Trauma Therapist

Can you heal from trauma without therapy

If you have recently dealt with a traumatic event, you might be worried that you’re going to feel lousy indefinitely. While it can certainly take some time to feel fully happy and healthy again, there are many steps you can take to help you move forward. Know that you will indeed be OK again and that you have the power to make your healing journey an effective one.

Ahead, we have 10 different ways for you to heal from trauma. We’ll first look at exactly what trauma is so you can be clear that it’s what you’re experiencing, then we’ll share various steps you can take and tips you can try.

Press Play for Advice On Healing From Trauma

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, featuring Holocaust survivor Dr. Edith Eger & daughter Dr. Marianne Engle shares how to heal from trauma and build resilience. Click below to listen now.

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What Is Trauma?

Trauma is the result of a negative event. It occurs when you feel emotionally or mentally hurt by something that has happened, and it may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, which is commonly referred to as PTSD.

Examples of traumatic events include the death of someone you love, experiencing abuse, a plane or automobile crash, an extremely difficult relationship or breakup, or a natural disaster like an earthquake or hurricane.

If you feel shocked, saddened, anxious, or otherwise overwhelmed by an occurrence like one of the above, you’re probably experiencing trauma. The trauma isn’t the event or experience itself but rather your body and mind’s response to it. Traumatic stress affects the brain, which makes it crucial to take the steps toward recovery and mitigate its negative effects and impacts as much as possible.

If you or a loved one are struggling with PTSD, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Accept Support

First and foremost, getting past trauma is to want to heal and be willing to accept the help and support. It might turn out that much of your healing journey occurs alone, or it might involve a lot of community support or individual therapy. Whichever route it’s going to take naturally, you’ll have the best chance of recovering well if you are in the space of accepting support.

You might receive support from loved ones, a support group, a therapist, or from friends or colleagues. The important part here is to get into a mindset where you understand that others may likely be able to help you, and you are willing to take that help.

Find the Right Help

Next, you’ll want to find the right type of help for your situation. If therapy seems like the right step for you, you can look specifically for a trauma-informed therapist to ensure the therapist is able to work with trauma and provide you with the best possible service.

Or, it might feel better to attend a support group so that you can be around others who have experienced a similar situation and find understanding and community.

Connect With Others

Whether or not you attend a support group around healing, it will help you connect with other people. You don’t need to center your trauma with the group, and you don’t even necessarily need to talk to other people about your trauma if it doesn’t feel like the right move for you.

Connection with others is key to happiness as humans, and isolating yourself while dealing with trauma can lead to negative outcomes like depression. Spend time with friends when you feel up for it, and share what you’ve experienced when it feels right.

Physical Movement

Exercise has been shown to improve symptoms of PTSD. In addition to directly helping you heal, exercise and physical movement also provide your body with much-needed feel-good chemicals like endorphins.

If you don’t love working out, that’s OK! Take walks, do something fun like bike riding or roller skating, move along to a yoga video, or have a solo dance party. Anything that involves moving your body will help you heal.

Work With Your Feelings

Journaling is a common way to manage stress and move through complex events. Give it a try if it feels like it might be beneficial for you. If it doesn’t, it will still be helpful to spend time sitting with your feelings. Do your best to get in touch with what you’re feeling, allow yourself to experience it entirely for a few moments, then notice how it passes.

Feeling your feelings, and accepting them, is key to healing from trauma. You may have some difficult feelings along the way, like anger, and that’s OK. It’s natural to have a wide variety of emotions, and there’s nothing wrong if some of them are new for you.

Practice Self-Care

Self-care reduces stress. Equally important, it feels good. Practice self-care through your healing journey by regularly taking action to do things that feel good and loving for yourself.

Self-care acts can be simple and free and might be as mundane as taking a bath. What matters is that you set time aside to care for yourself, and you do things that make you feel loved.

Avoid Recreational Substances

While healing from trauma, it might be incredibly tempting to drink or do drugs. Because recreational substances are addictive and help your brain stop thinking and feeling, this is not the right time for them.

You won’t be able to work through your feelings if you’re actively avoiding them by taking substances. Know that this is temporary, and you can go back to activities like social drinking once you have taken the time to heal from your trauma.

Take Breaks

When moving through healing, you might find that you’re more tired than usual. Or, you might feel like you have physical energy, but your mind doesn’t work as well. Healing from trauma takes a lot of energy.

The best way to deal with reduced energy during this time, whether physical or mental, is to be gentle with yourself. Taking breaks, even from doing fun things, to pause and give yourself a moment will help keep your energy up and ensure you don’t exhaust yourself.

Practice Mindfulness or Meditation

One act that’s well proven to support healing is mindfulness. It’s a method of experiencing life where you make a point of paying attention to each moment. You stay present for everything from your thoughts and feelings to how things are for you physically. This can help you relieve stress.

Additionally, meditation and breathwork, which are natural offshoots of mindfulness, can improve stress levels and help you to feel more relaxed and settled in your life. These are all helpful for healing.

