Cindy sat in my office, seeking relief from the intense psychological anguish that she had been experiencing for the several months since having survived a fatal head on collision with an SUV. The driver of the other vehicle was intoxicated, swerved into Cindy’s lane of traffic and impacted her vehicle head on. That driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Since that time, Cindy had been experiencing insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks and difficulty functioning – classic symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
From a neurological stand point, her brain was essentially “stuck” in a primitive survival mechanism known as “fight or flight” – a protective measure that is designed to identify a dangerous situation and put the entire system on the defense at warp speed, all in an effort to ward off any threat to survival. Fight or flight is a mode of defense that operates on a “better safe than sorry” mentality. In Cindy’s case, even though the threat to her safety had ended months ago, her system was still stuck in that defensive posture “just in case” the threat, or anything like unto it, resurfaced. Although Cindy understood on a rational level that the threat had long since passed, her neurology was reluctant to let it’s guard down in the event that there was a mistake and the danger had not really passed. Scenes from the event were relived again and again in her mind because literally that memory had been loaded into her neurological network in a manner that caused the rewind button to be continuously pushed by anything in her environment that even slightly resembled the near fatal accident – riding in a moving vehicle, the sound of a car’s engine, sirens in the distance, flashing lights, etc….
Thankfully, neuroscience has revealed that we enjoy, throughout the course of our lives, a condition known as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity, or the ability of the brain to adapt and change, is key to Cindy recovering from the traumatic event that she experienced. Due to the fact that her brain is malleable, in a few short sessions, Cindy’s brain was able to be “retrained” to accept the truth that the danger had passed, that she had survived and that she was now safe.
Often when a person thinks of the word “trauma,” they envision something that one might only hear about on the news or in a documentary, like a soldier losing his leg in an IED explosion. Many people never consider that traumatic events happen to nearly all of us. Our brains often encode the trauma of a divorce, the death of a loved one, the loss of employment, the betrayal of a spouse and many other challenging circumstances that are a very real part of many of our lives, in the same manner that Cindy’s brain loaded memories of the day that her life was nearly taken by a drunk driver.
Fortunately, a method of therapy known as Life Span Integration is available to treat trauma in a manner that is heals these memories in a gently, yet powerfully without retraumatizing. It has been shown to be highly effective in not only “clearing” trauma rapidly, but also in the treatment of depression, anxiety, anger management, eating disorders, grief and loss, abuse, abandonment, neglect and other distressing conditions.
To learn more about this highly effective method of treatment, you can visit lifespanintegration.com
For treatment using this highly innovative and powerful therapeutic modality contact Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555 and schedule an appointment with Katrina M. Appiah, LCSW.