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Understanding and Overcoming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - Dr. Amanda Aster-McKenna, Psy.D. - Licensed Psychologist in Montclair, NJ


How to Overcome PTSD by Dr. Amanda Aster-McKenna Psy.D, Licensed Psychologist in Montclair, NJ

Dear Readers, 


Happy New Year!


I hope everyone is having a happy and healthy new year in 2024. Starting in the new year, my monthly newsletters are going to function a bit differently. During the 1st half of the month, the newsletter will have a specific focal point in an area of clinical psychology, and will then be expanded upon in a blog that others can engage in on my website during the 2nd half of the month.


This month, I would like to focus on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – what it is, what it can look like, and how to heal from it.


Did you know that the word “trauma” literally means “soul wound”?


Trauma is the Greek word for ‘wound’, while Psyche is the Latin word for ‘soul’. Within my therapeutic framework of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy  (ACT), a modern spin on traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, I work intensively with every aspect of an individual’s “wounds of the soul” such as a person’s thoughts, feelings, painful or scary memories, sensations, urges, and the physical body itself. The overall goal of ACT for trauma is to help individuals get unstuck from old patterns of responding and behavior that no longer serves them in their current life, help them to heal their pasts, reclaim their lives, and build new futures.


What makes a traumatic event, well, traumatic? 


This event (or for many people, a sequence of events) is experienced directly, or witnessed/learned about, that involves a significant degree of actual or threatened physical/sexual or psychological harm to oneself or others. Some examples include: Miscarriage, murder, suicide, divorce, death, disaster, violence, rape, torture, accidents, injuries, illnesses, medical/surgical trauma; incidents where people instigate, perpetuate, fail to prevent, or witness actions that violate or contradict their own moral code. One’s reactions to such events tend to be disturbing and distressing, coupled with an inability to cope with such reactions.


Common reactions include re-experiencing the event in the form of nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts or images; extremes of hyperarousal in the form of rising anger, irritability, difficulty sleeping and hypervigilance (aka, “flight or fight mode”), and hypoarousal, in the form of feeling immobilized, body shutting down, depression, disengagement, and numbing (aka., “freeze mode”).


At the very core of PTSD is an individual’s engagement in what is called in ACT “experiential avoidance” which is one’s ongoing attempt to avoid or get rid of unwanted thoughts (e.g., “Am I going to die?”), feelings (e.g., debilitating fear, shame), sensations (e.g., tight chest, difficulty swallowing), and memories (e.g., who, what, where, when details of the event) – even when doing so is problematic, and perhaps even dangerous. At the very core of ACT treatment for PTSD, is compassionate based exposure. What does this mean? Well, it involves gently yet deliberately contacting the “difficult stuff” in an effort to learn new, more helpful ways of responding to it.


Your Inner Child Work 

When working with clients to heal their past, there is a strong focus on “inner child” work, exposure to traumatic events, grieving, and forgiveness. When engaging in building a better future with clients, there is a strong focus on goal setting based on what truly matters to the person, as we aim for post-traumatic growth.



How to Overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - Inner Child Work


Join me next in my blog post where I will walk you through a real-life case example of how utilizing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for trauma related disorders can help change the trajectory of one's own life post-trauma, and build a radically beautiful life worth living.


If you would like to sign up for my monthly newsletter, please email DrAmandaAster@gmail.com  to be added to the mailing list.

 

Peace, Love, & Fierce Acceptance

Dr. Amanda Aster-McKenna, Psy.D.

(She/Her/Hers)

NJ Licensed Psychologist #5888, Private Practice, Montclair, NJ

Adjunct Professor, Kean University, Department of Advanced Studies in Psychology

Board Member, Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris


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