Rehab Cell

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

What is TRAUMA THERAPY? Psychology & mental health treatment with Kati Morton licensed therapist

What is TRAUMA THERAPY?  Psychology & mental health treatment with Kati Morton licensed therapist


Hey everybody! I have an amazing special guest Dr. Alexa Altman is here to talk with us about what is trauma and resiliency. Since this is the first of many videos that Alexa and I are going to do together tell my audience a little bit about what you do and what your specializations are. I’m a clinical psychologist with a specialization in trauma therapies specifically, EMDR and somatic experiencing and both of those therapies help a person move out of the overwhelm that happens after a traumatic experience back into connection with their bodies, connection with other people, and a greater connection to their life. Very cool. Yeah, and if any of you what EMDR is we’ll talk about it periodically throughout our videos, but I’ll put a link in the description of my old video about it where I talk to you, specifically, about bilateral stimulation and all the terms and what that means. But for today, we’re going to start out with the basics. Start at the beginning. So, tell us what trauma is. How would we define being in a trauma? Yeah, ’cause people throw out that word: trauma this, trauma that. What really is trauma, and how do I know if I’ve been traumatized? So, a trauma is defined, not in the event, but a person’s response, the overwhelm that happens after an event. And it could be one big event, we call that the “Big T”. Kati: Okay Or, it can be a series of of small events. We call those “Little T.’s” that overwhelm a person’s capacity to cope. Kati: Interesting. So, what might be traumatizing for one person might not necessarily be traumatizing to another. Kati: And I’ve heard that from a lot of my viewers. They’ll say, well, I had a sister and we grew up the same and all this happened to both of us. How come I’m the only one struggling? Dr. Altman: That’s right, that’s right, and we’re going to talk a little bit later about: why and how our system… What is that overwhelm really about? Kati: Yeah Dr. Altman: ‘Cause sometimes people think something’s wrong with them that they were overwhelmed. Kati: Yeah, exactly and then there’s a lot of blame and guilt and embarrassment and all sorts of stuff that can go… Dr Altman: “What’s wrong with me?” Kati: So, what we think we’re talking about is when we’re not in the trauma space. We’re not over-charged or had any response to a trauma. Right? We’re in a resilient zone Dr. Altman: Yeah. Kati: We’re doing good and- I’m doing the middle ’cause there’s like a graph kinda of, like, we’re in the good, like, middle Dr. Altman: We’re gonna draw it, yeah. Kati: Yeah Dr. Altman: Right, so when you’re in that resilience zone your system might feel the charge associated with having to meet the challenge of your day. Right? Kati: The charge would be like a being stimulated, stressed. Dr. Altman: Stimulated charge, right. There’s a certain level of stress, like, it’s stressful to get to work on time. Right? Kati: Yeah! Dr Altman: There’s a certain amount of stress that activates our system to meet the challenges of the day, And then… Which is part of that charge. But then our system balances it out with some relaxation/ restoration. That might look like eating lunch with your friend. Right? Kati: Bringing you back down out of the stress. Dr. Altman: So, we see this, like, real… I mean, ideally, right? We see this nice wave of charge and discharge that would be called our resilience zone. Kati: Okay, nice. Dr. Altman: Yeah, so that’s where we’re doing good. Maybe life’s not simple, but we’re able to kind of manage what’s coming at us and come back down. Kati: Got you, and like, almost like re-center ourselves. Dr. Altman: That’s right, that’s right! It’s like, right, that’s the “A Zone”. That’s the zone you want to live in. Kati: Okay Dr. Altman: So, then we think about an event or series of events that bumps us out, well what does that look like? We get bumped out of this nice, even resilience zone. So, an event comes and bumps us out and then we have this huge charge. Let’s say, car accident Okay? A car accident comes and our nervous system involuntarily, it’s instinctual, responds with a huge amount of charge to brace or prepare ourselves for some kind of action, and our nervous system doesn’t quite get back into that range of resilience the same way it would in just driving a normal day to work. Kati: Is that, like, for the… is that why, ’cause I’ve been in a… everybody’s been in a car accident Dr. Altman: Sure. Kati: even like a little fender bender. Is that why when you get back in the car after, even thought it wasn’t that bad maybe, even, but I still am, like, shooken up. Is it that shakiness? Dr. Alman: I’m so glad you asked, so that shakiness is part of what we call that sympathetic, which is that fight-or-flight, nervous system arousal. It’s healthy, life-preserving, but, here’s the thing, it’s supposed to be short-term and time limited. Alright? Kati: Oh. Dr. Altman: So, that shaking that Kati was describing is one way our nervous system shakes out that energy. Kati: Oh, interesting. Dr. Altman: The discharge. Kati: It’s almost like, ’cause I’ve read about, um, I think, it was the EMDR video I did, or I don’t know. You guys let me know. The [unintelligible] was the trauma video, but I talked about