Trauma: Does It Ever Go Away? Triggered by the Kavanaugh Hearings

With the recent confirmation hearings of Justice Kavanaugh and the allegations of sexual assault from 4 women (currently), people who have survived the trauma of rape or other sexual assault may find themselves triggered by how President Trump and some Senators have dismissed the importance of these allegations.

I know my reaction has been one of disbelief that others could so easily dismiss what was a life changing experience for these women. Sexual assault changes your sense of safety and trust… among other things. A client with whom I met this week talked about how the Senators’ denial mirrored the process she went through as she was bringing charges against her rapist. She felt like it was all coming up again.

If you’ve survived sexual assault, you may be wondering if this feeling ever goes away. Healing often happens in layers. You may have already worked on this/these issues and thought you were done.

Symptoms of Being Triggered (PTSD from Sexual Assault)

Typical symptoms may include:

  • Recurrent, intrusive thoughts
  • Recurring nightmares of the event
  • Avoiding places and/or activities that remind you of the event
  • Feeling detached from others; sometimes an emotional and/or physical numbness
  • Irritability and/or angry outbursts; feeling edgy
  • Hypervigilance (constantly scanning your environment for threats)
  • Problems concentrating
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Not enjoying things you previously enjoyed
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Anxiety; shame
  • Muscle tension

You may experience one of these symptoms or a mixture of symptoms.

What Can You Do?

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is seek and accept support from someone/people who feel safe to you. That can be family, friends, a professional trained in supporting people who have survived trauma, and/or a support group.

Some other specific things you can do:

  • If helpful and needed, put yourself on a media diet (limit the amount of news you read & hear).
  • Exercise
  • Healthy eating
  • Mindfulness/meditation
  • Being in the moment (part of mindfulness). Knowing and telling yourself that, right now, you are okay and safe
  • Deep belly breathing

If this is not enough and you need professional support, please call me or another therapist trained in working with people who have survived trauma.

Call me at (303) 444-2003 to schedule an appointment.


Will This Ever Go Away?

Very possibly! One of the therapy techniques I use is called Brainspotting. Brainspotting is a non-verbal technique based in the fact that your mind, body and spirit (if spirit is something for you) knows what it needs to do to heal. Brainspotting helps you access where the trauma is located in your brain and helps your mind reprocess the trauma so that you no longer have an “emotional build-up” around the memory. I can help you reduce or remove the triggers that are keeping you stuck.


Other Resources

Locally (Boulder area):  MESA (Moving to End Sexual Assault); 303.443.7300 or Moving to end sexual Assault

Nationally:  National Sexual Assault Hotline; Call 1-800-656-4673 (available 24 hours everyday)

6 Critical Questions About PTSD – What You Need To Know

Getting Your Life Back after the Trauma of Rape: A Story of Resilience and Healing

10 Tips for Dealing With Back To School Stress

Change is Constant

You have been in your summer routine for three months and it’s time for kids to go back to school. Part of you may be looking forward to having the kids out of the house, and part of you may be grieving the loss of freedom that comes with summer’s play time.

Back to school stressors include:

  • dealing with back to school stressScheduling Challenges – Managing calendars for everyone in the house is difficult, especially at the onset of the school year.
  • Cost – There are additional expenses associated with school supplies, clothing, commuting, sports and activities, and in some cases, tuition.
  • Transportation – Who needs to be where, at what time, and how do they get there and home?
  • Fear of the Unknown – There will be new teachers, new classmates and in some cases new schools. There will be a more difficult curriculum, which includes teacher demands, homework and extracurricular activities.
  • Social Issues – Changing social cliques, advanced or delayed physical development, rivalries, bullies and being judged or teased can create apprehension for kids and parents alike.
  • Appearance – Acne, clothes, a bad hair cut and makeup issues all impact self image and add to the stress of going back to school.

It’s Hard For Them – It’s Hard For You

coping with the stress of going back to schoolChange is hard. In fact, there is a whole field of study dedicated to this called Change Management. When everybody gets stressed out, there is a greater possibility of the almost inevitable blow-up. As parents we need to realize what everybody is going through including ourselves. Fortunately, most kids are resilient. They are well suited to cope with change if you just give them a little support. For those that aren’t resilient, additional support may be needed.

Your childhood experience with going back to school will impact how your approach your children going back to school. For example if you were bullied at school, your energy around your kids going back to school may be poisoned. Our children often pick up on our energy making back to school more difficult for them. If school was traumatic for you, I can help through the use of Brainspotting and other treatment modalities.

