Religious Trauma: An Interview with Dr. Bethany Rothamel

Religious Trauma: An Interview with Dr. Bethany Rothamel

Exploring religious trauma in therapy

Spiritual abuse and trauma is a growing area of study as we begin to take a critical look at the ways in which our relationship to organized religion and doctrinal faith impact our mental health. At Dallas Therapy Collective, we specialize in identifying and treating trauma, and we actively seek practitioners that already have a specialty in spiritual trauma or have a desire to learn. 

Bethan Rothamel is one such practitioner.

Bethany came to DTC for her postdoc fellowship in 2020 (what a year, right), and has been a valuable asset to the collective as she studies and works under Dr. Keller. We had the opportunity and privilege to sit down with her to discuss her experience treating survivors of spiritual abuse, and we’d love to share what she had to say:

How did you get connected with Dr. Keller for your post doc?

I knew Kathryn from our graduate program and had a chance to work more closely with her at the UT Dallas student counseling center where we both trained. 

I felt connected to Kathryn’s shared relational approach to therapy and supervision and remembered her talking about her dissertation research on spiritual abuse at that time. It blew me away how similar facets of spiritual trauma were to dynamics of interpersonal violence (e.g., physical, emotional, and sexual abuse), my initial clinical area of interest and training. 

When it was time for me to find a postdoc position, I wanted to land somewhere with colleagues who also approached their work from a trauma-informed lens, so I immediately thought of Kathryn and Dallas Therapy Collective. Working with survivors of spiritual abuse sounded appealing in that I could bring my background in trauma to the forefront of my clinical work, while also deepening my understanding of elements specific to spiritual trauma through consultation with Kathryn.

Were religious abuse survivors a population you were already interested in working with? If so, what attracted you to that work?

Yes! Although I hadn’t necessarily sought out working with this population specifically, I found myself diving into meaningful conversations with clients about the role spirituality played (or didn’t play) in their upbringing, values development, and relationships. 

Some shared about how spirituality enriched their lives and provided a source of community or coping, while others identified various pressures or values clashes that arose as they navigated their personal and spiritual lives. 

Some of my clients would come to therapy wanting to work on anxiety concerns, leading to shared surprise when we uncovered how deeply entrenched their anxiety was in spiritual trauma. 

Clients who were taught to prioritize others above themselves through their faith shared how difficult it was to seek out therapy, let alone spend an hour focusing on their needs! 

Others explored deep shame about their sexual health due to spoken or unspoken messages about sex being a taboo topic. 

My work with gender expansive and queer folx fostered painful conversations about being ostracized from the church for being their authentic selves—the most palpable form of rejection. 

Some clients wanted to reclaim their faith identities but had no idea where to start—the hurt had to be expressed and validated before true healing and spiritual reconnection could occur.

Once I realized that spirituality played a role in many of my clients’ experiences of trauma, it became even more crucial to engage my clients in discussions about their spiritual histories.

What were some hesitations or uncertainties you had about working with survivors?

One of my initial concerns was that I wanted to make survivors of spiritual abuse feel emotionally comfortable to talk about their pain without invalidating their desire to maintain a religious identity (or not). I pride myself on being relationally collaborative with clients, so I tend to express curiosity about their interests as it relates to spiritual deconstruction and/or reconstruction.

What are some things you’ve learned about religious abuse and working with religious abuse survivors?

As aforementioned, it struck me how many similarities there are between spiritual abuse and interpersonal violence. Here’s one example. Survivors of abuse are often well acquainted with the term (and the experience of) gaslighting, which I translate to “crazy-making” or “sowing seeds of doubt.” For instance, if you claim with confidence that the ocean is blue, but a room full of people insists it’s red, you’ll likely begin to question yourself: “Am I the one who’s wrong here?” Often, survivors of trauma are told their experiences of abuse didn’t happen that way—or, even worse—at all. In some spiritual communities, gaslighting is a tactic used to downplay the impact of religious trauma, which protects the image of the community at the expense of the survivor’s well-being.

