work you’re looking to do.  The role of a therapist is to be a guide through your journey, reflect back to you what we see and help you to overcome obstacles towards meeting your goals.  If you don’t click with your therapist or don’t feel safe enough to trust them, reaching your goals with them is unlikely.  Your therapist should be someone you can relax around and speak freely without fear of being judged.  Trust and safety are of paramount importance when you’re looking to do deep work on things like eating disorders, trauma, PTSD, couples’ work or issues specific to the LGBTQIA community.

2.  Specialties mean that there’s been special training in a particular issue. 

Our training in graduate school and doctoral programs very rarely provides training for specific diagnoses like PTSD, eating disorders or addictions.  So when a therapist decides to have a particular specialty, we need to seek out training geared specifically towards these issues.  If you notice that a therapist you’re interested in has indicated that we specialize in a particular area, you might want to ask us what sorts of training we’ve done to qualify us as an expert.  This will give you a better idea of how equipped we are to help you with your specific struggle.

3.  When you hire a therapist, you are paying for a space that is yours, for you.

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I’ve heard people say that therapy is like paying someone to be your friend.  This is actually not true.  When you hire a therapist and you pay money, what you are paying for is a safe, neutral, objective space and time where you can do your work.  It is an energy exchange.  You are not paying your therapist to care about you, you are paying for an hour in a room that is completely and totally about you and no one else.  In friendships, there’s a give and take, there’s a social obligation to ask how they are and be a support to them.  In a relationship with your therapist, you are taking time for yourself only and receiving support that is not reciprocated emotionally, only financially.  This dynamic can be extremely healing and empowering and for many, it is the only time and space where healing can truly take place.

4.  The more consistently you go, the more effective therapy is.

Sometimes, in an attempt to save money or save time, people want to schedule therapy sessions every other week or once per month.  While there’s nothing particularly wrong with scheduling like this, you may want to rethink the frequency and consistency of your therapy schedule.  You don’t have to be in therapy forever.  You can establish and work towards specific measurable goals with your therapist and see regular progress.  However, progress is more difficult to measure when you attend therapy inconsistently.  You may be having symptoms of PTSD, for example, and when several weeks go by without working on those particular symptoms, it is more difficult to get traction.  If you’re struggling with binging and purging and you go every week, you can check in with your therapist about the particular triggers and behaviors that may have lead to your binge and purge.  Don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself.  Set a goal with your counselor and try going weekly, write down your progress and notice the differences between your weekly sessions over a period of at least 3 months versus bi-weekly or monthly progress over a 3-month period.  You may be surprised with the results.

5.  Therapy happens in stages.

Sometimes we think that as soon as we set foot in the door of a therapy office, we will be “cured” immediately or within a few sessions.  The reality is that there’s a therapeutic process which happens in stages.  The first stage is joining with your therapist or learning to trust them.  When we meet a new friend, we don’t usually tell them our deepest darkest right off the bat, it takes time and trust building to get to a place where we know they are a good friend.  A similar concept is applied in therapy.  Depending on the client, the level and amount of trauma and defenses, this stage can take anywhere from about a month to sometimes a year or even more.  Safety, trust and a therapeutic bond, known as a therapeutic alliance, is formed in order for the therapist to really know and understand the client and for the client to feel safe enough to open up and do their work. 

The second stage is where the work is done.  Since there’s now an underlying foundation established between therapist and client, the second stage is about vulnerability.  There is an unpacking, uncovering, examining and exploring the process that happens with the client and their trauma or their history.  This stage is where people see their patterns and make shifts and changes in their thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors.  The second stage of the therapeutic process is where clients reach their goals.

The third stage may or may not be part of the therapeutic process, dependent upon the client’s preference.  This stage is for maintenance.  The client continues therapy but perhaps doesn’t come every week any longer.  They use their therapist to check in with, get help with issues as they arise and review the goals and behaviors they established during the second stage.  Some people choose to forego this step and skip to the fourth stage.