Emotional Impact

The emotions associated with back to school stress run the full gamut for all involved:

  • dealing with back to school stressExcitement and Joy – They are happy see their friends and start on a new adventure. You are happy to get them out of the house. Some kids can get bored and are looking forward to the challenges of the new school year.
  • Fear – It’s a new school year: new friends, new teachers, new expectations.
  • Anger – Some people react to change with anger. It is the culmination of all of the fear and stress.
  • Sadness – The summer is over along with all of the fun activities that go along with summer. Perhaps they made new friends they won’t see again.

Families can experience circumstances such as relocating, financial challenges, loss, divorce, and death that can all make a difficult situation worse. If you are dealing with any of these issues and need support, call me (303) 444-2003.

10 Helpful Tips for Dealing with Back to School Stress

  1. 10 tips for dealing with back to school stressTake some time to acknowledge and empathize with what your children are going through.
  2. When possible, be proactive. Discuss expectations ahead of time.
  3. Start getting the whole family into the rhythm of school as soon as possible. Change bedtime and wake time several days before the first day of school.
  4. Change eating habits to support learning (less junk food, more proteins and complex carbs). Be sure to eat together as a family. Research shows that one of the best indicators of kids emotional health and future success is family meal time.
  5. Practice the first day routine. Make sure everybody knows where to be and at what time.
  6. Plan some time for unstructured play for the whole family. This is important for healthy brain development.
  7. If you are new to a school or to the community, get to know the parents in your kid’s grade.
  8. If possible, volunteer in your children’s school. Get to know the teachers and administrators. Take advantage of special programs such as tutoring, IEP’s/504 plans, Special Education, and Gifted and Talented programs designed to help kids be successful.
  9. Allow for healthy outlets for stress: exercise, rest, diet, and play.
  10. Focus on self care. A more relaxed and confident parent is better able to help his or her kids deal with back to school stress and foster healthier and more resilient kids who know how to deal with change.

If you or your family are in distress, call me at (303) 444-2003. I can help!

Insomnia Keeping You Awake? A Case Study

Suffering from Insomnia?

Woman with insomnia in bed awakeMore and more Americans are suffering from insomnia. According to, some statistics about insomnia:
• 30 to 35% have brief symptoms of insomnia.
• 15 to 20% have a short-term insomnia disorder, which lasts less than three months.
• 10% have a chronic insomnia disorder, which occurs at least three times per week for at least three months. A recent study at the University of Arizona College of Medicine found that participants with persistent insomnia had a 58% higher risk of premature death!

Symptoms of Insomnia

For some people or at different times of our lives, the issue is short term. But for others, insomnia is a chronic issue. Symptoms can include:

  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • brain fog
  • depressed mood
  • anxiety
  • decreased libido
  • concentration problems

These symptoms can effect your work and relationships. You can get help now. Zola (name changed) did. Read on to see how she was able to fall asleep faster and sleep through the night.

The Problem – An Insomnia Case Study

Zola is a married, self-employed woman in her 40’s with 2 young children. In our first session, Zola talked about feeling irritable, tired all of the time and not as patient with her kids as she’d like to be. Her sex life was non-existent. While her husband was being patient with her, she was frustrated. Her doctor prescribed Xanax to help her sleep. Even though the Xanax helped her sleep, she didn’t want to rely on it or become addicted to the medication. She was able to function but wanted more.

Something Zola realized, because this had been going on for a while, was that she felt anxious at bedtime. As bedtime approached, she started feeling anxious about feeling anxious. The thought of going to sleep had become very stressful. Falling asleep when you’re anxious is bad enough, but trying to relax when you’re feeling anxious about feeling anxious is even harder. On top of this, once Zola fell asleep, she did not stay asleep. When she woke, her mind started reeling about a myriad of issues or obsessing about one thing. She wanted help!

The Treatment for Zola’s Insomnia

well rested woman in bed no longer suffering from insomniaWe talked about her experience of her sleep problems. I educated Zola about sleep hygiene (see below). While I am not a nutritionist or the like (and could not prescribe or recommend), we talked about alternatives to Xanax. Zola had already checked with her physician about possible physical health issues that could effect her sleep; there were none. Zola adjusted her caffeine intake, stopped using her computer and watching t.v. within 2 hours of bedtime, and made sure she had some down-time before bedtime to let go of the issues from the day. She also adjusted her bedroom light to be less bright.

