We want to identify our clients’ developmental trauma as quickly as possible. Our therapy contracts are very short (three to six sessions), because we find that people are able to make significant progress in this number of sessions. Our approach to healing developmental trauma uses a number of tools that help us identify the core issues quickly.
We use a client’s current problems as doorways into the sources of developmental trauma such as the ones listed below
- Interpersonal conflicts. Client’s “hit the wall” conflicts often reveal what is being reenacted in present time. Couple relationships are a great resource for identifying developmental trauma, as there is often an intractable conflict that recycles without resolution. We use sculpting as a diagnostic tool for working with intractable conflicts as a doorway to help the couple see each other in a new and different way that allows them to feel more compassion for themselves and each other.
- Body symptoms. When a client comes with an acute body symptom, we frame the symptom as “information” from the body, and what the body is trying to tell them. As a way of going deeper into the symptom, we may ask the client to make it worse, or to forbid the client from feeling it. Either of these strategies will often open the door to unresolved developmental traumas at the source of this symptom.
- Sometimes a client appears with a disturbing dream. So we ask the client to see all aspects of the dream as internal parts of themselves. This helps them access the developmental traumas and incomplete processes that are being displayed in the dream.
- The The Two Lists writing exercise. Clients make one list for their mother and another for their father. They describe all the things they wish they had gotten from their mother or their father as a child, but didn’t. They also list things they got from their mother or father that they didn’t want; things that were hurtful and even harmful. This exercise helps identify the relational traumas clients are still carrying from childhood. We use each item on their lists as a doorway for identifying an unhealed childhood trauma. We ask questions such as, “What weren’t you able to say, feel or do in the original trauma? What did you need in the original trauma? Do you still have this need? If so, how can you get it met now?”
- We look at how clients connect with us, particularly their verbal and non-verbal communication patterns. We use some of the NLP concepts and pay particular attention to their facial color, breathing patterns, eye contact and their ability to engage emotionally and the predicates they use in forming their sentences. These close observations show us where they might be on the TraumaContinuum and how to build rapport with them.
- We help clients identify and change addictive family patterns involving the intergenerational transmission of developmental trauma. We use self-inventories and writing exercises to help clients recognize traumas in their own developmental family history, and teach them how to disengage from the unconscious reenactment of these traumas in their intimate relationships.