One of the biggest themes that tends to emerge in my work with survivors of spiritual abuse is having an underdeveloped sense of self. An emphasis upon serving others or a higher being(s) is not inherently bad—many communities thrive through shared collectivistic values and it can feel fulfilling to support others. At the same time, it’s really hard to pour from an empty cup. If we’re constantly serving others at the expense of ourselves, we develop a new normal in which our basic needs don’t need to be met, our emotions seem selfish or unknown, and we sacrifice our own identity development.  

Finally, we all hold morals and values regardless of our affiliation or lack thereof with a spiritual community or faith.

What has been the most impactful part of this journey for you?

For me, the most impactful part of any trauma work is bearing witness to clients regaining a sense of self and ability to trust after their emotional or physical safety has been violated. For survivors of spiritual trauma, this may look like being able to identify their needs, enter a spiritual space again, trust authority figures, or live according to their authentic values.

Is there anything you want to say to someone who may be reading this and wondering if they’ve experienced religious abuse?

Trust your experience. Our brains and bodies are wired to alert us when we encounter actual or potential harm. If you’re not sure if what you’ve experienced or are currently experiencing constitutes spiritual abuse, try to approach your experience with gentle curiosity rather than criticism or self-doubt.

Acknowledging that spiritual abuse is happening does not mean you cannot have a healthy relationship with your faith if desired. Therapy can help you determine which spiritual values fit for you and which ones do not. It’s also okay to decide to move away from a faith identity.


Are you looking for a therapist in Dallas, TX to explore issues related to spiritual abuse or religious trauma? We have specialitsts who work with this issue. Check out our specialty page to learn more about what we offer and to see if one of our therapists might be a good fit for you!

LGBTQ+ Therapy

LGBTQ+ Therapy

LGBTQ+ Therapy

Things Therapists Need to Know 

As mental health providers, we’re taught that all of our biases or personal beliefs are not to be brought into the session, as if they are a favored hat or scarf that we’ll need to hang on the coat rack prior to meeting with the client. Relegating implicit biases to something that can be brought or left behind is fundamentally flawed and mitigates any responsibility we have as healers and humans to intentionally acknowledge and actively work against them during a session. It’s in direct conflict with what we know about countertransference. Teaching that we can leave our biases at the door is not only disingenuous, but also dangerous. 

The cultural discourse around the 2SLGBTQIA+ experience and existence is changing, but we are all currently the product of a cisgendered and heteronormative social conditioning that directly informs our perceptions and beliefs about LGBTQ+ clients. As a result, we must consciously acknowledge what we’re bringing into the session and how it impacts our ability to guide our clients in their own self-discovery, creation, and healing. Many therapist will feel confident in treating LGBTQ+ clients, say they specialize in gay issues, or go so far as to label themselves an ally without recognition of their implicit or explicit biases. 

Let’s start by taking a look at how our language in a session can reflect these biases:

Using antiquated and charged terminology like the word “lifestyle” or “preference” when discussing sexual identity.

A lifestyle is a way of life that has been chosen. A sexual identity is not a chosen way of life. This view of sexuality immediately disrupts the therapeutic relationship.  

Conflating “gender” and “sex.”

Gender is an ever-changing social construct that is historically determined by the majority in power at any given time. Biological sex is defined by “male,” “female,” and “intersex.” Conflating the two or attempting to correct our client’s identity expression induces shame, confusion, and, many times, anger. 

“Same-sex attraction”

This term has its roots in western Christianity and is oftentimes a trigger for a client that has experienced spiritual trauma. 

Not using person-first language.

Using technical or charged language like “homosexual” and using an identity as a stand-in for the person (such as saying “transgenders” instead of a transgender person) disconnects us from any common ground by creating a barrier of technicalities and discomfort. Reflecting our client’s language around their identity or sexuality is an easy way to meet them where they’re at. 

Now let’s take a look at how our biases can inform treatment plans:

“You may need to choose between your sexuality and your faith.”

Belief systems are a chosen aspect of our identity while sexuality is not. This bias reinforces the notion that Christianity and LGBTQ+ clients are on opposing sides as well as the bias that Christianity is as integral to human existence as sexuality. 

“If they are struggling with their sexuality, I would ask about childhood sexual trauma.”