Next, we decided to use Brainspotting. Brainspotting (bsp) is a non-verbal treatment that helps you reprocess issues that interfere with your life. With the headphones on (accessing biolateral music and sounds), Zola thought about how she felt (both emotionally and physically). I noticed that her eyes focused on one spot so she had already found her brainspot. The relationship we had built helped Zola feel safe so that she could reprocess whatever arose for her. Our bsp session that day lasted about 45 minutes. At the end of the Brainspotting session, we talked about her experience during the processing. From previous bsp sessions, Zola knew to notice any changes during the time between our sessions.

Sleep, Beautiful Sleep

Treating insomnia can re-ignite your sex lifeAt our last session, Zola said she hardly uses Xanax anymore. Most of the time, she falls asleep easily and sleeps through the night. For the most part, Zola wakes up feeling rested after 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. She reports being much more patient with her children and husband. She is able to maintain better focus at work and has a sex life again.

If you are interested in getting life back and no longer suffering from the effects of insomnia, call me at (303) 444-2003.


Sleep Hygiene – Tips You Can Try on Your Own

The following are conditions that can affect your sleep:

  • surfing the web at bedtime can contribute to insomniaCaffeine consumption: Caffeine is a stimulant often present in coffee, tea (not usually herbal teas), soda and chocolate. If you “use” caffeine and have sleep problems, keep your consumption to before noon.
  • Screen Usage: Screens on electronic devices such as t.v., computers, tablets and cell phones (possibly e-readers too) create an excitatory response in the brain. Discontinue their use 2 hours prior to bedtime, if possible. Some people with whom I’ve worked are still able to use e-readers once they’ve adjusted their use of the rest.
  • Eating: Avoid eating heavy meals after 7 p.m. The organs in your body need to go through periods of rest. If your system is digesting food, it can interrupt this rest cycle. Some people, however, need a small snack before bed. Stay away from protein as it’s harder to digest.
  • Sugar Consumption: Eating sugar effects your blood sugar. At first, your blood sugar gets a big boost but then is followed by a crash. Sugar crashes can keep you from falling asleep and staying asleep.
  • Drinking: Try to finish your drinking by 8 p.m. to eliminate your need to go to the bathroom during the night.
  • Activities in Bedroom: If you’re having trouble sleeping, keep your activities in bed only for sleep and sex.
  • Alcohol: See “sugar consumption” bullet.
  • Noise, Light, & Temperature: When you are quieting down for bed, the noise should be low and the light dim. We generally sleep better in cooler temperatures than when it’s warm.
  • Napping: Keep your naps to only 15 – 20 minutes before 3 p.m.
  • Supplements: There are dietary supplements, herbs, homeopathic remedies, flower essences and other supports that are found in the grocery store. New research is showing that zinc can be helpful (if you’re interested in any of these remedies/supports, talk to a health care professional)
  • Melatonin can be a good support for falling asleep. Follow the link to read my blog post about Melatonin.


Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade: How Can We Learn From These Tragedies?

The recent deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade highlight a public health issue. Their deaths were reported to be suicides. Suicide is a response to an immense amount of pain that is devastating in its wake.

For those who don’t know, Anthony Bourdain was a celebrity chef, author, and television personality. He changed the way people viewed food, restaurants and travel. Perhaps less known, according to Associated Press writer Lindsey Tanner, he was known to champion immigrants workers.

Kate Spade was a well-known fashion designer. She started her career working at the fashion magazine “Mademoiselle” and rose to the job of Senior Fashion Editor. She needed a change so she quit her job and started designing handbags. Ms. Spade built her business from nothing to a fashion empire that included shoes, clothing, jewelry and home goods. Her story was a rags to riches story. She inspired many women.

Mental illness does not discriminate. Anyone, including celebrities, can suffer from issues including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other issues. People suffering with these issues often isolate themselves and/or don’t talk about what they’re really feeling and experiencing.

Suicide is a growing problem in the United States. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a recent survey  showing suicide rates increased by 25% across the country over nearly two decades ending in 2016. Twenty-five states experienced a rise in suicides by more than 30%, the government report finds. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Every day, 123 people kill themselves.

Again, I’m asking: how do we make sense of these tragedies? Can we learn from their pain so that others don’t have to suffer in silence.

Suicide and Depression

People who commit suicide are in a lot of pain. Their ability to cope is far exceeded by the amount of pain experienced. A common reaction by those left in the wake of suicide is “Why didn’t I know?”, “She never talked about it.” “There are people who look so happy, you’d never suspect they think about suicide, much less attempt it” (quote from Jill Gleeson; Good Housekeeping, June 8, 2018).

A normal reaction to suicide is, “How could s/he do this to his/her family?” Having worked on a mental health center crisis line, I know that the person probably wasn’t thinking about his/her family. Their pain was so great, and they battled it for so long; they may have just wanted the pain to end.

