Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES)

The experiences we have when we are young, vulnerable, and helpless can have life-long implications for our overall well-being. Just because something happened "a long time ago" does not mean it did not affect us. Too often we are unaware of just how it did affect us because it has been our "normal." We just don't know anything different. Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years) such as experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect; witnessing violence in the home; and having a family member attempt or die by suicide. Also included are aspects of the child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding such as growing up in a household with substance misuse, mental health problems, or instability due to parental separation or incarceration of a parent, sibling, or other member of the household.

Adverse Childhood Experiences have been linked to

  • risky health behaviors
  • chronic health conditions
  • chronic mental health conditions
  • low life potential
  • early death

As the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for these outcomes.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN)

Childhood emotional neglect (CEN) is the result of a caregiver not responding to the emotional needs of a child enough. While abuse is a parents active mistreatment of a child, emotional neglect is a parent's failure to act. I It is a passive form of abuse where caregivers ignore, minimize, and discount the emotional, psychological or physical needs of a child. Caregivers may fail to adequately provide for basic needs such as food, a safe home, or appropriate clothing. Children in homes where parents fail to respond to emotional needs are often ignored, dismissed, minimized, shamed for having wants, needs, or showing emotion, and are not shown adequate affection. Children are in essence emotionally starved. It can be difficult to recognize emotional neglect because it's invisible. Instead of leaving scars and bruises; it leaves painful feelings of loneliness and emptiness. As children do not understand whey they feel the way they do, they will often blame themselves for being "too needy" or "being a bad kid."

When emotionally neglected children grow up, they face certain emotional struggles. They often feel disconnected from themselves and others. They may feel emotionless, and find it difficult to sustain long term relationships with friends and intimate partners. When they do have feelings they have trouble being able to name or understand the feeling and tend to ignore or disconnect from emotions. They may have difficulty trusting or relying upon others. Many describe feeling that they are different from other people; and live with a belief that they are not normal, or something is wrong with them.

Some of the common problems adults with CEN face are: feelings of emptiness, fear of depending on other people, feeling disconnected from self and emotions, lack of self-compassion, feelings of guilt or shame, feeling different or left out in relationships.

EMDR

A structured therapy that encourages the patient to briefly focus on the trauma memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (typically eye movements), which is associated with a reduction in the vividness and emotion associated with the trauma memories.

The Adaptive Information Processing model considers symptoms of PTSD and other disorders (unless physically or chemically based) to result from past disturbing experiences that continue to cause distress because the memory was not adequately processed. These unprocessed memories are understood to contain the emotions, thoughts, beliefs and physical sensations that occurred at the time of the event. When the memories are triggered these stored disturbing elements are experienced and cause the symptoms of PTSD and/or other disorders.

Unlike other treatments that focus on directly altering the emotions, thoughts and responses resulting from traumatic experiences, EMDR therapy focuses directly on the memory, and is intended to change the way that the memory is stored in the brain, thus reducing and eliminating the problematic symptoms.


Brainspotting

"Where you look affects how you feel." Brainspotting locates points in the client’s visual field that help to access unprocessed trauma in the sub-cortical part of the brain. Finding the "spot" in the brain where the trauma is held, helps the therapist locate, focus, process and release a wide range of emotionally and bodily-based symptoms associated with trauma. Brainspotting is a brain-based, experiential approach to healing trauma. The belief is that brainspotting taps into, and harnesses the body’s natural self-scanning,and self-healing ability. When a Brainspot is stimulated, the deep brain appears to reflexively signal the therapist that the source of the problem has been found. Client and therapist then use mindful attention to create a safe space to dismantle the trauma, associated symptoms, feelings in the body, and negative beliefs often associated with trauma; all without re traumatizing the client by reliving the original experience.

Brainspotting can help relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic, phobias, addictions as well as some medical conditions such as traumatic brain injuries, strokes, fibromyalgia, headaches, sports injuries, and preparation for and recovery from surgery.

Brainspotting can also be used to find and strengthen our natural resources and resilience, and can be integrated into many other therapeutic modalities.

Play Therapy

Play therapy is to children what counseling is to adults. Play therapy utilizes play, children's natural medium of expression, to help them express their feelings more easily through toys instead of words. While children may be verbal, they often to struggle to verbalize their feelings and experiences. We are much more likely to see their feelings in their play and through their behaviors.

We often hear that children are resilient; which is true but, that doesn't mean that they are not affected or overwhelmed by their experiences or difficulties. Throughout their lives, most children go through difficult times, such as the divorce of their parents, trouble making friends, or adjusting to changes at school or home. Some children need more help than others to get through these times. If you or other adults in your child's life are concerned about your child's behavior, play therapy can help. It is the most appropriate treatment for helping your child work through difficult times and helping you gain a better understanding of what your child is going through.

Play therapists are specifically trained to provide an environment of acceptance, empathy and understanding in the play therapy room. Play therapy is not the same thing as playing. Play therapy uses the child's natural tendency to "play out" their reactions to life situations, in the presence of a trained play therapist, to help the child feel accepted and understood and gain a sense of control or understanding of difficult situations.