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therapy for childhood trauma in adults

Childhood trauma is a silent epidemic that often goes unnoticed until it's too late. Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, California's first surgeon general, is on a mission to change that. In a groundbreaking move, she advocates for screening every student for childhood trauma before they even set foot in school and sites the Adverse Childhood Experiences as an essential tool to understand this.

Her research team found that patients who had experienced severe trauma were 32 times more likely to be diagnosed with learning and behavioral problems than youth who had not. Read about her ideas here

childhood trauma therapy for adults los angeles

The Hidden Impact of Childhood Trauma

Research has shown that childhood trauma can have a profound impact on brain development. It can interfere with crucial functions that children rely on for learning and overall well-being. Children experiencing trauma may exhibit symptoms like tummy aches or struggle with impulse control and behavior issues. Dr. Burke Harris believes that by identifying these signs early, educators can provide care plans and support instead of punitive measures.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study, published in 1998, highlighted ten categories of traumatic childhood events. These events, including abuse, parental incarceration, and divorce, were found to cause biochemical changes in the brain and body, increasing the risk of mental illness and health problems.

Dr. Burke Harris's research demonstrated that children who had experienced severe trauma were 32 times more likely to be diagnosed with learning and behavioral problems. Trauma can lead to elevated stress hormones, disrupting brain development and affecting essential functions like memory recall and focus.


To address ACEs effectively, Dr. Burke Harris advocates for safe, stable environments, incorporating elements like sleep, exercise, nutrition, mindfulness, and nurturing. These factors can reduce stress hormones and enhance the brain's ability to recover from stress.

Childhood trauma can also result in health issues leading to absenteeism. Students with high ACE scores are more likely to miss school days, with asthma being a significant contributor. In one pilot program, deep meditation helped reduce stress, resulting in lower suspension rates, improved GPA, and standardized test scores.

As California's first surgeon general, Dr. Burke Harris leads a national movement for trauma-sensitive and trauma-informed education programs. She emphasizes the need for a public initiative to address ACEs, recognizing that change starts with everyone in the educational environment, from teachers to bus drivers.

Treating Adults With Childhood Trauma In Therapy

If you're an adult who grew up in an environment that was hostile or traumatic, it might be worth thinking about therapy if you're noticing the signs and symptoms show up in your life.

Identifying the signs of childhood trauma in adults can be challenging since these effects may not be immediately apparent. In many cases, individuals may not even recognize that they have experienced trauma until it manifests in their adult lives. These symptoms can vary widely, from anxiety and depression to self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of disconnection. Physical symptoms like chronic fatigue, insomnia, and pain can also be indicators of unresolved trauma. However, some signs are more subtle, including people-pleasing tendencies, chronic health issues, and difficulty being assertive.

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How to Heal From Childhood Trauma With Therapy

Therapy is a valuable tool for healing childhood trauma in adults, but it's important to approach it with patience and care. The therapeutic process involves acknowledging and accepting the trauma, exploring how it affects your life, and developing strategies to manage the associated emotions. Several therapy modalities can be effective in treating childhood trauma:

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

CPT is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy focused on addressing post-traumatic stress symptoms. It involves psychoeducation, processing the traumatic event, and challenging maladaptive beliefs related to the trauma. By changing negative thought patterns, CPT helps reduce feelings of guilt and shame.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is an approach that enables individuals to process traumatic experiences by redirecting their focus during the recall. This technique can help replace distressing thoughts and emotions with new ones, offering relief to those with complex childhood trauma. You can read more about EMDR Therapy In Los Angeles here

Prolonged Exposure (PE)

PE therapy combines breathing techniques and gradual exposure to the traumatic event, both in real life and in imagination. It empowers individuals to confront their fears and anxieties systematically, fostering healing.

Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET)

NET is a short-term therapy designed for those who have experienced multiple traumatic events. By crafting a detailed narrative that includes context and emotions, individuals can gain perspective and understanding of their experiences, ultimately promoting healing.

If you're not yet in therapy for childhood trauma, remember that trauma responses are survival mechanisms shaped by adverse events. While trauma is a nuanced and individual experience, not everyone who undergoes trauma develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Our culture often struggles to address and cope with emotional pain, leading to a sense of isolation, and an increase in symptoms


Overcome Your Childhood Trauma

Healing from childhood trauma is a journey, and it's essential to seek support and professional guidance. Online therapy platforms like DoMental offer accessible options for treatment, allowing individuals to find the right therapist and even maintain anonymity if desired. Online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy, providing a convenient and efficient path to recovery.

Childhood trauma can profoundly affect adults' lives, but it is possible to heal with the right therapy and support. Recognizing the signs of trauma, seeking treatment, and addressing it head-on are vital steps toward recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can childhood trauma affect mental health in adulthood?

Absolutely. Childhood trauma is a significant predictor of mental health issues in adulthood, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and addiction. These conditions often stem from unresolved trauma and can have a profound impact on one's well-being.

What are some less obvious signs of childhood trauma in adults?

Less obvious signs of childhood trauma can include people-pleasing tendencies, chronic health issues, difficulty being assertive, a general distrust of others, and being easily triggered by sounds, sights, or movements. These signs may indicate repressed trauma.

How can therapy help individuals heal from childhood trauma?

Therapy provides a safe and supportive environment for individuals to acknowledge and process their childhood trauma. Therapists use various techniques like cognitive processing therapy (CPT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), prolonged exposure (PE), and narrative exposure therapy (NET) to help clients navigate their trauma and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

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