Kristy Hommerding

Kristy Hommerding, MA, LPCCkristy@affinitypsych.com

Kristy has worked in the mental and behavioral health field for over 10 years, specializing in eating disorders and the new-to-therapy client who is less than enthusiastic about the traditional therapy process.

Angela Djoumbaye, MSW, LICSW angela.djoumbaye@affinitypsych.com

Angela works with adults that have experienced trauma, those navigating substance use, those with sleep challenges, and the military community. Her goal is to help you overcome and navigate life struggles by challenging you to see the struggles differently.

Sam Swafford, MS, LPCC sam.swafford@affinitypsych.com

Sam is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor who works with adolescents, young adults, adults, and those who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. They specialize in trauma work and those with dissociative abilities. Sam aims to create a safe and comfortable space for all.

Jonathan Guzman, MA, LPCC jonathan.guzman@affinitypsych.com

Jonathan Guzman is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor who specializes in individual, family, and couples counseling. He works with adolescents and adults to explore meaning, cultivate purpose, and envision ways through all of life’s challenges. He believes in person-centered care with a focus on healing and becoming our best selves.

Christine Dudero, MA, LMFTchristine.dudero@affinitypsych.com

Christine Dudero is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist experienced in working with individuals, couples & families across the lifespan. Christine takes a collaborative approach towards empowering you to achieve your therapy goals.

trauma-treatment

Why EMDR: A Valuable Tool in Your Effort To Feel Safe Again

Trauma can cause significant problems if you feel stuck inside a traumatic memory. You may have been the survivor of a tragedy, experienced assault, or have seen destruction happen right in front of you. Just when you thought the world was a safe place, reality kicked in and the shock stayed with you.

The reason why such trauma stays with you? Essentially, it comes down to unprocessed, “stuck” memories.

Fortunately, there is a therapy known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This approach allows a therapist to guide your eye movements in an attempt to guide you toward recovery. In effect, you follow their finger or another object as it moves back and forth, Doing so, you recall a traumatic memory. This starts reprocessing the way you think of and perceive the memories that trouble you.

By the end of this relatively brief treatment, the targeted memory often has little or no negative effect on you and your self-perception.  You don’t forget the trauma, you simply find the peace and tranquility to see it in new ways.

Here are several other reasons EMDR is a valuable tool in your effort to feel safe again.

How EMDR Therapy Workstrauma-treatment

There are eight phases in EMDR therapy. The first phase involves your therapist’s review of your symptoms and health history to better understand you. You will use this time to talk about your trauma and your memories.

The second phase prepares you with the skills to manage the psychological stress brought by traumatic memories. This is often initiated through deep breathing or mindfulness exercises. The third phase happens when you choose a memory to target, keeping in mind the psychological effects that come.

The fourth through seventh phases involve focusing on the negative thought. You will learn to replace that traumatic memory with a positive belief.

As you progress, your therapist continues to see how you are feeling and responding throughout each session. They will encourage you to keep going until the desired effects occur. Still, you remain alert and in control at all times. The eighth phase involves moving on to any new targets if necessary.

The aim is to realize that your traumatic experience does not define your whole life. It is a chapter of your life that you are able to close at any time. With guidance, you can recognize that it happened but that it has no control over your present moment.

Learning to Let Go

Traumatic memories can leave you stuck thinking about what happened to you. Sights, sounds, and even smells can resurface those memories when you are just trying to live your life.

EMDR will help you let go of the weight of anxiety and sadness this memory has brought to you. Instead of remembering this event so strongly, as if it just happened, it will feel more distant and harmless. Thus, the memory may still be there, but its impact will not be so powerful.

Positive Self-Beliefs

Trauma can also cause you to have negative thoughts about yourself. You may feel like the trauma you have been through happened because you deserved it somehow. Continuing to think negative self-thoughts can affect your self-esteem, goals, relationships, and more. In short, unresolved trauma can rob you of the motivation to go after what you want in life.

EMDR therapy supports you in thinking kinder thoughts about yourself and brings you a different perspective. The important thing about trauma is that we know how to cope when faced with difficulty and emotional pain. If you are experiencing heavy trauma and in need of EMDR therapy, please consider time with a mental health professional. We’re here to help.