Engage in Creativity

Lastly, having fun is a great healing tool. Getting creative, for you, might mean making music or just listening to it. It might mean writing poetry, journaling, or even just reading a fiction book. Engaging your brain in creative and artistic endeavors has been proven to improve physiological and psychological outcomes in people.

You can try art therapy or be completely casual about your creativity and do it alone. What matters is that you engage with anything creative that feels positive for you.

Healing from trauma might feel overwhelming. Know that there are many options at your disposal, and if you use them, you’ll be on your way to feeling better soon.

Healing can be so humiliating, painful, exhausting, and terrifying. In the end, it’s worth it for most people because of what’s on the other side.

Therapy is one way, but not the only way to heal from trauma as there are a variety of ways to heal such as: relationships and connection, re-connecting to our culture and ancestral customs, having a practice such as yoga and/or meditation, expression such as art, dance, and writing, and more.

Here are 6 of the most common things I’ve noticed as clients heal from trauma.

  1. You Begin Feeling Your Emotions (Rather Than Minimizing Them)

    • You allow yourself to cry (tears are a shower for the soul)

    • You validate and more fully understand your emotions rather than try to fix or get rid of them

    • Anger begins dissipating and decreasing (turns out sadness, loneliness, confusion, helplessness, and pain was underneath)

      • See Anger Iceberg

  2. Practicing Living Mindfully (Rather Than Mindlessly)

    • Rather than doing things to distract, numb, or keep busy, you start from a place of intention and value.

    • You ask yourself questions like:

      • “What does my body need right now to rest and recuperate?”

      • “Do I really want to take on this project right now if I really listen to myself?”

      • “What would really happen if I disappoint other people and tell them no?”

    • You start talking to yourself in ways like:

      • “I wonder what’s really going on underneath my need to please others right now.”

      • “This is really interesting. This pattern keeps happening over and over. Let me a pause and reflect on this right now.”

      • ”It’s okay for me to make mistakes. I’m not my mistake. I can learn from this.”

      • ”I don’t have to have all the answers to everything.”

      • ”I’m really tired and fatigued. I might say no to that invitation tonight.”

      • ”I really enjoy spending time by myself on the weekends. I want to do this more often.”

      • ”I really enjoy spending time with other people on the weekends. I want to do this more often.”

  3. Your Body Releases Tension & Trauma

    • You have less somatic issues (headaches, migraines, stomaches, stress, fatigue)

    • Your body softens and relaxes because you are learning to establish safety in your body

    • You’re more welcoming of touch like hugs/embraces from other people (especially those you care about and trust)

    • You understand somatization: that some of your physical symptoms are a result of mental health or psychological issues (e.g. trauma, depression, anxiety)

  4. You Reach Out More For Support & Ask For Help (Rather Than Isolating)

    • You slowly allow more people into your emotional inner life (your walls starts falling down)

    • You begin asking for your needs and wants (rather than assuming others can read your mind)

    • You begin understanding your needs and wants (rather than focusing on others’ needs and wants)

    • Perhaps you share more vulnerable parts of yourself with others

    • You allow others to see you cry, frustrated, sad, grieving, and helpless (humanizing yourself as perfection doesn’t exist)

    • You begin to shift the core belief of self-reliance into interdependence, community, and connection (it’s nice to spend time with certain people rather than being alone all the time)

  5. You Stop Reacting Less (And Start Reflecting More)

    • You stop laughing at your traumas (You learn laughter shrinks you and a way to distract from pain)

    • Your triggers begin to guide you toward healing (rather than control and manage you; you understand where the triggers come from, what you need, and how to interrupt the cycle of sabotage)

    • You begin understanding your triggers, vulnerabilities, and stressors (and make an actionable plan moving forward)

    • You learn how to differentiate between danger, safety, and trust (especially in your body, rather than just relying on your brain/head/logic all the time)

    • You begin learning to live in the moment (rather than the past or the future; you begin slowing down and enjoying the little things)

  6. You Start Grieving For What You Never Had

    • Because you allow yourself to feel and emote more, you are able to understand the concept of the inner child

    • You begin to tap into your inner child and wonder what they desperately crave and desire and since others may be unable or unwilling to give them to you, you begin the process of re-parenting your inner child

    • With grief comes rage, anger, and indignation

    • See Ambiguous Loss

This certainly is not an exhaustive list of what to expect when healing from trauma. Know that your journey is unique to you, your identities, and your experiences.

Resources & Further Reading

Post Traumatic Growth Therapy in Seattle, WA

I am a therapist in Seattle, Washington specializing in working with people recovering from childhood trauma and emotional neglect.

I realize the widespread impact of trauma, understand potential paths for recovery, and realize recovery is possible.

I can help you. I’ve helped many clients dealing with both singular traumatic events as well as complex, repeated, ongoing traumatic experiences. It is possible to heal and recover from trauma, violence, and systemic oppression. 

The next step is to schedule a free consultation to see if we might be a good fit. If not, I also maintain a CPTSD Therapist referral list.

Resources (Books, Support Groups, Forums, Podcasts) & Therapist Referrals for Washington State CTPSD therapists can be found here.

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