What is trauma?

Coming from the Greek wound, trauma is the residue of the body’s physiological response to immensely overwhelming, life-threatening, or perceived life-threatening, events and situations.  When an inescapable stressful event occurs and a person is not able to cope with it at the time, a great deal of energetic residue, aka trauma, becomes locked in the nervous system and greatly affects a person’s way of being in the world. Everyone I know has experienced some form of trauma.

At the very least, our traumas hold us back from our true potential, and even worse, traumas can keep us locked in miserable places, preventing us from working, being in meaningful relationships, and feeling safe in our bodies and in the world.  In other words, trauma really sucks! 

Some examples of traumas:

  • Single-event traumas: those huge moments that change you and alter the course of your life.  Perhaps you think of your life as in two parts; before that thing happened, and after that thing happened. Some examples include accidents, surgeries, assaults, and other losses.
  • Heartbreak and break-ups that seemingly shatter your foundation and make you start over: When we take emotional risks, open our hearts, open our bodies, with someone and it doesn’t work out, the very foundation we stand on can crumble.  Our sleep, our ability to function, and our willingness to engage the world can be shattered— yet with the right support we do move through it. 
  • Ongoing, long-term or developmental traumas: For example, from growing up in unsafe households or being in unsafe relationships.  The challenges you experienced again and again, perhaps thinking they were normal or were what you deserved, until one day you grew up and realized they weren’t normal and you deserve much much better. 
  • Birth, Pre- and Perinatal trauma: the physical and emotional safety our mothers experience (or don’t experience) while gestating, birthing, and raising us deeply impacts our developing nervous systems and thus our way of experiencing the world. Resolution of these early imprints is so liberating!  And it is entirely possible to work through birth trauma even if you or your mother don’t remember what happened. 
  • Recovery from Sexual Abuse and Sexual Trauma: sexual abuse and sexual inappropriateness are rampant in our culture, yet often remain in the shadows and unspoken about.  You are not alone.  Whether you have conscious memories of very difficult experiences, or a more general discomfort with sexuality but aren’t sure exactly why, I can help.  I support both men and women in restoring safety and confidence in their bodies, calmness in their nervous systems, and openness and possibility in their intimate relationships.  I also counsel supportive partners who want to help their loved one process his or her history with sexual abuse. 
  • Ancestral Muck: unhealthy patterns that have been considered “normal” in your family, life-changing events that altered the course of your family for generations (such as immigration), or generations old ways of being and ways of thinking that aren’t particularly healthy but are just habits your family has developed over the years, perhaps simply because it didn’t occur to anyone to do anything differently.
  • Bullying and Being Bullied: Our culture sucks at teaching kids how to work with difficult emotions.  This leaves so many of us victim to verbal and physical violence as children, and bullying often happens during our most vulnerable and critical years— exactly when we’re supposed to be figuring out who we are, deciding if we like and appreciate ourselves, and deciding if we trust others or not. The long-term consequences may be low self-esteem, shame, and depression for both the bully and the bullied.  
  • Poverty, generational/ancestral poverty and scarcity mindset: Poverty and scarcity mindset aren’t just in your head.  There are real economic and social justice issues happening in the world that greatly affect our mental health on a daily basis.That being said, scarcity mindset is also an inner state which can be worked with and overcome. Abundance is possible. 
  • World traveling and other existential wake-ups: As we cross borders, leave our personal bubbles, traverse continents, volunteer abroad, and learn about other cultural realities, we can be shocked, amazed, inspired, and yes, also even traumatized by what we see.  With the right support, we are capable of really looking at what’s going on in the world—and feeling empowered within it— without getting utterly overwhelmed, checking out, denying or looking away.   

How is trauma resolved? 

Mindfulness-based and body-centered trauma therapy supports people in sequencing difficult experiences out of their bodies and nervous systems.  This happens on the physiological level, as trauma is stored in the body.  We unwind from traumatic experiences by coming into contact with our senses, learning to breathe deeply, and by developing skills to cope with triggers and cultivate an inner calmness. I truly believe that trauma work is miraculous, and I deeply trust the resilience of the human spirit. 

Wounding so often happens in relationship; therefore, healing must happen in relationship as well. I have extensive experience supporting clients in transitioning from overwhelming stress and activation into calm and emotionally-regulated states. With over 180 hours of post graduate school training in somatic trauma work from the Somatic Training Institute, as well as experience working with survivors of combat trauma, sexual abuse and torture, familial and professional trauma, etc., I am well-versed in the language of the body and have a deep understanding personally and professionally of how deeply various forms of trauma can impact our lives and livelihoods.  I am incredibly passionate about helping people unwind from difficult experiences and live into new possibilities.  I believe that not only is it possible to recover from deep wounds, but that we can thrive beyond our wildest imaginings given the right conditions.  I work from an holistic and strengths-based approach to trauma work, and am inspired by a transparent and collaborative feminist approach to psychotherapy.  Let's connect.

Cannabis and Psychedelic Assisted Therapies:

MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Research and Psychedelic Harm Reduction Work

Through an organization called MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), I was a psychedelic therapist and researcher in an FDA-approved MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy study in Boulder, Colorado.  I treated clients with severe PTSD through the use of a prescribed and powerful psychedelic medicine, MDMA, in conjunction with extensive therapy. The results were astounding, and I am a firm believer in the important role altered states work can play in trauma recovery on the personal and global level.  For this reason I co-founded Medicinal Mindfulness, a grassroots consciousness organization developing legal altered states programs and harm reduction outreach services.  I cannot offer MDMA-assisted psychotherapy outside of the FDA-approved research context, but I do offer a non-judgmental space where clients can speak about their own psychedelic, sacred medicine, and/or cannabis experiences, and I support them in developing healthier and more intentional relationships with the substances they are choosing to use. For more information about Medicinal Mindfulness and to sign up for ongoing events, see www.medicinalmindfulness.org. I'm honored to be featured in the documentary Psychedelic Soldiers discussing MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of post-traumatic stress in veterans. I also presented MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy: It's Criminal that this is Illegal at Psychedelic Shine. 

Cannabis Use Support for Trauma, Stress and Anxiety

Cannabis is being used to treat a number of physical and psychological problems, and is also used as a tool for stress reduction and psycho-spiritual exploration. I am not coming from a "just say no" perspective, but rather am holding a non-judgmental and harm reduction perspective on substance use, and in some cases will support cannabis use as it can help with certain challenges, such as PTSD. More info and resources here.

 

 

Let's connect.