Part 1: Trauma's Impact on the Body & Mind
Understanding how trauma effects the body & mind
Gaining a deep comprehension of trauma’s impact on our health remains a pressing societal concern. Traumatic experiences can keep our bodies in a heightened state of “fight or flight,” with hormones raging long after the initial stressful incident. Just as positive encounters and our ability to navigate them contribute to prosperous lives, the absence of sufficient protective factors in the face of childhood and adult trauma can shatter lives. However, by expanding our knowledge on effective coping mechanisms for stress, we can assist individuals in their healing journey.
The Origins of Trauma: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
Understanding the profound impact of cumulative adversity during critical developmental periods, scientific research confirms that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are a fundamental underlying cause of the most detrimental, persistent, and costly health challenges faced by our society.
In a groundbreaking study conducted in 1998 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente, ACEs emerged as a term encompassing 10 categories of adversities across three domains experienced by the age of 18:
- Abuse: physical, emotional, or sexual
- Neglect: physical or emotional
- Household challenges: Parental Incarceration, mental health and/or substance abuse in the home, domestic violence, divorce/separation.
When ACEs occur without sufficient protective factors, such as the presence of a highly attentive parent or adult, they can induce “toxic stress.” This type of stress is so severe or prolonged that it inflicts lasting and damaging impacts on both the body and mind, detectable as early as infancy.
Trauma's Impact: Key Findings
In the overall US population, individuals with four or more ACEs are found to be:
- 2 to 2.3 times more likely to have a stroke, cancer, or heart disease
- 3 times more likely to smoke cigarettes
3.2 times more likely to have chronic lower respiratory disease
- 5 times more likely to experience major depression
- 10 times more likely to engage in “problematic drug use”
- 37.5 times more likely to attempt suicide
Furthermore, trauma can lead to persistent inflammation, something that has been correlated with conditions such as heart disease and autoimmune disorders. Additionally, our behavioral response to stress can lead to unhealthy coping habits, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, or overeating as a means of self-comforting.
Trauma's Impact on the Toxic stress response
Extensive scientific evidence has established that the accumulation of adversities during critical periods of early life development can have profound and lasting effects on physical health and well-being. High doses of cumulative adversity can trigger a condition known as the “toxic stress response.” Because this stress response disrupts brain development and hormonal systems, emotional and cognitive abilities are at higher risk. These systems, including the nervous, endocrine, immune, metabolic, and hormonal systems, are fundamental to emotional and cognitive abilities that promote overall health, positive behavior, and well-being (Shonkoff et al., 2012).
ACE(s) & Child Development
Because critical developmental phases occur before the age of 18, individuals who experience Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and related life events (RLEs) are more vulnerable to the associated consequences, both physically and mentally. When a child is exposed to adversities without the resources or supports needed to cope, these adversities can become biologically embedded in the child’s biology due to the physiological changes triggered by toxic stress. Some examples of the biological alterations resulting from prolonged stress responses during critical child development stages include:
- Epigenetic changes, affecting gene expression (Herzog and Schmahl 2018, Turecki et al. 2014)
- Shortening of telomere length, associated with aging, disease, and early mortality (Rideout 2018)
- Disruption of neurodevelopment and declined brain connectivity
- Long-term reprogramming of stress regulatory and immune systems, impacting the individual’s lifelong stress response and immune system functioning (Sciaraffa et al., 2018)
Part 2 of this blog will Review:
- Addressing Trauma for Better Health
- The Resilience of the Brain and Body in the Face of Trauma
- Mitigating Trauma’s Impact on Your Body
- Finding Resources for Healing
How do I get started as a new client?
What is your cancellation policy?
We ask that clients provide at least 24 hours notice in the event that they need to cancel to avoid the 50% cancellation fee. we understand that life happens and do our best to be flexible & reschedule.
Does my insurance cover my visits?
Do you offer traditional talk therapy?
