Wellington Counseling Group
According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, it’s estimated that 70% of adults in the U.S. will experience trauma at some point in their life. The emotional, mental, and physical symptoms trauma triggers can feel debilitating. Many people find it difficult to process what has happened or how they can even begin to heal. In this article, we’ll discuss how a trauma therapist in Chicago can help you in your path to healing and recovery.
Understanding how trauma impacts the brain
There are many reasons why trauma is so difficult to deal with. Trauma isn’t just experienced during the event; many people experience post-traumatic stress for months or even years after the event has occurred. This traumatic stress response leads to physical changes within the brain.
The amygdala enlarges and becomes overactive
After experiencing a traumatic event, the amygdala, or “fear center of the brain,” becomes enlarged and overactive, which makes you hypervigilant and always on alert. In turn, this can lead to increased levels of cortisol and norepinephrine responses, which only strengthens the memory of the traumatic experience and leads to flashbacks, nightmares, and distress.
An overactive amygdala also makes it more difficult to regulate emotions and tolerate stress, even when it isn’t related to your trauma.
The hippocampus shrinks
Studies have also found that trauma can shrink the hippocampus, which is responsible for long-term memory storage. This reality can make it difficult for individuals who have experienced a traumatic event to distinguish between past and present. As a result, individuals may experience flashbacks and relive past traumatic events.
The prefrontal cortex shrinks
Experiencing a traumatic event can also shrink the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that’s responsible for regulating thoughts and emotions as well as keeping us from responding to people and events in unfiltered, usually reckless ways. This makes it difficult for your brain to regulate fear, anxiety, and stress responses when something happens that resembles your original trauma.
It can also make it more difficult to feel safe, trust others, and have rational thoughts. Finally, untreated trauma in the past makes future trauma that much more likely to become full-blown PTSD in survivors of traumatic events.
Examples of traumatic events
Trauma is a very personal experience. It’s often difficult to define because there’s an unlimited number of things you can experience as being traumatic.
Trauma is less about what happens to you and more about how you experienced and then processed that event. Anything that causes your thoughts, emotions, and body to be overwhelmed can be considered traumatic. Some examples include:
- Sexual or physical abuse
- Domestic, dating, or family violence
- Community violence, such as a mugging, shooting, or assault
- Witnessing death, especially when it was unexpected or violent
- Childhood neglect
- Serious injury or life-threatening illness (e.g., dog attack, cancer, burns, etc.)
- War and/or terrorism
What is trauma therapy and how does it work?
Trauma therapy is a form of talk therapy that aims to treat the emotional and mental consequences associated with trauma. Trauma therapy often helps people process and accept what has happened to them. That’s often the first step in the healing process. There are several different types of trauma therapy, which include:
- Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
- Psychodynamic psychotherapy
- Critical incident stress debriefing
- Body work that takes many forms
Trauma therapy can help provide you with coping skills, reduce fear and avoidance, build trust, reframe your thinking, and offer validation to the feelings and symptoms you’re experiencing.
Find a trauma therapist in Chicago
Experiencing trauma often has a profound impact on your life. It changes the way you think, feel, and experience life on a daily basis. Fortunately, therapy can help. If you’re interested in finding a trauma therapist in Chicago, reach out to us today at Wellington Counseling Group.
We are here to help support you on your healing journey.
Your daughter’s first-grade teacher reports your child’s frequent distraction, difficulty completing worksheets in class, and homework assignments. Your son’s camp counselor flags that he can’t seem to settle down during quiet time and is having trouble making friends. At home, your child seems to willfully ignore your instructions to put away toys, put on shoes, and get ready to leave the house, even when they are going to do something fun, like a playdate. Are these signs you should get ADHD testing in Chicago?
When you think of pre-marriage counseling, you may think it's just for couples with problems. But that couldn't be further from the truth. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by attending counseling before tying the knot with your significant other. Here are just five benefits of attending premarital counseling in Chicago.
Feeling sad from time to time is part of being human. However, if your sadness persists for more than a few weeks and your mood begins to negatively impact your daily life, you may be suffering from depression. If you are, know that you are not alone and that depression is highly treatable. Here’s a helpful guide to finding depression help in Chicago.
