mental health, therapy, counseling and psychology terms glossary


Trauma is most accurately defined as not being about an event or experience itself, but instead by the body’s chemical reaction to an event or experience. The brain doesn’t know the difference between a big trauma or a little trauma – and it also can’t tell the difference between then and now when a similar situation feels like it arises. It’s also important to note that two people can experience the same event and one can have the chemical response while the other does not. Having this physical chemical response to an event is what constitutes having a trauma.

What are Traumatic Experiences?

Traumatic experiences often involve a physical threat to life or safety but any situation that leaves a person feeling isolated, helpless, and overwhelmed can result in Trauma. Traumatic events include accidents, abuse, bullying, neglect, breakups, humiliation, chronic illness, or the sudden death or loss of a loved one. 

Big T’s (Big Traumas) would be natural disasters, war, accidents, or personal assaults – these can result in PTSD.

Little T’s (Little Traumas) would be a stressful move, a layoff, a non-life-threatening injury, chronic pain, working for a difficult boss, teasing from friends/coworkers…. anything that causes that chemical response in the brain no matter how small!

What are the Symptoms of Trauma?

Trauma can often manifest in destructive behaviors such as substance abuse, self-harm, and codependency. An individual struggling with past traumas can experience insomnia, irritability, aches and pains, fear, anxiety, and hopelessness. Trauma can affect work performance and relationships, cause one to withdraw and isolate from others, and potentially resort to using drugs or self-harm in order to cope with the intense emotions.

Can Counseling Help with Trauma?

Whatever the cause of the trauma – and whether it happened recently or in childhood – therapy can help. A therapist can use a variety of modalities including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Talk Therapy, and Mindfulness techniques to help reprogram and heal the traumatic memories so a healthier, happier life can be realized.

At Claibourne Counseling, we specialize in treating Trauma & PTSD!