What to Look for in a Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapist

Look for a licensed mental health professional with specialized training and experience in cognitive behavioral therapy and family therapy as well as further training and supervised experience in trauma-focused therapy. In addition to these credentials, it is important to find a therapist with whom you and your child feel comfortable working.


Somatic Therapy

Somatic therapy is a form of body-centered therapy that looks at the connection of mind and body and uses both psychotherapy and physical therapies for holistic healing. In addition to talk therapy, somatic therapy practitioners use mind-body exercises and other physical techniques to help release the pent-up tension that is negatively affecting your physical and emotional wellbeing.

When It’s Used

Somatic therapy can help people who suffer from stressanxietydepressiongriefaddiction, problems with relationships, and sexual function, as well as issues related to trauma and abuse. Those for whom traditional remedies have not been helpful for chronic physical pain, digestive disorders and other medical issues may also benefit from somatic therapy. Somatic therapy techniques can be used in both individual and group therapy settings.


Trauma, Violence, & Abuse

Two thirds of the studies (16 of 24, 67%) in our systematic review used the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (Bernstein et al., 2003) which measures five types of maltreatment experiences. Three types are related to abuse, namely, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, whereas the two others are forms of neglect, physical and emotional. In their study, van Harmelen et al. (2013) used the NEMESIS interview (De Graff et al., 2002) to measure the same dimensions, apart from physical neglect, which is not documented. Veague & Hooley (2014) also used an interview protocol composed of 11 questions tapping on physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as well as witnessing domestic violence. Neukel and colleagues (2019) administered the Childhood Experience of Care and Abuse Interview (CECA; Bifulco et al., 1994) to participants to assess childhood abuse experiences (physical and/or sexual). Two studies relied on child protection reports as indicators of child maltreatment (Demers et al., 2018Jedd et al., 2015). One study used the Child Abuse and Trauma Scale (CATS; Sanders & Becker-Lausen, 1995) which measures physical and emotional abuse and neglect (Kirkham & Levita, 2019). Olsavsky et al. (2019) used three different questions, one for emotional abuse (being verbally insulted or threatened), one for physical abuse (being pushed, grabbed, slapped, or shoved), and one concerning the exposure to domestic violence. Finally, Kim et al. (2014) used the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI; George et al., 1996) to screen for adults with unresolved traumas, such as experiences of loss and/or abuse.


Effects of early life trauma

The number of children who experience neglect or abuse is high—about ten out of every thousand children in the United States in 2008.29 Identifying and helping these children is especially difficult unless there are bruises or physical injuries. The effects of early life attachment can lie dormant in the brain until later life. The impact of these hidden effects is that, by adolescence, eighty percent of abused children will be diagnosed with a major psychiatric disorder. Imaging studies of abuse survivors often show that brain areas controlling emotion and cognition are abnormal and underlie these psychiatric disorders and difficulties functioning as a productive citizen. Animal research has provided great insight into how early life caregiving can impact these brain areas and has highlighted unexpected functioning of the brain in early life and the enormous role of the caregiver in controlling the brain’s response to trauma. The comparison of normal attachment formation and pain-related attachment suggests similar behaviors in early life are expressed as attachment to the caregiver, and the activation of different neural substrates may lay the foundation for the enduring effects of early life trauma.


Managing Flashbacks


  • Bullying
  • Community Violence
  • Complex Trauma
  • Disasters
  • Early Childhood Trauma
  • Intimate Partner Violence
  • Medical Trauma
  • Physical Abuse
  • Refugee Trauma
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Sex Trafficking
  • Terrorism and Violence
  • Traumatic Grief

Trauma Bond and Cognitive Dissonance

This brings us to two psychological states that are vital for victims of emotional and physical abuse to be aware of:

  1. The Trauma Bond
  2. Cognitive Dissonance.

Both override proper reasoning that could help a victim gain freedom from toxicity. These processes happen automatically within the brain and are the result of the neurochemical storm ignited by the abusive partner.


Common Reactions of the Brain to an Abuser

Several important ingredients that contribute to someone’s “addiction” to their abuser are oxytocin (bonding), endogenous opioids (pleasure, pain, withdrawal, dependence), corticotropin-releasing factor (withdrawal, stress), and dopamine (craving, seeking, wanting). With such strong neurochemistry in dysregulated states, it will be extremely difficult to manage emotions or make logical decisions.


How does trauma bonding affect the brain?

One of many ways victims can help their brain break a trauma bond is by facilitating the release of calming oxytocin (from the amygdala). Igniting oxytocin receptors of this type can reduce cravings, ease withdrawal, and lessen pain.

What causes someone to violate a person they claimed to love? There are many reasons, for example, substance or alcohol abuse, a neurological condition impacting behavior, or a disorder of character such as antisocial personalitypsychopathy, borderline personality disorder, or narcissistic personality disorder.


Trauma bonding damage

Some long-term impacts of trauma bonding include but are not limited to remaining in abusive relationships, having adverse mental health outcomes like low self-esteem, negative self image, and increased likelihood of depression and bipolar disorder, and perpetuating a trans-generational cycle of abuse.

Traumatic bonding – Wikipedia