If your trauma experience is overwhelming, please read more about trauma therapyreach out and connect. Call us for a confidential consultation. Get your recovery process started today.

trauma-therapy

5 Signs Unresolved Trauma Might Be at the Root of Your Anxiety

Everyone endures potentially traumatic events at some point. Unfortunately, it is an inevitable part of life. Sometimes, these events cause trauma. If the trauma is not processed, it becomes unresolved. Unresolved trauma usually causes a long-term impact. Traumatized people tend to dissociate from the experience. This makes sense at the moment but can make recovery trickier.

The impact of unresolved trauma can be varied. For example, it can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — a form of anxiety disorder. Therefore, if anxiety is a chronic presence in your life, it helps to consider unresolved trauma as the possible root cause.

General Signs of Unresolved Trauma

  • The aforementioned dissociation
  • Nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts
  • Addictions and/or disordered eating
  • Social withdrawal and self-isolation
  • Avoiding anything or anyone that recalls the traumatic event
  • Being easily startled and always on guard
  • Shame, guilt, and a sense of worthlessness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Feeling numb and detached
  • Fits of anger
  • Depression
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts

Any or all of the above may dovetail with anxiety to exacerbate the situation. This can cause a general sense of dread without an obvious cause to address. Learning the root cause can dramatically expedite recovery and healing.

5 Signs Unresolved Trauma Might Be at the Root of Your Anxiety

1. An Inability to Trust

If you have been abused or neglected, your sense of trust is understandably affected. The inability to trust others adds an incredible amount of stress to your daily life.

2. Intimacy Troubles

This issue ties in directly to sign #1 above. Intimacy requires trust. It is based on being open and taking chances. Until trauma is resolved, anxiety will color and frame your relationships.

3. Irrational Fears

Once you’ve endured a trauma-inducing event, you may begin to see danger everywhere. Your flight, flight, or freeze response is stuck in the “on” position. Everything feels like a threat or a risk. Imagine what this does to your anxiety levels.

4. Lack of Motivation

This is especially true if neglect and abandonment are in your past. You ask yourself: Why bother? This is another form of losing trust. You don’t trust yourself or others so you find it difficult to take the initiative on anything.

5. Hyper-Sensitivity

Your friends, family, co-workers, or romantic partner may have the best of intentions. But your trauma-impacted brain feels attacked by even the most benign statement or action. This can combine in a volatile way with the presence of trauma-created anger. You and the people in your life walk on eggshells — never knowing what will be perceived as a trigger.

Self-Help Suggestions For Anxiety Created by Unresolved Trauma

  • Mindfulness: Find simple ways to calm your mind and root yourself in the present moment, e.g. meditation. Free yourself of the negative impacts of living in the past or future.
  • Movement: Exercise (like yoga or walking) is a proven method for managing stress. It’s also something you can do with others to help foster new connections.
  • Journal: Naming your emotions and the factors that trigger them is a productive outlet for the anxiety you feel. Keep track of signs and symptoms for your therapy sessions (see below).
  • Ask For Help: Don’t hesitate to lean on your support system (friends, family, loved ones, etc.). Also, make the commitment to meet with a mental health professional.

Therapy has a long and effective history for those dealing with trauma and/or anxiety. We have worked with myriad individuals who have struggled with unresolved trauma and its impact.

If the anxiety of your experience is becoming overwhelming, please read more about trauma therapy, reach out and connect. Call us for a confidential consultation. Get your recovery process started today.

trauma-in relationships

Relationship Patterns That Signal Your Unresolved Trauma

Relationships can sometimes feel like a puzzle. Pieces are missing but you can’t find them. Issues keep surfacing but you can’t understand why. The possibilities are many but there may be a chance that unresolved trauma is playing a role.

Unresolved trauma is like an open wound. If it is not healed, the wound will continue to cause pain and discomfort. Inevitably, this seeps into your relationships. You wind up trying to navigate a minefield of triggers, reactions, behaviors, and self-doubt. A powerful first step toward resolution is learning how to recognize the relationship patterns that are causing you trouble.

3 Relationship Patterns That Signal Your Unresolved Trauma

1. Feeling Disconnected

If you have endured a traumatic experience, you are likely to shut down emotionally. Of course, this creates a disconnect with your partner. This dynamic may play out in several dysfunctional ways, e.g.

