If you are thinking about suicide
Please read this first.
If you could use some support right now
If you are in crisis, including if you are thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. (It’s OK to call the Lifeline if you’re not thinking about suicide, too.)
Someone is available to talk with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You can chat via text 24/7 with a trained volunteer or crisis center staff person at the Crisis Text Line. Text HOME to 741-741 or visit their site for more information. This service is available in the United States. It’s also possible to reach a volunteer through Facebook Messenger; check their FAQ.
Chat online with a volunteer trained in crisis intervention at any time at I’mAlive.
Connect with an online listener or therapist, or join a supportive community, at any time at 7Cups.
If you think you might have been sexually assaulted or sexually abused, there are many helpful resources at RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), including the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE, links to counseling centers, suggestions for how to help a friend who might have been raped, and international resources.
If you are a veteran, you might call the Veterans’ Crisis Line, operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Someone is available to talk with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Your call is confidential. 1-800-273-8255, option 1
The Trans Lifeline is staffed by transgender individuals who are there to support you if you are in crisis, or just need someone to talk to, and you are transgender or you are struggling with your gender identity. In the U.S.: In Canada:
More Reading about Trauma and PTSD
Many websites and books cover the basics about PTSD. You can find the basic definition and lists of symptoms on Wikipedia.
HelpGuide.org has an excellent and thorough page about trauma, including several grounding exercises for when you are in distress, tips for loved ones, and suggestions about treatment.
More and more people (especially those who work with kids) are talking about childhood trauma with reference to ACEs: Adverse Childhood Experiences. You can learn more ACEs (including counting up your own) and about the movement toward trauma-sensitive education at the blog ACEs Too High.
If you’re a parent and a trauma survivor, Dawn Daum and Joyelle Brandt edited an anthology about building trauma-informed families.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
The PTSD Forum has hundreds of users, thousands of posts, and real time chat. Find a community of people who have been through what you are going through, whether you are a sufferer or a supporter of someone with PTSD.
CrazyBoards has a place for everyone, whatever your diagnosis, or no diagnosis at all. There are sections for conditions, for treatments, and for general discussion.
Gift From Within, a nonprofit organization, has a site with many articles, blog posts, lists of retreat sites and conferences, links to support groups, and much more.
The Center for Motivation and Change has good information about the Community Reinforcement and Family Training model and other strategies for being supportive of a person who has addiction issues.
Secondary PTSD is a real thing. If someone close to you suffers from PTSD, you are at risk yourself. Here is an article by Mac McClelland in Mother Jones about some of the families of Iraq war veterans and their experience of secondary PTSD.
As each year passes, there are more documentary films about trauma and healing. It can be affirming and inspiring to see other people’s stories. Just a few we’ve seen:
Wrestling Ghosts, a film by Ana Joanes, follows Kim, a young mother, and her partner. You can watch it on the project website.
Cracked Up, a film by Michelle Esrick, is about actor and comedian Darrell Hammond, who is a survivor of childhood trauma. As of January 2021, it’s available on Netflix.
Paper Tigers, a film by James Redford and KPJR Films, shows one of the first high schools that used a trauma-informed approach to discipline, led by then-principal Jim Sporleder. You can watch it on iTunes.
Grounding Techniques and Other Resources
When your system is knocked out of equilibrium, either into a more anxious state or into numbness, grounding can help you get back to a calmer and more connected state. Find a few techniques you like and practice them when you aren’t upset or numb. You may be less likely to think of doing it when you’re upset, so consider keeping a slip of paper in your wallet or your pocket with the list of grounding exercises you’ve practiced.
Grounding techniques list at Healthyplace.com.
Grounding techniques collected by cetcetera.
Grounding techniques list at Pickthebrain.com.
The iChill app, available for both iPhone and Android phones, also can help with grounding exercises.
Grounding techniques from the Dissociative Identity Disorder Research site (which has many other great resources as well).
What about feeling a little bit better in general? This useful summary from Eric at Barking Up the Wrong Tree explains how neuroscience supports the regular practices of gratitude, labeling emotions, making good enough decisions and physical touch for relieving stress and improving mood.
Another practice a person can use for re-connecting with their body and breath is yoga. If you’d like to try yoga at home, Adriene Mishler of Yoga with Adriene has a 45-minute session specifically designed for people with PTSD. For a shorter session focused on anxiety and stress relief, here’s ten minutes from Yoga with Kassandra. Nityda Gessel, a somatic psychotherapist and yoga teacher, has a whole channel with trauma-informed yoga sessions and education, some for clinicians. Here is a 25-minute class focused on grounding and the upper body.
Is Therapy For You?
