Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
Call 510-394-4686 for a FREE Phone Interview
Matthew Lindgren is an Oakland trauma, anxiety, and PTSD therapist who helps adults and children feel whole again.
You can learn more about Matthew Lindgren and PTSD services in Oakland at matthew-matt-lindgren-oakland-ptsd-anxiety-therapist.com.
Most of us have been through some kind of difficult situations in our lives. Our bodies and minds are designed to pay careful attention to the times when we feel as if we or someone we love is in danger. When we survive such situations, our bodies often try to remember what we did to survive, so we can make sure to do the same thing again if we find ourselves in the same jam.
Quite often, this whole process works great. We survive a difficult situation, our bodies remember what we did, and we go about our lives, possibly with a sense of confidence.
Sometimes, this process goes off track. Maybe we survived the event by doing something that isn't very helpful in our daily lives, for example, by being extremely fearful and aware of our surroundings so we could react quickly. Unfortunately, our bodies might think it's a good idea to keep doing this, since it helped in the past. Maybe the difficult event happened over a long period of time, or at a time in our lives when we didn't have anyone around to help us, so that we our bodies and minds have a hard time realizing that it's finally over.
When people find themselves in situations where they keep acting and feeling as if difficult events from the past are still happening, we say that they have developed post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. PTSD happens when your body keeps acting as if a dangerous situation were happening, even when it is not.
Often the events behind the PTSD symptoms will dramatically distort people's sense of themselves or the world in a very disturbing way - as to suggest that they deserved the experience of the trauma or are "bad" people who do not deserve love, that the world or God is unfair, or that all people are inherently cruel or evil. A common symptom of PTSD is a sense of hopelessness about the future and a belief that something bad will happen. It's as if people sometimes learn something from traumatic experiences that creates a great deal of suffering for themselves and the people around them.
Some common cause of PTSD include:
PTSD is brought about by people feeling that they are in a situation where their own lives are in danger, someone else's life is in danger, as well as situations in which they feel completely overwhelmed. It is possible to develop PTSD from a situation that may not be factually life-threatening, but which feels that way.
The fact that a PTSD is subjective, or that it depends on how a person experiences an event, explains why it is very common for children to develop PTSD symptoms from events that may not seem factually life-threatening to adults, such as an encounter with an angry and barking dog. It also explains why childhood emotional or verbal abuse is such a common cause of PTSD symptoms. An adult may have the insight and resources to know that someone who says cruel and hurtful statements will probably not cause a threat to his or her life, but to a child, such statements can feel quite overwhelming and life-threatening, especially if the abuse comes from an adult or caregiver.
Sometimes therapists make a distinction between "Trauma" with a capital "T" and "trauma" with a small "t", as a way of letting clients know that we can develop PTSD from both events that are not factually life threatening as well as those events our culture deems traumatic - such as combat or domestic violence. Whether you spell trauma with a capital "T" or a small "t", it can still lead to PTSD symptoms.
People who have PTSD often report the following symptoms (some of which are cited directly from the DSM-IV):
Not long ago, PTSD was considered almost untreatable. In the past ten or twenty years, clinicians and researchers have developed new revolutionary therapies for PTSD. Foremost among these therapies is EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desentization and Reprocessing.
There are a lot of different theories about how EMDR works, and I look forward to the exciting research that continues to create models that explains its efficacy. My opinion is that PTSD is a kind of learning problem, where our bodies and minds learn something from surviving a traumatic event that is not appropriate for the reality of life after the event. EMDR seems to help people adjust what they learned to survive the event to the reality of what is happening in their lives right now.
While EMDR is very well researched and documented, there is another exciting new technique from outside of academia that is gaining momentum among clinicians called Somatic Experiencing. Somatic Experiencing refers to a set of techniques that help people work through their physiological reactions to trauma in much the same way as animals do in the wild. Naturalists have observed that it is very rare to encounter animals in the wild who have PTSD, even though these animals may find themselves repeatedly in quite traumatic situations. Based in biology, Somatic Experiencing techniques help people work through the same physiological processes that help animals be so resilient toward developing PTSD.
PTSD is very common in children, although sometimes the symptoms present differently. One common symptom in young children is repetitive play that centers around themes related to the traumatic event.
In my own experience working with many children with PTSD, I sometimes notice that young traumatized children do not know "how to play" in an unstructured way. Instead, they will focus on repetitive behaviors and interactions with caregivers and others; quite often these behaviors will appear as oppositional or defiant to others. As with adults, nightmares are common with children who have PTSD. Unlike adults, though, the dreams may not have any content that appears directly related to traumatic events.
I often find that children are able to work through many of their PTSD symptoms simply through play therapy. Play seems to be something that helps children be quite resilient to trauma, and I am continually amazed by how effective play therapy is toward treating PTSD. I also find that every time a child works through PTSD symptoms, he or she does so by forming a much closer relationship with a parent or caregiver. Consequently, I usually advocate for some form of family therapy, such as conjoint family therapy, in which a child both works through PTSD symptoms while developing a stronger bond with a caregiver.
In addition to family and play therapy, I am one of very few clinicians who uses EMDR and Somatic Experiencing techniques to treat PTSD in children. I am trained in using EMDR with children, and I teach other therapists how to use Somatic Experiencing techniques with children. In particular, I like to combine behavioral parenting skills with somatic therapy, which can teach parents who to provide safe boundaries to children with behavioral problems while also showing parents how to be emotionally available to help their children heal.
I offer play therapy, EMDR, family therapy, and Somatic Experiencing to children and families in Oakland.
I specialize in helping people recover from a variety of anxiety related disorders besides PTSD, including:
Call 510-394-4686 for a free phone consultation.