Is Online Therapy As Effective As In-Person Therapy?
Online therapy is essentially face-to-face counseling, just conducted remotely. Studies show that teletherapy is as effective as traditional counseling. Professional organizations and state governments recognize its benefits and have set regulations for it. However, like any therapy, its success in achieving your goals isn’t guaranteed. It’s important to discuss with your therapist whether teletherapy is working for you.
Can I Change Therapists If I'm Not Happy?
Yes, you can switch therapists to another provider within the practice, or we can provide you a referral if preferred. We want to ensure that your time and effort are well spent, and that you are getting the relief you need, that’s why we work collaboratively with each other in the practice, as well as outside therapists who we know and trust.
How Do I Know If Therapy Is Helping?
You should feel like you’re making progress. Signs it’s working include:
Feeling comfortable talking to your therapist
Your therapist respects boundaries
You’re moving towards your goals
You feel listened to
You’re doing better in life
Your self-esteem is getting better
Is Online Therapy Easy to Use for Non-Tech-Savvy People?
Yes, it’s pretty simple to access sessions. You’ll need basic internet skills, such as opening and visiting the patient link sent to you via email. It’s similar to video chatting like Facetime or Zoom. We can also walk you through it on the phone the first time to ensure a strong connection
What Questions Should I Ask My New Therapist?
Feel free to ask anything. Some good questions are:
- How often will we meet?
- What do you specialize in?
- What experience do you have with my issue?
- What outcomes can I expect?
- How will I know I’m progressing?
- How long do you usually work with clients?
- How will we set my treatment goals?
How Should I Prepare for My First Session?
Showing up is all that you need to do! But if you really want to get the most out of session, it could help to take some time to think about what you want from therapy. It helps to write down your goals, questions you have or things that you feel are important to share.
What is the difference between associate therapists & fully licensed therapists?
Our founder, Rebecca Sidoti, is a highly qualified, state-licensed therapist and supervisor with extensive training in anxiety related disorders and innovative treatment such as Ketamine Therapy. Mind by Design Counseling adheres to standards set by the our governing counseling boards.
To see each providers credentials, training and licenses, visit our “Meet the Therapists” Page to learn more.
- LAC/LSW are therapists who may practice clinical work under the supervision of a fully licensed therapist.
- LPC/LCSW are therapists who have completed the necessary clinical hours post-graduation under supervision and can practice clinical work independently.
What Geographic Areas Are Served?
Currently, we serve clients in New Jersey and are expanding to other states as telehealth laws evolve. While telehealth offers the convenience of attending sessions from anywhere, state laws require clients to be in-state during their session.
Is Virtual Counseling Suitable for Everyone?
Online therapy might not be as effective for individuals with chronic suicidal thoughts, severe trauma, significant mental health history, or those recently in intensive care. Such cases often benefit more from traditional, in-person counseling. We’ll help you decide if our online services are right for you during your intake and evaluation.
What Equipment is Needed for Online Therapy?
To join a session, log in using the credentials we provide. No downloads are needed. Our platform, compatible with both individual and group sessions, requires:
A computer or mobile device with a webcam and internet access.
We’ll help you test your setup before your first appointment to ensure a reliable connection. iOS users should use the Safari browser for mobile and tablet sessions.
What Questions Will Therapists Ask Me?
It depends on your goals. Expect questions about your thoughts, feelings, relationships, work, school, and health. They’ll ask to understand your therapy goals.
How Do You Keep Client Information Secure?
Security and Confidentiality of Sessions:
Your privacy is crucial to us. We use TherapyNotes, a HIPAA-compliant platform, ensuring secure and confidential teletherapy sessions. This platform’s security features include encrypted video connections, secure data transfers, and encrypted databases, ensuring your information is safe at all times.
What is VRT used for?
VRT not only helps with exposure therapy for phobias, but is great for ADHD, mindfulness, PTSD and social anxiety.