The belief that non-heterosexual identities have a cause is a direct result of heteronormative bias. It supports and perpetuates a worldview that centers and upholds heterosexuality as the default sexuality despite an overwhelming amount of research that disproves it. 

Additionally, this is an important example of the research differences in correlation vs causation. You may find a correlation between clients who are LGBTQ+ and those that had childhood sexual trauma, however, the numbers do not indicate a causational relationship. One might also keep in mind the ethical concerns found in resolving trauma through “correcting” sexual orientation or gender expression.

“You might be rebelling with bisexuality because of your previous abusive relationship.” 

This is another bias that upholds the notion of sexuality as a choice, as well as heterosexuality as the default. It is also a dismissal of bisexuality as an orientation. 

“If I can treat their depression/anxiety/trauma, that will address their LGBTQ issues as well.”

This decenters the very real issues the LGBTQ community faces as the result of heteronormativity and cisgenderism, as well as any intersectional issues. This minimization or dismissal of our client’s lived experiences will not address their mental health concerns, and may, in fact, exacerbate them.  

Confidently addressing depression, anxiety, trauma, and other issues that a member of the LGBTQ community may have is not the same as specializing in or being able to treat LGBTQ issues.  

Recognizing and understanding your biases will help you recognize and understand the barriers your clients are facing in treatment and the ones they face in finding a therapist in the first place. 

How do we ensure that we are competent and confident in treating our LGBTQIA+ clients?

There are a few key areas that demand intentionality and ongoing attention if we are to serve this community:


Our allyship should be apparent on our website and marketing pages. “Gay issues” should not just be a badge on our profile under “specialties.” If we have a resource page, there should be links to reputable resources for the community. If we have media on your website, there should be diverse representation of couples and individuals. It’s not enough to say that we are allies, because an “ally” is defined by their actions and not just their words.


How many therapists that identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ are we in close contact with? Are we including them in the conversation? Are we looking to their expertise and the content they are producing on this topic? Are we moving past saving a seat at the table and ensuring that we’re removing the barriers that may prevent them from filling the seat?


I’m sure many of us know statistics and facts about other populations we serve, such as the mortality rate of domestic violence victims or the statistics around leaving an abuser. I’m sure most of us know the primary and secondary symptoms of diagnoses we specialize in treating, and many probably even know the tertiary ones. How many of us knew what the “2S” stood for in the 2SLGBTQIA+ acronym prior to reading this article and looking it up? How many of us know the history of the Queer Liberation Movement? Do we know the status of conversion therapy legislature or the statistics of suicidality in the LGBTQ community? If we don’t know the granular details of an issue, how can we consider ourselves competent in addressing it? 

There are many educational resources available for continuing, or initial, education on the LGBTQ community and the unique challenges they have and are currently facing. The Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, PFLAG, LGBTQHistory, and even the APA have free courses and resources available. EdX and Coursera offer certified courses in relevant arenas. Follow LGBTQ identified therapists on social media, and ask proclaimed allied ones questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your clients questions when they mention a term you’re unfamiliar with.  


We cannot accept a client that is a member of the LGBTQ community if we have not done the work of recognizing and addressing our biases. If we cannot recognize that we are a product of a heteronormative and cisgender-centered society that has indoctrinated us with biases and beliefs, than we cannot treat a client effectively.  

If we are not actively educating ourselves on LGBTQ issues and do not have LGBTQ representation in our personal or professional lives, then we must recognize that serving an LGBTQ client is outside of our scope of practice. However, it’s also important to recognize that there are many ethical debates about referring a potential client based on their sexual orientation or gender identity alone. 

In conclusion 

Our understanding of ourselves and of one another is constantly evolving. There is room for uncertainty and there is room for imperfection, but only within spaces of intentional growth and development. Understanding lived experience, intersectionalities, and the historical components of our client’s identities are critical aspects of our ability to not only treat them, but to also continue moving the needle towards a more inclusive and healthy society. 

We encourage everyone to look into the aforementioned resources to begin or continue the journey in treating the LGBTQ community, as well as identify new resources that you can add to your resource list and share with others. Write down the questions you have and the answers you’ve found. Have conversations with others about your journey and ask about theirs. Be curious, and be intentional. 


