What is Trauma?
WHAT IS TRAUMA?
A simple explanation is that trauma is any experience which overwhelms our capacity to cope. Trauma is subjective, so that what might be experienced as a trauma by one person is not necessarily experienced as trauma by another. It continues to affect our functioning after the event has passed, often resulting in traumatic symptoms which might get worse over time rather than better.
WHAT ARE TRAUMATIC SYMPTOMS?
While reactions to trauma vary according to each individual, there are many possible symptoms associated with trauma, including, for example, a sense of pervading disconnection, fragmentation and hopelessness. A list of possible traumatic symptoms would include flashbacks, intrusive memories, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, experiences of sensory overload, panic attacks, attacks of rage, depression, anxiety, emotional imbalance, exaggerated startle reflex, inability to relax due to being in a state of constant high alert, conscious or unconscious avoidance of any reminders associated to the trauma, feelings of disconnection and difficulty with social relationships, dissociation, numbing of physical sensation or emotional experience, gaps in memory, psychosomatic effects such as unexplainable physical pain or illness, and hopelessness about the future. Traumatic symptoms may occur immediately following a traumatic experience or they may set in months or even years later. Due to this time lag, as well as the range in possible symptoms, identifying trauma as their underlying cause is not necessarily a straightforward process and often a number of other diagnoses come into play before trauma is recognized as a root cause.
WHAT IS PTSD?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an official diagnosis that has been recognized in the mental health field since 1980. This diagnosis can be made by mental health professionals such as psychiatrists and psychologists who identify and measure traumatic symptoms as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). The DSM is the official catalogue of mental illnesses recognized by government agencies and insurance companies in determining eligibility for disability benefits and insurance coverage. Ideally, diagnosis through the DSM facilitates effective treatment of symptoms and relief from suffering. The DSM has a significant influence in shaping public perception and common language around issues of mental health and illness. However it is also important to note that in the end, there may be many people suffering from the effects of trauma who will never receive an official diagnosis of PTSD, and whose experience of trauma does not exactly match the description of PTSD as it is found in the DSM today.
WHAT IS CPTSD?
The term Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) was first used by psychiatrist Judith Herman in 1992 in her book Trauma & Recovery, where she described the effects of chronic trauma in the context of interpersonal relationships, such as domestic or child abuse. As a more specific form of PTSD, there is often a social or political context to CPTSD. It includes, for example, the experiences of prisoners of wars, survivors of slavery, indentured servants, sweatshop workers, victims of bullying, concentration camp survivors and residential school survivors, as well as survivors of domestic and child abuse. In addition to the traumatic symptoms listed above, CPTSD typically results in greater difficulties with interpersonal relationships, greater feelings of worthlessness and helplessness, and more severe distortions in core self-identity. Although CPTSD has not yet been recognized as an official category within the DSM, it is widely used by mental health professionals and clinicians in order to provide greater clarity about their clients’ lived experiences and in order to provide them with more effective and tailored treatment options.
Who Can Benefit?
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM HEALING TOGETHER YOGA?
People who have experienced trauma, are experiencing symptoms associated with trauma and would like to practice a body-based approach to healing will benefit from Healing Together Yoga programming. While some of us are at the very beginning of our healing journey, others among us have had years of experience with a wide variety of therapeutic and healing approaches. In either case, Healing Together Yoga programming can offer new hope, encouragement and a clearly defined, evidence-based approach that supports the path of healing and spiritual growth unique to each individual.
DO I NEED AN OFFICIAL DIAGNOSIS OF PTSD/CPTSD TO PARTICIPATE?
No, an official diagnosis of PTSD/CPTSD is not needed in order to participate in Healing Together Yoga programming. An official mental health diagnosis can be a useful tool in various ways, and is necessary in order to access disability benefits, certain government funded programing and insurance coverage. Psychologists and psychiatrists may be consulted in order to determine if an official diagnosis of PTSD or CPTSD is warranted, and it is the intention of Healing Together Yoga to work collaboratively with mental health practitioners wherever possible in order to provide the best possible quality of care for participants. However, with the recognition that an accurate diagnosis is not always available to clients, and that traumatic experiences and symptoms do not necessarily match the exact definition of PTSD as it exists within the DSM, Healing Together Yoga services are open to anyone who self-identifies as a survivor of trauma.
DO I NEED A PSYCHOTHERAPIST/COUNSELOR?
Healing Together Yoga programing is not intended to replace therapy. Rather, the TCTSY protocol is intended to support of work done individually with a mental health professional, psychotherapist or counselor. As body work can at times evoke feelings or memories that a client might want to process through ‘talk therapy’, the encouragement is for participants in Healing Together Yoga programming to have access to counseling or psychotherapy wherever possible. The intention is to work collaboratively with counselors, psychotherapists and mental health professionals in order to provide a well-rounded support network for participants and the best possible quality of care. For those who do not have access to psychotherapy/counseling, Healing Together Yoga can offer a list of private service providers as well as local agencies that provide counseling services, some of which are subsidized, on a sliding scale or free. Building a strong and diverse personal support network and a multifaceted approach to healing can be a process that is both effective and empowering. There is a saying: It takes a community to raise a child. It is the belief of Healing Together Yoga that it takes a community to heal from trauma.
How Can Yoga Help?
HOW DOES HEALING TOGETHER YOGA TARGET SYMPTOMS OF TRAUMA?
Healing Together draws both on the time-tested classical wisdom of yoga philosophy as well as on the TCTSY evidence-based trauma-sensitive yoga protocol developed by David Emerson at the Trauma Center, one of the world’s leading research facilities in the field of trauma. This targeted approach focuses on the development of body awareness and decision-making in order to provide participants with relief from specific symptoms of trauma. In the first study on TCTSY yoga published in a psychiatric journal in 2014, after 10 weeks of TCTSY practice, participants with histories of childhood sexual and physical abuse and diagnoses of CPTSD experienced a 33% reduction of symptoms and over half of participants no longer qualified for the official diagnosis of PTSD.
HOW IS HEALING TOGETHER YOGA HOLISTIC?
Healing Together embraces a multifaceted approach to healing, in which the wisdom of classical yoga philosophy is bolstered by advances in the fields of neuroscience and trauma, and in which a body based mindful movement practice tailored for CPTSD works synergistically in support of work done in individual psychotherapy. Classical yoga philosophy views the experience of trauma not as a primarily pathological process, but as part of the continuum of human experience in which there is the potential not only for healing, but also for deeper spiritual growth and evolution. Traditional teachings integrate the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of human experience into a unified and holistic model within which we can map out our personal journeys of healing and spiritual growth. The fruits of this journey contribute to the healing of human consciousness as a whole, and align us with the healing powers of our common Mother Earth, the larger matrix who connects and sustains us all.