Living Better Through Trauma

photo of woman in pink long sleeve shirt and blue denim jeans sitting on brown sofa with her eyes closed

I often have clients ask me the question, will I always be affected by my past traumas? The answer is yes and no.

The answer is yes because there are only a few ways to completely remove memories from the brain that I am aware of. Lobotomy. ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) possibly. And the controversial memory manipulation therapies that have been used to change memories or even implant new, false memories.

There is also research that has been done in the past and that is being done now on the drug propranolol (used to manage high blood pressure) and controlling the emotional response in trauma survivors. It does not erase memories. It changes, sometimes dramatically, the brain and body’s response to painful or scary memories. However, taking this drug every day if you do not have high blood pressure is not generally recommended. Some people do already use it for panic attack inducing situations taken before participating in those situations so that it allows them to get through them without panic.

None of these removal processes sound particularly good, which leads to the memory of trauma will always be present in the brain. However, how that memory affects us can be changed.

The answer is no in that traumatic memories can be acknowledged and confronted. They can be understood and accepted. They can be processed and minimized in their effects. Several therapies can be utilized to help trauma survivors live better. EMDR is used to reprocess the brain’s response to traumatic memories. Hypnosis has also been used to retrain the brain. CBT is used to change how people think about themselves and their experiences. And other therapies that reduce emotional response to traumatic memories are also used.

As I tell my clients, it is not the memory or the experience that continues to affect them throughout their lives, it is their emotional response to those things that drive their behaviors, choices, thoughts, beliefs, etc. The memories make them FEEL fear, sadness, anger, worthlessness, doubt, and more that then translates in a response in the brain that moves through the body and becomes manifested in actions, thoughts, beliefs.

The hardest thing for my clients to hear is that I cannot eliminate their trauma memories. That we must find a way through them. To find a way to live better with them. It is at this point that clients either decide they are willing to try to do that or they are not and they stop seeing me and keep searching for a way to remove the memories.

I wish I had a magic wand and could make all the horrible things that have happened to people disappear. But I do not. But you can find a way to live better even with the memories.

It is hard work. It is not comfortable. It is a daily process of choosing to live differently. But it is possible.

Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing creates change you do choose. ~ Michele Rosenthal

Counseling Is Still Open

person writing on notebook

While much of the United States is closed or in some other way restricted, counseling is still open. Albeit in different form than many are used to, but it is still available.

Most therapists have gone to a video model of counseling during this crisis. There are some who are still seeing clients face to face, but that is becoming fewer and fewer during this time.

The video model is a workable option for most clients, but not all. Some do not have stable internet access. Some are not technologically familiar. Some do not feel that video counseling provides the same experience. And some have home issues that prevent confidential and safe environments for video counseling.

Most of my clients have continued therapy through video counseling during this time. I have about six who have not for various reasons. Video counseling is not the same as in person in that it makes it difficult to do some therapy modalities and with clients at home it can be difficult for them to have a session that is not interrupted by family members in some way.

But we continue on as therapists trying to at least provide support for our clients who are struggling with fear, anxiety, depression, job layoffs and losses, kids being home and needing help with their school work, relationship issues due to strains of finances or just being together 24/7, and many other issues.

Even if the traditional forms of therapy cannot be provided at their fullest and most complete, having someone to talk to can make a huge difference.

Offering tools and tips for how to manage anxiety and depression, communication, issues with the kids or other family members, and practice their own self-care are vitally important. This can be done via video counseling.

In my own practice, I have noticed a significant decline in the number of people reaching out to begin therapy. I have to wonder if some people think therapy is not going on because you are not supposed to see people in person. But therapy is still available. Therapists are considered essential workers and all therapists I know are providing therapy still either via video, phone calls, or even in person where I live.

If you are struggling and think that you could benefit by talking to a therapist during this time, please reach out. I have limited openings at this time, but there are openings and many of my colleagues also have openings.

It may not be the traditional in person therapy people are used to doing or expecting, but it is still therapy and it is still available. Reach out.

Until next time,

Stay On Schedule

gold ipad beside stylus

Every day there is a new article or news report about the most important thing we can do during this virus crisis. From distancing to mask wearing and everything in between. However, there is one thing that is being overlooked and which I think is extremely important.


