Complex Childhood Trauma
Complex trauma describes both children’s exposure to multiple traumatic events—often of an invasive, interpersonal nature—and the wide-ranging, long-term effects of this exposure. These events usually occur early in life and can disrupt many aspects of the child’s development and the formation of a sense of self. A landmark study done in the Kaiser system of 17,000 patients found that adverse childhood events led to severe health consequences and shortening of the life span.
How does Neurofeedback therapy help?
When someone’s nervous system develops during a series of traumas, the sympathetic nervous system (which prepares us to run, hide or fight) takes over. Therefore, the parasympathetic side of the autonomic nervous system (that allows us to feel safe, connect deeply to others, and have healthy organ function) gets the short end of the stick. This was adaptive when the child was helpless to their environment. It is maladaptive for a healthy life.
Neurotherapy can support the parasympathetic nervous to learn to do its job. There are also brain centers that are overly active or underactive due to the long-term impact of what can also be called developmental trauma. The QEEG can reveal exactly where these imbalances are so that we create a training program to help the brain move to a state of health.
A qualified therapist also has specific tools for helping put long ago trauma in context. We often use EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprogramming) to allow the person to feel connected to their current reality instead of the traumatic history.
In 2017 the Advanced Therapy Center did a proof of concept study of our Vagal Reset Protocol.
This protocol was designed to assist the autonomic nervous system to rebalance from the impact of childhood trauma. Our subjects all scored greater than 5 on the ACE questionnaire. The results are very gratifying. Across all subjects sleep and anxiety improved significantly. In some cases, the depression disappeared completely. We measured subtle interpersonal dynamics also and saw improvements in judgment, intimacy, and self-esteem.
Watch this video that explains the background for this protocol and the technique.
Margaret was taken from her birth home at age 7. She had four younger siblings and the death of the youngest from starvation was the signal that caught Social Services’ eye. There had also been sexual and physical abuse during those years. Then the next 7 years the foster system repeated many of those traumas until she was finally adopted into a stable but unsupportive family.
Margaret came to Advanced Therapy Center for EMDR. We also introduced her to our Vagal Reset protocol to encourage her parasympathetic nervous system. After alternating between those two therapies for 2 months, she came in one day and said, “just give me the good stuff”. She meant the Vagal Reset. I believe the few EMDR sessions she had were sufficient to intervene in the cognitive aspects of her trauma and the Vagal Reset was allowing her body to experience safety and peace. In all, she had 25 sessions and was extremely happy at how well she could handle the challenges and be fully present to all the love her life contained.
James came looking for help with his complex childhood trauma. His early life had left him feeling undeserving, without value and alone despite having married and having children. His digestive tract was a mess and he suffered from extreme food reactions, chronic diarrhea, and sleep issues. With a combination of EMDR, the Vagal Rest, and Loreta Neurofeedback he was able to improve his happiness in life and experience more vigor for the challenges we all face.