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What Is Trauma?

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

effects of trauma

When a trauma occurs in your life, there are 5 areas that your world view is altered: safety, trust, power/control, intimacy, and esteem. Your beliefs about yourself, others, and the world, start to shift like sand under your feet and you begin to have alterations in what you know to be true based on those belief systems. Instead of thinking that most people can be trusted except those who prove you wrong, your world view shifts to, “no one can be trusted.” Even better, instead of thinking that you are a good person, or you try to do the right thing most of the time, your view of yourself shifts to, “I’m bad,” or “It’s all my fault,” or “I don’t deserve to be loved.” These five areas shift your reality in ways that you are unable to compensate for and it causes you to struggle with relationships and makes it hard for you to connect with people. It brings fault lines into your everyday friendships and familial interactions.


When you are traumatized in childhood by someone you trust, these belief systems become more ingrained. Not impossible to overcome, but the beliefs have to be unlearned and the unlearning process is painstaking. For instance, when we are children, we are taught the basic concept of, “good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.” This is taught by many different means. For instance, when we get in trouble as children, we receive a consequence or a punishment, but if we do what we are told, or do something well, we receive a reward. Here’s the rub. When a child is abused and told that they are being bad, but haven’t actually done anything wrong, then they just believe that inherently they are bad. This is part of something called just world belief. Therefore, to overcome this belief that the abuse was all their fault, or that they caused the abuse, takes something called cognitive restructuring. All of these concepts come from a therapy called Cognitive Processing Therapy.

There are many therapies out there for PTSD, and as a therapist I provide several different types of therapies, but I am partial to the cognitive behavioral based therapies due to seeing such vast improvement in results, but there are many different therapies that offer the same great results. Whatever anyone chooses as a therapy option, what is most important when it comes to therapy for trauma is not to just see someone for years and years to just “talk” about what happened. Anyone who has been through trauma can recover from it. I have seen countless types of trauma from the youngest of ages to those who have endured it and not sought help until they were in their 80’s and older. The relief that people who seek trauma treatment receive once they go through a trauma treatment therapy is extensive and empowering. I love seeing people go on to live out their lives healthy and free. It doesn’t mean you will never again have a trigger from the trauma you experienced, but it does mean that you can overcome the trigger by using the skills you learn and the trauma not having a hold on your life.

One of my favorite things to teach my students and post grads is that our job as therapists is to get the client to fire us! I know that sounds counterintuitive, but I don’t mean because we’re bad at our job and they don’t want to see us anymore. What I tell them is from the very beginning of therapy what I want them to be thinking about is: how can this client graduate from therapy and function on their own at their fullest capacity. What tools do they need from me so that they can use them while they are not in therapy? From the first session I am thinking about the next few months and how we are working towards discharge. I am always thinking about discharge with my clients because therapy is not supposed to last forever. Some stay longer than others. Some have certain types of diagnoses that cause them to need therapy longer than others, but the goal is for the clients to be empowered to live their best life! I truly believe that everyone needs therapy at some time in their life, but that doesn’t mean everyone needs therapy forever or even for that long. People simply need the right tools, the right boundaries, and the right set of skills.

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