All of us, from children to adults, are used to a schedule of some kind. Whether the schedule is for work or school or even the schedule you had if you were already staying at home before this crisis happened. Most everyone has some kind of schedule.

In having this schedule, your brain and body become used to doing things at a certain time. They become accustomed to responding to the need to work, eat, play, sleep at regular intervals. They become conditioned to this is the time and at this time this is what we are supposed to do.

Keeping a schedule when everything you kept a schedule for has been turned upside down is very difficult. It is very easy to slip into pushing the conditioned schedule responses away.

We stay up later watching movies or playing video games. We sleep in later as we realize there is really no where we need be in the mornings. We skip meals or start “grazing” or eating in passing of whatever is available. We stay in our pajamas and routine hygiene can become less and less.

This all may seem quite liberating at first. No demands or pressures to get up at 6am or be in class or at work by 8am. We can choose Netflix or Hulu and lie in bed all day long. Sounds like what we may have longed for all those days we were bound to the schedule.

Very soon after, however, our brains and bodies start to react to the lack of schedule and routine. The brain becomes sluggish. As if it’s not really awake. The body starts to feel tired even if we are sleeping more. We have body aches and pains from all this new laying about for hours. We start to feel sad and then possibly irritated or both. And we long for our past schedule and the activities that go with it.

It is especially true for younger people and children. Their need for structure, routine, and schedule is even more pronounced. Without it, they fall into boredom, sadness, irritation and are less able to self-regulate their emotions, which leads to outbursts of anger or tears.

When you add on possible fears of getting sick or having someone in your life who is sick and then add on possible job losses and financial issues, this can increase the body and brain’s response to lack of schedule.

So, how do we manage this at this time in our lives? We must make every attempt to stick as close as possible to the schedule we had before this event started. The brain and body need it. We need it. Yes there can be some leeway or stray from the 6am alarm time, but it should not be more than a couple of hours at most and the same for bedtime. Eating should be monitored so as not to stress eat or eat poorly. Hydration should be kept up. Getting outside should be scheduled in.

You can make a new schedule with different activities due to the way things must be managed during this time, but you can make a schedule and stick to it.

Believe me, your brain and body will thank you for it. You will feel better and your emotions will feel better. And it is not too late to start if you haven’t been doing it thus far. Today is a new day and your schedule can begin again.

Until next time,

Get Some Sun


Social distancing does not prevent us from going outside. It just helps us not to congregate together. Going outside is essential to physical and mental health and even more so during this time.

Most of us are spending a lot of time at home right now. We are finding it difficult to keep on a schedule. We are consuming a lot of streaming shows and videos. We just are not getting out much in some cases.

Our bodies and minds need the outside and they need the sunshine and vitamin D. During this time of staying at home, it does not mean we cannot go outside and get some sun. There are many ways to do it and the benefits are invaluable.

In northern climates, it is even more important to get out and get some sun due to the fact that there is less exposure during the winter months. Increasing your intake of vitamin D can also be helpful, but being in the sun is still necessary.

Recently in Montana, we had some snow for a couple of days. It was cold and the sun wasn’t out and many people I talked to felt very down during those days. The sun is out now and it is beautiful outside, and we need to be outside too.

Even if it is just to go out into your own yard or on to your own porch for an hour or two. Going on walks on paths and trails or bike rides in the sunshine. Walking around the block of you neighborhood a few times. Or just getting a lawn chair and sitting in your driveway in the sun.

It does not matter how you get out and get sun just that you do. Your mind and body will feel so much better and brighter just like the sun itself. Even a few minutes can make a big difference.

Remember to keep your distance with others when you are out, but go outside. Staying in the house all the time during this crisis is not helpful. Social distancing does not mean complete isolation. We need to still be social in the ways that we can and we need to be outside as much as possible when the sun is out.

Go outside today. Get your family outside. Soak in some vitamin D and be mindful of the beauty of the coming spring and change of season.

Go outside and get some sun. Your mind and body will be grateful for it and your spirits will be lifted.

Until next time,