To get the most out of counseling, it’s important to find a therapist you “click” with. However, that’s often easier said than done. Throughout therapy sessions, you’ll be sharing very personal details about yourself, some of which you may not even share with your closest friends and family. And studies suggest a strong relationship between you and your therapist is the most important factor in determining the success of therapy. If you’re on the search for a new psychotherapist in Chicago, you’ve come to the right place. Here are four tips for finding the right fit for you.
The thought of attending group therapy might sound intimidating at first. Sharing your story with strangers? It’s very personal, and to really benefit from the process, you’ll have to share things you aren’t inclined to tell even your closest friends and family. It’s enough to make anyone a little apprehensive. But group therapy can be extremely beneficial for plenty of people. Here are five reasons to consider attending group therapy in Chicago.
1. Understanding you are not alone
One of the biggest benefits of group therapy is learning that you are not alone in your struggles. Oftentimes, people struggling with mental health, addiction, or trauma feel alienated and isolated, which makes it difficult for them to seek treatment.
Attending group therapy can help connect you with people who are dealing with similar issues. This shared understanding of a difficult experience helps you build a sense of community with other trusting individuals, where you won’t be judged and you won’t be alone. Many people also report reduced stress and pain surrounding the condition they’re suffering from when attending group therapy.
2. Different perspectives
Group therapy, at its very core, is all about the input of different perspectives. When you’re surrounded by others with their own unique experiences, it can help you look at your issues differently and learn new coping mechanisms.
In most scenarios, peer pressure is perceived as negative, but group therapy can lead to more accountability. You’ll be more motivated to manage your condition when you’re surrounded by others who are working hard day in and day out to heal.
The members in your group also act as a sounding board. Let’s say, for example, you are discussing a fight you had with your partner. Hearing from those around you about how you come across can be exceptionally powerful. They can help you see things you may not see at first because you are too close to the situation or issue at hand. Playing your part in that accountability by offering frank feedback to others that you likely wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to your own friends and family, can be more than edifying to their process; it can bring a sense of growth to you, as well, for being accountable to your group peers.
4. Empower your voice
Being aware of your feelings and knowing how to express them are two very different things. We’re often acutely aware of how we feel; it’s expressing those feelings and finding our voice that’s challenging. Group therapy provides you with the opportunity to practice this over and over again.
It also helps teach you a lot about yourself and become more self-aware and self-connected.
5. Group therapy costs less than individual therapy
Counseling can be expensive. And most likely, managing your condition even without therapy is a financial burden in and of itself. There is a common misconception that because group therapy is more affordable, it’s not as beneficial. That assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Many people find group therapy to be even more beneficial than one-on-one counseling sessions. Most members of therapy groups find that it’s the combination of group and individual treatment that really moves the needle on living more authentically.
Learn more about group therapy in Chicago
If you’re interested in learning more about group therapy in Chicago, reach out to us today at Wellington Counseling Group. As a trusted counseling resource for adults, children, couples, and families, we specialize in treating mental health disorders, behavioral issues, life transitions, family dynamics, and trauma.
Contact us today to schedule your first group therapy session.
Anxiety and depression levels hit an all-time high in the U.S. last year. That news comes as no surprise, given the convergence of crises that defined 2020: A global pandemic, the recession that ensued in its wake, an awakening for many Americans about our country’s racial injustice, a heated election. According to the State of Mental Health in America report, 19% of Americans now are living with a mental health condition -- 1.5 million more people than in 2019. If you’re interested in anxiety treatment in Chicago, you’ve come to the right place.
Here at Wellington Counseling Group, we have witnessed people struggling in myriad ways. Many have lost a spouse, parent, grandparent, or other loved one to COVID-19. Or, they may have taken ill themselves, and are now living with long-term symptoms. They may have anxiety about making ends meet with the loss of jobs and income and/or juggling to balance remote work while helping children with online school.
Here in the Chicago area, 2020-21 has also been a time when many have felt rage, fear, and hopelessness persistent racial injustice in their communities. And, with a great deal at stake, it was common for people to feel highly anxious about the 2020 election, the results of which took several days to tally and many weeks for final counts to provide certainty. Bottom line: the past 15 months have created a perfect storm for skyrocketing anxiety and depression.
Individuals who already were managing anxiety may have found that their usual coping strategies failed them, simply could not adequately stand up to the chaos of 2020-21.
Things are More ‘Normal’ Now -- Why Don’t I Feel Better?
