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Teen Trauma

By Sarah Engler, LCSW

I work with adolescent girls, many of whom have experienced significant trauma in their life.  Webster’s define trauma as:  a very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems usually for a long time.  An experience is defined as traumatic by the individual who has gone through it.  For instance, two individuals may witness the same car accident.  For one individual this may be an upsetting experience however there are no last effects.  For the second individual it may be traumatic.  They have nightmares, find themselves afraid to drive, have an increase in anxiety, etc.  For the students that I work with at New Haven RTC, the trauma ranges from the death of a loved one to sexual or physical abuse to divorced parents.

The primary goal in treating trauma is to assimilate the past experience with the present, in a safe environment.  Often individuals who has experienced trauma will dissociate to an extent.  Dissociating, or disconnection from the emotional/physical pain, allows the individual to continue to function or move through day to day life.  While dissociation services a purpose many trauma victims will not find healing/peace until they reconnect to those emotions.

Assimilation is that process of reconnection.  In this process the individual will feel again the painful, scary emotions, and be able to verbally or experientially process, or work through them.  This is a process that is accomplished over time.  Some individuals are able to process or move through their trauma in a matter of months while for other it may take years or even their entire life.  In my experience at New Haven RTC, I have found that no two people will work through trauma in the same way.

There are many different factors that will affect how an individual will move through processing their trauma.  Some of those will include the individuals personality, that age at which the trauma occurred, the extent of the trauma, the duration of the trauma, was it a stranger or family member, what kind of support system was available to them, etc.  What I have found to be critical in healing for those who have experienced trauma is a safe environment. An environment where they can share without judgement or blame, be validated, and supported in their personal healing journey.

To learn more about how New Haven RTC treats trauma call us at: 888-317-3958