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Ask a Therapist: You See The Word Trauma a Lot, What Does it Really Mean?

Trauma, Ask a Therapist
3 min read

Dear Therapist: I hear the word “trauma” getting used a lot on social media and with my friends but I am not really sure what it is. I’d love to hear directly from a therapist… What is trauma?

Frame Therapist Patrice Kane weighs in…
I hear you, trauma is thrown around constantly in the news and on social media platforms.  Trauma can be defined as a physiological and emotional response to a deeply distressing event or circumstances that has lasting adverse effects on the individual's functioning.  Trauma can cause dysregulation in our central nervous system which can result in poor mental and physical health. 

In the therapy community, trauma can be categorized into “Small t trauma” and “Big T trauma.” 

  • Some examples of Small “t” Trauma include: interpersonal conflict, divorce, losing a loved one, or an accident.  Small t Trauma tends to be overlooked due to the tendency to rationalize the event in fear of judgment. 

  • A large T trauma can be distinguished as a significant event that leaves an individual feeling powerless and helpless such as sexual assault or a natural disaster.  

Trauma can trigger hyperarousal and cause our central nervous system to go into a fight or flight state.  Luckily, there are many treatment modalities that specialize in trauma informed care.  When trauma occurs, avoidance cannot be practiced.  Many therapists believe the best way out is through.  Working with a mental health professional can reduce the fear associated with the emotional triggers caused by trauma as well as strengthen the adaptive ways of problem management. 

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For more information and support around trauma, view our resources here.

About the Therapist: Patrice Kane is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in Los Angeles.  Patrice specialized in working with young adults and couples with depression, complex trauma, anxiety, family trauma, and interpersonal issues.  Explore her frame profile here to explore more of her content and schedule a free phone consultation. 


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** This blog series is not suited for people who are in immediate crisis. If you are in crisis, please call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or contact Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.