  • Your partner feels that their feelings are being ignored or neglected
  • It feels impossible or even risky to bring up serious topics for discussion
  • Healthy communication comes to a standstill

2. No Emotional Regulation

This is the opposite of #1 above. Rather than shutting down, you lash out. You’re always on the defensive and ready to fight. Your partner may end up being the one who shuts down in order to avoid your anger. In addition, you may experience tangential symptoms like:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches and tension
  • Inability to relax
  • Overthinking

3. Addictive and/or Compulsive Behavior

Sometimes, either of the above signs can result in this outcome. You’re disconnected so you seek ways to feel something, anything. Or you’re always lashing out so you find a way to numb your rage and frustration. In either instance, you are desperately trying to recreate what the body does naturally. You wish to feel the positive energy generated through hormones and other chemicals.

Addictive and/or compulsive behavior may include:

  • Substance abuse (drugs, alcohol, etc.)
  • Other addictions, e.g. sex, pornography, gambling, gaming, and so on
  • Cheating on your partner
  • Making dangerous choices like unsafe sex, fast driving, etc.

Resolving the Trauma

Educate Yourself

It helps — a lot — to understand more about what’s going on and why. Learn about unresolved trauma and its impact. The emotions will feel less surprising this way. As a result, you’re better positioned to manage them.

Keep a Journal

Keep track of your triggers, your reactions, and how you calmed yourself. Identify the patterns — negative and positive — in your life. Also, a journal will be very useful when speaking to a therapist.

Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms

You don’t have to shut down or scream or do something dangerous. Cultivate a self-care routine. Get into the habit of prioritizing your needs in a productive way.

Talk About Your Triggers

Let your partner know what you are feeling. Give them the chance to make their own adjustments. Rather than going silent or launching into an argument, communicate honestly.

Learn to Be Patient

There is no single healing timetable. Everyone is different. Commit to recovery but don’t create unrealistic expectations. Your therapist can be very helpful in finding this healthy balance.

Reach Out to a Professional

Trauma cannot be resolved solely through lifestyle changes or self-help tips. These choices can be very important. However, you will need the guidance of an experienced mental health professional. Your therapy sessions offer you a safe space in which to explore the patterns that shape your life. There are many pathways we can explore to support you and help get you to a place of balance and recovery.

If any of the relationship patterns mentioned above sound familiar, let’s talk. Let’s connect to set you up with trauma therapy and confidential consultation.

What It Means to Heal from Trauma and How EMDR Can Help

Trauma occurs when a terrible event or series of events go unresolved. Traumatic events can leave a person emotionally broken. This can include a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). People with PTSD may display symptoms like:

  • Guilt and shame
  • Despair and hopelessness
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Withdrawal and social isolation
  • Self-destructive behaviors
  • Loss of trust
  • Substance abuse
  • Sexual problems
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Avoidance
  • Thoughts of death, dying, and suicide

Obviously, it is important to get treatment for your trauma. But it’s far easier said than done. One powerful method to bring you some healing is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR.

Examples of Traumatic Events

  • Death of a loved one
  • Exposure to domestic violence
  • Sexual, physical, or emotional abuse
  • Divorce or separation
  • Loss of financial stability
  • Relocation
  • Changing jobs, getting fired, or retirement
  • Being victimized by a crime
  • Injury, accident, or disability
  • Loss of a dream or goal

In the end, trauma lies in the eye of the beholder. We are not here to judge what caused trauma. Rather, the main goal is finding a way to heal from it, e.g. EMDR.

How EMDR Can Help

EMDR practitioners view emotional wounds as most people look at physical wounds. A wound needs time and space to heal. If it is aggravated before the healing process is completed, the pain will return. With EMDR, the wound of trauma is seen as something that must be processed in the proper way. Through a series of eight phases, EMDR is designed to:

  1. Resolve a traumatic memory
  2. Replace it with a positive thought, belief, or sensation

EMDR Processing

Your EMDR therapist will perform a thorough intake and history. After that, you will be asked to choose a specific memory or belief to focus on. This could mean seeing a visual image in your mind’s eye or feeling a particular bodily sensation.

While you focus on this memory, the EMDR therapist will move their fingers from side to side in front of your eyes. They are made to get your eyes to follow the movements in the same side-to-side motion. (Note: Some practitioners may use a wand.) This combination of hand and eye movements provokes a state, not unlike that of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. In this state, it has been found that people can process unresolved trauma. The memory will no longer cause distress.

Following this procedure, you will be asked to identify the positive belief mentioned above. Focusing on this image during EMDR processing can lead to the positive belief “replacing” the negative image in your brain. The pain of the traumatic events is emotionally transformed into a state of healing.

Is EMDR Successful?