Are you looking for a therapist in Dallas, TX to explore issues related to sexual or affectional identity? We have specialitsts who work with the LGBTQAI+ community that offer various niches within this community. Check out our specialty page to learn more about what we offer and to see if one of our therapists might be a good fit for you!

COVID-19 and Your Mental Health

COVID-19 and Your Mental Health

The Impacts of COVID-19 on Your Mental Health

As trauma therapists, we’ve seen the impact of COVID-19 and quarantining first hand. And we’ve even felt the impacts ourselves. From spending more time than usual at home, to hearing statements like these more than we ever thought we would:

“How’s your quarantine coming?

“How are you holding up with all of this craziness?”

“Do you like my new facemask? My grandma made it.”

“Hey, do you know what day the store stocks toilet paper?”

It’s odd… isn’t it? That these statements are our new normal. Most of us have been stuck at home for almost two months now and the end may be near in Dallas, but the fear that comes with that can be debilitating. We all have so many questions that go unanswered and yet have so much time to dwell on the unknown.

Maybe for some of you, this quarantine has been a great time to catch up on things, get that extra workout in, and spend more time with your loved ones.

For others, it may not seem so pleasant.

This may be the first time that you’ve truly felt out of control, you don’t know what’s coming next and the idea of staying in the house another day seems almost unbearable. You want your freedom back, you want your routine back, and frankly, you just want your life to feel like your own again. For some people, COVID-19 is amping up their anxiety. For some, their response is manifesting as depression. For others, it’s activating past experiences of trauma and feeling out of control. 

Today we’re going to dive into some difficulties that some of you may be going through during this pandemic and we’ll explore some coping strategies to help you get through COVID-19.

Common responses to COVID-19

Although there are some people that are enjoying this quarantine, the majority of people are starting to feel it wear themselves down. It seems that the longer it goes on, the harder it gets. Anxiety is spiking. Depression is louder than ever. Social isolation is tough.

But… no matter what you feel, you’re not alone in this and your feelings are valid.

Most people have never been through an experience like this before and it can be difficult to know how to respond. So let’s take a look at some of the difficulties you may be experiencing right now:

1) Social Isolation

We are naturally social beings. Yes, even you introverted ones need people too. Most of you will say that being with people gives you energy, makes you feel loved, and keeps you more active.

This may be the longest you’ve gone without seeing friends or relatives and it’s starting to take a toll.

Going without your loved ones may be causing you to feel sad, lonely, and maybe even a bit lost.

2) Anxiety

Maybe you’ve been dealing with anxiety for a long time and this quarantine is making it more difficult to maintain balance. Or maybe you’ve never had any history of anxiety and yet you find yourself feeling restless and worrisome with uncontrollable thoughts. These anxious feelings are normal in times like these.

Feeling out of control is scary and if we only knew what came next it would put your mind at ease. But we don’t, and the thought of the unknown is keeping you up at night.

3) Dreams and nightmares

This is a common response to any sort of crisis. You are constantly hearing about the negativities coming from COVID-19, you have so much time to dwell on it, and it has impacted your everyday life immensely.

Being surrounded by talk of COVID-19 and the stress that comes with it can definitely lead to vivid dreams and scary nightmares. In a way, it can be an outlet for your mind to try and process the craziness of your everyday life.

Dreams and nightmares can also come about when you are feeling a lack of control in your life. You may be feeling tired, exhausted, and stressed with a yearning for peace again.

4) Drinking more than your normal

When people drink, they typically do it because they want to “loosen up” or even let go and feel less in control. So it makes complete sense that in the middle of a pandemic you start drinking more. Drinking may be your way of coping with some of the worries you have around this pandemic.

Or it can be less about your worries and more about things like.. you’re in the house… a lot, you don’t have to stress about early mornings with the kids, and…you’re probably bored. It’s important to make sure that your increase in drinking doesn’t become your only outlet for your fear or boredom.

Although all of these responses to COVID-19 are difficult to be dealing with, they’re all valid. It’s hard to feel alone and it’s difficult to feel like you’re not in control of your life.

Waking up to nightmares and strange dreams can be challenging when you feel like your everyday life is already a nightmare. And drinking may be fun in the moment, but maybe when you wake up you realize your worries haven’t gone away.