In addition, people tend to equate success and wealth with happiness. Depression doesn’t discriminate. It can besiege anyone regardless of their economic or social status. It also greatly impacts the family. Symptoms of depression include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Sleeping too much
  • Loss or increase in appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anhedonia or no longer enjoying activities previously enjoyed

Depression isn’t experiencing just one of these symptoms and it isn’t just for a day or two. Depression is an illness that people can battle for a lifetime. It’s important to note, there is a difference between human response to sad or troubled events and depressive disorders. Grief can also look like depression.

In the June, 2018 “Good Housekeeping”, write Jill Gleason said, “Mental health is like any other illness – it’s not a choice, and you can’t ‘snap out of it’.

If you experience these symptoms for an extended period of time, you may benefit from professional help. People who experience severe depression may have thoughts of suicide. This doesn’t mean they are going to act on them, but they do need to seek professional help.

Are you Triggered By Anthony Bourdain’s or Kate Spade’s Suicide

Many of us have experienced the suicide of a friend or loved one and have been triggered by the news stories of these suicide. If you are feeling anxious, depressed or are in need of support, call me at (303) 444-2003. I can help you work through your feelings and regain your equilibrium.

Suicide Prevention Resources in Boulder County

Sadly, Colorado is among the top ten states with the highest suicide rates in the US. Here in Boulder County, there are a number of resources for suicide prevention:

You Don’t Need To Live With Depression and Pain. How I Can Help:

Getting Your Life Back after the Trauma of Rape: A Story of Resilience and Healing

Rape: A Story of Resilience and Healing

In the news lately, you can’t miss hearing about sexual assault, sexual harassment and Harvey Weinstein. Over and over again, we’ve heard the phrase “Me Too”. It is being tweeted and posted on Facebook and other social media platforms. It is indicative of the sender saying “I’ve been sexually assaulted or harassed too”. This phenomenon demonstrates how pervasive and prevalent sexual assault and/or harassment has been in our society. Each time this issue shows up in the news, it can trigger someone who has survived this type of attack. I’d like to tell you about a client with whom I just finished working who has survived being raped. Her’s is a story of trauma, resilience and healing. She has given me permission to share her story with you. Thank you, Anna, for your courage and commitment to both your and other people’s healing.


Last January, a new client walked into my office. She handed me a book she had written and published about her experience, For Now: Words of a Girl Who Fought Back“. She had been raped  just after high school graduation…by one of her best friends! He was arrested, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to prison. She is now 24 years old and has been dealing with the trauma of the rape for all of these years.

Her Goals for Therapy

Her goals for therapy included:

  1. Working through the trauma of rape
    1. Thinking of the rape: decrease or eliminate
    2. Flashback: decrease or eliminate
    3. Nightmares: decrease or eliminate
    4. Unpair memories of hometown tied to the rape
  2. Feel calm when going to sleep
  3. Feel comfortable about my sexuality; feel comfortable in my body
    1. feel okay receiving attention
    2. Wear whatever clothing I want, when I want

Course of Therapy

Over the 10 months we worked together, we had 16 sessions. During some of them, we talked; during most of them, we did Brainspotting (for more information on Brainspotting, read those pages on my website and/or watch my YouTube video). Brainspotting is a non-verbal technique for accessing and reprocessing trauma in the brain without retraumatizing the person.

After a first session of getting to know each other a bit, our topics included:

  • Goal setting
  • Feeling safe going to sleep and sleep hygiene
  • Diet, relationship with food and self-care
  • Relationship with exercise and self-care
  • Brainspotted (Bsp) “a time she felt good in her body”
  • Bsp “the rape kit”
  • Bsp “feeling broken”
  • The Energy Pie
  • Talked about boundaries
  • Developmental stages of trauma
  • Bsp situations that have arisen around her sexuality
  • Bsp “Ray Bans on her attacker” – her attacker wore these sunglasses; any time she saw a man wearing Ray Bans, it triggered her memories
  • Bsp “her 1st 6 months in college” – she had a lot of health issues in those first 6 months
  • Just prior to the anniversary of the rape, we did Bsp on “the rape”. The timing just felt right for her.
  • Discussed closure with friends who had not been there for her.
  • Bsp “Returning home” including the house in which the rape occurred and seeing people she knows.

After processing and, when needed, discussion of the above, we talked about “her new story”. We discussed continuing self-care including how she eats, exercise, checked in on body image, dietary supplements and brushed up on some lingering anxiety and depression. In our last sessions, Anna mentioned that she’s been able to decrease or eliminate some of her medications. In our last session, Anna recapped what she had learned, what her future challenges could be, and her resources. One thing that has been important to Anna from almost the beginning her experience was to help other survivors of rape through her talking about her experience. In our last sessions, she said this chapter of her life felt done.

