Something big happened last Sunday – big for countless individuals who are struggling in their lives, but also big for our society. Thanks to Oprah Winfrey, the world was introduced to the concept of Developmental Trauma (on CBS 60 Minutes).
Oprah calls this a “game changer”. As she writes: “This is one of the most life changing stories I’ve ever done. I hope it starts a Revolution in helping people.”
A similar game changer occurred in the early 1980s when Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was introduced. PTSD helped us conceptualize what happens to individuals and societies in the aftermath of life-threatening events like war, environmental catastrophes, and human-made disasters like school shootings, car accidents and sexual assaults.
But Developmental Trauma is unique and different than PTSD. There are even new proposed mental health diagnoses to capture this – what we refer to as Developmental Trauma Disorder or C-PTSD (Complex PTSD).
Oprah has tapped into a movement that we refer to as “Trauma-Informed Care”: trauma-informed psychological treatment, schools, hospitals, even organizational systems. Looking through trauma-informed lenses is changing the way we view how humans develop, how they manage life challenges, and what they need to best support them for learning, healing and growth.
Based on ground-breaking research known as the ACEs Study (Adverse Childhood Experiences), we now recognize the long-term effects of early, childhood trauma. The effects often look different than how PTSD looks, and often present as anxiety, depression, learning difficulties, ADHD, eating and substance abuse disorders, relational challenges and various medical symptoms and disorders. Because there has been no recognition of developmental trauma, we have often treated these symptoms and disorders without recognizing the cause of them – early childhood trauma.
Although most childhood trauma was not immediately life-threatening, these experiences still caused great damage and long-lasting wounds. For many people hearing this for the first time it might sound scary. And the next thought may be, “do I have to relive my childhood to heal from these patterns?” Most of us don’t want to revisit our trauma; we want to move beyond it.
Thankfully, there are therapeutic models that are specifically designed to help individuals heal their developmental trauma. And one such model, the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM), does not require individuals to revisit or relive their past, but instead, focuses on the patterns that are affecting us right here, right now in our present lives.
NARM is an integrative, body-mind approach that helps individuals shift these life-long patterns emerging from relational and developmental trauma. As outlined in the book, Healing Developmental Trauma, NARM presents a map for this trauma-informed movement. Individuals who have received NARM treatment often report feeling more balanced, present, mindful, regulated, open and available for deeper connection to oneself and others.
While trauma can have devastating effects, there is hope. We recognize that the healing of developmental trauma can be a pathway to personal and social transformation.
The trauma-informed revolution has arrived – and it is a “game changer”. Fortunately, there are also game-changing healing approaches that will address developmental trauma, and we believe, lead to greater healing and peace in our world. Thank you Oprah!