So what are some healthy ways to help you cope during this pandemic?

Coping mechanisms for COVID-19

1) Focus on what you can control

It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the things that are going wrong right now. Whether it be an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, a lack of proper materials, or the current state of the economy, they can overwhelm us when we dwell on them too long.

One way to help ease your worry is to focus on what you can control. This is actually a wonderful strategy for anxiety management.

There is a little exercise that can help you put things into perspective for you. Take out a sheet of paper and draw a big circle in the middle. Inside the circle, begin writing things that you are in control of. This can be your daily routine, what you eat, your attitude, etc.

On the outside of the circle, you will write down things that are out of your control. This can include any of the unknown things like when everything will open back up, what the weather will be, how many more people are going to be affected, etc.

The point of this exercise is to help you see the things that you can focus on. It may be important for you to know what’s going on in the world and with the community around you, and it’s great that you want to be informed! However, there’s a difference between knowing and dwelling. When you dwell on the knowledge you begin to worry about things that are out of your control.

When you’re worried about something out of your inner circle of control try letting it go and picking something within your circle that you can work on. This can help bring a sense of control to your life.

 2) Make a routine

As much as you may love a vacation for a week when you can just go with the flow and not stress about anything, there’s a point where you want to have structure again. And that’s exactly how many people are feeling now.

Humans are naturally routined creatures. Have you ever walked into a new class where there wasn’t assigned seating so the choice of an uncomfortable plastic chair was all yours?

Maybe you’re the front row, raise your hand type of student, or the back row, texting in class one. Either way, what happens the next time you go back to that class?

You pick the same seat. Sometimes you even feel like it’s YOURS…

“How dare Becky think she can take my spot the third week into courses!”


That’s because routines give us control.

They calm your anxiety by helping you know what’s coming next, and they give your mind space to work on other things since you’re decreasing the number of decisions to be made.

This is exactly why making a routine for yourself now may be the answer to your worries.

Insider tip: this is also FANTASTIC for you moms and dads with children. You can create weekly schedules or day-to-day ones to help your youngins have some structure. Maybe less screen time and more say… quiet time? Chores? The possibilities are endless.

3) Exercise or Pick up Hobbies

The benefits of exercising in times like these are immense. You can add it to your daily routine to make you feel more productive, you can experience the rush of endorphins to make you feel positive, and you can be proud that you’re staying disciplined in the midst of the unknown.

You can get a good workout at home in just 20 minutes a day. There’s HIIT cardio or circuit training to help get your heart rate up by doing simple body movements.

20 minutes of this and you’ll be ready to take your second morning nap. Even going outside and walking for 20 minutes can help you feel better! And it’s also a great way to get the whole family involved.

If exercising isn’t your thing or maybe you’ve already been getting your daily sweat in (good job to you!) then another easy thing to add to your routine is a new hobby.

Maybe it’s time to take out those crochet needles, blow off the dust on that piano, or get to smashing the glass for your stone mosaics.

Whatever it is, getting creative and trying out new things can make the mundane of everyday life seem a bit more manageable and even more enjoyable.

4) Journal and Meditate

With all of your new hobbies and your exciting new routine, it can be easy to try and cover up the things that have been making you worry. Of course, as therapists, we’re not condoning ignoring your feelings…

On the next trip to the store get yourself one of those $1 notebooks. Something that can strictly be used for your thoughts and feelings. Now, this isn’t going to be a notebook that gets slid under the couch and forgotten about. This is a special notebook. Do you know why it’s so special?

Cause you’re actually going to use it.

I want you to write anything you find yourself worrying about, any dreams you have, anything that causes your anxiety to spike or that triggers you.

Writing it all down and getting the thoughts out of your head can help you process what you’re feeling. It can help you work through those feelings to help you understand what’s causing them.

And of course, pairing that journaling with meditation may benefit you more than you know. The amygdala in your brain helps to regulate emotions and deals with emotions around fear. And scientific evidence is now suggesting that meditation helps to calm your amygdala.

This means that your consistent meditation can help give you a sense of peace and control over your fleeting thoughts. And it can also be a way for you to decrease the activity of your amygdala leading to higher levels of relaxation.