how animals, like, [Kati makes a sound imitating vibration] Dr. Altman: Yeah. Kati: They, you know, they shake, and it’s like they’re… one of the therapists that started a certain type of treatment, I think it was somatic treatment. Dr. Alman: Peter Levine. Kati: Yes! Hes talked about -that’s exactly what it was- he talked about how that was like their way of coming back down, and we have our own versions. Dr Altman: We have our own versions coming back down to that resilience zone. Right? That the challenge becomes when we get stuck in that sympathetic you know, fight-or-flight state and we don’t come back down. And some of that there’s lots of reasons why and we can, maybe, get into some of that, like why our nervous system… maybe it’s we didn’t shake it out, maybe we never got to a safe place, so that’s the other thing: is we come back down when we find safety again. Kati: Oh, so if we don’t have a safe place or if there are a bunch of “Little T.’s” -let’s say, right- that happen we can never feel okay enough to go [Kati makes vibrating sound with her mouth] Dr. Altman: That’s right! Kati: and be okay. Dr. Altman: Right, and often times that that safety is in a place or a person. Kati: Interesting. Dr. Altman: So, what if Kati, you’ve had this big event but maybe you’ve never had a safe person. Kati: Yeah, well then, what do you do with that? Dr. Altman: What do you do? So, that’s kind of what we see too is sometimes these experiences get stacked on each other. Kati: Okay., and so it’s almost as if- ’cause I’ve heard from a lot of my viewers, especially, and even some of my clients that they don’t even know what it would be like to not feel on edge. Dr. Altman: That’s right. Kati: or hyper-vigilant or a lot of things that come along with trauma. Dr. Altman:That’s right, that’s right! So we’ve been describing a lot of that fight-or-flight state when you’re super charged up, but what we haven’t defined yet is: there is another state that’s also protective, instinctual, part of our defensive strategies, which is called that freeze state. Sometimes, we’re not in fight-or-flight we’re in what’s more of an immobilizing, protective response freeze, which is dissociation. Kati: Okay and that’s where that comes out of. Is that, if we were to write it… Do we want to draw the thing now? Dr. Altman: Yeah, let’s draw it. Kati: Okay we’re going to draw it, okay. So we switched sides [Kati snaps her fingers and makes the sound of a laser gun] Pew! We did movie magic. And now Alexa is going to draw what we were talking about and the resilient zone as well as fight, flight, and freeze? Dr. Altman: Yep. Kati: Right, so, I guess let us know what we’re doing here Dr. Altman: Yeah, so we were talking about this range of resilience right? Where we might get super charged to get activated and mobilized to meet the challenges of life. Kati: That’s like I’m in traffic, going to work. Dr Altman: I’m in traffic Kati: and then I’m having lunch and dinner Dr. Altman: with my friend, right? And we wouldn’t say this is like a beach in Hawaii like I’m in my happy place here, but we’re still able to cope with the challenges that life brings us, right? So, then we have we’re going to do our 🎵do ta dah do!🎵 traumatic experience or a bunch of little things that come in, right? Kati: “Big T” and “Little T”, right? Dr. Altman: “Big T”, “Little T”, actually that’s a good idea. Okay, little t. Kati: Okay Dr. Altman: Okay, and what what it does- actually I’m going to do it in red- Kati: Okay Dr. Altman: is it bumps us out of this range, right? Right, and then we see this, and this we call the “high zone” Is that writing and [unintelligible]? Kati: Mm-hm you’re fine. Dr. Altman: Can you read it? Man off-camera: Yep. Kati: Can you guys see it? Dr. Altman: It looks like tight zone, “high zone”. Kati: [giggles] Dr. Altman: And then we have this “low zone”. Kati: So is this freeze? Dr. Altman: This is freeze. Kati: Oh! [Katie whispers to camera- unintelligible] Dr. Altman: So this is all that fight-or-flight. Kati: Uh-huh Dr. Altman: fight, flight And this is freeze! So, we call this freeze this is also where you see dissociation, Kati: Oh, okay. Dr. Altman: foggy, numb, cut-off. You can’t feel your body. You feel like you’re in a tunnel. Kati: Okay, so this is like all the senses pumping at once and this is when I just checked out. Dr. Altman: Yeah, I like to think about it like circuit breaker on the house, you know, when all the lights go off- circuit breaker’s off- that’s that freeze response. Kati: That’s down here, yeah. Dr. Altman: It’s more of that life threat response. Fight-or-flight, we’re still mobilizing trying to meet the challenge. Freeze is really that life-preserving, feigning death, you know, playing possum, freeze response. We typically see the freeze response in kids, because they can’t fight or flee. Kati: Yeah Dr. Altman: Right? And vulnerable people in vulnerable situations where fighting or fleeing maybe isn’t the nervous system’s wisest choice, and I say “choice”, but it’s really involuntary. Right? Kati: Yeah, I’ve heard from a lot of you who have chronic illness or are immobilized that this dissociation is really difficult and it’s something that you struggle with because fight-or-flight isn’t an option. Dr. Altman: Isn’t an option. Kati: How interesting. Dr. Altman: Yeah, right, so a lot of the strategies and skills that, I think we’re going to be talking about are learning to bring your nervous system out of