How Trauma Impacts Relationships & Intimacy: The Broken Door Concept

The Broken Door Concept

Chakra-sexual-sacral-intimacy-relationships-trauma-bryn-mawr-main-line-counseling-therapy

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?

Bryn Mawr Therapy, ptsd, yoga, anxiety, depression

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.  

Bryn Mawr therapy, anxiety, depression, main line, Philadelphia

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.  

Bryn Mawr counseling, anxiety, depression, ptsd, main line, Philadelphia

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.

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

love, bryn mawr, main line, therapy, counseling, villanova, philadelphia, love yourself

 "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?

love, counseling, bryn mawr, therapy, villanova, love yourself

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.

self love, counseling, bryn mawr, therapy, love yourself

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.

100% Accurate Trauma & PTSD Symptom Assessment by Expert Scott Giacomucci, MSS, LSW, CTTS, CET III

 Scott Giacomucci, MSS, LSW, CTTS, CET III

Scott Giacomucci, MSS, LSW, CTTS, CET III

A colleague and friend of mine, Scott Giacomucci, MSS, LSW, CTTS, CET III has been up to some pretty amazing things in the world of trauma, psychodrama and PTSD healing.  He was kind enough to share some information he put together for his clients with us.  The following is a handout on Trauma and PTSD.  Let us know what you think and if you have any questions in the comment section below:

 

Trauma and PTSD

                                by Scott Giacomucci, MSS, LSW, CTTS, CET III

Client: "What's wrong with me?"

Therapist: "Well, given your symptoms, I think you have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder."

Client: "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?  What are you talking about?  Trauma?  It doesn't make  sense.  What trauma did I have?  I wasn't in a war or survive a holocaust or anything.  I didn't even really get hurt."

This is a typical response following an assessment and diagnosis of this poorly understood disorder.  It seems appropriate that this diagnosis - like many other serious medical diagnoses - would be initially met with denial to temporarily protect the person from the reality of his/her own vulnerability.  However, in order to effectively treat the condition, the diagnosis eventually needs to be accepted, and in order to accept the diagnosis, one needs to understand it. To this end, I offer the following answers to the two most frequently asked questions: What is trauma? and How bad does it have to be to be traumatic? 

What Is Trauma?

According to one of the foremost experts in healing trauma, Dr. Peter Levine,

“Trauma is a basic rupture - loss of connection to ourselves, our families, and the world.  The loss, although enormous, is difficult to appreciate because it happens gradually. We adjust to these slight changes, sometimes without taking notice of them at all…although the source of tremendous distress and dysfunction, it (trauma) is not an ailment or a disease, but the by-product of an instinctively instigated, altered state of consciousness. We enter this altered state let us call it "survival mode” when we perceive that our lives are being threatened. If we are overwhelmed by the threat and are unable to successfully defend ourselves, we can become stuck in survival mode. This highly aroused state is designed solely to enable short-term defensive actions; but left untreated over time, it begins to form the symptoms of trauma. These symptoms can invade every aspect of our lives.”

One of the most effective ways to evaluate if you have been traumatized is to answer these simple questions about a significant incident: when you remember the incident, is the memory exactly the same every time? Is the memory unusually fragmented or difficult to recall?

If an answer is yes, then the memory is likely a traumatic one.  By no means does one traumatic memory constitute a diagnosis of PTSD; however it does indicate that the traumatic event has been dysfunctionally stored; remains inadequately processed; and continues to cause you distress.

What is a PTSD Diagnosis?

A diagnosis of PTSD is different from most mental-health diagnoses in that it is the only diagnosis that explore and places emphasis on “what happened to you”. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edition) offers 4 criteria for a PTSD diagnosis.

1.     The first criterion relates to the actual trauma:

  •  Directly experiencing the traumatic event(s)

  • Witnessing, in person, the event(s) as it occurred to others

  • Learning that the traumatic event(s) occurred to a close family member or friend

  • Experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event(s); this does not apply to exposure through media such as television, movies, or pictures

2.     The second criterion involves the persistent re-experiencing of the event in 1 of several ways:

  • Thoughts or perception
  • Images
  • Dreams
  • Illusions or hallucinations
  • Dissociative flashback episodes
  • Psychological distress or reactivity to cues that symbolize some aspect of the event

3.     The third criterion involves avoidance of stimuli that are associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness, as determined by the presence of 1 or both of the following:

  • Avoidance of thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the event
  • Avoidance of people, places, or activities that may trigger recollections of the event

4.     The fourth criterion is 2 or more of the following symptoms of negative alterations in cognitions and mood associated with the traumatic event(s):

PTSD symptoms, trauma, Bryn Mawr, Pa
  • Inability to remember an important aspect of the event(s)
  • Persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs about oneself, others, or the world
  • Persistent, distorted cognitions about the cause or consequences of the event(s)
  • Persistent negative emotional state
  • Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • Persistent inability to experience positive emotions

5.     The fifth criterion is marked alterations in arousal and reactivity, as evidenced by 2 or more of the following:

  • Irritable behavior and angry outbursts
  • Reckless or self-destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Concentration problems
  • Sleep disturbance

6.     The duration of symptoms is more than 1 month

7.     The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in functioning

8.     The disturbance is not attributable to physiological effects of a substance or medical condition

According to Levine,

“The symptoms of trauma may be continually present or they may come and go. They may even surface after being hidden for decades. Usually, symptoms do not occur individually, but in clusters grow increasingly complex over time. Unfortunately, they become less and less connected with the original traumatic experience, making it increasingly difficult to trace the symptoms to their cause, and easier to deny the importance of the traumatic event in one's life. However, if we pay attention to these symptoms, for what they are -internal wake up calls - we can address and begin to heal our trauma.”

Although there are pervasive misconceptions about trauma, PTSD is neither rare nor unusual. But unlike seeking treatment for symptoms related to diabetes or glaucoma, seeking treatment for the symptoms of PTSD is somehow interpreted as a weakness. Although this couldn’t be further from the truth, you may believe it. Maybe even said something like it; Real men don’t ask for help; Trauma couldn't possibly affect a well balanced person, there must be something wrong with me; or the all time favorite, It wasn’t really that bad; I should just get over it.

Don’t you think that if that were an option, you would have done just that?

(reference: DSM5 & Linda Curran)

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/