This quarantine hasn’t been easy for most of you. Maybe you thought you’d really enjoy all of this time being at home, but it’s actually been way harder than you expected. Maybe this experience has been triggering for you, and you’ve been feeling like you have no control of your life anymore.

I’m hoping these coping mechanisms can help make this pandemic a bit easier, but if you’re still feeling the negative impact of this pandemic and want to explore those feelings together, please reach out to us. We’re ready to start this journey with you.

Are you looking for a therapist in Dallas, TX for anxiety, depression, or trauma counseling? Check out our specialty page to learn more about what we offer and to see if one of our therapists might be a good fit for you!

Making Sense of Your Trauma

Making Sense of Your Trauma

Did you know that there are different types of trauma?

I know right… Why can’t things just be simple? Why does there have to be tall, grande, and venti when small, medium, and large have been working out so great?

I agree, we definitely could’ve stayed with small, medium, and large… However, when it comes to trauma it is important to be a bit more specific. Are you experiencing Big T trauma or Little T trauma?

Wait… What about PTSD? How do you know if you’re experiencing that?

Keep an eye out for that post later on…

Knowing the difference between these types of traumas can not only help you understand what you’ve been experiencing but also help you find ways to cope and work through your feelings.

This post is going to give you a bit of insight on two different types of traumas. And it’s even going to give you a few tips from us trauma therapists about what can help.

What is a Little T Trauma?

The word ‘Little’ is definitely not meant to minimize the type of trauma that you’ve been through. Little T traumas involve stressful events that don’t necessarily threaten our lives per se, but they can certainly overwhelm our system.

Has a pet died? Have you gone through a breakup? Have you had ongoing financial stress? Maybe you’re dealing with a relentlessly critical employer. Have you experienced chronic insults or slights from a family member, friend, or partner?

These things may not be life-threatening in and of themselves, but they can be threatening to your emotional state and mental peace. Every person deals with situations differently. Some try to brush off a relationship like it was nothing. While others are laying under the bed (yes under) stuffing their face with the newest flavor from their best friends Ben & Jerry.

These events do affect everyone differently, but they can still be the cause of significant emotional damage. You may have been reading those scenarios and been thinking that they’re just simple parts of life…

And you’re right. But the thing is, if not dealt with, they can lead to bigger emotional struggles. Especially if you’ve experienced more than one Little T Trauma at a time or the Little T trauma is chronic. When you don’t deal with the situation, all of the feelings associated with your Little T Trauma begin to add up and impact your life even more.

Maybe you’re going through these situations or have gone through them feeling like you have to look “tough.” Or you may even be feeling shame that you’re so bent up about them..

It’s important to remind yourself that it’s okay to be sad and it’s good to allow yourself to feel. Don’t simply brush them off. Instead, allow yourself to work through those difficult emotions and express them.

What is a Big T Trauma?

Have you ever experienced something that left you feeling completely helpless?

Maybe it was a car accident that left you more shook up than you were expecting, or even left you with bodily harm. You can’t get that image out of your head. Maybe it was that night where saying “no” wasn’t respected. The night you experienced sexual assault and you still can’t believe it happened to you. It may have been a huge natural disaster that left your home destroyed, and you haven’t felt safe since.

Did you notice what all of these scenarios have in common?

They all put your physical, psychological, and emotional self at risk. And they can all leave you feeling absolutely helpless. Like your life is somehow out of your control. You couldn’t control that awful situation so you begin trying to avoid anything like it.

Some people will never drive a car again, relying solely on trains and buses. Maybe you’ve decided to never date or avoid relationships all together because that person you thought you could trust violated you. Others go the opposite way and engage in lots of unsafe sex with the illusion of taking back control. Regardless, the way that you deal with your Big T Trauma can lead to the type of avoidance that affects your everyday life and even your daily functioning.

Avoidance may seem like the answer. Staying away from everything that even hints at the reminder of that traumatic event. This way you don’t have to ever experience those feelings of helplessness again… Right?


Have you ever done the mental game where someone says, “Don’t think about a polar bear?” And then of course what’s the one thing you can’t stop thinking about… a polar bear! Well, this same thing happens when you try to avoid your Big T Trauma.