the “high zone” back into the range of resilience and from the “low zone” back into the range of resilience. And what we see, and how I really define resilience is this capacity to move from overwhelmed back into this range of resilience. The other word we use a lot in trauma therapies is this is called regulation, balance. Kati: Oh yeah, okay, I’ve heard that! Dr. Altman: Right? So, resilience is moving your nervous system back into regulation, which essentially is balance. Kati: And that would be kind of like I’m sure some people do this without even realizing they’re doing it, bringing themself back. Dr. Altman: That’s right. Kati: Right? Like, “Oh, I’m feeling really maxed out, I’m going to go for a walk, or I’m going to, like, listen to a podcast, or I’m gonna call my mom or…”. Like, it’s all the reaching out and the things that we do to… Dr. Altman: Exactly. Come back into our range, but, I think, some people really have lived a lot of their life up here Kati: mmhm Dr. Altman: or a lot of their life down there, so even the experience of balance, or back in the range, is a new experience. Kati: Might be uncomfortable even? Dr. Altman: It might be uncomfortable, ’cause you know what I hear a lot in the “high zone” being wire and vigilant all the time, the idea of being in balance and not being vigilant… Who’s going to look out for danger, right? Kati: Yeah Dr. Altman: If you’re looking, if you’re used to looking for danger all the time, it’s going to be really scary to turn that radar off. Kati: Yeah, because it was life-preserving. Dr. Altman: It was life-preserving, so it was protective! Kati: Oh wow, how interesting. Dr. Altman: Right? So, we do, in trauma therapy we talk about- this word we use is “titration”. Do you remember in chemistry when you would titrate solutions and you’d do a little bit at a time? Kati: I have to think of medication, but maybe it’s ’cause of what we do. I’m like, if your doctor’s titrate it up or titrating it down. Dr. Altman: So, we talk about this idea of titrating experience for moving something that’s novel, let’s say, being safe or having that vigilance down we do a little bit at a time to get your system used to… Kati: So, bringing it from here step by step Dr. Altman: Step by step. Oh! Could we do a step by step? Kati: Yeah, we definitely can. Dr. Altman: Oh, I’ve never done that Let’s see, like a step-by-step Kati: Mmhm Dr. Altman: a little bit at a time, so you get used to what it feels like to be in balance. Kati: To let it go a little. Dr. Altman: To let it go a little bit. Kati: How interesting, so, then, I guess to finish this video and like I said we’re going to do bunches of videos together. Because Alexa has a lot of wonderful information to share. But I want to let everybody kind of understand, so that this is what we’re working on, and this is kind of like, in a nutshell, what trauma therapy is. Dr. Altman: Yes! Kati: What is the goal of trauma therapy? Dr. Altman: That was such a perfect question, because, essentially, every time we bring our nervous system back into resilience we expand our capacity, so what this will look like… Kati: Oh, does it get broader and broader and broader? Dr. Altman: Yes! Can I make, can I just get it bigger? Kati: Mmhm, of course! Dr. Altman: So, then, your capacity okay, so now we’re talking ’bout life Kati: Oh Dr. Altman: We’re able to meet bigger and bigger challenges of life without getting thrown. Does that make sense? Kati: Yeah! So it’s almost as if we’re working out this muscle and the muscle keeps getting bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger. Dr Altman: Stronger and stronger. And, in addition, to not feeling overwhelmed as often we’re also able to take on more and less of our energy is devoted to defense. See, one of the things that happens when you’re bumped out all the time is all of your life energy is taken to protect yourself. Kati: Yeah and to that vigilance ’cause whoever, I’m sure, anybody who’s ever been in an accident or had anything potentially traumatic happen it’s exhausting. Dr. Altman: It’s exhausting. Kati: And that on the edge, it, like, takes everything you’ve got. Dr. Altman: To think about other life things and goals and purpose, whether it’s to be creative or seek partnership or connect in a different way all of those resources are being taken up. Kati: Yeah, interesting. That’s so cool. Thank you so much for sharing! And, like I said, we’re going to do a bunch of videos, but this is just to give you a better idea of the definition of trauma, resiliency, and what is trauma therapy. What’s the goal? Thank you so much, Alexa, for sharing all of your wonderful insights and information! And, like I said we’re going to be in a ton of videos together. So, click over here to subscribe! And turn on your notifications ’cause we’re doing a whole series, and you don’t want to miss ’em. Thank you so much, and we’ll see you next time. Bye!

2 thoughts on “What is TRAUMA THERAPY? Psychology & mental health treatment with Kati Morton licensed therapist

  1. Please share the video on your social media (twitter, facebook reddit etc) By sharing you never know who you might be helping 🙂 Thanks for watching! xoxo

  2. Has anyone done studies on large families? B/c I notice the first 4 kids seem better able to cope, compared to the last 4 of 11 kids. My nervous system was hijacked. Thank YOU both for the helpful video.

Leave comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.