Post traumatic stress recovery is possible with tools that treat the cause. The most effective treatment includes the body in the healing process.

Many survivors, and even some clinicians, believe that post traumatic stress is something you have to learn to live with forever. They believe the best you can do is to find ways to manage or deal with the symptoms. The reason for this is that many treatments for post traumatic stress focuses on the symptoms rather than the cause, offering only a temporary fix.

Post traumatic stress leads to changes in the brain, leaving survivors stuck in “fight, flight, or freeze,” mode. This means that a seemingly small trigger or stressor can set off their “alarm system,” leading to flashbacks, fear, physical symptoms or panic. They may feel unsafe or hypervigilent. These changes are adaptive – they kept survivors safe when they were in real danger but once the immediate threat is over they are no longer helpful.

Effective treatments repair the neural networks and calm the overactive sympathetic nervous system (the “alarm system”).

This is why just talking about it isn’t enough. Trauma recovery has to include the body to be able to repair the changes in the brain. Through recovery, survivors are able to feel safe, calm, grounded, and connected with their body.

Post traumatic stress recovery is possible with tools that treat the cause. The most effective treatment includes the body in the healing process.

Many survivors, and even some clinicians, believe that post traumatic stress is something you have to learn to live with forever. They believe the best you can do is to find ways to manage or deal with the symptoms. The reason for this is that many treatments for post traumatic stress focuses on the symptoms rather than the cause, offering only a temporary fix.

Post traumatic stress leads to changes in the brain, leaving survivors stuck in “fight, flight, or freeze,” mode. This means that a seemingly small trigger or stressor can set off their “alarm system,” leading to flashbacks, fear, physical symptoms or panic. They may feel unsafe or hypervigilent. These changes are adaptive – they kept survivors safe when they were in real danger but once the immediate threat is over they are no longer helpful.

Effective treatments repair the neural networks and calm the overactive sympathetic nervous system (the “alarm system”).

This is why just talking about it isn’t enough. Trauma recovery has to include the body to be able to repair the changes in the brain. Through recovery, survivors are able to feel safe, calm, grounded, and connected with their body.

So, how do you begin to heal from trauma?

Some ways to calm the “alarm system,” and begin to heal include guided imagery, meditation, movement such as yoga, body work such as massage or reiki, energy work such as EFT, EMDR, connecting with nature, art, and music.

As a trauma therapist and yoga instructor, I have a unique understanding of how trauma and anxiety is stored in the body and am passionate about using mind-body tools in therapy.

Guided imagery for post traumatic stress

I’ll focus here on guided imagery – a tool I use with many of my clients in trauma therapy.

Guided imagery is so much more powerful than it may seem on the surface.

Guided imagery allows us to vividly visualize healing scenes or journeys. Many guided imagery practices, such as those by Belleruth Naparstek, are carefully designed with healing content specific to trauma recovery. I usually start with a [popup url=”https://vabeachcounseling.com/blog/anxiety/5-minutes-calm-2/” height=”400″ width=”900″ scrollbars=”yes” alt=”popup”]Peaceful Place Guided Imagery[/popup]because establishing a sense of safety is fundamental in trauma treatment.

Guided imagery is especially well suited to trauma survivors who often have a heightened ability to visualize which may have started as a way to escape painful situations.

Here’s how I explain it to my clients – you know how you can visualize a scary or stressful event from your past and you can actually feel it in your body? Maybe your breathing changes or your muscles get tighter? We can use this same ability in a positive way by visualizing peaceful and calming scenes to allow the body and the nervous system to relax.

A unique characteristic is that guided imagery is continually working beneath the surface of conscious thought. The effects “reverberate again and again, catalyzing a deep and system-wide kind of healing that may go unnoticed for some time ([popup url=”http://blog.healthjourneys.com/inspiring-stories/imagery-for-childhood-abuse.html?utm_source=Health+Journeys&utm_campaign=6da2cee586-101514&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_15d6089760-6da2cee586-45654429/” height=”400″ width=”900″ scrollbars=”yes” alt=”popup”]Belleruth Naparstek[/popup]).” This is unlike any other therapy technique – continually healing when you’re sleeping, talking, working and going about your life.

Update – New Study on Yoga and PTSD

Bessel van der Kolk, a leading trauma researcher, and colleges recently completed a randomized controlled trial demonstrating the powerful effects of yoga for trauma.  After 10 weeks, over 50% of the women who practiced yoga no longer met the criteria for PTSD.  Yoga was found to improve mood, emotional awareness, and coping skills. The physical and introspective nature of yoga was found to be a healing factor.  This important study supports the inclusion of mind-body techniques in trauma recovery.  [popup url=”http://www.traumacenter.org/products/pdf_files/Yoga_Adjunctive_Treatment_PTSD_V0001.pdf” height=”400″ width=”900″ scrollbars=”yes” alt=”popup”]Yoga as an Adjunctive Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial[/popup]

Meet our counselors
If you’re struggling to cope with traumatic experiences, we can help.
Meet our counselors

Virginia Beach Counseling and Wellness is a team of counselors, art therapists, and trauma sensitive yoga instructors serving Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Hampton Roads, VA.  We offer meditation, guided imagery, hypnosis, yoga and talk therapy for healing trauma.