Has a major life event such as an illness, injury, accident left you feeling overwhelmed?

Did you experience a neglect or abuse as a child?

Do you feel on edge or wired a lot of the time? Or conversely, do you feel numb?

Do you have consistent trouble sleeping and relaxing?

Do you find yourself on alert much of the time, anticipating danger or threat?

Are you having recurrent nightmares or flashbacks, or are you avoiding situations that trigger flashbacks?

Are you easily rattled or overwhelmed by things that your friends and family members?


Has your child suddenly had a change in eating habits, become overly clingy or regressed in such areas as toileting or independent sleeping?

If you answered yes to several of these questions, you may be struggling with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a dissociative disorder, or a milder condition now understood to be a trauma-based pattern.

The emotional suffering and discomfort that accompany trauma and other stress-based disorders can be crippling and isolating. While we are biologically wired to alert to danger, – a recent neuroscience study finds evidence that the average person scans the environment every four seconds for danger – people who suffer from the effects of trauma experience threat to a heightened extent.  Their responses to such triggers is also often more extreme. Many people who may not experience all the symptoms of PTSD still struggle with fear and anxiety in the face of difficult triggers or experiences. They are often on edge, scanning their environment for the proverbial “other shoe” to drop, although the experience is more like waiting for the next explosion, earthquake, or assault.
 

You don’t need to be a soldier or first responder to experience these challenging emotions, impulses and behaviors.  Trauma is best understood as any life experience or enduring conditions that overwhelms a person’s nervous system and emotional capacity to manage it. The person experiences a genuine threat to one’s body integrity, one’s physical survival or, for children, a family member’s survival. A traumatic response can occur after a single experience or after repeated exposure to milder threatening events.  There are a wide assortment of situations that can lead to symptomatic difficulties, but some of the most common include physical, sexual or emotional abuse, witnessing of violence or death, any life-threatening event– be it an auto accident, drowning, violent crime, natural disaster, acute/severe illness or medical procedure.

How can therapy ease my symptoms and distress?

Psychotherapy can provide you with the opportunity to replace habitual and automatic reactions we call the fight/flight/response cycle with a more modulated and resourceful way to negotiate stress and manage emotions. This can be achieved in a methodical way that enables you to feel more capable and more supported. Feelings of overwhelm can be countered by resourcing yourself in the moment using a variety of strategies. These include strengthening your sense of physical, emotional and interpersonal safety in the here and now.

What’s unique about your practice?

First, I emphasize the importance of creating a safe and warm environment in which you are in the driver’s seat. While I offer you support, guidance and helpful interventions, I trust your pace and encourage you to rely on your inherent capacity to create a pathway to healing. In addition to the years of training in clinical psychology and a two year post-doctoral fellowship at Yale University’s student counseling services, where I regularly worked with young adults in crisis, I have completed a three year certificate program in Somatic Experiencing (SE)and am a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner(SEP). SE is a therapeutic approach designed specifically to relieve the symptoms of trauma and to increase the capacity for self-regulation.  

Somatic Experiencing works by processing both the experience and the responses that may have gotten frozen in time. The theory behind SE is that the automatic fight/flight/freeze response we normally use in the face of threat failed to complete and clients’ nervous systems then got stuck on either “on,” meaning constantly prepared to fight or run away or “off,” meaning perpetually shut down, disconnected. As an SE therapist, I watch for these physiological and emotional patterns and then offer my clients ways of moving out of these cycles. Sometimes change comes through movement, say for an example, pushing away, in a way that was not possible at the time of the actual event. And sometimes change is brought about by emotional and sensory discharge. This therapeutic approach is slow and gentle and helps the client develop and maintain a kind of control and mastery that were not available during the trauma-inducing experience.

Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.
— Bessel van der Kolk

In working with trauma, for clients who rely overly on the “flight” response, that is they often flee from relationships or jobs when they prove challenging or evoke strong feelings, I often introduce a mindfulness or contemplative practice. We explore this in sessions and I recommend it as homework too in an effort to increase the capacity to sit with discomfort. In contrast, clients who rely more on the “fight” response will need a different focus, one that emphasizes the capacity to self-soothe or assert healthy boundaries when triggered, rather than the tendency to lash out. Finally, clients who often “freeze” in the face of major challenges require other interventions. The freeze or dissociative response, while adaptive during a traumatic event when either fighting or fleeing are not options, can become trauma survivors’ primary response in life, causing them to feel disconnected from their emotions, sensations and from other people. Therapy to address this primary symptom aims to diminish anxiety, to orient to the here and now, and awaken resourcefulness and vitality.

In addition to applying principles and tools from Somatic Experiencing, I incorporate my understanding of developmental and attachment history as these often affect how people navigate overwhelming or threatening events. Sometimes a coping style that proved the only possible response at the time to childhood trauma, whether acute or chronic, becomes a burden or a liability as an adult. This is where working with the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model can be highly effective as clients begin to reorganize habitual ways of coping that have become sub-personalities or "parts".  These parts can carry burdens such as shame or extreme fear and can be healed in therapy. I work with my to clients on identifying and developing a greater repertoire of emotional and interpersonal responses from which to draw as they navigate their life.  

What’s next?

If you still have questions or are ready to give therapy a go, call me at (914) 764-5582 or email me (want this to be a live link to an internal form). If I’m not available, I’ll get back to you promptly and we can discuss your particular concerns and questions about therapy and my practice.  Following the first appointment, you are welcome to go online and schedule your appointment yourself.
 

If you answered yes to many of these questions, there is a good chance that you are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or a milder form we now consider a trauma-based pattern.   The emotional suffering and discomfort that accompany trauma and other stress-based disorders can be crippling and isolating.
 

You don’t need to be a soldier to experience these challenging emotions, impulses and behaviors.  Trauma is best understood as any life experience or enduring conditions that overwhelms a person’s nervous system and emotional capacity to manage it. The person experiences a genuine threat to one’s body integrity, one’s physical survival or, for children, a family member’s survival. A traumatic response can occur after a single experience or after repeated exposure to mildly threatening events.  There are a wide assortment of situations that can lead to symptomatic difficulties, but some of the most common include physical or sexual abuse, witnessing of violence or death, any life-threatening event– be it an auto accident,  drowning,  natural disasters, acute/severe illness or procedure,  acts of terrorism, etc…

What’s next?

If you still have questions or are ready to give therapy a go, call me at (914) 764-5582 or email me. If I’m not available, I’ll get back to you promptly and we can discuss your particular concerns and questions about therapy and my practice.  Following the first appointment, you are welcome to go online and schedule your appointment yourself.