Brief Targeted Therapy
on Orcas Island
Michael Elder, MFT
Certified Trauma Specialist


Trauma is the experience of helplessness frozen in the structures of the body. Intimacy is the experience of being vulnerable with another, and feeling safe. You cannot feel safe and helpless at the same time. Therefor trauma inhibits intimacy.

Trauma is not the event where real or threatened death, injury, or abandonment of self or other occurred but your reaction to that event. These reactions happen "subcortically" or in brain structures more primitive than, and not necessarily under the control of, the thinking parts of the brain that we generally identify as our mind.

A part of this neurological response is to isolate overwhelming material away from the more complicated and delicate cortical structures to prevent an immediate overwhelm and shut down that could threaten survival. Years later, this can be experienced as emotions or actions that we know are inappropriate to the present situation but are helpless to change. In some more extreme cases they become a persistent world view that cannot be altered by evidence, logic, or negative consequences.

The precipitating event need not be one of physical risk to self or other. While war, rape, and car accidents are generally acknowledged as traumatic, the 1st grade Valentine incident or soap box derby crisis, discounted by the adult mind as "normal", can still create a trauma response that affects our thinking and behavior years later.

Not all emotional difficulties are the result of trauma; however, painful, overwhelming experiences often affect our world view and patterns of behavior, even years after the event, in ways that often do not serve us. I have assembled a set of skills designed to help restore healing change to the frozen experience of helplessness. This allows a clear path for building experiences of competence, safety, and appropriate responsibility.