Anna’s Perspective After Months of Trauma Therapy Using Brainspotting

The following are some of the clients quotes as we progressed through therapy:

The house isn’t triggering me (the house where she was raped)
No longer scanning the crowd at the local mall
It’s night & day between now and last January
My parents mentioned how relaxed I’ve been [on] this trip
No flashbacks
Not hard on myself like I was before
Gotten less afraid
Been able to understand him better: he was sick and really unwell (describing her attacker)
I see him as more of a person instead of a bad guy (no longer fixated on him as evil)
I have a better sense of who I am and how I’m feeling
[I’m] not waiting for the other shoe to drop
I don’t feel very afraid any more
I have a good awareness of strangers vs fear
While this is about this ct’s rape, this applies to anyone who has experienced trauma and gone through a healing process incorporating their resilience.

The following are Anna’s quotes from our termination session:

My brain relaxed
[I’m] more calm; I know myself better
I stopped rewarding myself with food
Exercise is now something I want to do instead of something I have to do
I’m able to fall asleep by myself now


We’ve heard the term resilience used in various situations. Resilience is the ability of someone to “bounce back” or “go on” after a devastating occurrence. When clients come into my office, I look for resilience. For people who come into therapy, they’ve made it that far. If they haven’t already, I help them go from victim to survivor. In our work together, I hope to help clients go from surviving to thriving; a state where survivor is no longer part of his/her/their identity.

If I can help you “go from surviving to thriving”, call me to schedule an appointment at 303-444-2003.

Trauma, Injury and Illness: The Energy Pie

How Trauma, Injury and Illness Can Rob Us of Energy

Trauma, Injury and Illness: The Energy Pie can rob our energy

Injury or illness can rob us of energy needed for daily life.

Most people have their ups and downs with energy. For those healing from trauma or a physical health issue, the downs happen more frequently and are more profound. The Energy Pie is a device taught to me by Mary Ann Keatley, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, BCIA-C and developed by Mary Lou Acimovic, MA CCC-Sp early in my own healing after a car accident. I found it extremely helpful as have many of  my clients.

The Energy Pie

For people who are in good health, approximately half of their energy is in reserve. The other half is divided between energy used for cognition, emotion and physical. If you are working on something that requires more thought or concentration, you would draw from the energy reserve. If you had a fight with your partner and were dealing with more emotions than usual, you would draw from the reserve for more energy. Similarly, if you were fighting off a cold or other acute illness or physically exerted yourself, you would draw more energy from your reserve.

The Energy Pie by Mary Ann Keatley

People not dealing with illness or injury have an energy reserve.

How Does This Effect Me or My Loved One?

People who have suffered an injury or illness do not have the energy reserve available to them. The energy in the “reserve” is working on healing. That energy is no longer available for everyday use!

The energy pie dealing with fatigue from trauma, illness and injury

For people with trauma, illness or injuries, reserve energy is used to deal with coping and healing.

Without the needed energy reserves:

  • If you need or want to do something that requires more thought or concentration, you would have to pull energy from either emotional energy, physical energy or both..
  • If you had a fight with your partner and were dealing with more emotions than usual, you would have to pull energy from either cognitive energy, physical energy or both.
  • If you were fighting off a cold or other acute illness or physically exerted yourself, you would need to pull energy from cognitive energy, emotional energy or both.

As you can see, there is no extra energy.

How Do I Deal with This?

The first step to dealing with the energy issues resulting from trauma, injury and illness is understanding. The next is about either conserving energy ahead of time or resting up afterward. If you have something you know you have to do, plan ahead: rest up beforehand. If that isn’t possible or enough, plan time to rest after. If you don’t remember to do this, your body/brain will remind you. You will crash!

Support is really important. Help those closest to you understand what is going on. For most health issues, there is a support group. With today’s technology, support can also be found on-line. You may also need help with activities of daily living (e.g. cooking, cleaning, driving, etc.). Many of us have a hard time asking for help. Most people want to help you if they can. Please ask. It will help you, and your loved ones won’t feel so helpless.

Good nutrition to help with Trauma, Injury and Illness

Increase protein, good fats and healthy vegetables to promote healing.

Good nutrition is really important. Not all food is created the same. Whole grains and good fats (e.g. nuts and avocados) will help sustain your energy more than refined grains (think whole grain rice vs. white rice). You may be craving sweets because your body/brain is craving energy. Refined sugar is not your friend. It may look and sound tempting, but your blood sugar will spike and then crash–so that you feel even worse. Same with caffeine. Eating balanced meals with a combination of protein, healthy fat/oil and carbohydrates will help with your energy. Try eating smaller, more frequent meals.