You may be able to manage your symptoms, or put yourself in a low-stress environment where you are less likely to be affected by having PTSD. Maybe the people around you accommodate your needs. Maybe you have isolated yourself. You can live out your entire life without addressing post-traumatic symptoms. Many people have, and do.
Therapy is risky. If you work with a practitioner who is not using the methodologies that are most effective for trauma, or who is using them without adequate regard for your safety, it can be harmful or dangerous. Depending on where you are in the world, it may be expensive and not covered by insurance. When you work with a practitioner you trust, who is knowledgeable and experienced and who has your best interests in mind, you still may feel worse before you feel better.
There is a stigma about having mental health issues. You may already feel worthless (because that is one of the symptoms of PTSD). You may also feel ashamed, or guilty. People around you may not understand your situation and may say and do things that make you feel worse.
If you are a man, everything around you tells you to handle this on your own. Here’s Andy Behrman on his experience getting help (with bipolar, not PTSD, but it’s definitely applicable to men with PTSD).
If you are a person of color or LGBTQ, you might find this essay by CarmenLeah Ascencio about why you might want to seek therapy useful and interesting.
Whoever you are, however long you have lived with past trauma, despite all the possible down sides, therapy is one of the most effective ways to heal from trauma.
Please consider therapy.
Finding a Therapist
If you are a trauma survivor, or think you may be, it is a good idea to find a therapist who has experience with trauma and PTSD. Trauma is not well understood by many in the medical and helping professions and while there are specific approaches that can be very helpful in healing PTSD, there are many, many therapeutic methods. The two most important factors in healing are finding a practitioner with whom you can establish a level of trust, and that practitioner using the techniques that will actually help.
Martha Ainsworth at Metanoia has written a useful general guide to choosing a competent counselor with whom you feel comfortable.
Captain Awkward’s friend the Mental Health Mountie has a useful list for finding low-cost therapy if you live in the United States or Canada.
CarmenLeah Ascencio also has good tips for finding a therapist if you are a person of color or not the typical therapy client for any other reason.
And here are some thoughts on whether you might want a therapist who has a background similar to you, or not, from Rose Hackman at The Guardian.
This article from Women’s Health Magazine by Jennifer Nied has a roundup of therapy directories and financial assistance programs for people of color, some specific to issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Therapy for Black Girls is a podcast and website (including a directory) run by Dr. Joy Harden Bradford. Her podcast is friendly and useful no matter who you are or what your cultural and ethnic background.
The Beam Black Emotional and Mental Wellness Collective has a directory of practitioners that includes not just therapists but also yoga teachers, lawyers and activists. They also have a couple of grants programs.
National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network has a mental health fund that defrays the cost of up to six therapy sessions for queer and trans people of color, and maintains a directory of practitioners.
HelpPRO maintains a general database of therapists in the United States. You can search for therapists who specialize in Trauma/PTSD or on a variety of other issues. Please note that not all therapists who treat survivors of trauma use the methods preferred by the creator of this site.
The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies maintains an international database of therapists.
You can find an EMDR-certified therapist through the EMDR Institute, which trains clinicians.
The EMDR International Institute maintains a database of certified EMDR therapists. You can also find recent research articles and other information at their site.
You can find a practitioner who is certified in Somatic Experiencing through the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute. The Institute also trains clinicians.
The Sensorimotor Institute maintains a referral list of therapists certified in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy.
The Center for Self Leadership has a list of practitioners who have trained in the Internal Family Systems Model of Psychotherapy.
The Pesso Boyden Psychomotor System is also known as the structures approach. You can find an international list of practitioners through the Pesso Boyden site.
Neurofeedback clinics are easy to find with a general web search. You will generally need to commit to a minimum number of sessions.
The National Center for PTSD of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs maintains a searchable online database of the worldwide literature on PTSD and the mental health consequences of traumatic events. The database includes diverse sources–not just academic journals, but also newsletters and dissertations. You can also contact the librarians at PTSDpubs (formerly PILOTS) with questions.
Information and Research About Effective Therapies
David Baldwin maintains the Trauma Information Pages, an extensive website primarily oriented to clinicians and researchers that includes links to many articles and other useful sites (some of those are linked here).
More resources for practitioners are at the websites of the various international professional associations, including the European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. The websites of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation include information for the public.
You can find an extensive and annotated list of research studies related to EMDR at the EMDR Institute website.
You can also find an extensive listing of research articles on EMDR at the Francine Shapiro Library, hosted by the EMDR International Association.
There are a few references regarding the effectiveness of neurofeedback for PTSD at EEGinfo.com.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has many resources and links related to working with young people in a wide variety of settings and circumstances.