Will Trauma Therapy Traumatize Me?

Although an individual who has experienced trauma may desperately hope for feelings of peace and safety to be restored in their lives, the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can create substantial fear and anxiety about encountering reminders of the traumatic event(s), including (and maybe especially!) the process of talking about their experiences in therapy. This is a normal concern and hesitation to have if you have experienced a traumatic event, and this article will help to inform and reassure you about the therapeutic process for treating symptoms of PTSD. 

Meeting with a skillful and compassionate therapist is a brave first step toward healing. Your therapist will first work to build a rapport with you and to create feelings of trust, safety, and caring. Your therapist will approach your experiences with dignity and respect and will help you to feel in charge of the pace at which therapy unfolds. The initial steps of therapy for PTSD will generally focus on assessing the nature and  intensity of your symptoms, ways in which your life is presently being affected, and exploring your readiness to address the traumatic experiences that have caused you to seek care. This allows you and your therapist to create a plan for your treatment and care. If specific coping skills can be strengthened to increase your feelings of safety and confidence in your life, your therapist will support you in developing and practicing these skills. 

Once you and your therapist agree that you are adequately prepared to begin processing your trauma, you and your therapist will identify and select the elements of your experience to work on first. Therapy to process trauma will largely focus on achieving symptom reduction and helping to restore feelings of hope, confidence, and safety, as well as working together to alleviate and replace the distorted thoughts and  beliefs that traumatic experiences can instill. 

Throughout this process, it is essential that you and your therapist communicate clearly and authentically about the pace of therapy and how you are feeling about your healing process to ensure that your goals for healing are being met. Many survivors of traumatic events can struggle with practicing assertive and direct communication. The therapeutic relationship can be a great place to practice these skills and can support you in increasing your sense of confidence and self-worth. 

Feelings of anxiety and trepidation are normal and understandable reactions to the prospect of seeking help for survivors of trauma. Your therapist will work to allay your concerns and help you regain a sense of hopefulness and pride in the person you are and your ability to have a bright future. 

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Rachel Tombaugh
Rachel has devoted her professional life to helping others heal and reclaim their true potential, working as a psychotherapist and Licensed Professional Counselor in Arizona since 2011. Her therapy approach utilizes a unique combination of compassion, warmth, humor, and clinical excellence. Rachel believes that therapy should feel hopeful and connected, yet maintain focus on clinical sophistication and excellence. Equipped with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Arizona State University and earning her Masters of Professional Counseling from Ottawa University, Rachel’s education inspired her to build a career devoted to helping people live with purpose, confidence, and joy. An accomplished writer and editor, Rachel has contributed to several publications devoted to education and advocacy with respect to OCD and anxiety. Rachel has extensive experience working in renowned treatment facilities in both the public and private sectors of healthcare, serving as Primary Therapist at an inpatient treatment facility for eating and anxiety disorders, developing specialty trauma and anxiety programs as a Clinical Director, and training and developing other therapists as Clinical Supervisor. Most recently, Rachel has worked within the private practice setting and has dedicated her efforts exclusively to the treatment of OCD, anxiety disorders, and PTSD. Offering a clinical repertoire that creates change and ensures meaningful results, Rachel has achieved advanced training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), and Inference-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (ICBT) for the treatment of OCD and anxiety, and extensive training in trauma-focused modalities including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Each of these treatment approaches benefits from substantial evidence that it is effective, efficient, and creates positive change that can be trusted. Rachel brings great compassion, warmth, enthusiasm, humor, fun, and innovation to her therapy for each client and is passionate about working with people who have suffered from the traps of anxiety and trauma. Rachel is licensed in both Arizona and New Mexico and offers therapy in person and virtually in Arizona, and via telehealth in New Mexico. When not working with her clients, Rachel loves spending time outdoors with her family, her horse (“Gabriel”), several rescue pets, and a family of screech owls who live at her home in north Phoenix.