Medications and supplements can aid in healing and energy. Working with a qualified nutritionist or naturopath is a good idea.

Helpful practitioners are an amazing resources. In working with my head injury issues, I worked with a speech pathologist, nutritionist, physical therapist, acupuncturist,and psychotherapist (not necessarily all at the same time). They all helped me in a number of ways. I definitely healed faster than I would have otherwise.

Exercise helps with building stamina. You or your loved one probably is unable to exercise at the same level s/he used to exercise, but it’s still important. Exercise not only helps with stamina and energy, it helps with mood and cognitive ability. Start with simple exercises like 5 – 10 minutes of walking and slowly build if you are able.

How Does It Effect My Relationships?

People don’t understand. If you have a broken leg, people can see the injury. They get it and will help you with the limitations imposed by the cast. When the signs of your injury aren’t readily apparent, friends and family don’t realize that you need help or if they do, they don’t know how to help you. This creates distance, people back off. It creates resentment, guilt, anger and fear for both parties.

This type of injury changes the relationship dynamic:

  • Physical and emotional intimacy suffers
  • Roles and rules change
  • Communication is challenged
  • Resentment builds up
  • Changes in self perception, self worth, and self confidence affects who we are in relationship to others.

These changes, often cause one’s spouse to say they feel like they are married to a stranger. offers some excellent resources for TBI survivors and their loved ones.

Understanding and Coping with Energy Issues

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and other injuries and illnesses have these same effects on our energy and relationships.

Trauma, Injury and Illness: The Energy Pie

You don’t know you are on Empty until it happens.

Think about driving a car with a gas tank, but no fuel gauge. You think you have energy right up to the moment when you have none. You are on empty. Where you are and what you are doing when you hit this wall can be very disturbing. You also have to be aware of who you are with and how they will react to, and impact, your problem – all at a time when you have no energy to cope.


  • getting support for Trauma, Injury and IllnessBe realistic in your expectations and plan appropriately. You can’t schedule your day the way you have in the past. You have to cut back!
  • Schedule in rest time.
  • Prepare in advance as much as you can – from meals to outings; get help in planning and organizing.
  • Get support, be as specific as possible about what you need.
  • Get support in the inevitable grief process for both you and your loved ones.
  • Explain this to your loved ones as best you can.
  • Have your loved ones read this page.

If you would like someone to advocate for you and support you through this process, call me at (303) 444-2003.

6 Critical Questions About PTSD – What You Need To Know


Questions about PTSD Infographic

What is the History of PTSD?

PTSD, (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), or PTS (Post-Traumatic Stress), is a response to a severe or recurrent severe episodes that overwhelm your system.  It is believed to have been around since the evolution of mankind, but first diagnosed as “Soldier’s Heart” after the Civil War.  The term was coined to describe what soldiers experienced in battle:  increased pulse rate and blood pressure, breathlessness, palpitations, dizziness, and fatigue. In WWI, it was called “Shell Shock”; in WWII, “Battle Fatigue”. Whatever this compendium of symptoms is called, it is life changing.

PTSD is experienced by many people other than war veterans.

In 1980, in the DSM III (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), a manual used by the psychiatric, psychological and counseling professions to provide a diagnosis for clients, the term PTSD appeared and was generalized to other traumas. This legitimized the condition and allowed for insurance reimbursement for treatment.

What are the Causes of PTSD?

The possible causes of PTSD are many and varied. Obviously, war is one such source. Others include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Accidents
  • Bullying
  • Witnessing an horrific situation
  • Experiencing a natural disaster, such as a flood

These episodes can occur only once or repeatedly. You may think you are going crazy. You are not! Your system is overwhelmed and doing its best to handle an awful situation. The good news is, you can get your life back!

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?

Typical symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Recurrent, intrusive thoughts
  • Recurring bad dreams of the event
  • Avoiding places and/or activities that remind you of the event
  • Feeling detached from others; sometimes an emotional and/or physical numbness
  • Irritability and/or angry outbursts
  • Hypervigilance (constantly scanning your environment for threats)
  • Problems concentrating
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Not enjoying things you previously enjoyed
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep

 Why Do Some People Develop PTSD Symptoms and Others Do Not?