The fourth stage of counseling is a closure process.  After attaining goals in the second stage, and maintaining new behaviors and thought processes in the fourth stage, this last and final stage is a review of accomplishments, work together and closure of the therapeutic relationship.  If the client chooses to end counseling, this practice of review and closure can be especially healing for those who have experienced traumatic grief or loss.  Saying goodbye in a healthy way, honoring the relationship without suddenly cutting it off is a beneficial process to learn about emotional maturity and sophistication. 

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I hope these tips have been helpful.  Please feel free to comment below with any other tips or feedback you have on this topic.  If you’d like to speak further about starting counseling or have any other questions about some of the things I’ve mentioned, please contact me at TiffanySpilove@yahoo.com or call 610-314-8402.  I wish you luck in your endeavors and look forward to hearing from you soon!!

"We cannot love others until we love ourselves" by Mikala Morrow

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 "We cannot love others until we love ourselves"

by Mikala Morrow, Villanova Graduate Counseling Intern

This saying has been a cliché statement that has been thrown around as a way to encourage self-care or even used as a convincing statement to those who find it hard to love themselves. What does this statement truly mean?

It means that someway, somehow we must find, within us, love. This must mean that love is an innate ability and we all possess the ability to love ourselves without the assistance of others.

Personally, I do not believe this to be true. Can we truly have an innate ability to love ourselves without any help from others? If we truly cannot love others until we love ourselves, we have to be able to love ourselves without help, right? Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Which comes first, our innate ability to love? Or is love taught to us from our caretakers, partners, peers or a higher power?

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What if, “We cannot love others until we love ourselves” becomes “We cannot love ourselves and others until we have been loved.” My argument is that in order to learn to love others, we must first be loved. We must learn how to love and what love is.

Imagine a child who is neglected by their caretaker. This child never truly learns love. Instead, to them, love means neglect. Later on in life when meeting new people, how will they love them? If all this older child has known is that love is neglectful, they too will neglect those that they love.

Compare the first child with someone who has a loving caretaker who has shown interest in who they are. This child will grow up with the idea that love is showing interest in others and will love in this way. These examples may not be true for all, but it is something to think about. The child in the first scenario may

learn somewhere how to truly love but this will not come as easily as the child in the second scenario.

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We need to learn what love looks like towards us and we also need to learn how we love.  We may love by giving others gifts or our time. We may show our love through compliments or by offering a shoulder to cry on. We all have a unique way to show love. In order to practice our ways of loving, we need people around us to accept our love. If our unique way of showing love is rejected, we learn that we are not good at loving, or our way of loving is wrong.

Let’s say you show love with your time but your partner becomes annoyed and tells you they just want space. Your way of loving has been pushed away. We need other people around us to affirm the way we love.  While the statement, “We cannot love others until we love ourselves” has a good message at the core, it can be damaging for those who have never learned how to love themselves.

We all need love whether it is from other humans on earth (maybe even from a pet) or a supernatural love. Then we can truly love others’ authentically and comfortably.

Mikala, Villanova Graduate, Counseling, Bryn Mawr, Love, Therapy

Mikala has an intensely compassionate and unique way of connecting with you to help you identify and express your feelings and your deepest sense of self.  She is persistent and encouraging in the face of hopelessness and despair.  She especially loves working with women to provide tools to alleviate anxiety and depression.  Mikala has a wealth of experience and is skilled in the mental health field working with domestic violence, food & body issues and addiction.  If you're struggling to tolerate your emotions and you're looking for a guide to help you get to know yourself better, give her a call now at 570-412-4516. 

 

The Number 1 Trauma Treatment: EMDR Explained

Lucky us!  Scott Giacomucci, MSS, LSW, CTTS, CET III, trauma specialist, psychodramatist and all around amazing therapist has shared his insights and explained that complicated title: Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, also known as EMDR.  The following is a handout Scott put together for his clients to help explain what EMDR is and how it's done:

EMDR: Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Often, when something traumatic happens, it seems to get locked in the nervous system with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings, etc.  Since the experience is locked there, it continues to be triggered whenever a reminder comes up. It can be the basis for a lot of discomfort and sometimes a lot of negative emotions, such as fear and helplessness that we can’t seem to control. These are really the emotions connected with the old experience that are being triggered.

EMDR therapy for PTSD in Bryn Mawr and West Chester

What is EMDR?

 Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a late-stage, trauma resolution method.  Developed in the late 1980's, EMDR currently has more scientific research as a treatment for trauma than any other non-pharmaceutical intervention. Based on empirical evidence as well as thousands of client and clinician testimonials, EMDR has proven an efficacious and rapid method of reprocessing traumatic material.

EMDR appears to assist in processing of traumatic information, resulting in enhanced integration - and a more adaptive perspective of the traumatic material. The utilization of EMDR has been shown to be effective with a variety of conditions including generalized and specific anxieties, panic attacks, PTSD symptoms (such as intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks), dissociative disorders, mood disorders and other traumatic experiences. Theoretically, EMDR is about integration - bilateral hemispheric (right/left brain) integration; triune brain (brain stem, limbic system and cerebral cortex) integration; and mind/body integration, but practically, it’s about convincing the mind and body that the traumatic event is, indeed over. EMDR helps to put the past in the past, where it belongs, instead of staying stuck in it (feeling like it is happened all over again in the present-with the same thoughts, emotions and body sensations- that accompanied the event in the past).

The eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) we use in EMDR seem to unlock the nervous system and allow your brain to process the experience. That may be what is happening in REM, or dream, sleep: The eye movements may be involved in processing the unconscious material. The important thing to remember is that it is your own brain that will be doing the healing and you are the one in charge.

How is EMDR Done?  (Parnell, 2006)

  • Establishment of Safety and Resources - Safety within the therapeutic relationship and safety within each individual EMDR session. During each EMDR session, your therapist will begin by activating your own internal resources. (S)he will guide you in an imaginal, multisensory imagery exercise designed to activate images, emotions and body sensations of safety, protection, nurture and comfort. Once these images have been activated, the actual trauma reprocessing will begin.
  • Activating the Traumatic Memory Network - The therapist will ask a series of questions regarding the traumatic memory. The purpose of these questions (or script) is to activate the entire traumatic memory network.
  • Adding Alternating Bilateral Stimulation - Once the entire traumatic memory is activated, the therapist will add alternating bilateral stimulation using:

a) buzzing in your hands by turning on the Theratapper

b) alternating auditory tones via headphones or ear buds

c) moving his/her hands back and forth, so you may visually track the movement

  • Reestablishment of Safety - regardless of whether the traumatic material was completely processed or not, the session will end at a pre-set time. Before you leave, you will be stable, embodied, oriented and calm. Depending on you and your therapist’s preferences, this may be accomplished in a variety of ways including, but not limited to re-activating your own internal resources, breathing exercises, prolonged muscle relaxation, etc.

Looking to continue EMDR therapy?

-You might begin by asking your IOP/PHP counselor for a recommended outpatient counselor who is skilled in EMDR.

-At the EMDR International Association website (EMDRIA.org) you can navigate to the “Find a Therapist” tab and search for a certified EMDR therapist in your community.

 The current treatment guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies designate EMDR as an effective treatment for post traumatic stress. EMDR was also found effective by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, the United Kingdom Department of Health, the Israeli National Council for Mental Health, and many other international health and governmental agencies.

(Giacomucci 2017)(References: EMDRIA; Linda Curran; Laurel Parnell)

Scot Giacomucci, EMDR trauma and psychodrama specialist in west chester, pa.

Scott Giacomucci, MSS, LSW, CTTS, CET III is a certified trauma treatment specialist and licensed social worker in Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College where he received his Masters in Social Service (MSS) with a concentration in clinical social work. He facilitates trauma treatment services at Mirmont Treatment Center serving a variety of populations including young adults and emergency responders (veterans, police, fire, etc..) in both individual therapy and group sessions. Scott has a gentle, non-judgmental treatment approach that honors the inherent worth of each individual. He utilizes a blend of treatment modalities including both traditional talk therapy and experiential therapy which have been research-proven as the treatment of choice for treating trauma. 

To learn more about Scott Giacomucci and the work he does, you can visit his website at: http://sgiacomucci.com/

Any comments or questions?  We'd love to hear from you!  Please comment below.  For confidential questions, email TiffanySpilove@yahoo.com.  If you need help finding an EMDR therapist, please call 610-314-8402, I'd be happy to help.