The problem is, even when you try to forget about it, your body doesn’t let you. You may have nightmares and flashbacks that you can’t shake. Or you may even have physical symptoms that are your body’s way of saying, “Pay attention to me. I need to deal with this!”

Those feelings of helplessness, of shame, or maybe even guilt from not being able to do something about it can’t be covered up. Put an elephant in a room, cover it with a giant blanket, and you’re still going to know an elephant is there. The blanket of avoidance simply doesn’t work.

I couldn’t exactly find an elephant with a blanket on, so this cute pug (above!) will have to do.

Okay. Back to business.

Of course, working through the traumatic experience and the feelings that are involved is scary! You have to be vulnerable and open. You may even have to cry… (Don’t worry, we think crying is great).

But honestly, you may not even realize how your Big T Trauma has been affecting you. All you know is that you should try to work through it because you’re not quite sure if you’ve been dealing with it in the “right” way (which is, of course, different for everyone).

The best advice is to simply not avoid your Big T Trauma experience. Allow yourself to feel your feelings.

How should you deal with your trauma?

As I mentioned, not avoiding your trauma is important. Allowing yourself to experience emotions is an important step in working through your trauma whether it be Little T or Big T.

These are a few of the things that can help you:

1) Meditate

Have you ever tried meditating? I know, it sounds like it’s the next big wave on the scene right now, but all of the studies are pointing to how beneficial it can be for your mental state. And it definitely doesn’t have to be a spiritual practice if that’s not your thing.

Meditating can help you not only be aware of the thoughts going in and out of your mind but also help with controlling the negative thoughts around the traumatic situation that you’ve experienced. That’s not too bad for only 10 minutes of focus a day.

It’s important to note that for some people, mindful meditation can have very positive effects as mentioned above. But for some, it may lead to further emotional distress. Start slow and see if meditating works well for you

2) Go have fun!

You’re probably thinking, “What… that’s your solution?” I know, I know. It sounds way too simple, but I thought you liked simple… Remember the small, medium, and large thing?

Really though, allowing yourself to enjoy time with friends, family, or even spending time by yourself can help remind you that there’s joy in the present (even while you’re working through your trauma).

Remember the things that set your soul on fire, the ones that give you joy, and go do them. Even going on a walk in nature can have more of a positive impact on your mental health than you’d expect.

3) Talk with a trauma therapist

You already knew this one was coming, didn’t you?

Imagine your electricity gets shut off. You know you paid the bill on time, you know you didn’t blow a fuse from using your microwave while blow-drying your hair. So what do you do next?

Call up your local pizza shop since you can’t heat up that three-day old Chinese food? Maybe… But only if you’re not seeing the big picture. Yeah, your microwave isn’t working but everything else in your comfy living situation is being affected too.  And it’s no different when it comes to your mental health.

We all know you should call an electrician when your electricity goes out. You can sit there and dwell on your daily pizza eating habits, but you’ll be baking in the 1000 degree heat of a Texas summer in no time. Not to mention no lights, no charging your cell phone, no tv… the list goes on and on.

So with your mental health, you can sit there and focus on your daily routine. Getting to work on time (Or at least close enough to being on time), taking out the dog when she needs to go, making sure you’ve eaten. But you’re forgetting about the big picture.

The big picture is your overall mental health. Being able to experience joy, not constantly trying to avoid the thoughts and feelings surrounding the traumatic experience that you’ve had, and being able to feel alive again.

But if you’re trying to throw an avoidance blanket over your traumatic experience, and just let it be… You may start to see how these traumatic events begin to affect every single area of your life. No matter how hard you try to not think about it.

Don’t just focus on your microwave. Your feelings need to be embraced. Whether it’s a Little T Trauma or a Big T Trauma, you’re allowed to feel. You’re allowed to work through it. You deserve to feel safe and empowered.

If you want to see how a trauma therapist can help, please give us a call. We’d love to hear from you. And I promise we won’t only talk about animals and food.


Childhood Trauma Counseling

Are you looking for a therapist in Dallas, TX for childhood trauma counseling? Check out our specialty page to learn more about childhood trauma and to see if one of our therapists might be a good fit for you!

