Skip to main content


Complex Trauma & PTSD

A traumatic experience does not have to be life-threatening for it to be traumatizing; any situation that leaves you feeling helpless, afraid, out of control, and overwhelmed may lead to symptoms of trauma. A trauma may involve a threat to your life or safety, but any incident that impacts your psychological or emotional well-being may be traumatic and can lead to long-term consequences.

trauma ptsd

Examples of trauma  include sexual assault, a near-death experience, an accident, a surgery, an injury, physical – emotional – verbal abuse, or witnessing of abuse or domestic violence.  Early experiences of trauma can lead to reenacting past traumas and self-defeating patterns in current relationships. This may include entering into abusive relationships or having difficulty trusting others and feeling safe in relationships.

When you experience a traumatic event, there’s an urge to  avoid the thoughts, feelings, sensations, and memories connected to the trauma. This strategy only works for a short period of time and then the fear grows. The more you avoid the experiences related to the trauma, the scarier and more powerful the experience becomes. This may lead post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The most effective and empirically validated treatment for trauma is exposure—that is, the only way to minimize the power of the traumatic event and become desensitized to the experience is by slowly and gradually exposing yourself to the thoughts, feelings, memories, and sensations connected to the traumatic event. It is similar to a fear of spiders. If you are afraid of spiders, the way to decrease that fear is to gradually take small steps toward facing the spider and recognizing that it is not actually dangerous.

When we conduct exposure in therapy, these steps are always taken in small increments and on your terms. We will work together with you to identify tiny steps that feel manageable for you. We will go at your pace and ensure that you are ready and that you have the skills to manage the experience.

What are the signs?

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Recurrent intrusive thoughts
  • Nightmares
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Emotional numbing
  • Difficulty regulating emotions and impulses
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Shame

We can help you:

  • Speed up your recovery
  • Process all the thoughts, feelings, memories, and images connected to your trauma
  • Regulate your emotions and manage symptoms
  • Rebuild your ability to trust others and have fulfilling relationships
  • Participate in meaningful activities and increase socialization
  • Establish safety and stability in your body and in your relationships
  • Develop the skills to cope with distressing experiences and feelings
  • Identify strategies for self-care
  • Cultivate acceptance, forgiveness, and self-compassion
  • Work through and move past guilt, blame, anger, and shame

Featured in...

New York Post Logo
make it logo
Forbes logo
huffpost logo
DR. Drew logo
msn logo
Psych Central Logo
PsychAlive logo
KGO 810 Logo
psychologists off the clock
date able podcast
glamour logo

We're Relationship Experts

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in the Bay Area. You could say we wrote the books on it.