What Is Trauma?
Anything that causes broad emotional or mental anguish or trauma can be treated with trauma-informed therapy.
The American Psychological Association defines trauma as an emotional response to a terrible event, such as an accident, abuse, rape, or natural disaster. But trauma is also describe any kind of event, past or present, which has left emotional or mental scars that affect how we live our lives in the present. The illness or death of a loved one, neglect, a robbery or home invasion, a physical attack, an unwelcome confrontation, or the witnessing of a traumatic event itself can be traumatic.
At Kathryn Grooms & Associates Psychotherapy in New York City, we work with people that have experienced trauma with these life events and others including abuse, violence, death of a loved one, illness, crime, rejection, and more. Which is why we expand the definition of trauma to including any experience of feeling unsafe, including feeling physically unsafe, emotionally unsafe, or mentally and psychologically unsafe.
Trauma can certainly be related to something that occurred recently or it can refer to any lingering trauma from experiences rooted in your history, which has never been fully processed.
Oppression and the effects of systemic racism, misogyny, discrimination, and sexism cause trauma. In fact, for BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) and LGBTQ+ populations in particular, we know that oppression can be traumatic. And, compounding that trauma, we know that it can also be generational. We work with people from all backgrounds to identify what trauma has looked like systemically for them and for generations before them. Being stuck in trauma can take away choices and prevent you from moving forward and achieving whatever vision of success and happiness you desire. However, when we bring the historical work and present work together, we can more fully process the trauma and then identify what we would like the future to look like.
We have a natural system for adapting to circumstances or events and a natural way of processing things that are physically or emotionally challenging. Trauma occurs when that natural system gets interrupted. In our bodies, trauma is stored as a sensory experience. Therefore, when a similar sensory experience occurs, it can trigger the initial trauma and produce feelings and thoughts such as I’m not safe, I’m in danger.