The research results have been excellent — leading to endorsements from the American Psychiatric Association and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Here is just a sampling of the studies:

  • War veterans reported a PTSD remission rate of 78 percent after just 12 sessions.
  • After only three 90-minute sessions of EMDR, victims of sexual assault showed a 90 percent PTSD remission.
  • A Kaiser Permanente study of multiple-trauma victims found 77 percent of them no longer had a diagnosis of PTSD after six 50-minute sessions. For single-trauma victims, that number was an astonishing 100 percent.
  • In other studies, EMDR was also shown to be helpful for children struggling with self-esteem issues.

How to Heal from Trauma With EMDR

This journey to recovery begins with a simple phone call. EMDR is an unusual treatment approach and that means you probably have plenty of questions. Why not read more about trauma therapy and reach out today to set up a safe and confidential consultation? We’re here to help and get you started on a healing path.

Minority Populations

As a member of a minority group, you might have very valid reasons to question whether or not therapy is right for you. You may have reservations because of certain cultural beliefs. Alternatively, you may have had bad experiences with therapy in the past. This can be particularly true if you worked with someone who didn’t understand your background or your identity, or worse if you worked with someone who minimized or didn’t care about these aspects of who you are. We understand these hesitations and want to work with you to find the therapist and therapy approach that best meets your unique needs.

Is Therapy Right for You?

There are three key reasons that members of minority groups tend to distrust therapy or wonder if it’s something that’s right for them.

The first is that certain cultures really look down upon therapy. There’s often an expressed or implied mantra in the culture or family that basically says, “we keep these things private.” You may be working against that ingrained belief, trying to figure out if you personally can break the taboo and benefit from therapy.

Second, you may have had a terrible experience with therapy in the past. If that’s the case, of course you wonder if therapy could ever be right for you. However, we believe that everyone has the right to access therapy treatment. We want to help give you a better experience than what you may have had before, whether that is here or with one of our trusted colleagues in the community.

Finally, you may question whether or not a therapist can actually understand you. Thankfully, the field of psychotherapy is more diverse now than it has been in the past. That said, it is a difficult and self-evident truth that it can still be quite challenging to find a therapist that looks like you or shares your life experience. Though we are a diversity-affirming, culturally aware group of therapists, we also acknowledge that we are also a group of predominantly white, female-identified therapists. We recognize that some clients are looking for a different experience, and we whole-heartedly support that. We are invested in helping clients find a place they can be comfortable with their therapy process. It is critically important you find a culturally competent counselor who understands that therapy for minorities must recognize the unique background you’re from.

Why Do Minorities Receive Less Mental Health Support?

Historically, and even currently, minorities have received less mental health support. The concerns listed above directly relate to that. When the predominant faces and lives in the field of therapy don’t represent certain groups of people, then those groups of people are less likely to seek treatment.

Although the demographics of the therapist community have changed significantly, there are naturally long-lasting effects from the past. As a result, minorities may not feel safe seeking out treatment. After all, why would you seek help if your culture was against it and the experiences you had or heard about only reinforced that it could not help you? Especially when there is a history of mistreatment by those in the profession who have privilege and power that clients don’t have.

We acknowledge that our field has mistreated and harmed many people in minority populations. Every therapist at Affinity is actively committed to reversing that history within our profession as a whole and within ourselves as providers.

Culturally Competent Therapy

We are a practice that affirms and celebrates diversity. We make it a priority to offer cultural therapy that provides the type of experience that will most benefit you. Culturally competent therapy means that we work to understand the culture that you come from while also fully recognizing that you are an individual. In other words, we respect your culture and offer treatment in line with your beliefs, but we don’t assume anything at all about you based on your culture.

We don’t ever expect you to educate us about your culture, whether that is a culture influenced by your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, religious beliefs, ability status, etc.

Instead, we come to the table with a deep appreciation for different cultures and backgrounds, and a strong willingness to educate ourselves. At the same time, we are genuinely curious about you as an individual and what your own culture uniquely means to you.

Individually, we also have an awareness of the forces of power and privilege that are active in our own lives and that can come into the therapy room with us. We believe that expressing and acknowledging our places of privilege are sometimes a necessary and appropriate part of the therapeutic process. We are ready and willing to talk to you about that, if needed and wanted.

We want to help you explore whatever issues, conflicts, concerns, goals, and dreams you have. If that means working within a certain cultural paradigm, we are happy to help you with that. If it means offering other insights to complement your experience, we can offer that as well. We can meet you where you are and help you get to where you want to be.

If you are struggling mental health issues such as PTSD, we can help you overcome the past. Contact us today to help you on your journey.