Thankfully, many of us finally are returning to some “normalcy” after more than a year of isolation, but we must be patient with ourselves. The time away from our regular lives took a toll. We couldn’t hug or even see each other. We may have postponed weddings or canceled graduations. We missed gathering in faith, fitness, or opportunities to enjoy the arts. Some of us felt trapped in contentious or abusive homes. Physically and psychologically, it was a year like no other in our lifetimes.
Now, as many of us re-emerge from our shells -- whether tentatively tiptoeing or rushing back to life as usual -- we may be surprised to find we feel a bit shaky, vulnerable, hesitant, afraid. Our anxiety may not have dissipated, and that reality may make us even more anxious.
Those reactions are completely understandable and very much in keeping with human nature. We tend to survive, and even thrive, by revving our engines high on the fuel of expectations. We can therefore easily pin our hopes on an outcome so much better than the present situation that, when we’re finally there, we almost can’t help but be let down. Tempering expectations about life-after-lockdown will help prevent feeling overwhelmed by disappointment and the anxiety that may follow.
Treatment Options: Start with Simple Lifestyle Changes
If you are experiencing anxiety, know that treatment options are available and can be extremely effective, even life-changing. Sometimes simple lifestyle tweaks are sufficient, other times therapy and even the addition of medication may be advised. For those new to navigating anxiety treatment, it makes sense to start with lifestyle steps first:
- Stay active, exercise regularly.
- Try to spend time outdoors, in nature, if possible.
- Try meditation or relaxation apps that target anxiety.
- Eat healthfully.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine, particularly when used to cope with anxiety.
- Stay connected to helping family and friends.
- Adequate sleep is an essential anxiety treatment, but insomnia often is anxiety’s side-effect. To the extent possible, adhere to a regular sleep schedule and get as much rest as you need.
- After a week or so, check in with yourself -- do you feel less anxiety? Are any of these lifestyle changes reducing your anxiety more than others? If not, getting professional anxiety treatment may help.
Could Therapy and/or Medication Be Right for Me?
At Wellington Counseling Group, a top provider of anxiety treatment in Chicago, our therapy focuses on identifying anxiety sources and triggers and then developing a kit of tools that clients can deploy when or even before they are needed.
Sometimes therapy in conjunction with medication is most effective, particularly for those whose anxiety impacts daily functioning, who may experience panic attacks or sleeplessness.
Medication in support of psychotherapy can balance the chemistry in our brains to stabilize our ability to function in the world; therapy can help us understand how to operate from a social, emotional, and spiritual perspective.
These have been and continue to be extremely trying times. It’s important to understand that heightened anxiety is to be expected. It’s also important to recognize that we aren’t powerless over anxiety. We have an array of options available to help us feel better, to gain agency over our lives.
Learn More About Anxiety Treatment in Chicago
To learn more about your options for anxiety treatment in Chicago, reach out to us today at Wellington Counseling Group. We are a team of experienced and trusted psychotherapists who provide thoughtful and attentive anxiety treatment for Chicago area adults and youth experiencing mild to severe symptoms.
Both in-person and telehealth options are available to accommodate client preferences.
Change will always be a part of life. Most people have likely gone through a substantial transition at some point throughout their life, whether positive (landing a dream job or getting married) or negative (loss of a job or getting divorced). While many people can make the necessary shifts smoothly, others may feel as if their entire world has been flipped upside down. They may experience emotional discomfort, stress, and anxiety during transitional times, leaving them feeling overwhelmed, fearful, and, in some cases, depressed. Therapy for life transitions in Chicago can help individuals establish healthy coping mechanisms and improve their mental health and overall well-being during times of change.
According to Healthline, approximately 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States have or have had an eating disorder at some point throughout their life. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder, and unfortunately, only 10% of people with eating disorders ever seek treatment. If you suspect you may have an eating disorder, it’s important to seek care as soon as possible. Here are 7 signs you could benefit from eating disorder treatment in Chicago.
Getting your child into a gifted program in Chicagoland schools is no easy feat. In many cases, acceptance to the most sought-after programs requires a certain score on an IQ test that is facilitated by a psychologist. Here at Wellington Counseling Group, we know you probably have questions about what this process looks like. We're here to answer those top FAQs today about IQ tests for kids in Chicago.