How Dialectical Behavioral Therapy can make a difference in Trauma

Chandlar Coskrey- TherapistHello, my name is Chandlar Coskrey and I am a primary therapist at Omega Recovery. I have been with Omega for almost a year now and I can honestly say this treatment center is special. As a therapist it is rare to find a place that encourages innovation and creativity. Omega has always supported me in my own growth in the areas I find most challenging and interesting. Thus far in my career I have gravitated towards Neurobiology of Trauma. I spent a year at Austin Police Victim Services, Human Trafficking Division and I was trained to understand how to handle crisis intervention for clients and how to empower them with information about what is going on in their own bodies. This has been helpful training for the clients we serve at Omega because we accept clients from all walks of life who are struggling with a spectrum of mental health disorders or addictions.

I primarily provide psychoeducation groups for the clients at Omega on topics of relapse prevention, shame resilience, and family systems. All three of these groups have a necessary element of education on neurobiology of trauma and how it impacts them on different levels. The clients appreciate this kind of education because it gives them a reason and an understanding behind their mental illness or their addiction and that is empowering for them. The clients learn about their bodies and how they work which allows them to connect on a closer level to the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy we specialize in at Omega.

What I have learned about Neurobiology of Trauma is the theory of Adverse Childhood Experience Study or (ACES), and the anatomy of the brain and how it reacts and communicates trauma to the rest of the body, and how to help clients process their trauma in a way that is healing and long lasting. Nadine Burke gave a TED talk about how ACES is the theory that childhood trauma is responsible for many physiological problems that occur later in life such as asthma, diabetes, and cancer. While this information cannot turn back the clock, it can give clients freedom in knowing their experiences are valid and it can provide information on how to heal their trauma in order to reduce future health issues. Nadine Burke gives us an understanding on how our fight, flight, or freeze response in our brain is not only triggered when we come into contact with a life threatening situation such as walking in the forest and seeing a bear. She explains how our brain would respond to a bear by increasing our heart rate, pumping our blood, and getting our body ready to fight or run. Nadine then goes on to explain how this is great for us, if we were in a forest… and there is a bear. The issue comes into play when a child has to come home to that bear everyday after school. Fight, flight, or freeze responses occur when a parent is neglecting their children, when a teacher is shaming a child, when a child is being emotionally or physically abusive( Harris, N.B 2014). That child’s fight, flight, or freeze response is triggered so often, it starts to create physical damage to their body. We don’t teach these topics to remind our clients of their difficult experiences. We teach them because it not only gives explanations for their struggles, but we provide tools and practical knowledge that can help heal them as adults and prepare them for their futures.

I love to teach the clients about the anatomy of the brain and how mental illness and addiction present in each area of the brain. I teach the clients about dopamine and what drugs present in the brain and why. I teach them about how shame is processed in the brain as a fight, flight or freeze response and that is why it is scary to be vulnerable with others. The clients enjoy learning about their brains because not only does it make things make sense, but it gives them knowledge to make a change in the way they live their lives through productive communication and vulnerability.

Harris, N. B. (2014). How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime. Nadine Burke Harris: How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime | TED Talk. Retrieved January 19, 2023.

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