Drama Triangle (Part 1)

Drama Triangle (Part 1)



Here at DTC, we work a lot with people seeking childhood trauma counseling. If you’re reading this blog, you may have experienced trauma yourself, or maybe you’re close to someone who has experienced trauma and you want a better way to understand them. That’s why today’s post on the drama triangle might give a helpful framework to help you better understand what happens in relationships when past unresolved trauma runs the show. I hope this is helpful for you to not only better understand what’s going on, but also gain some tools to stop the cycle and find a way out!

What is the Drama Triangle?

The drama triangle was a theory created by a therapist named Stephen Karpman to describe a pattern of drama-intense relationships in which people can get stuck. Also called the “trauma triangle,” this is a pattern of relating that I’ve noticed with many of my clients who experience trauma.  Essentially, the theory states that we can get stuck in a pattern of falling Victim, Rescuer, or Perpetrator/Persecutor in relationships with ourselves and others. (NOTE: please read this post with the ultimate empathy! Remember, realizing that you might fall into these patterns does not make you a bad or a “crazy” person. It just makes you a person who is working really hard to find a better solution!)

Who gets trapped in it?

Often people who have experienced trauma, especially complex trauma over the course of many years, feel stuck emotionally in their traumatic experiences. These individuals may find themselves in relationships with others who may draw them into these drama-triangle patterns so that they feel forced into taking one of the three roles. Or, because perspective can be tricky, they might view otherwise healthy (i.e., non-abusive) relationships as stuck in the triangle. Regardless, it’s a very helpless pattern.

I really like this model for a few reasons. One, its pretty easy to understand, and I’ve found that many of my clients with trauma and attachment issues find it pretty spot on in their lives. Two, a model like this gives a clearer path for a solution out solution (tune into Part Two on how to get out of this triangle!). Lets dive in to the details.

The victim

The Victim feels helpless, scared, and unsure how to take any power or control back into their lives. It’s pretty clear to understand how this identity developed: people who have experienced trauma are often victims of abuse and circumstances that were often way outside of their control. Naturally, this is not an easy state to stay in, so the Victim will often look for a Rescuer to swoop in (unless the Perpetrator gets to them first). While the victim wants to be helped and rescued, the problem is that relying 100% on others is a sure path towards continued helplessness and powerlessness. The victim is totally reliant on another person to get them out of their situation, which almost always will go awry.

The rescuer

The Rescuer is the savior of the bunch. The rescuer has lots of power and control, but frankly, they assume more control than they really have. The rescuer believes that if they just put themselves totally on the backburner, that they can save the day! Sometimes, the Victim will transform into the all-helpful and powerful Rescuer because it’s a really nice reprieve from feeling helpless and powerless. But the issue is that no one has full control over any situation, and it enables the Victim to stay powerless and continue to be not in control of their life. Therefore, the rescuer often feels incredibly helpless, thus moving back towards either the Victim or Perpetrator role.

The perpetrator/persecutor

The Perpetrator/Persecutor tends to be pretty harsh and critical. This is the internalization of the primary abuser from the past trauma. Often this role sits in lots of anger and defensiveness: “How dare you hurt me! I’ll hurt you back, and harder!” On one hand, this role can feel really safe! No one can get in and you’re protected. But on the other hand, this role can lead to lots of shame and regret, since anger not only doesn’t help the situation but often puts out farther out of reach of the love and support we’re really looking for. Helplessness arises again, and here we are back into another role to escape.

The downside

If you can’t already tell, none of these identities really leads to what a person ultimately wants: a sense of mastery and ability to handle the situation without feeling helpless. Staying in the triangle becomes a negative feedback loop, creating a chaotic sense of oneself and others, and therefore lots of depression and anxiety. It doesn’t allow for healthy relationships between two people where imperfection and flaws exist, and it sure doesn’t allow for true care and vulnerability to live.

I’m sure your next question is, ok… NOW WHAT?! If you relate to any of this, please stay tuned for Part Two: Stepping Out of the Triangle. I promise you, there is an alternative.

Are you looking for a therapist in Dallas, TX for childhood trauma counseling? Check out our specialty page to learn more about childhood trauma and to see if one of our therapists might be a good fit for you!