This is a good question. Genetics may play a part in resilience. Risk factors such as exposure to other traumatic events, chronic use of drugs or alcohol, and life stressors can impact your resilience. Another factor in resilience is how much control you had in that situation. If you could easily remove yourself from the situation, you might not develop PTSD symptoms. If you had little to no control (physically or psychologically), the chances are pretty high that you would develop PTSD.

How Can I Feel Better?

Now that you have a better understanding of PTSD, I’m sure you want to know how you can feel better. Knowing that PTSD is classified as an anxiety disorder may help. Things you can do to feel better when you’re anxious can help some of the PTSD symptoms:

  • Exercise
  • Healthy eating
  • Emotional support
  • Good sleep hygiene (no screen time [computer, television, etc] 2 hours prior to bed; no stimulants [e.g. caffeine] in the evening, and associate your bed with sleep)

When this isn’t enough, get professional help.

How Can Sharon Kocina Change Your Life?

I can help you work through your PTSD symptoms and have your life back. Through behavioral and cognitive therapies, we can work through some of your symptoms.

Through Brainspotting, a non-verbal therapy, you can reprocess the events that have been holding you back:

  • A Safe Space – We create a safe container for you to be able to access resources and distressing events or emotions.
  • Bilateral Processing – By activation alternating hemispheres of the the brain, many people enhance the process of reprocessing.
  • A Brainspot – Through use of where you look, we access the location in the brain where the trauma is stored.
  • Enabling Self Healing – Your Mind/Body knows what it needs to heal. In Brainspotting, we enable this innate process.

You can live a full and active life. Call me at (303) 444-2003 to make an appointment.





Boulder Fire, 2017: 6 Ways to Feel Better

Boulder Fire 2017, Sunshine CanyonWith the latest fire in Boulder County, are you feeling fearful, anxious, depressed and/or a myriad of emotions? You are not going crazy!

Fire season in Colorado used to start in June. This year, due to lack of precipitation (snow & rain), we’ve already had our first fire–in Sunshine Canyon. So far, 62 acres have burned and 426 homes have been evacuated. While no homes have been damaged, the trauma people are experiencing will last a long time. Some people may have flashbacks and other symptoms from having experienced previous natural disasters. In Boulder County in just the past years, we’ve survived the Cold Spring fire, Fourmile Canyon fire, and the flood of 2013.


Some of what you might be feeling or noticing include:

ptsd from forest fire

  • anger
  • feeling detached
  • sad
  • scared
  • panic
  • anxious
  • irritable
  • flashbacks
  • sleep difficulty
  • disturbing dreams.

These can be symptoms of PTSD. I was talking to a friend the other day and he was relating that he was experiencing nightmares and feelings of anxiety. These feelings were related to the recent natural disasters we have experienced in Colorado. He hadn’t talked to anyone about this and, more importantly, he never dealt with these issues when the fire occurred. Until he gets professional help to deal with his PTSD, every time he sees a forest fire, he is going to suffer.

6 Ways to Feel Better

There are many ways to help yourself and your loved ones feel better.

  1. The support of family and friends can relieve stress and reduce the symptoms of ptsd.Reach out to family and friends – As humans we have the wonderful ability to share experiences and support each other through tough times. If people helped you last time, remember that sense of community.
  2. Exercise – This helps relieve stress, even if you just go for a walk or get on the treadmill.
  3. Ground in the present – Fear is about the future. Right here, right now, everything is okay.
  4. Do things you like to do – Taking time for yourself can help refocus your attention away from all the bad news. It also releases endorphins in your brain, which helps you feel better.
  5. Eat well for you – Take care of yourself. While it’s easy to reach for comfort food, it only helps for a few minutes. The effect on your blood sugar and nervous system does not help with your mood.
  6. Seek professional help – Friends and family can be very helpful, but sometimes we need someone with specialized skills and tools to help us to break out of the cycle that is triggering the anxiety and other painful feelings.

If you want or need more help than this, call me at (303) 444-2003.

Through tools such as Brainspotting, I can help you feel better and break the symptom patterns that grab hold of you. Brainspotting is a non-verbal treatment tool that helps you reprocess past traumas. Clients who experience brainspotting are often able to eliminate the underlying sensitivities that are causing the problems.

Trauma, PTSD, Depression: Does Your Life Look Great on the Outside but Feel Bad on the Inside?


