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Exploring Big "T" & Little "t" Trauma

You may hear your therapist talking about big “T” and little “t” trauma. It can be beneficial to discuss these differences, so you understand that trauma responses aren’t always caused by something big like an assault or near death experience. There are many different sources of trauma, and when this trauma isn’t processed, the body can retain it, leading to negative effects.

Unfortunately, many people experience chronic, elevated levels of anxiety that are very disruptive, and unless they learn to process this anxiety, it can be detrimental to their health, their careers, and even their relationships.

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What is Big "T" Trauma?

Little “t” traumas are events that may not be life threatening or cause physical harm, but they threaten and overwhelm a person’s ability to cope and process emotions or thoughts in healthy ways. These traumas are often overlooked or ignored because people feel they should be able to take care of them on their own, or they believe they’ll look weak if they admit to needing help. In many cases, people also fail to recognize the cumulative effects of little “t” traumas. They find themselves feeling overwhelmed and experiencing side effects common after a traumatic event, but they’re unaware of why this is happening. Some situations that trigger little “t” trauma responses include:

What is Little "t" Trauma?

Little “t” traumas are events that may not be life threatening or cause physical harm, but they threaten and overwhelm a person’s ability to cope and process emotions or thoughts in healthy ways. These traumas are often overlooked or ignored because people feel they should be able to take care of them on their own, or they believe they’ll look weak if they admit to needing help. In many cases, people also fail to recognize the cumulative effects of little “t” traumas. They find themselves feeling overwhelmed and experiencing side effects common after a traumatic event, but they’re unaware of why this is happening. Some situations that trigger little “t” trauma responses include:

What are the Common Symptoms of Unprocessed Trauma?

If you’re still not sure you’re dealing with trauma [link to full page], consider the following statements clients often make about how trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) impact their lives:

How can CBT help following trauma?

Following big “T” or little “t” trauma, therapy aims to alleviate the adverse effects of the trauma, help individuals process the difficult experience, and begin to heal. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a research-supported approach to therapy that helps individuals to recognize the emotional, cognitive, and physical responses to trauma and how these responses are interconnected. As you begin to recognize negative thinking, feeling, and acting patterns associated with trauma, you can start to develop strategies to change these patterns.

How does Somatic Experiencing help following trauma?

Somatic experiencing is a body-centered approach to therapy. That may sound a little strange, but actually, most of us are very familiar with how dealing with difficult emotions or thoughts can impact us physically. We may feel sick to our stomachs when we’re upset or experience headaches when we’re stressed. The body is impacted by complex emotions and thoughts, so it’s no surprise that our bodies are also an important part of the healing process after we experience trauma. That’s where somatic experiencing comes in. When the body retains the survival energy produced by traumatic experiences, we can feel stuck in the fight, flight, or freeze response. By processing and releasing this energy through somatic experiencing, we allow our bodies to begin healing, so we can move forward.

What can I expect during therapy?

Therapy for trauma helps people to relieve the negative effects stemming from trauma in order to engage in the healing process actively and safely. During your initial sessions, we’ll talk about your health history, past traumatic experiences (when you’re ready), and what your goals for therapy are. Together, we’ll develop a plan to help you achieve the desired results from therapy. Throughout the process, we’ll continually reassess the outcomes you achieve and adjust your therapy plan to ensure you are able to reach your goals.

Who offers therapy for Big "T & Little "t" Trauma?

Each of our clinicians has years of unique training and experience that allow them to provide therapy using specific approaches that work best for certain clients. Our clinicians who provide therapy for Big “T” & Little “t” Trauma are featured below, and you can learn more about them by visiting our team page.

What Should I Do Next?

When you’re ready to begin therapy, we hope you’ll consider contacting The Center for CBT in New York City. We offer a safe space where you are free to be who you really are and express yourself and your values authentically. We embrace, value, and welcome people of all sexual orientations, genders, and racial identities. The Center for CBT in New York City makes beginning your therapy journey simple. You can get started any time by completing our online consultation request form. One of our team members will be in touch within 24 business hours to answer your questions.

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