After many years in my home, my husband and I realized we needed to repot our numerous house plants. Most of these plants we’ve had for over 16 years. If you know anything about plants, you may realize that, after that amount of time, the plants are probably root-bound. I noticed this issue when we moved one of our big plants off of its stand. The roots had grown through the holes in the bottom of the pot and wrapped around the inside of the drainage dish so many times that it looked like a bird’s nest.plant where the top looks good

It took us a few weeks (pronounced “6”), to get up the resolve to take care of this task. The first plant was the one I just mentioned. There were no surprises. The second plant surprised me. The top of it looked beautiful. The branches looked strong. There was new growth. It flowered every once in a while. I expected to find a nest of roots at the bottom of this plant that we would prune, repot the plant, and it would be happier. Not so. When we gently pulled the plant out of the pot, I realized that there were hardly any roots. Obviously, there was not enough drainage. The soil was very wet and, I assume, the roots rotted. As my husband scrubbed the pot clean, I held the plant together so it didn’t fall apart. That’s how bad it was.plant with root rot

Putting on a Good Face

Now I can imagine you’re wondering why I’m writing about this on a therapist’s blog. I got to thinking that many people are like this. What we see looks good. They put on a good face. They may seem happy or okay on the outside, but like this plant, they are hurting. Inside, they hurt, feel weak, or feel damaged. Last week, a client and I were talking about the face he puts on for the world. Only his close circle of friends and family know of his reality.Individual therapy and counseling sessions in Boulder, CO

If you are tired of putting on a “good face” when that isn’t how you really feel, I can help. I would like to be your compassionate container. I can help you work through that which keeps you from being authentically you – being true to yourself. I can help you work through trauma, fear, depression, anxiety, and relational problems. I can help you go from surviving to thriving.

Call me at 303-444-2003 to schedule an appointment.


Melatonin Helps More Than Sleep

Sleeping Man Dreams of Melatonin
I just read an article in the April, 2016 issue of Psychology Today about Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) being much more helpful to people than previously thought. When it comes to Melatonin and sleep, I knew that Melatonin regulated one’s circadian rhythm (internal body clock that is synchronized to light/dark cycles and other environmental cues), but I didn’t know about it’s other benefits.

Some of the following information is from Psychology Today’s April, 2016 edition, University of Maryland Medical Center’s website and other websites.

What is It and How Does It Work?

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the Pineal Gland that regulates sleep. It has long been used instead of counting sheep. When the Melatonin system is working well, it’s level rises at night to facilitate falling asleep. The level stays high during the night so that we stay asleep. As morning comes, the level of Melatonin drops so that we can wake up for the day.

Many things can effect one’s level of Melatonin including:

  • Melatonin production can be impacted by jet lagHigh stress levels
  • Traveling between time zones
  • Night shift work
  • Aging
  • Blue Light (as in computer and smart phone screen time in the two hours before bed)


Melatonin – Exciting New Information About the Benefits

According to research, in addition to sleep, Melatonin may:

  • Decrease neurodegeneration (nerve decline) caused by amyloid beta and tau proteins. Damage caused by amyloid beta and tau proteins is found in people with Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Lower risk of stroke.
  • Help with depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
  • Minimize inflammation (including from traumatic brain injury) and oxidative stress (which effects one’s potential to develop cancer). It may help strengthen the immune system. It is a potent antioxidant.
  • Aid in timing the release of female reproductive hormones.


How to Beneficially Increase Melatonin Levels in Our Bodies

  • Several sources mention tart cherries as containing the highest amount of Melatonin. For a chart of food with Melatonin, click on: Immune Health Science.
  • Cherries help melatonin production sharon kocina boulder coIn addition, according to the Natural Society, the following foods help boost Melatonin:
    • Pineapples
    • Bananas
    • Oranges
    • Oats
    • Sweet corn
    • Rice
    • Tomatoes
    • Barley
  • Blue lights, such as those given off by smartphones and tablets, suppress Melatonin production, thereby, potentially affecting one’s sleep. Turn off the computer and cell phone at least 2 hours before bedtime. 
  • Melatonin passes through the blood-brain barrier which boosts it’s effectiveness.


Supplements and Melatonin

Melatonin supplements aid can aid sleep and other conditionsAs with all supplements, they are unregulated and may not always reliably contain the claimed ingredients. Dosing can be a problem as many over the counter supplements contain more Melatonin than the body uses. Talk to someone you trust working in the vitamin and supplement department in your local health food store. If possible, look for supplements that are GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certified.

The best approach of Melatonin supplementation is to begin with very low doses. Different people have different responses, so start the dose below the amount that our bodies normally produce (< 0.3 mg per day). You should use the lowest amount possible to achieve the desired effect. Your health care practitioner can help you determine the most appropriate dose for your condition(s).


As with any medication or supplement, check with your health professionals to see if Melatonin is a good idea for you. It could have interactions with medication or other supplements you are taking.

If sleep is eluding you or if I can help with any of these issues, call me at 303-444-2003.